Carlos Sainz
Carlos Sainz celebrates his victory in the Australian Grand Prix. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS
  • Formula One

Time of the Sainz: Spaniard wins dramatic Australian GP

Oliver Caffrey March 24, 2024

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz has made a remarkable comeback from surgery to win a dramatic Australian Grand Prix, after Red Bull superstar Max Verstappen’s bid to equal his own Formula One record went up in smoke.

Two weeks after he was sidelined from the Saudi Arabian race due to appendicitis, Sainz claimed the third win of his F1 career, and first at Albert Park.

The Spaniard took the chequered flag ahead of teammate Charles Leclerc, completing a Ferrari 1-2 in Melbourne for the first time since 2004.

Lando Norris finished third, after McLaren ordered rising star Oscar Piastri to allow his teammate to overtake.

Piastri came in fourth, continuing the run of an Australian driver having never made it on the podium in the 28-year history of GPs held at Albert Park.

Australian veteran Daniel Ricciardo, who missed last year’s Melbourne race, finished 12th with his new team, RB.

But the day belonged to Sainz, whose brave performance will have rival teams circling as he is out-of-contract for next season.

“Life sometimes is crazy,” he said.

“What happened at the beginning of the year (not being renewed at Ferrari), then the appendix and the comeback and the win – a rollercoaster, but I love it.”

 Oscar Piastri finished fourth as Australia’s stretch without a podium finish continues. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS 

Sainz revealed he went to dramatic lengths in a bid to be fit to race, including spending two hours a day in a hyperbaric chamber.

“When I was about to catch my flight to Australia, I was still in bed and could barely use my abdominal muscles,” he said.

“I was like ‘this isn’t going to happen’. But I took the flight and suddenly when I landed in Australia, the feeling was a lot better.”

The race ended under a virtual safety car after Mercedes’ George Russell suffered a huge crash on the last lap.

Aston Martin veteran Fernando Alonso was given a 20-second penalty for his role in Russell’s crash, demoting him from sixth to eighth place.

Verstappen’s bid to win a 10th straight race for the second time in less than 12 months ended after his brakes exploded and his car caught on fire.

After cantering to wins in the opening two races of the season, Verstappen was a red-hot favourite to go back-to-back after winning at Albert Park for the first time last year.

The three-time defending world champion started on pole but Sainz, who qualified second, overtook him on the second lap.

Soon afterwards, smoke appeared at the rear of the 26-year-old’s car and he was forced into the pits on lap three, with no hope of a return.

“My right rear brake basically stuck on from when the lights went off,” Verstappen said.

“We had a lot of good races in a row, I knew that the day would come when you end up having a retirement and unfortunately that day was today.”

Verstappen, who was also forced to retire at Albert Park in 2022, had won nine straight races, dating back to the Japanese Grand Prix last September.

Sainz passes Verstappen.
 Sainz passes Verstappen on lap two, soon before the latter retired. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS 

Sainz was the last driver, in Singapore last September, other than Verstappen to win a F1 race.

Victory at Albert Park would have taken Verstappen level with his own record, set with his 10 straight wins from Miami to Monza last year.

Verstappen won 19 races last season – the most in F1 history – on his way to a third straight title to completely dominate the rest of the field.

The Dutchman had also converted his last 18 poles into a race win.

Verstappen wasn’t the only big name to suffer mechanical issues, with seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton forced to the back of the field on lap 17.

Hamilton, who started 11th after his worst qualifying session at Albert Park since 2010, headed to the garage in another disappointing race in his last season with Mercedes before he replaces Sainz at Ferrari next year.

It was the first time Verstappen and Hamilton – F1’s two most successful drivers of the past decade – had withdrawn from the same race due to mechanical failures.


1. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)

2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)

3. Lando Norris (McLaren)

4. Oscar Piastri (McLaren)

5. Sergio Perez (Red Bull)

6. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)

7. Yuki Tsunoda (RB)

8. Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin)

9. Nico Hulkenberg (Haas)

10. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)