Carlos Sainz Paints Melbourne Red In Australian GP Victory

Ferrari paints Melbourne red

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was a popular Australian Grand Prix winner on Sunday in front of a record crowd. Stewart Bell was there to witness it

FERRARI’S CARLOS SAINZ showed his strength in front of another record-breaking crowd at Melbourne’s Albert Park, with the Spaniard rocketing to his maiden Australian Grand Prix win – less than two weeks after an emergency appendectomy that left him on the sidelines at the last race in Saudi Arabia.

Sainz started on the front row, alongside polesitter Max Verstappen, and slotted in behind him into turn one. But, he stayed with the Dutchman, and passed him for the lead at turn nine on the next lap, and never looked back after Verstappen retired just two laps later from a fiery brake failure.

The 29-year-old, who effectively broke Red Bull’s hot streak for the second time in 10 races, led home teammate Charles Leclerc for Ferrari’s first one-two since the 2022 Bahrain Grand prix – and first in Melbourne since 2004. McLaren pilot Lando Norris closed out podium, though it was a blow for the fans in the stands, who saw the papaya team order the Brit past hometown hero Oscar Piastri for a (in the end, failed) shot at the Ferraris up-front: robbing them of seeing the first Aussie ever to make his home podium. The Melburnian finished fourth.


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How the race was won

There’s no doubt Verstappen’s first race retirement in two years, dating back to 2022’s Australian Grand Prix, played an integral part in Ferrari’s one-two result – with a brake bug bringing down the Dutchman’s Red Bull RB20.

“We can see so far in the data that as soon as the [red start] lights went off the right rear brake just stuck on and locked,” Verstappen said. “It was basically like driving with the hand brake on so, of course, the temperature just kept on increasing and then I could see smoke appear as it had caught fire.”

By that point, Sainz was already leading – and no doubt it was a huge boost with all he’s been through since the start of 2024, including news Sir Lewis Hamilton will replace him at Ferrari from 2025.

“I felt really good out there,” Sainz said. “Of course, [I felt] a bit stiff, especially physically. It wasn’t the easiest, but I was lucky that I was more or less on my own so I could just manage my pace, manage the tyres, manage everything.

“Life sometimes is crazy, you know. What happened at the beginning of the year, then the podium in Bahrain, then appendix, the comeback, the win, it’s a roller coaster. But I loved it.”

Talking points for the gym

>Can Ferrari challenge Red Bull again at the next race in Japan? The Scuderia has been the energy drink team’s main challenger from the opening race in Bahrain. But while Ferrari may be bringing upgrades to Suzuka, the Italian super-marque will need to be on its A-game with the tight and twisty circuit set to favour Red Bull.

Charles Leclerc says the squad has made strides forward but knows that his reigning world champion rivals are still the benchmark – after Verstappen snatched pole in Melbourne via a last-blast lap in Q3. “From FP1, we knew that pole position and the race win was possible because we had very good tyre degradation, very good pace,” he said. “That is a very encouraging sign. However, if you look at the first three races, two out of the first three races, they [Red Bull] had the upper hand in the race, so we still have a lot of work to do.”

>Were the last lap tactics of Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso to stay ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell “potentially dangerous” driving, or just hard and fair racing? The stewards deemed it the former, handing him a 20-second time penalty and three penalty points for his license, after the two-time world champion lifted slightly more than 100 metres earlier than he ever had done going into turn six during the race, while Russell behind him lost control and crashed at the exit of the corner.

Alonso, though, didn’t agree. “I wanted to maximise my exit speed from Turn Six to defend against him,” he said. “That’s what any racing driver would do, and I didn’t feel it was dangerous. It’s disappointing to get a penalty from the stewards for what was hard but fair racing. Still, I’m glad that George is okay. It was not nice to see his car in the middle of the track.”

>Will Williams have a spare chassis ready for the next race in Japan? The squad is in a race against time to have one ready for Suzuka, though it has confirmed that it will have two cars on the grid. Alex Albon revealed in Australia just how far behind Williams was with its production when he crashed heavily during FP2 at Albert Park, in effect writing off his chassis – which forced Logan Sargeant to sit out the rest of the weekend, as the squad reallocated his car.

But, while Williams is aiming to have a spare chassis ready for Japan, it may yet have to wait until round five in China. “The team here have managed to get the car back for roundabout Monday at 2am,” team boss James Vowles said. “So we’ll have teams already working on it from Monday onwards in order to get it repaired.”

From the expert

Tom Clark, physio for Alpine F1 Driver Esteban Ocon

Q: How tough is Australia physically?

Tom’s rating: 7/10

“I would put it right in the middle of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. It’s one of the intermediate races with heat and some street track qualities with medium to high grip – so there’s an element of mental fatigue, and with that sleep can be paramount, particularly in the context of a big time transition. Australia is quite a pleasant race, in that it’s not usually one of the hottest. It can be quite warm, but particularly with Melbourne weather you can get anything at that time of year.

But you wouldn’t typically endure an entire weekend where it’s blistering hot, which would normally increase the amount of fatigue a driver would experience. You might have one hot day, but generally the race isn’t one of the most physical. We’re going to make sure we get our normal training in before the lead-up to the race, so mimicking the behaviour we’re trying to do in Australia.”

Q: How will the drivers prepare for Japan?

“We will stay out [the Asia Pacific region, after Australia]. We made the decision at the start of the year that with Australia being such a long journey, going back to Europe for less than a week before going onto Japan, that was going to be one of the races where we stayed on that side of the world. Just to allow us to stay on almost the same time zone. Japan is only around one to two hours’ difference, so we control that aspect of the jetlag and fatigue we may get with going back to Europe. And we will stay in Australia more than likely for a few more days and get some good quality training in before we fly to Japan for the Grand Prix.

Suzuka is a physical track in the sense that it’s high speed, and it’s usually quite nice temperatures there, so the drivers can push quite hard. And it’s one of those circuits where there’s no long straights, which would normally give the drivers a bit of a breather. You’ve got a lot of high-speed corners, and you can’t really let off that much. So it’s another challenging one for the drivers.”



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