Verstappen wins Australian Grand Prix after 3 restarts
The Australian Grand Prix was an incident filled affair that was made worse, or more spectacular, by decisions made by race control. Three red flags and three restarts later, Verstappen won the race, Hamilton finished second and Alonso third.
When the lights went out Verstappen immediately went to the right to cover Russell but the Mercedes driver clearly got the better getaway and got ahead even before braking for Turn 1.
Verstappen then slotted in behind the Mercedes while Hamilton and Alonso battled it out for third on the exit of Turn 2. With Hamilton there on the ideal racing line he got the better accelleration and even got past Verstappen for second place in Turn 3, quickly resulting in complaints by Verstappen about being pushed off the track.
The real trouble was behind them though as Leclerc came together with Stroll and bumped off the track. Leclerc was on the far outside to approach the corner and came in faster than Stroll, leading him to bump his right rear with Stroll's left front wheel, and out he was.
As the Ferrari got stuck in the gravel the safety car was brought out. Perez and Sargeant pitted.
Two laps later the race was on again and soon Hamilton and Verstappen showed they could go faster than Russel. Of course this was due to the DRS zones, enabling them to stick very very close albeit unable to overtake immediately. Behind them Carlos Sainz already started to drop off while Alonso's fastest lap on the 6th lap of the race put him right behind the Ferrari, eager to take back the position lost in lap 1.
In lap 7 Albon was caught napping and found himself crashing hard out of the race, leading to lots of debris out on track. The safety car was brought out and triggered stops for Russell, Sainz and Perez again. For them this proved a disaster as the race was stopped with a red flag one lap later.
36 minutes past the original start the race went going again, this time without incidents or position changes at the front. Hamilton easily held the lead. Alonso actually had the best start but was unable to get ahead of Verstappen so stuck with third. The leading two quickly pulled away from Alonso and when DRS got enabled Verstappen made a very easy pass on the back straight to take the lead on lap 10.
Verstappen quickly disappeared in the distance while Russell, Perez and Sainz started to come back through. By lap 11 Russell was back up in 4th. 5 laps later though his engine let go, leading to a short virtual safety car period as the burning Mercedes got parked off track, at the pit exit.
Before that VSC Alonso was glued on Hamilton's rear but the laps following that reduced pace period Alonso did not keep up with Hamilton and consistently lost half a second lap. Sainz meanwhile did the reverse and steadily recovered. The Spaniard got into 4th place when passing Gasly on lap 27.
Another few laps later Alonso started to reduce the gap to Hamilton again. Hamilton's engineer soon came up on the radio to tell Lewis the AMR was trying to push him to use his tyres, and "don't fall for it". The reality however was that the hard tyre that now everybody was on since the race stoppage was showing little signs of degrading and everybody kept on going faster and faster.
Verstappen for instance did another fastest lap on lap 42 in 1:20.986 but Hamilton, Alonso and Sainz also frequently did purple sectors as well. Even Perez, despite being stuck in 9th for a number of laps already set purple first sectors. Lap 43 was a fastest lap for Perez, this time two tenths quicker than Verstappen and now enough to finally make his way into 8th position.
Perez went on to move up into 7th by passing Hulkenberg on the next lap. This dropped the Haas driver right into the path of Norris who, albeit with trouble and requiring repeated attempts also managed to pass Nico eventually to take 8th.
In front, Verstappen then dozed off and went through the grass in the penultimate corner. He blamed it on front locking but clearly being there all alone with pace in hand must've been a little bit too boring to keep up the required concentration.
Then 4 laps from the end, when everything seemed settled, Magnussen was overly ambitious out of Turn 2 and hit the wall with his right rear. The tyre went off the rim immediately and came to halt on the track while Magnussen parked near Turn 4.
Strangely, even with the tyre on track and visible on the live feed it took at least 30 seconds before the safety car was announced, allowing for several cars to pass the tyre under green flag conditions. In an even stranger turnaround the race was subsequently red flag, much to the surprise of Verstappen and Alonso while Hamilton even asked Peter Bonnington whether they would restart the race for just one or two laps.
10 minutes later everybody got going round again from the pits to the starting grid for a start of a 2-lap race. Everybody was on used soft tyres except for Sergio Perez who still have one set of new softs left.
As was bound to happen, incidents occurred across the field. Alonso chose the outside and slotted in behind Verstappen and Hamilton but was then punted out by Sainz who was on the inside and couldn't avoid contact any more. The Spaniard was sent in a spin and could continue at the back.
Meanwhile Sergio Perez went through the gravel to avoid contact with an Alpine and dangerously returned to the track at Turn 2. There both Alpines came together and crashed into the outside wall simultaneously. And further down in Turn 3 it was Devries and Sargeant who came together and got stuck in the gravel to retire from the race.
To make matters worse for Aston Martin, Lance Stroll missed his braking for Turn 3 by a mile and went through the gravel, rejoining the track even behind Alonso. This left 12 cars in the race with both Aston Martins not scoring points while Hulkneberg sat 4th, Tsunoda 5th, then Norris, Piastri, Zhou, Bottas and Perez.
Alonso however was fuming on the radio, saying this red flag for 2 laps was silly. He also immediately called for the FIA to revert the order to before the restart as they had not been able to complete the lap. Soon an investigation into the starting procedure was announced.
About 10 to 15 minutes later the FIA announced that the race would be restarted in the same order as on the restart except of course the cars who crashed out and are unable to continue. This includes both Alpines who were solidly in the points 4 laps from the end and before the circus commenced. With just 1 lap left on the tally though, this was a simple lap behind the safety car to then take the finish.
As everybody was getting back in their cars and teams rearranged the positions of the cars in the pitlane the stewards announced a 5s penalty for Carlos Sainz. The Spaniard was begging not to apply the penalty and get the stewards to talk to him.
It was to no avail. The cars crossed the line to finish a mindblowingly crazy end where Sainz finished 4th but his 5s penalty cost him 8 places to effectively finish last of the remaining 12 cars.
|1||1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Honda Rbpt||58||2:32:38.371||25|
|3||14||Fernando Alonso||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||58||+0.769s||15|
|4||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||58||+3.082s||12|
|5||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing Honda Rbpt||58||+3.320s||11|
|6||4||Lando Norris||Mclaren Mercedes||58||+3.701s||8|
|7||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Haas Ferrari||58||+4.939s||6|
|8||81||Oscar Piastri||Mclaren Mercedes||58||+5.382s||4|
|9||24||Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||58||+5.713s||2|
|10||22||Yuki Tsunoda||Alphatauri Honda Rbpt||58||+6.052s||1|
|11||77||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||58||+6.513s||0|
|13||10||Pierre Gasly||Alpine Renault||56||DNF||0|
|14||31||Esteban Ocon||Alpine Renault||56||DNF||0|
|15||21||Nyck De Vries||Alphatauri Honda Rbpt||56||DNF||0|
|16||2||Logan Sargeant||Williams Mercedes||56||DNF||0|
|17||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||52||DNF||0|
|NC||23||Alexander Albon||Williams Mercedes||6||DNF||0|
Sainz received a five-second time penalty for causing a collision.