Verstappen wins chaotic Australian GP, Hamilton second

Verstappen wins chaotic Australian GP, Hamilton second

Max Verstappen won his first Formula 1 race in Australia after he survived a problematic start and a controversial finish to prevail on a hectic Sunday afternoon in Melbourne.

Lewis Hamilton had to settle for finishing second to secure Mercedes’ first podium of the year as Fernando Alonso managed to avoid being involved in an incident-filled restart to extend his streak of top-three finishes to three in a row.

George Russell had a strong start and passed Verstappen at Turn 1 to grab the lead. Verstappen, the defending champion, dropped to third after Hamilton’s sister Mercedes also went past the Red Bull at Turn 3.

Charles Leclerc’s season has gotten off to a terrible start, and he repeated that trend as he failed to gain position as quickly as the Mercedes drivers in the lead were able to.

The Ferrari driver attempted to get around the outside of both Aston Martins, but was struck by Lance Stroll, sending him spinning backward into the gravel and out of the race.

The stewards decided not to take additional action after replays revealed that Stroll was trapped in the middle of the track with nowhere to go.

Many cars made an early stop for a tyre change as a result of the Safety Car’s intervention in response to the beached Ferrari. Sergio Perez, who started from the pit lane, switched from the Hard to the Medium compound before switching again.

When the Safety Car moved in at the end of lap three, Russell nailed the restart. But, any attempts to extend his advantage were quickly frustrated by another race stoppage four laps later.

Alex Albon, who had made a strong start and was currently running sixth after a stellar qualifying, lost his car at Turn 7 and crashed out of the race. Within 10 laps, the Safety Car made a second appearance, and race leaders Russell and Carlos Sainz seized the opportunity to make their first pit stop of the day.

Russell slipped six positions to seventh for the race’s eventual restart, though, as a result of the decision to raise the red flag and provide those who hadn’t pitted – notably Verstappen and Hamilton – the opportunity to do so without losing any time.

After a brief pause, another standing start was required, and Hamilton got off to a great start to fight off Verstappen and hold onto the lead he had gained as a result of his teammate’s accident. Nyck de Vries and Valtteri Bottas became entangled in a series of crashes at the back as Russell again made a great start to pull ahead of Stroll.

Verstappen passed Hamilton on the long run down to Turn 11 after four laps of the race’s restart to retake the lead. He then quickly began to close the gap on his former title rival, building it to two seconds in just a few turns.

After a strong start, Mercedes’ race began to fall apart when Russell came to a stop on the start-finish straight at the beginning of Lap 18 with flames shooting out of the back of his vehicle. Nevertheless, there wouldn’t be any grouping of the pack because the Virtual Safety Car would be the one to halt the action this time.

After the green flag was waved, Perez continued to take advantage of Red Bull’s superior straight-line efficiency with DRS activated to push himself into the lead by lap 22.

Sainz pulled off a good fake move on Pierre Gasly into Turn 3 to sit fifth before the halfway point after missing out by pitting before the Red Flag.

Piastri’s chances of earning a point on his home debut appeared to be shattered after several laps of looking at the rear of an AlphaTauri. Esteban Ocon made quick work of the McLaren, while the slick, pink-liveried Alpine quickly dispatched Tsunoda.

Lando Norris and Nico Hulkenberg fought hard for eighth place in other stages as the Haas driver struggled more and more on old tires. The McLaren driver finally succeeded in making the manoeuvre stick on the third try.

With only three laps left in the race, the other Haas of Kevin Magnussen made an impact. He had previously been a formidable competitor, but when his right rear tyre failed, he forced a second complete stoppage.

The stewards decided to continue the race with a standing restart for a two-lap shootout, in contrast to the dull conclusion that transpired behind the Safety Car at Monza the year before.

Verstappen and Hamilton once more took off without incident, but chaos ensued behind them when Alonso and the other Aston Martin driven by Stroll slid off at Turn 3 while attempting to overtake the Ferrari for the final podium slot. When competing for third, Gasly fell back after going off the course. He then awkwardly re-joined the race and picked up his teammate to eliminate both Alpines from contention.

However, there was uncertainty on whether the race would restart and in what order due to another red flag disturbance caused by the accident at Turn 1.

The remaining 12 drivers eventually chose to complete the final lap of the grand prix by trundling around behind the Safety Car, returning to the identical starting grid that was in place when the race started again.

Verstappen therefore cruised to the finish line unchallenged to claim his 37th F1 victory and ultimately break his Australian curse. Alonso continued his spotless podium-scoring record for Aston Martin as he crossed the finish line just behind Hamilton who was in second place for his tenth podium in Melbourne.

Sainz, driving the lone remaining Ferrari, finished fourth on the road but went outside of the points after receiving a five-second time penalty for his earlier infraction of wheeling Alonso around.

Perez eventually advanced to finish fifth from the back of the grid despite being hindered in his attempt to move up the order, behind Stroll, who made his way back into the points after retiring in Saudi Arabia.

Lando Norris set the bar high for McLaren in 2023 with a sixth-place finish, and Piastri finished eighth to score his first F1 points on home turf.

Hulkenberg finished seventh with a confident drive after a strong qualifying performance, earning him his first points since making a comeback with Haas. Zhou Guanyu and Yuki Tsunoda also finished in the top 10.

The two Red Bull drivers are now separated in the Drivers’ Championship by 15 points thanks to Verstappen’s triumph and Perez’s rise to fifth place, plus the fastest lap point. Nevertheless, the team enjoys a comfortable 58-point lead over Aston Martin in the Constructors’ standings.

The fourth round will take place in Baku for the sixth staging of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix as F1 takes a four-week holiday.

1Max VerstappenNEDOracle Red Bull Racing58 Laps
2Lewis HamiltonGBRMercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team+ 0.179s
3Fernando AlonsoESPAston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team+ 0.769s
4Lance StrollCANAston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team+ 3.082s
5Sergio PerezMEXOracle Red Bull Racing+ 3.220s
6Lando NorrisGBRMcLaren F1 Team+ 3.701s
7Nico HulkenbergGERMoneyGram Haas F1 Team+ 4.939s
8Oscar PiastriAUSMcLaren F1 Team+ 5.382s
9Zhou GuanyuCHNAlfa Romeo F1 Team Stake+ 5.713s
10Yuki TsunodaJPNScuderia AlphaTauri + 6.052s
11Valtteri BottasFINAlfa Romeo F1 Team Stake+ 6.513s
12Carlos SainzESPScuderia Ferrari+ 6.584s
13Pierre GaslyFRABWT Alpine F1 Team+ 2 Laps
14Esteban OconFRABWT Alpine F1 Team+ 2 Laps
15Nyck de VriesNEDScuderia AlphaTauri+ 2 Laps
16Logan SargeantUSAWilliams Racing+ 2 Laps
17Kevin MagnussenDENMoneyGram Haas F1 TeamDNF
18George RussellGBRMercedes AMG Petronas F1 TeamDNF
19Alex AlbonTHAWilliams RacingDNF
20Charles LeclercMONScuderia FerrariDNF

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