On Sunday, world champion Max Verstappen drove to victory in a turbulent Australian Grand Prix with several safety car phases and a restart with two laps to go. The Dutchman won his 37th Grand Prix in Melbourne ahead of Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes and Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso, who finished third for the third time this year.
For Verstappen, who extended the championship lead, it was the first win in Australia. Britain’s Hamilton claimed his first podium of the season. After the trip to the finish, however, there were still investigations that could result in penalties and thus postponements. “It was quite a mess,” said Verstappen, who acknowledged a bad start. “But the pace from the car was okay,” he said. Hamilton thanked his crew: “Mega job, people!” He was always able to attack, said the 38-year-old about his car. Teammate George Russell dropped out early.
Finally, an interruption after Kevin Magnussen’s out heated up the race again. Two laps from the end there was a standing restart of the Grand Prix for the second time – there were several collisions and chaos broke out. The Spaniard Carlos Sainz shot his third-placed compatriot Alonso, who was able to continue driving, and the two Alpine drivers of Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon also crashed. Nyck de Vries also spun off the track.
Guesswork in the pit lane
The red flags were waved again and the already decimated field gathered in the pit lane. At the time, however, it was not clear in which form the Grand Prix would be brought to an end. The teams puzzled for almost half an hour before the race control announced the order in which the cars should drive to the finish line, guided by the safety car. She went back to the positions before the last standing start, so Alonso was able to move up to third place again.
Verstappen lost the actual start of the race against Russell and Hamilton, giving Mercedes a one-two lead in the early stages. In the first corner, Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari spun in the gravel and retired, which sent the safety car onto the track for the first time.
In the seventh lap, the red Mercedes-AMG had to pull out again after Alexander Albon had made a spectacular farewell in the Williams. Russell had new tires plugged in, Hamilton was in the lead. Shortly thereafter, the race was red flagged for 15 minutes to clear the amount of gravel thrown up by Albon’s car. Russell’s strategy was ruined – the Brit was only seventh.
Hamilton retained first place in the standing restart, but Verstappen overtook his former World Championship rival on lap 12. Meanwhile, Russell fought back and was fourth behind Alonso before bad luck struck him even more: on lap 18, flames erupted from the rear of his Mercedes and the race was over.
While Verstappen drove towards a seemingly certain victory, his teammate Sergio Perez, who had started from last place, laboriously worked his way through the field. In the end, the Mexican was fifth and got the extra point for the fastest lap. Ferrari went away completely empty handed as Sainz was penalized plus five seconds for colliding with Alonso and dropped out of the top ten.