Formula 1: Carlos Sainz canters Ferrari to triumph at Australian Grand Prix after Max Verstappen retirement

Aaron Kirby
The Nightly
Carlos Sainz has won the Australian Grand Prix.
Carlos Sainz has won the Australian Grand Prix. Credit: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Spaniard Carlos Sainz has cantered the Prancing Horse to a rare victory in Melbourne after reigning world champion Max Verstappen’s hopes of a record-equalling tenth-straight win ended in fire, thanks to a clamped brake.

It was an ugly day for World Champions all round with seven-time Driver’s king Lewis Hamilton also forced out of the Albert Park race after just 17 laps with an engine failure.

Ferrari has scored just one Grand Prix triumph since Austria 2022 as Red Bull - via Verstappen - has booked an almost-permanent place on the top of the pedestal.

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But it was Australia in 2022 where Verstappen last failed to finish a race, and as they did that day, Ferrari cashed in.

Everything went according to plan for the men in red, Sainz, who missed Jeddah after appendix surgery, taking the checkered flag - for the first time, having not started on pole - ahead of teammate Charles LeClerc.

“I felt really good out there. Of course, a bit stiff and physically it wasn’t the easiest but today was on my own and I could more or less manage my pain and the tyres and everything I needed,” he said post-race.

“It wasn’t the toughest race but very proud and very happy and happy with a one-two with Charles.

“It shows hard work pays off. It’s a roller-coaster but I love it.”

It was also a mega day for local hope Oscar Piastri, who finished fourth in just his second home Grand Prix, just behind fellow McLaren driver Lando Norris, who finished with blistering pace to take third.

Perth favourite Daniel Ricciardo showed good pace from the back of the field as he attempted to recover from his qualifying disaster on Saturday, finishing 12th.

Williams’ gamble to boot Logan Sargeant out of his car for Alex Albon after the Thai driver totalled his in practice also proved fruitless, Albon coming home out of the points in 11th.

The race looked different from the start as Verstappen failed to jump out to a significant lead on the first lap after starting from pole.

The early DRS opening on the second lap worked wonders for Ferrari and Formula One, as Sainz took advantage, passing the all-conquering Red Bull down the back straight.

Verstappen jumped on his team radio to complain about his backend feeling loose before smoke began to pour from the rear of his car.

Oscar Piastri of Australia driving the (81) McLaren MCL38.
Oscar Piastri of Australia driving the (81) McLaren MCL38. Credit: Peter Fox/Getty Images

He pushed on for half a lap before losing all pace as fire from the overheated brake pad overtook his right rear tyre.

The Red Bull limped into the pits just as the tyre exploded in a blast of black smoke.

The fire was quickly extinguished, but the all-conquering Red Bull driver was forced to retire on the third lap.

Just as Ferrari were about to be forced into a race-defining decision on pitting Sainz, the ultimate disaster hit Hamilton, an engine failure prematurely ending his already dour weekend.

The virtual safety car was a godsend for Sainz, who made a cheap pitstop to hang onto his clear air out in front.

More disaster was to come for Mercedes as George Russell ended his race with spectacular carnage, smashing into the concrete barriers at turn seven on the final lap, attempting to chase down Fernando Alonso.

Piastri was asked to switch positions with Norris on lap 29 as the Englishman attempted to charge down LeClerc with incredible pace on fresher tyres.

But the experienced Ferrari duo earned their keep, barely putting a foot wrong to hand the red cars a special Melbourne one-two.

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