2024 Australian Grand Prix: Carlos Sainz Heads Home A One-Two

Round three of the 2024 F1 season arrived at the Albert Park Circuit, for the officially titled Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix.


By Ben Bush
Updated on April 7, 2024

Reviewed and checked by Lee Parker

Carlos Sainz Wins 2024 Australian Grand Prix
Carlos Sainz Wins the 2024 Australian Grand Prix

Touching down, down under, the paddock rolled in for the Australian Grand Prix to race at one of the biggest highlights of the F1 season. A weekend that now attracts well over 450,000 fans throughout the three days in Melbourne.

Following a three-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the event made a comeback in 2022 with a revamped track layout designed to enhance overtaking opportunities. And the changes haven’t failed to dissapoint with the previous two races at Albert Park delivering thrilling wheel-to-wheel action. With Pirelli opting to bring its softest tyre selection to Melbourne, the race was expected to deliver yet again with tyre strategy playing a crucial role.

There were also high hopes for local heroes, McLaren’s Oscar Piastri and RB’s Daniel Ricciardo, both eager to deliver memorable performances for their fans.

Once again, Red Bull outshone their competitors when it mattered most, with Max Verstappen taking his third pole of the season after Ferrari had been snapping at their heals in free practice. Carlos Sainz came home to line up second on the grid after a strong comeback from surgery two weeks before, with Lando Norris promoted to third after Sergio Perez was penalised for impeeding in Q1 and falling back to sixth.

However, come race day, the championship saw a significant turn of events. Max Verstappen, the leading contender for the 2024 title, retired early after his car suffered a brake fire, ending his attempt to match his record of 10 consecutive wins. Carlos Sainz led Ferrari to a one-two finish alongside Charles Leclerc, with Lando Norris securing his season’s first podium.

Championship background

After a two-week break, Max Verstappen came into the race weekend in a buoyant mood, having taken pole and the win at both of the season’s opening two races, and alongside teammate, Sergio Perez, the duo had also lead home a Red Bull one-two finish in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

However, Verstappen’s performance at the previous 2023 Australian Grand Prix was not without its challenges. The race finished in a frenzy, featuring three red flags and numerous incidents, yet Verstappen managed to come out on top, followed by Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.

With Red Bull in full command over the 2024 season so far, only Ferrari had shown potential to put some pressure on Red Bull, thanks to Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc each securing a podium in the first two races of 2024. However, teams like Mercedes and McLaren would need more substantial gains at the Albert Park Circuit in Australia to make a dent on the top two teams. Despite its high-speed characteristics similar to Jeddah, Albert Park presents unique challenges that could offer other teams a chance to narrow the gap to Red Bull.

Race entries

Alex Albon severely damaged his Williams in a significant collision during Friday’s first practice session at the Australian Grand Prix. His teammate Logan Sargeant was asked to step aside by the team and relinquish his car for Albon. Sargeant described it as “the most challenging moment” of his career.

Carlos Sainz returned to his seat at Ferrari, having been replaced by reserve and Formula 2 driver, Oliver Bearman in the previous race due to an appendicitis diagnosis that required surgery.

Aside from Sargeant not featuring in the weekends events after FP2, all other drivers from the start of the season lined up on the grid come race day.

Tyre choices

Pirelli took the tyre compounds up a step from the previous round at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, bringing the softest lineup in their range to Melbourne with the C3 hard, C4 medium, and C5 soft.


Free Practice

With no Sprint weekend, FP1, FP2, and FP3 took place over the race weekend, but with FP1 and FP2 returning to the normal Friday and FP3 to the Saturday. The previous two races were shifted a day earlier due to Ramadan.

FP1 was held on the 22nd of March 2024, with Lando Norris leading the pack for McLaren, closely followed by Max Verstappen for Red Bull and George Russell in the Mercedes. The session at Albert Park, bathed in sunshine, was filled with dramatic moments including Albon’s car ending crash, with several other drivers veering off course as they got used to Melbourne’s street circuit once again.

FP2 kicked off under clear skies later that day at 4:00 PM local time, though it began without two drivers who stayed in the pits. Verstappen experienced a delayed start to his session while his team addressed some floor damage to his RB20 incurred during FP1. While Alex Albon missed out on FP2 due to the significant crash during FP1. Although he was unharmed, his team needed extra time to evaluate the extent of his car’s damage. Charles Leclerc finished the first day of the Australian Grand Prix in P1 with Verstappen and Sainz following.

Final practice, FP3, was held on Saturday the 23rd of March with Charles Leclerc maintaining Ferrari’s lead in the timesheets, slightly ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and teammate Carlos Sainz. The session at Albert Park, which was cooler and more overcast compared to the previous day’s practice, saw Sainz setting the pace early on with medium tyres. However, a late strategy switch to soft tyres by the Ferrari and Red Bull teams led to some performance boosts.

Full Free Practice Reports


Qualifying, held on the 23rd of March 2024, saw Max Verstappen successfully defend against Carlos Sainz’s strong comeback.

Sergio Perez, initially securing third in the second Red Bull, was demoted to sixth by the stewards in Melbourne for obstructing Haas’s Nico Hulkenberg during Q1, promoting McLaren’s Lando Norris to third on the grid.

Sainz led the initial two rounds of qualifying, with Ferrari also showing strength in Q2 with Charles Leclerc. However, Verstappen showed new pace in his RB20, delivering two laps in the final Q3 session that solidified his pole position. Verstappen clinched pole with a time of 1:15.915, outpacing Sainz by 0.270 seconds.

However, it was another day of frustration for Lewis Hamilton, who did not advance to Q3 in his Mercedes, resulting in an 11th-place start for Sunday’s race. This marked his lowest starting position at Melbourne in 14 years.

Full Qualifying Report

11Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing Honda RBPT1:16.8191:16.3871:15.91521
255Carlos SainzFerrari1:16.7311:16.1891:16.18518
311Sergio Perez*Red Bull Racing Honda RBPT1:16.8051:16.6311:16.27422
44Lando NorrisMcLaren Mercedes1:17.4301:16.7501:16.31519
516Charles LeclercFerrari1:16.9841:16.3041:16.43520
681Oscar PiastriMcLaren Mercedes1:17.3691:16.6011:16.57218
763George RussellMercedes1:17.0621:16.9011:16.72423
822Yuki TsunodaRB Honda RBPT1:17.3561:16.7911:16.78818
918Lance StrollAston Martin Aramco Mercedes1:17.3761:16.7801:17.07223
1014Fernando AlonsoAston Martin Aramco Mercedes1:16.9911:16.7101:17.55221
1144Lewis HamiltonMercedes1:17.4991:16.96015
1223Alexander Albon**Williams Mercedes1:17.1301:17.16715
1377Valtteri BottasKick Sauber Ferrari1:17.5431:17.34015
1420Kevin MagnussenHaas Ferrari1:17.7091:17.42713
1531Esteban OconAlpine Renault1:17.6171:17.69721
1627Nico HulkenbergHaas Ferrari1:17.9768
1710Pierre GaslyAlpine Renault1:17.98211
183Daniel RicciardoRB Honda RBPT1:18.0856
1924Zhou GuanyuKick Sauber Ferrari1:18.1889
*Despite finishing third, Perez’s penalty relegated him to sixth.

**Logan Sargeant would no longer feature in the race weekend, with Alexander Albon using his chassis after he suffered a crash in FP1, damaging his own car beyond repair.

What happened in the 2024 Australian Grand Prix?

Arriving in Melbourne, Sainz was uncertain about his capability to compete through the weekend due to his recovery from an appendectomy, which had him bedridden for a considerable time. Still, Sainz managed to take place in Friday’s two practice sessions and then impressively secured second on the grid during Saturday’s qualifying. However, doubts lingered regarding his endurance for the 58-lap race. Sainz dispelled all concerns right from the start.

Despite a shaky practice, Verstappen secured pole and led the race to begin with, with Sainz in close persuit, ready to capitalise on any opportunity. That moment came on lap 2 when Sainz executed a flawless overtake on Verstappen, who then encountered significant issues with his car, evidenced by smoke and parts detaching as he limped back to the pits amid an escalating fire from the rear right of his car.

From that moment, Sainz’s win seemed inevitable. He swiftly distanced himself ahead of Lando Norris and extended his lead after Ferrari teammate Leclerc passed Norris following the first round of pit stops.

Benefiting from a longer first stint than the leading pack Sainz had the advantage of fresher tyres for the remainder of the race.

Hamilton, who was surprisingly eliminated in Q2 and started 11th, had voiced concerns over the choice of soft tyres before the race. Despite making some initial gains, his hopes for a turnaround were dashed when his power unit failed on lap 17, forcing him to retire. This left Hamilton with just eight points after the first three races, placing him ninth in the championship standings at race end.

Perez in the sole remaining Red Bull was unable to challenge Ferrari and McLaren ahead. Leclerc, finishing third in Saudi Arabia during Sainz’s absence, completed a solid performance from fourth place on the grid to contribute to Ferrari’s first one-two finish since the 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix. Lando Norris and his McLaren clinched third place, marking his first podium finish of the season, ahead of teammate Oscar Piastri.

While Red Bull had a challenging day, Mercedes’ difficult start to the season intensified. George Russell, who had previously outperformed Hamilton in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, was again ahead in Melbourne. He had a relatively good weekend and was pursuing Alonso for sixth place. However, on fresher tyres and while trying to overtake Alonso on the final lap, Russell locked up and crashed heavily into the barriers at Turn 6.

Post-race investigations led the stewards to penalise Alonso for a “potentially dangerous” manoeuvre, despite his intentions, adding a 20-second penalty to his race time.

The outcome of the investigation also had repercussions further down the field. Lance Stroll and Yuki Tsunoda benefited from the reshuffling, securing higher finishes, while the Haas team scored vital points in the Constructors’ Championship through Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen.

With Alonso penalised, Mercedes still ended the Australian Grand Prix without any points, seemingly battling Aston Martin for the position of the fourth fastest team in 2024, trailing behind Red Bull, Ferrari, and McLaren in the paddock hierarchy.

The final standings left fans optimistic about a more competitive championship during the record-breaking 24-race season.

2024 Australian Grand Prix race results

155Carlos SainzFerrari581:20:26.84325
216Charles Leclerc*Ferrari58+2.366s19
34Lando NorrisMcLaren Mercedes58+5.904s15
481Oscar PiastriMcLaren Mercedes58+35.770s12
511Sergio PerezRed Bull Racing Honda RBPT58+56.309s10
618Lance StrollAston Martin Aramco Mercedes58+93.222s8
722Yuki TsunodaRB Honda RBPT58+95.601s6
814Fernando Alonso**Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes58+100.992s4
927Nico HulkenbergHaas Ferrari58+104.553s2
1020Kevin MagnussenHaas Ferrari57+1 lap1
1123Alexander Albon***Williams Mercedes57+1 lap0
123Daniel RicciardoRB Honda RBPT57+1 lap0
1310Pierre Gasly****Alpine Renault57+1 lap0
1477Valtteri BottasKick Sauber Ferrari57+1 lap0
1524Zhou GuanyuKick Sauber Ferrari57+1 lap0
1631Esteban OconAlpine Renault57+1 lap0
1763George RussellMercedes56DNF0
NC44Lewis HamiltonMercedes15DNF0
NC1Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing Honda RBPT3DNF0
*Fastest lap: Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) – 1:19.813 (lap 56)

**Alonso received a drive-through penalty converted to 20-second time penalty for potentially dangerous driving.

***Logan Sargeant no longer featured in the race weekend, with Alexander Albon using his chassis after he suffered a crash in FP1, damaging his own car beyond repair.

****Gasly received a five-second time penalty for crossing the line at the pit exit.

2024 Post-Race F1 Championship Standings

Championship standings for Drivers’ and Teams after the 2024 Australian Grand Prix.

2024 Post-Race F1 Drivers’ Championship Standings

1Max VerstappenNEDRed Bull Racing Honda RBPT51
2Charles LeclercMONFerrari47
3Sergio PérezMEXRed Bull Racing Honda RBPT46
4Carlos SainzESPFerrari40
5Oscar PiastriAUSMcLaren28
6Lando NorrisGBRMcLaren27
7George RussellGBRMercedes18
8Fernando AlonsoESPAston Martin Mercedes16
9Lance StrollCANAston Martin Mercedes9
10Lewis HamiltonGBRMercedes8
11Yuki TsunodaJPNRB-Honda RBPT6
12Oliver BearmanGBRFerrari6
13Nico HulkenbergGERHaas Ferrari3
14Kevin MagnussenDENHaas Ferrari1
15Alexander AlbonTHAWilliams Mercedes0
16Zhou GuanyuCHNStake F1 Team0
17Daniel RicciardoAUSRB-Honda RBPT0
18Esteban OconFRAAlpine Renualt0
19Pierre GaslyFRAAlpine Renualt0
20Valtteri BottasFINStake F1 Team0
21Logan SargeantUSAWilliams Mercedes0

2024 Post-Race F1 Constructors’ Championship Standings

1Red Bull Racing Honda RBPT97
3McLaren Mercedes55
5Aston Martin Mercedes25
6RB-Honda RBPT6
7Haas Ferrari4
8Williams Mercedes0
9Stake F1 Team0
10Alpine Renualt0

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About The Author

Chief Editor

Ben Bush

Ben is our chief editor specialising in F1 from the 1990s to the modern era. Ben has been following Formula 1 since 1986 and is an avid researcher who loves understanding the technology that makes it one of the most exciting motorsport on the planet. He listens to podcasts about F1 on a daily basis, and enjoys reading books from the inspirational Adrian Newey to former F1 drivers.

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