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Sainz makes most of Max's misfortune

Updated: 2024-03-25 09:21
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Ferrari's Spanish driver Carlos Sainz Jr competes during the second practice session of the Formula One Australian Grand Prix at the Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne on March 22, 2024. [Photo/Agencies]

MELBOURNE, Australia — Ferrari's Carlos Sainz ended Red Bull's Formula 1 winning streak when the Spaniard took advantage of Max Verstappen's early retirement to win the Australian Grand Prix just two weeks after missing the previous race in Saudi Arabia due to an emergency appendectomy.

Sainz, who started on the front row alongside Verstappen, kept his place into turn one, but passed the Dutchman on lap two at turn nine for the lead and took control once his rival retired two laps later with a fiery mechanical failure.

Verstappen had won the first two F1 races of the season in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and was on a nine-race winning streak.

Sainz finished ahead of teammate Charles Leclerc for Ferrari's first 1-2 result since the 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix, with McLaren's Lando Norris finishing in third for his first podium at Albert Park.

His teammate, Australian Oscar Piastri, was fourth.

The race finished under the virtual safety car after Mercedes' driver George Russell crashed on turn seven.

Red Bull's Sergio Perez closed out the top five, and made just one place from where he started in sixth, after he was handed a three-place grid penalty for impeding Nico Hulkenberg in qualifying.

Sainz, who will be replaced by Lewis Hamilton at Ferrari from 2025, was thrilled to get his third career win — his first since last year's Singapore Grand Prix.

"I felt really good out there," he said. "Of course, (I felt) a bit stiff, especially physically. It wasn't the easiest, but I was lucky that I was more or less on my own so I could just manage my pace, manage the tires, manage everything.

"Life sometimes is crazy, you know. What happened at the beginning of the year, then the podium in Bahrain, then appendix, the comeback, the win, it's a roller coaster. But I loved it."

Three-time world champion Verstappen said it felt like driving "with the handbrake on" after retiring with smoke billowing from his Red Bull.

The Dutchman started from pole but his race went horribly wrong almost immediately when he was passed by Sainz on lap two before his brakes seized up and his race was over.

"What we can see so far from the data is that as soon as the lights went off the right-rear brake just stuck on," he said.

"It just caused the damage and it kept on increasing so it was also basically driving with the handbrake on.

"That's why the car felt really weird to drive in some corners, just very snappy, while on the laps to the grid the car was really spot on and I was happy with what we were doing. But if a brake is stuck on it doesn't help."

It ended any hope he had of matching his own record set last year of 10 consecutive wins and snapped his unbeaten streak of winning from 18 previous pole positions.

His brake failure ended a run of 43 consecutive races without a retirement.

"Of course, we had a lot of good races in a row, a lot of good reliability," said the 26-year-old. "I knew that the day would come that you end up having a retirement and unfortunately that day was today."


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