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It was drama, drama and more drama in Melbourne. Max Verstappen won ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, in a race that saw three red flags and three standing starts.
Australia Grand Prix Final Standings: Who Won the Race?
Max Verstappen started on pole and won the Australian Grand Prix – but that only tells half the story of a chaotic, drama-filled race in Melbourne.
The reigning two-time champion was demoted to third by the two Mercedes on lap 1, as he once again struggled to generate heat on the tyres. Russell jumped into the lead, only to get demoted to seventh after some red flag bad luck. The young Brit would retire later with an engine problem.
After two Safety Car interventions and a red flag, Verstappen retook the lead from Lewis Hamilton and never looked back until the final laps.
Kevin Magnussen crashed into the turn 2 wall with five laps to go. It led to a third standing start, with Verstappen successfully defending the lead as chaos erupted behind. A third red flag was thrown, this time ending the race. The Dutchman won his first Australian Grand Prix, ahead of Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.
Action-packed Start, Bad Luck for George Russell
Russell got off the line better than Verstappen, outbraking the pole-sitter into turn 1 and taking the lead. As Verstappen struggled to generate heat through the first few corners, leading to the rest of the field stacking up behind the Red Bull driver. Hamilton took the opportunity and muscled his way past the Dutchman to make it a Mercedes 1-2.
With Verstappen going early on the brakes into turn 3, chaos ensued behind. The two Ferraris and the two Aston Martins got together, and it was Charles Leclerc who came off worse. Last year’s Australian GP winner was left on the outside and turned into Stroll, spinning into the gravel trap on turn 3 and out of the race, also leading to an early Safety Car intervention.
Multiple drivers took the chance to go for a pit stop, with Sergio Perez among them.
Russell nailed the restart on lap 7, but the race quickly went back under caution. Alexander Albon, running an impressive sixth, crashed heavily into the turn 5 tyre barrier on lap 9. Russell took the chance to pit, with Verstappen and Hamilton staying out. The strategy backfired for the former race leader, as the red flag was deployed soon after. It effectively relegated the Brit to seventh, while Hamilton and Verstappen moved up a spot.
Verstappen Retakes the Lead, Drives Into the Sunset
The chaos continue even during the second formation lap. As the cars towards the back slowed down, Perez, the two Alfa Romeos and the Haas of Kevin Magnussen narrowly avoided a pile-up.
Hamilton retained the lead on the restart. Alonso tried to go around Verstappen, but the Red Bull driver mounted a successful defense into turn 1. Further behind, Stroll was slow off the line, dropping down to sixth behind a surprising Pierre Gasly and Russell.
Verstappen remained within Hamilton’s DRS range. As the overtaking aid became available on lap 13, the Dutchman had little trouble getting around the seven-time champion on the long run to turn 9. The Red Bull driver quickly opened up a two-second gap, easily getting out of DRS range while also setting the fastest lap along the way.
The Calm After the Storm
Overtaking continued down the order. Russell moved up to fourth, getting around Gasly. Sainz also moved past Stroll into sixth place.
Russell’s day went from bad to worse, as his Mercedes power unit went up in flames in dramatic fashion down the main straight on lap 18.
Perez slowly made his way up the order, climbing up to eighth. Hamilton and Alonso exchanged tenths, while Verstappen built up a gigantic gap.
After 30-plus laps of frantic action, things finally started to calm down, as drivers tried to save tyres towards the final stages. Verstappen had a big scare on lap 47, as the Dutchman locked up into turn 13 and narrowly avoided spinning out. Although it did cost four seconds of his lead 11-plus second lead, it wasn’t anywhere near enough to threaten his win.
Late Red Flag, More Chaos
As the race winded down to its conclusion, Kevin Magnussen hit the wall on the exit of turn 2, sending his right rear tyre flying. It led to a Safety Car intervention on lap 54 and a highly controversial second red flag.
The restart happened on lap 57. Verstappen moved over to cover Hamilton into turn 1, and then mayhem erupted. It all started as Sainz hit Alonso into turn 1, turning his countryman around and into the wall.
As cars went left, right and center, Gasly tried to take avoiding action and hit an unsighted Esteban Ocon, wiping both Alpines out in a big – and costly – crash.
In the end, the final restart amounted to nothing but a massive parts bill and lost points for Alpine. Since the field did not complete a single timed sector under green flag, the order went back to what it had been prior to the restart.
Max Verstappen finished ahead of Hamilton, as the field went out one more time to complete the 58th and final lap behind the Safety Car. Alonso retained his third position, extending the podium streak to three races. Sainz picked up a five-second penalty for his clash with Alonso, dropping him to 12th.
Stroll finished fourth, followed by Perez, Norris, Hulkenberg, hometown hero Piastri, Zhou and Tsunoda. Piastri scored his first F1 points, coming in his first home race.
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