First Melbourne triumph: Verstappen wins chaotic Australian Grand Prix
Max Verstappen has won a chaotic Australian Grand Prix for his first victory in Melbourne, while Australia’s Oscar Piastri has scored his first points in Formula 1, finishing eighth.
The race, which was red-flagged four times, was beset by extraordinary late drama.
Max Verstappen has won the Australian Grand Prix.Credit:Getty Images
The grand prix was halted in the fourth-last lap when the race was red flagged to clean up a mess left by Kevin Magnussen, who had smashed his rear right wheel into the concrete.
That meant the race was restarted with three laps to go, essentially for a two-lap sprint race – one behind the safety car, and two racing laps.
A victorious Verstappen celebrates his win.Credit:AP
At that point, 16 cars returned to the grid and Verstappen lost his eight-second advantage, and all cars restarted on soft tyres, in what was effectively a 10.5-kilometre sprint race.
But Fernando Alonso, in third, spun out at the first turn, and his Aston Martin teammate Lance Stroll also lost control, while both Alpine cars, driven by Logan Sargeant and Nyck de Vries, were wiped out.
Piastri resumed in 11th and avoided the trouble at turn three, as did Verstappen, who sped away from the front of the grid before another red flag halted the race to clean up the mess.
At that point, the Aston Martins had slipped out of the top 10. But stewards then determined the final lap of the race would be resumed in the same order that the cars had lined up on the grid for the previous restart, with the final lap of the race completed behind the safety car.
That put Alonso back on the podium in third, behind Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in second and winner Verstappen.
Piastri crossed the line in ninth in the rolling start, but was promoted to eighth after Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was handed a five-second penalty for his role in the crash on the second last lap.
Oscar Piastri finished eighth.Credit:Getty Images
A fourth red flag – which did not impact on the race result – was called when Niko Hulkenberg’s car broke down after the finish.
The race drama began at the very first turn when last year’s winner Charles Leclerc spun off the track and into the gravel.
The Ferrari star accused Stroll of pushing him off the track, but stewards waved the incident on.
Meanwhile, George Russell outsprinted Verstappen to the first turn, while Hamilton also jumped the hot favourite in the opening lap, relegating Verstappen to third.
But carnage ensued when Williams’ Alex Albon crashed on the ninth lap.
Russell hoped he could switch to a hard tyre and get his pit stop out of the way while the race continued with a safety car.
But the race director called a red flag to clear the track of gravel in sector nine – where Albon crashed – removing Russell’s advantage, and he resumed the race in seventh place.
Verstappen got past Hamilton three laps after the race restarted, and soon after Russell pulled out of the race after his car caught fire.
Hamilton quickly dropped off Verstappen’s tail, but found himself in a cat-and-mouse race with Alonso.
Meanwhile, Red Bull’s Sergio Perez picked off those in the back field, moving from last to seventh with 11 laps to go.
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