Verstappen Wins Wild, Red Flag-Plagued Australian Grand Prix

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Well, for those of us here in the U.S. of A who stayed up into the wee hours of the morning to catch the Australian Grand Prix live, we were treated to one wild race.

And a lot — a lot — of red flags.

It seemed like the Australian Grand Prix was going to provide some excitement and we didn’t have to wait long to see some.

At the start, the focus was on the first two rows consisting of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen followed by Mercedes George Russell and Lewis Hamilton, then Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso.

Russell got a great jump off the line and managed to take the lead out of Turn 1, however, he wouldn’t get a chance to build a gap, because there was drama unfolding behind him.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc — who started P7 — was sent spinning into the Turn 3 gravel trap after what was ruled a racing incident with Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll. This was the second year in a row that a Ferrari retired on the first lap in Australia. Last year that honor went to Carlos Sainz.

Believe it or not, this would not be the worst stroke of luck to hit the Scuderia in Australia.

After the safety car restart, it was only a few laps before Williams’ Alex Albon found the tire barrier, which brought out the first red flag and ended his stellar weekend in disappointing fashion.

This gave us another standing start, and while Hamilton had another good jump off the line, Verstappen quickly caught him on just before Turn 9. The circuit only has 15 corners, but by the end of the lap, Verstappen had built a two-second gap to Hamilton.

That Red Bull is fast.

The Dutchmen went virtually unchallenged to take his second victory of the season and his first-ever Australian Grand Prix win. It also added to his lead in the Drivers’ Championship Standings. Joining him on the podium were Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.

That’s 11 World Championships on a single podium.

Things Got WILD Down Under

It looked like Mercedes was on for a great day. However, things quickly took a turn for George Russell. He pitted under the safety car from Alex Albon’s crash but before the red flag. That caused him to give up track position.

But, hey, guess what? It got worse for him.

On lap 18, it looked like Russell’s power unit took a crap with flames shooting out the back of it. This brought out a virtual safety car and ended his day, which would have certainly been a double-points finish for Mercedes.

From that VSC until about lap 54, the race turned into an endurance race to nurse sets of hard tires to the end of the race. However, the biggest twist came on lap 54 when Haas’ Kevin Magnussen clipped a wall which sent his right great tire flying off the rim.

This brought out another red flag and another standing start.

On the restart, Carlos Sainz and Fernando lined up in the second row. Within just a couple of corners, Sainz had spun his countryman and set off a chaotic chain reaction that saw both Alpines crash into each other. That cost the team what would have been a nice points haul.

The race ended behind a safety car with an order based on the grid from that standing start. Not the most exciting way to end a race and, no, there weren’t any pitwall celebrations.

However, the drama wasn’t over. Just before the final safety car trundle across the line, Sainz received a 5-second penalty for causing the incident with Alonso. This dropped him from P3 to P12. It was another nightmare in Australia for Ferrari, who failed to score a point. That made them a distant P4 in the Constructors’ Standings.

Also, if there weren’t enough red flags for your liking, there was another on the cool-down lap, when Nico Hulkenberg’s Haas came to a halt in Turn 2.

Standouts In Australia

There were some stand-out drives in Australia, perhaps most notably from Sergio Perez, who went from starting the race in the pitlane to well into the points. He finished P5 salvaging what had been up to that point a hellish weekend for the Mexican. I think he may have been able to snag another spot or two, had he not gotten hung up behind McLaren’s Lando Norris.

Speaking of McLaren, the team finally managed to score points, and better yet, did it with both cars. That shot them up the standings from last place to P5. Those were also the first career points for rookie Oscar Piastri, who hails from Melbourne.

Haas’s Nico Hulkenberg threw down a great race after a strong qualifying session. He nearly snagged that elusive podium depending on what order the stewards decided to use for the final restart. His team boss, Guenther Steiner, was understandably irate over this, and the team protested the final result. I have no clue how that could possibly go their way given the stewards followed precedent from last year’s British Grand Prix.

But hey, at least he let him know how mad he was.

There was so much that happened we’ll be unpacking this race for a while. Luckily for us, there are a couple of weeks between the Australian Grand Prix and the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. We can use that time to collect ourselves (and catch up on sleep).

That said, I’m really looking forward to Azerbaijan, seeing as the Baku circuit is one of my favorites thanks to the setup challenges it presents. It tends to deliver some great races.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Drink some coffee or take a nap. We all need it after that doozy of a race.

Follow on Twitter: @Matt_Reigle

Written by Matt Reigle

Matt is a University of Central Florida graduate and a long-suffering Philadelphia Flyers fan living in Orlando, Florida. He can usually be heard playing guitar, shoe-horning obscure quotes from The Simpsons into conversations, or giving dissertations to captive audiences on why Iron Maiden is the greatest band of all time.

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