Formula 1 - 2024 Australia Grand Prix Recap

BY Sean Loo

Sainz wins in Melbourne two weeks on from appendicitis, bravo!

Just two weeks after grappling with appendicitis, Ferrari's Carlos Sainz clinched a remarkable victory at the Australian Grand Prix, following an early retirement by Max Verstappen due to a dramatic turn of events.

Sainz, who had to sit out the previous race in Saudi Arabia, wasn't even sure he'd be racing in Melbourne until Friday. Yet, he delivered a flawless performance to bag his third F1 career win.

"Ha-ha! It's amazing!" Sainz exclaimed over the radio after crossing the finish line, before launching into his trademark "Smooth Operator" rendition.

Sainz, who is set to be replaced by Lewis Hamilton at Ferrari in 2025, triumphed over his current teammate Charles Leclerc, with McLaren's Lando Norris finishing third.

The race concluded under a virtual safety car after Mercedes' George Russell crashed on the final lap, thankfully unscathed.

The stewards determined that Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso had a hand in Russell's crash by slowing down abruptly as Russell trailed closely behind.

Alonso, who finished sixth, received a 20-second penalty, dropping him to eighth, and was also slapped with three penalty points.

It was a tough day for the former world champion Mercedes, with Hamilton bowing out on Lap 17 due to an engine failure.

Verstappen, the runaway championship leader who seemed poised for another dominant win from pole position, had to retire early due to a brake fire, halting his streak of nine consecutive victories.

The Dutch driver's car troubles surfaced shortly after he lost the lead to Sainz on Lap 2.

Sainz executed a slick overtaking manoeuvre around the outside of Turn 11, aided by the drag reduction system (DRS).

Verstappen likened his predicament to "driving with the handbrake on," as his right rear brake got stuck right from the start, making the car unpredictable in some corners.

"The car was spot on during the laps to the grid, and I felt confident with what we were doing. But if a brake is stuck on, that doesn't help," he said, expressing his disappointment at not finishing the race.

Despite his early exit, Verstappen still leads the championship with 51 points, but the gap has narrowed with Leclerc at 47 points, Sergio Pérez at 46, and Sainz, who missed a round, at 40.

Australia's Oscar Piastri finished fourth, with a bit of controversy as he was asked to let teammate Norris pass, and also lost time by running wide at the penultimate corner.

Pérez had a lacklustre run to fifth position, possibly ruining what could have been had he not dropped from third to sixth on the grid due to a penalty for impeding another driver during Saturday's qualifying.

Red Bull's junior team's Yuki Tsunoda continued his impressive form in eighth, while Russell's late crash allowed Haas drivers Nico Hülkenberg and Kevin Magnussen to score points.

Alex Albon, racing with Logan Sargeant's car, finished 11th, just shy of the points finish Williams boss James Vowles had hoped for when making the controversial decision to switch cars.

Daniel Ricciardo, finishing 12th, had yet another disappointing race, struggling to match teammate Tsunoda's form this year.