Carlos Sainz ends Verstappen’s dominance as Mercedes endure disastrous Aus GP

Carlos Sainz ends Verstappen's dominance as Mercedes endure disastrous Aus GP

Sainz was unable to challenge the pole-sitter Verstappen at the race start, but after snatching the lead with DRS assistance on the second lap, the Spaniard’s position was consolidated when the reigning world champion suffered his first DNF since the 2022 campaign.

The result was nothing short of a fairytale for Sainz, who was under the knife for appendicitis surgery just two weeks ago, missing the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix following a late diagnosis. He did minimal simulator and gym work ahead of the race in Australia but still turned in a season-defining display.

His team-mate’s afternoon was less straightforward as Leclerc was forced to push on screaming tyres to hold off the threat of Norris from behind. The McLaren star fell just short but led colleague and home hero Oscar Piastri over the line for a respectable three-four finish down under.

While Ferrari and McLaren were the winners in Melbourne, Mercedes and Red Bull were the losers. Lewis Hamilton made it just 17 laps before his miserable outing was compounded with a power unit failure that left the seven-time world champion out of the race and brought out the virtual safety car.

Things got even worse for the Mercedes crew on the final lap when George Russell lost the car in the wake of Fernando Alonso, sliding off into the gravel trap before a detached wheel flipped his W15 car and ensured that the race ended under caution.

Red Bull salvaged a P5 finish thanks to the efforts of Sergio Perez, while Aston Martin secured their best result of the season so far as Alonso led Lance Stroll across the line behind the Mexican driver.

Yuki Tsunoda also impressed in the VCARB car, converting his impressive qualifying result into the team’s first four points of the 2024 campaign.

Haas were the main beneficiaries of the DNFs in front of them with both Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen finishing the race in the points following an intense battle with Williams’ sole entry for the race, Alex Albon.