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F1: What we learned from the Australian Grand Prix

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Carlos Sainz won the Australian Grand Prix just weeks after his surgery Photo Motorsport
Carlos Sainz won the Australian Grand Prix just weeks after his surgery. Photo/ Motorsport
  • The Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne saw Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz record his first victory of the Formula One 2024 season.
  • We look at the major things we learned from the weekend race.

The Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne saw Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz record his first victory of the Formula One 2024 season.

We look at the major things we learned from the weekend race.

From surgery to pole: life is crazy

Following his victory in the Australian Grand Prix barely two weeks after undergoing appendix surgery, Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz stated on Sunday that “life is crazy sometimes.”

Sainz returned to Albert Park to win his third race in his Formula One career in a one-two with teammate Charles Leclerc. Sainz missed the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix while recuperating from the medical condition.

Despite spending the most of the two weeks following his surgery sleeping in bed, Sainz was nevertheless able to place his vehicle second on the grid behind Max Verstappen during Saturday’s qualifying session.

On the third lap, Sainz passed Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, who was having trouble with his brakes and had to retire as the world champion.

The Spaniard then managed to hold off Leclerc until a last-lap collision involving George Russell brought out the virtual safety car, securing the Spaniard’s triumph.

Sainz, who learned before to the season that seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton will take over his racing seat in 2025, found it to be a bittersweet sensation.

Hamilton woes continue

Lewis Hamilton was forced to retire the car Photo Telegraph

Lewis Hamilton was forced to retire the car. Photo/ Telegraph

Given that Mercedes’ problems are now in their third season and that there are dwindling signs of optimism, this situation is reminiscent of Fernando Alonso’s McLaren-Honda days in that there seems to be no obvious solution, no matter what the team does or tries.

You may have reasoned that his planned 2025 move to Ferrari would lessen the hurt a little bit because, after all, he would be leaving soon. But based on the evidence from this week’s visit to Hamilton’s honesty corner, things are still very much as they were.

At Albert Park on Friday night, he said, “I obviously don’t feel great.” Our session was one of the worst I’ve experienced in a very long time.

“I feel the least confident I’ve ever felt with this car.”

This weekend, however, there was no overnight change as the suffering persisted. His most recent limp Q2 exit on Saturday—it’s common to see him walk confused down pit lane halfway through qualifying while wearing his helmet—was followed by an power unit failure just 16 laps into the race.

Verstappen’s DNF a relief to fans

Max Verstappen Australia DNF Photo The Race

Max Verstappen’s Australia DNF. Photo/ The Race

It was anticipated that Verstappen’s record of the most race victories in a row, set at Monza in September of last year, would stand the test of time.

Only six months later, he found himself in Melbourne, on the brink of repeating the same mistake.

Three races into the new season, Verstappen’s perfect ten would have sent Formula One and the FIA into deep reflection.

After all, these kinds of records are intended to last for many years rather than just a few months.

If Verstappen had easily cruised to another ten consecutive victories, equal his own record as soon as his streak ended, it would have been a terrible example of how fatally uncompetitive Formula One has become in this age.

On days like today, when seeing a new champion make the competition seem like a novelty or an event, the actual scope of Verstappen’s dominance somehow comes home the most.

Naturally, a single victory for Ferrari does not miraculously resolve every issue facing the sport.

Is Alonso responsible for Russell’s crash?

George Russell Australia crash Photo F1

George Russell Australia crash Photo/ F1

A collision that leaves a racing driver stranded in the middle of the track is enough to make them fearful.

When George Russell sat in the line of fire at the conclusion of the race, demanding an instant red flag over team radio, his body braced for the collision and his voice gripped by terror, it was easy to figure out which precise instances were on his mind.

Soon after, the incident turned into a discussion over brake testing, and Alonso was harshly fined for what the stewards called “potentially dangerous driving.”

It takes a bold group of stewards to accuse a two-time World Champion of reckless driving. This is especially true given that Alonso, one of the most skilled drivers in Formula One, has a reputation for placing more importance than most on taking advantage of turbulent air when attacking (as he did against Hamilton in Hungary in 2021) or defending (as he did in the first lap of the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix).

That discussion will go on, and Alonso will probably keep arguing—with good reason, I’m sure—that he’s grown up enough to drive himself to whatever corner he pleases.

The most urgent problem here, though, is that the layout of Albert Park was altered two years ago, creating what is perhaps the most hazardous corner in F1 calendar.

I am an ardent sports enthusiast interested in writing about football, motorsport and athletics.

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