Sainz Dominates in Australian Grand Prix as Max’s Streak Ends

In a dramatic Australian Grand Prix, Carlos Sainz led Ferrari to a one-two finish alongside Charles Leclerc, with Lando Norris securing his season's first podium.

Mark Phelan

By Mark Phelan
Updated on April 5, 2024

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

Carlos Sainz secured the win at the 2024 Australian Grand Prix, closely followed by teammate Charles Leclerc, marking a dominant one-two finish for Ferrari.

The race saw a significant turn of events with Max Verstappen, the leading contender for the 2024 world championship, retiring early after his car suffered a brake fire, ending his attempt to match his record of 10 consecutive wins. Starting from pole in Melbourne, Verstappen managed only three laps before his race came to an abrupt end.

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Sainz, making a comeback after missing the 2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix due to appendix surgery, seized the lead and never looked back, maintaining a gap over Leclerc throughout the race. The win was especially poignant as Sainz is the only driver, aside from Verstappen, to claim a win in any of the past 21 Formula 1 races.

Lando Norris and his McLaren clinched third place, marking his first podium finish of the season, ahead of teammate Oscar Piastri. Sergio Perez, in the sister Red Bull, finished fifth, unable to challenge the leaders.

In other events, Fernando Alonso received a penalty for risky driving before Russell’s crash, which impacted his final standing. The Australian Grand Prix was filled with drama and significant outcomes, including Sainz’s triumph over Verstappen’s streak and a notable double DNF for Mercedes as both Russell and Hamilton retired from the race.

Despite the setback, come race end Verstappen still remained at the top of the championship leaderboard, although with a much narrower lead over Leclerc and Perez. Sainz’s victory placed him within striking distance in the championship race, underscoring Ferrari’s resurgence as they close the gap to Red Bull in the constructors’ standings.

The race also had repercussions further down the field, with Alonso’s penalty after an incident involving Russell leading to adjustments in the final rankings. 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.

Sainz on top

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.

At 29 years old, 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, overtaking Verstappen on the second lap as the latter struggled with a brake issue, making him vulnerable to an overtake by Sainz.

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.

Leclerc, finishing third in Saudi Arabia during Sainz’s absence, completed a solid performance from fourth place to contribute to Ferrari’s first one-two finish since the 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix, though he couldn’t challenge Sainz for the lead.

Sainz’s exceptional performance early in the season poses a question mark over Ferrari’s decision to replace him with Hamilton for the 2025 season, especially if he continues in top form.

Now a hot prospect for the 2025 driver market, Sainz’s current success puts him in the spotlight, particularly as Mercedes looks for Hamilton’s replacement and Perez’s contract with Red Bull nears its end.

Red Bull’s woes

After Red Bull’s dominant start to the season, winning the first two races with Verstappen and Perez leading, there was a growing concern they might beat last season’s record. However, Sainz’s win in Melbourne has shifted the narrative.

Despite a shaky practice, Verstappen secured pole and led the race to begin with, but with Sainz in close persuit, ready to capitalise on any opportunity. That moment came 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 the escalating fire.

Perez’s inability to challenge Ferrari and McLaren leaves fans optimistic about a more competitive championship during this record-breaking 24-race season. Despite the outcome, Verstappen is widely expected to be the frontrunner at the upcoming 2024 Japanese Grand Prix in two weeks, given Red Bull’s strong track record at the Suzuka circuit in recent years.

Mercedes double DNF

Red Bull’s challenging day might be a temporary setback, but Mercedes’ difficult start to the season has intensified.

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 a mere eight points after the first three races of his last season with Mercedes before moving to Ferrari, placing him ninth in the championship standings.

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, 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.

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

2024 Australian Grand Prix Race Result

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.

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About The Author

Senior Editor

Mark Phelan
Mark Phelan

Mark is a staff writer specialising in the history of Formula 1 races. Mark researches most of our historic content from teams to drivers and races. He has followed Formula 1 since 1988, and admits to having a soft spot for British drivers from James Hunt and Nigel Mansell to Lando Norris. He loves a great F1 podcast and has read pretty much every drivers biography.

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