Leclerc takes dominant victory at Melbourne

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Ferrari's Charles Leclerc took his second win of the season, leading a controlled race from start to finish. As Verstappen's engine failed, Perez finished second while Russell made it to the podium for Mercedes.

The Australian Grand Prix was expected to become a single stop affair, partly due to Pirelli bringing the quite hard C2 compound as the hardest tyre. While most drivers opted for the medium to take the start, Sainz and Alonso in 9th and 10th were the highest starters on the hard tyres.

When the lights went out, Leclerc had a strong start and easily maintained his lead from pole position. Verstappen followed in second while Lewis Hamilton made a great start and thanks to strong braking for T1 moved up into third. Perez and Russell were next, ahead of the McLaren duo after Norris too had a difficult start.

Alonso maintained 10th but it was Sainz who had the worst start. The Spaniard had a slow getaway and ended up in 13th before trying a courageous move on Bottas. It didn't really work out though as a short moment of rear loss of grip sent him in the grass and eventually stuck in the gravel trap.

The virtual safety car and then safety car were brought out on track to clear the Ferrari and it took until lap 7 until the race as on again. By then, Aston Martin had pitted Stroll twice, first to switch from Hard to Medium, then one lap later back to the Hard tyres.

As Perez and Bottas were the only ones to make a pass stick before lap 17, Verstappen struggled to keep up with Leclerc's pace and frequently locked up a tyre in the final sector. The Dutchman then got pitted on lap 18, a lap after Ocon was the first to make.

As Verstappen rejoined the track in 7th, Alonso pounced past Gasly to take 8th.

By lap 20, Hamilton had closed the gap again to Perez after initially dropping 3s behind the Red Bull. Red Bull understood the tyre trouble well enough and called Perez in, promoting Hamilton to second, nearly 18s down on Leclerc. Norris pitted on the same lap, followed by the other McLaren, Gasly and Zhou one lap later.

On lap 22, Leclerc, Hamilton and Bottas pitted as well, enabling Leclerc to maintain the lead, albeit with just 0.7s left on Russell. The latter ended up driving the longest stint on the medium and pitted one lap later, just when another Safety Car was brought out as Vettel spun out of Turn 4 and then stopped on the track near Turn 5.

The SC obviously got the pack all together again with only Alonso, Magnussen and Albon yet to pit. Russell set in third, Perez 5th, then Hamilton, Magnussen, Norris, Ricciardo, Albon, Ocon and Bottas.

The rolling restart on lap 26 saw Verstappen challenge for the lead while the cars behind also seemed extremely close. Alonso meanwhile soon started to feel the effect of the older Hard tyres and as soon as losing DRS on Russell was easily passed by Perez and Hamilton.

Perez went on to have a close fight with Russell for third until Russell got told he needed to be careful with his tyres and worry less about the position. Even though he replied "That's not what I want to hear", Perez got past within the next lap.

Two laps later, Verstappen suffered an engine failure at had flames coming out of the back of his car when he parked it at Turn 2. As he was right at a marshall post this resulted only in a brief VSC period. Alonso and Magnussen both pitted as Albon continued on his old hard tyres from the start.

While at the front positions were pretty much fixed, a compact train of cars formed behind Stroll. The Canadian was a lot slower than Ocon ahead but defended on and over the limit, including weaving on the straight and forcing Bottas off track. Despite the 5s penalty, Stroll held on, resulting in Gasly passing Bottas for 10th just behind them, but the Frenchman was equally unsuccessful to make a quick pass. Alonso, on the freshest tyres of all followed closely in 12th with Schumacher and Zhou right up his tail as well.

Eventually, on lap 50, Gasly made a move stick followed by Bottas one lap later. By then though, Alonso was having trouble to keep up and instead had to focus keeping the others behind. He soon got passed by both drivers chasing him after which they pitted again for another set of fresh Medium tyres to complete the final 5 laps.

The Spaniard tried to take fastest lap there at the end, but with Leclerc and Ferrari seeing the threat they improved again to ensure the pole, fastest lap and race win combination. It was well earned as nobody really managed to put up a serious challenge.