Verstappen wins chaotic Australian GP after three red flags
Max Verstappen won the Australian GP ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso after a long, messy race, which saw three red flags.
It was the perfect start for Mercedes, with George Russell taking the lead in turn 1, and Lewis Hamilton overtaking Verstappen to get up to P2. It wasn't the same for Verstappen, who dropped back to P3, and Charles Leclerc, who beached his SF-23 after contact with Lance Stroll. Due to that, the safety car was deployed.
Russell perfectly managed the restart and kept the position, while Hamilton had to defend from Verstappen. They were close to each other, with the Dutchman trying to get the better of them thanks to his blistering pace.
On the seventh lap, Alexander Albon hit the barriers and brought out another safety car. The Williams driver had to retire.
Many drivers dived into the pits to change tires, one of them was the race leader Russell, meaning Hamilton took the lead. Carlos Sainz stopped too, dropping back to P11.
Due to the track's conditions after the crash, the race was red-flagged. It was a huge disadvantage for those who stopped.
As the drivers stopped, this was the pecking order: Hamilton, Verstappen, Alonso, Stroll, Gasly, Hulkenberg, Russell, Tsunoda, Norris, Piastri, Sainz, De Vries, Ocon, Perez, Zhou, Bottas, Sargeant, Magnussen.
The race control confirmed it would be a standing start. Hamilton's warm-up lap was extremely slow. Some drivers almost had to stop and there was chaos in the middle of the field as some drivers overtook others and a Haas also went on the gravel to avoid other opponents.
Hamilton kept the lead and there weren't many changes. De Vries was touched by Ocon at turn 3 but didn't have damage.
After just two laps, Verstappen became leader by overtaking Hamilton.
After the restart, Sainz got back up to P6 after easily overtaking 4 cars, showing good pace around Albert Park. Russell also started his comeback, reaching P4, right behind Alonso. Meanwhile, Perez was still in P13.
On lap 18, Russell had to retire due to an engine failure. After a dream start, everything went wrong for the Briton. The virtual safety car was deployed.
Perez continued with his comeback, gaining positions lap after lap, reaching P9 on lap 24. Sainz did the same as he overtook Gasly for P4.
There was also a nice battle for P10 between Tsunoda, Piastri and Ocon, with McLaren showing some improvements as Lando Norris was in P8.
On lap 44, Perez overtook Norris for P8, and one lap later he passed Hulkenberg for P7.
Verstappen was comfortably leading, even though he made a mistake at the penultimate corner, where he locked up and went on the grass.
Norris and Hulkenberg had a great battle for P8, with the Briton overtaking the Haas driver in the last sector. The German finished off the track, but he kept control of the car and continued.
Second red flag
On lap 54, Magnussen had to retire after he touched the wall out of turn 2 and broke his suspension. After two laps behind the safety car, the race control decided to deploy the second red flag of the day.
The last two laps were set to be extremely exciting.
What a chaos at the restart. Sargeant, De Vries, Ocon, and Gasly were out. The FIA deployed another red flag, and it was difficult to understand what the final result would be.
After the chaos, the positions were: Verstappen, Hamilton, Sainz, Hulkenberg, Tsunoda, Norris, Piastri, Zhou, Bottas, Perez, Alonso, and Stroll. However, the final positions could be the ones before the restart.
The race director decided to make the race end behind the safety car with the following order: Verstappen, Hamilton, Alonso, Sainz, Stroll, Perez, Norris, Hulkenberg, Piastri, Tsunoda, Zhou, Bottas.
The show wasn't over, though. Since Sainz touched Alonso during the restart, the FIA gave him a 5-second penalty, meaning he would lose a lot of positions as the field would finish the race very close to each other. The Spaniard dropped back to P12.