Verstappen wins first Australian Grand Prix despite red flag drama; Hamilton 2nd, Alonso 3rd

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Photo: Red Bull Content Pool

Max Verstappen held on for victory at the Australian Grand Prix, closely followed by Lewis Hamilton in second and Fernando Alonso in third, despite late red flag chaos which left just 12 finishers across the line.

Fernando Alonso was relieved to retain to his podium, as the stewards decided to revert back to the second Red Flag’s starting order, following a turn one crash that rendered the race effectively over.

Carlos Sainz finished fourth, but received a penalty that dropped him to 12th after taking out his fellow Spaniard Fernando Alonso at the second restart. Charles Leclerc was taken out on lap one and did not finish the race.

Lance Stroll was another one to be thankful after he locked up and found himself at the back, eventually being reinstated to fourth.

Sergio Perez rescued good points with fifth, followed by a double points finish for McLaren, including a maiden top 10 finish for Oscar Piastri.

Nico Hulkenberg was stripped of fourth and demoted to seventh by the time the race had ended, but still scored good points for Haas, as Zhou Guanyu and Yuki Tsunoda rounded out the top 10.

The Race:

George Russell swooped ahead of Max Verstappen into turn one off the start, opening the door for Lewis Hamilton to attack the reigning world champion.

Hamilton’s dive helped him to secure second place, as contact for Charles Leclerc with Lance Stroll, sent him spinning into the gravel and out of the race.

Once the DRS became available on lap three, the drivers bunched up, but not as much as they did when a Red Flag came out, as Alex Albon sustained a heavy crash at the start of sector two.

A calmer restart followed, as new race leader Hamilton kept his lead over Verstappen, while Russell gained two places up to fifth, after pitting right before the red flag came out.

By lap 12, Verstappen breezed last the Mercedes aided by DRS, pulling out a two second advantage in the final sector alone.

Lap 18 signalled the end of the race for the other Mercedes car, leaving George Russell stranded on the pit straight, and bringing out a Virtual Safety Car.

When the racing resumed, Sergio Perez continued to slice through the field, while hometown favourite Oscar Piastri moved ahead of Yuki Tsunoda for 11th.

The Japanese driver continued to be swallowed up, as engineers confirmed he had a problem with nearly half the race yet to be completed.

With 15 laps to go, Perez managed to move up to eighth, as he got past the McLaren of Lando Norris who he had been stuck behind.

With seven laps to go, Norris put a move of his own on Nico Hulkenberg to snatch eighth, as the German took a trip through the gravel in the aftermath.

Hulkenberg’s Haas team mate Kevin Magnussen hit the wall with just five laps to go, signalling the introduction of a Safety Car, which turned to a Red Flag, to ensure a dramatic end to the race.

More drama was in store for the restart, as chaos at turn one saw Sainz collide with Alonso, relegating him to the back of the field, while Logan Sargeant slammed into the back of Nyck De Vries.

A third Red Flag would follow as the two Alpine’s crashed in spectacular fashion, sparking confusion up and down the pit lane, as to the finishing order of the race.

The results were eventually counted back to the end of lap 57, resulting in relief for some, and fury for others.

But Carlos Sainz would soon receive a five second penalty for the restart crash, dropping him to 12th after the race, in a move that saw a driver receive a penalty for a lap that count.

A four week gap now follows this race, as the Chinese Grand Prix vacated its slot on the calendar. The next Grand Prix will see us head to the streets of Baku, where we’re likely to see similar levels of drama.