Australian Grand Prix: Max Verstappen explains shock early retirement as Carlos Sainz storms to victory

Australian Grand Prix: Max Verstappen explains shock early retirement as Carlos Sainz storms to victory

It was almost business as usual in Formula One at the Australian Grand Prix as the race winner soared to victory with far superior pace and as their rivals fell away with issues and errors.

Only, this time, it was Carlos Sainz taking the chequered flag for Ferrari to end Max Verstappen’s perfect start to the 2024 season.

There was simply no stopping the Spaniard, who sat out the race in Saudi Arabia a fortnight ago after surgery to remove this appendix, as he overtook Verstappen on lap two before the Red Bull’s brakes caught fire to force his early retirement.

The reigning world champion complained off a “loose” feeling in his car before what appeared to be an error was ruthlessly punished by Sainz, but soon enough smoke poured out of Verstappen’s right-rear brake duct which had become partially stuck on since the start. It dramatically exploded as he limped into the pit lane and was a picture of melted metal and rubber by the time the mechanics got to it.

“As soon as the lights went off, you could see the right-rear brake was stuck on,” he explained to Sky F1. “The temperature kept increasing and it was like driving with the handbrake on.

“That’s why I said on radio the car was really weird to drive in some corners. We’ll investigate.”

Sainz never looked back and Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc took second place with relative comfort having been told not to challenge for the lead after pulling close in a virtual safety car period forced by Lewis Hamilton’s engine failure on lap 18.

Lando Norris staked his claim as an early contender for the win but his McLaren lacked the necessary pace and he settled for third place after holding the edge on Melbourne favourite Oscar Piastri.

Sergio Perez’s Red Bull also struggled to challenge the top four despite eating up the Mercedes and Aston Martins making up the middle of the points places. A top-two finish would have guaranteed him the lead of the F1 championship.

George Russell drew an early end to the race after crashing on the penultimate lap in pursuit of Fernando Alonso for sixth place, allowing Sainz to cruise home under the virtual safety car.

“Life sometimes is crazy,” he said post-race before referencing Ferrari’s decision to drop him for Hamilton from next season. “What happened at the beginning of the year, then [finishing third in] Bahrain, the appendix... it’s a rollercoaster but I’m extremely happy.

“I will recommend to all the other drivers to take [their appendix] out!”