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Sainz Masterclass headlines Ferrari 1-2 in Melbourne after Verstappen Knockout

Carlos Sainz and Ferrari produced a sublime display to counter Red Bull’s early season dominance after Max Verstappen after Max Verstappen suffers severe break failure.

It was all set to be another routine Grand Prix victory for Max Verstappen and Red Bull.

After a magnificent display in qualifying, Verstappen once again finished on pole with a record breaking lap time of 1:15.915, the first driver to ever go under 1:16 at Albert Park.

The two Ferraris of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc had had a decent qualifying themselves finishing second and fourth respectively, with McLaren’s Lando Norris coming in third, but the expectation was always that Verstappen would win his third Grand Prix of the season. Image credit Helena Goncalves

The only hope was that Sainz, starting in second, would be able to get ahead of Verstappen off the line, with Melbourne being renowned for its chaotic starts. However, when Verstappen maintained his lead past the first two corners, it seemed that all hope was lost…

But it seemed that Verstappen’s car had other ideas. Verstappen had spoken of break trouble from the start of the race, with it appearing that his fast start may have been the result of the damage he alluded to.

On the third corner of lap two, Verstappen made an error which opened the door for Sainz to utilise his DRS. A few corners later, Sainz overtook Verstappen with relative ease and lead the Melbourne Grand Prix after just two laps.

Things went from bad to worse for Verstappen and Red Bull, as a plume of smoke began to trail from his back right break.

As a cheer rang out amongst the crowd, the smoke coming from Verstappen’s Red Bull became more and more evident and the dominant force in F1 began to get slower and slower.

The ‘Flying Dutchman’ normally renowned for being on fire around the track found himself quite literally ablaze as he crawled to the pits in hope of fixing his flaming breaks.

But it was not to be for the defending three time World Champion, as the damage to his car was deemed too severe and he slumped to his first DNF since the 2022 edition of the Melbourne Grand Prix.

A few laps later, Lewis Hamilton was also out of the race with engine troubles, marking the first time Verstappen and Hamilton had both failed to finish a race since they took each other out of the Monza GP in 2021.

With Verstappen out of the race, Sainz took complete control and grabbed his opportunity with both hands, putting on an absolute masterclass and taking home the Melbourne Grand Prix with little to no trouble at all.

Despite mild concerns over his tires in the last few laps, Sainz’s victory was confirmed when Mercedes capped off a truly woeful weekend with George Russell’s crash on the final lap meaning the race ended under a virtual safety car.

Leclerc came in at P2 to make Ferrari the big winners at Melbourne, with it being only the fifth time in fourteen years that Ferrari have come P1 and P2 in a Grand Prix, and perhaps marks a turning point in their fortunes.

It was also an excellent Grand Prix for McLaren, as Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri came in at third and fourth respectively.

Piastri, a Melbourne native and home favourite, was forced to give up his podium place to Norris, much to the disappointment of the Melbourne crowd, but still put together an excellent race to finish fourth and will likely be a strong competitor for years to come.

Red Bull’s other driver, Sergio Perez, came in at a lacklustre 5th, to crown their worst race for a long time, but by far the biggest losers of the weekend were Mercedes.

Hamilton, the man set to replace Sainz at Ferrari, has had his worst start to an F1 season and looks well past his best, if Sainz continues the form shown in Melbourne, then the decision to drop the ‘Smooth Operator’ is going to look stranger by the second.

Russell’s crash was the icing on a rather nasty cake for Mercedes as they finished the weekend with zero points.

But disaster for one often leads to jubilation for another, as Russell’s crash meant that the Haas team had an excellent Grand Prix with both their drivers, Nico Hülkenberg and Kevin Magnussen, finishing in the points for the first time this season.

A special shout-out to Yuki Tsunoda who also had an excellent race, finishing 8th for Racing Bull’s, with Australian hero Daniel Ricciardo coming in at a respectable 12th.

But of course the Melbourne Grand Prix was all about Ferrari, and one man in particular.

Sainz, who recently came back from an appendix operation, has once again proved himself to be one of the best drivers on the grid. In 2023, he was the only non Red Bull driver to win a Grand Prix, and his performance in Singapore is often heralded as one of the sport’s best drives of recent years.

Astonishingly he is set to be without a seat for the 2025 season with Hamilton’s arrival, but after his performance at Melbourne, surely there will be plenty of teams drooling at the possibility of signing on of the best drivers in F1.

With Perez underperforming most weeks for Red Bull, could a return be on the cards for Sainz to the Red Bull family where he started his F1 career?

Since the race, Red Bull team Principal Christian Horner has raised the possibility of Sainz’s return to Red Bull. A partnership with Max Verstappen in 2025, could create one of the strongest driver lineups F1 has seen for a long time.


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