The Australian Grand Prix served up surprises after back-to-back Red Bull one-twos in the opening races of 2024. An early retirement for Max Verstappen opened the door for the team’s rivals to take a rare victory.

Ferrari took full advantage, beating McLaren to secure their first win since Singapore last year as well as the team’s first one-two in two seasons.

They did this by outmanoeuvring McLaren to get Charles Leclerc ahead of Lando Norris. But when he began to close on his race leading team mate Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari were quick to tell their drivers to hold position.

Further back, the disruption to the race caused by Lewis Hamilton’s retirement presented an opportunity to other teams. Among them were Haas, who for the second race in a row used Kevin Magnussen to help his team mate score points.

Early trouble

Verstappen secured his third consecutive pole of the season in Saturday’s qualifying session, which put him in with a strong chance of a hat trick of victories from the start of the season. However, from the moment the lights went out, he struggled with an stuck right-rear brake that slowly overheated to a critical point, which put him out of his first grand prix for exactly two years.

Lap: 1/58 VER: 1’27.458
Lambiase Mode-six. Car behind, Sainz. One second.
Lap: 2/58 VER: 1’24.099
Lambiase Okay, DRS enabled. Gap was 0.9 across the line.
Lambiase 0.4.
Verstappen I just lost the car. Really weird.
Lambiase Yep, understood. No probs.
Lap: 3/58 VER: 1’23.115
Lambiase 0.6.
Verstappen [After oversteering into turn six] Fucking hell, the car is loose…
Lambiase 0.5. And mid-eight, when you can. Mid-eight.
Lap: 4/58
Verstappen Err, yep. I have smoke… blue smoke.
Verstappen [Pulling aside] On fire. Fire. Brake. On brake. Right-rear. My brake pedal’s gone.
Lambiase Yeah. Box, Max, box.
Lambiase Yeah, I can’t brake. Get the fire extinguisher ready – it’s on fire.
Lambiase Yep, understood Max.
Verstappen Can I get out?
Lambiase Switch it off, Max. Yep.

With Verstappen out of the race, Sainz led from Lando Norris, Leclerc and Oscar Piastri. Leclerc struggled to get by the McLaren and join his team mate up front, so Ferrari tried to leap him ahead of the McLaren by pitting him earlier.

Lap: 5/58 LEC: 1’22.632
Marcos Padros So Verstappen just retired.
Marcos Padros And increase tyre saving, turn five.
Lap: 6/58 LEC: 1’22.673
Leclerc Was that turn three, you said?
Marcos Padros Turn five.
Marcos Padros So, switch position ‘yellow’. Switch position ‘yellow’. And be careful of front saturation turns 11 and 13.
Lap: 8/58 LEC: 1’22.983
Marcos Padros And we are going to Plan A at the moment. We believe you are status ‘four’, but we would like you to be in status ‘three’.
Lap: 9/58 LEC: 1’36.036
Marcos Padros And SOC ‘six’ when you can.
Leclerc Struggling to overtake.
Marcos Padros Copy that.
Marcos Padros And box opposite Norris. Box opposite Norris.
Leclerc [In] pit lane.
Marcos Padros Copy.
Lap: 10/58 LEC: 1’27.861
Marcos Padros And slow introduction. Manage these tyres.

Sauber had struggled with malfunctioning pit equipment through the first two rounds, leading to pit problems for Valtteri Bottas in Bahrain and his team mate Zhou Guanyu in Jeddah. In Melbourne, both drivers suffered more problems in the pits.

Lap: 14/58 BOT: 1’23.395
Chan Okay, Valtteri, we’ll box this lap. Box. Box.
Bottas Copy.
Chan Mode ‘RS’ and remember: neutral, off brakes.
Chan [Bottas has been sitting in his pit box for 25 seconds] Okay, Valtteri, stand by.
Chan [Bottas leaves the pit lane] Okay, Valtteri, you can go back to mode ‘race’.
Lap: 15/58 BOT: 1’23.329
Chan Okay, Valtteri, I know it’s frustrating, but still a long way to go in this race.

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Alonso’s good timing

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, Albert Park, 2024

After Verstappen’s retirement, Piastri followed Leclerc into the pits. McLaren brought in team mate Norris, the team warned Piastri that he might meet Norris coming out of the pit lane, but Piastri was clear.

Lap: 14/58 PIA: 1’21.968
Stallard Oscar, we could be close to Lando at pit exit. Remember the racing rules.
Lap: 28/58 PIA: 1’22.204
Stallard Oscar, tyre and balance update: We’re looking more rear-limited than the other car.
Piastri Front-left is starting to struggle more now. The rears are not far behind.
Stallard And Oscar, we’d like to swap position. Swap position. Lando 0.9.
Lap: 29/58 PIA: 1’23.479
Piastri [Piastri allows Norris through into turn three] Okay Oscar, let’s try and keep in DRS as long as we can. Lando’s tyres are in a better state.

Sainz led up the end of lap 16, where he came in for his first stop. Fernando Alonso was the only driver in the top five not to have pitted as Sainz emerged right in front of him. But then as he overtook the Ferrari on cold tyres, the field were forced to slow due to Lewis Hamilton’s sudden problem with his Mercedes.

Lap: 16/58 HAM:
Hamilton Yeah, I’ve had an engine failure.
Bonnington Oh, okay…
Bonnington Engine failure. Engine failure..
Bonnington Okay, so just stop, stop. We’ve got Albon, Ocon, Magnussen coming passed now. So get as safe as you can. So then Magnussen, then Ricciardo, then Zhou. So Ricciardo now and Zhou five seconds behind. So Zhou coming passed now, then you have a 19 second gap to Valterri, so 19 seconds.
Hamilton Trying to find a gap.
Okay mate. Fourteen now to Valtteri. So Valtteri at seven seconds. Five seconds.
Hamilton I can’t see an opening…
Bonnington Okay, so Valtteri the car behind and then you’ve got 31 seconds. Okay, an opening is just there, yep. And when you jump out, mate, if you can just switch it to P0. Sorry about that.
Hamilton All right, guys.
Lap: 14/58 ALO: 1’23.455
Cronin There’s nothing happening on track but full Safety Car window’s open and VSC window open.
Lap: 16/58 ALO: 1’23.239
Alonso It’s good to have free track.
Cronin Yeah, exactly. Just keep going as long as you can. At the moment, Hulkenberg’s dragging the people back that stopped – so Russell, Hamilton and Lance.
Cronin Safety Car window is open.
Lap: 17/58 ALO: 1’48.609
Alonso Say again?
Cronin The Safety Car window is open, just in case. Hamilton is very slow, entry to nine at the moment. Sainz on exit. [Alonso passes Sainz for lead out of T1].
Cronin So Hamilton has stopped exit of turn 10, on the right hand side. Sainz has got DRS. Virtual Safety Car, Virtual… slow down. Get the delta positive. We are boxing this lap. Double yellows ahead, so watch your delta.

McLaren were afraid the VSC would allow Alonso to keep ahead of Norris when he pitted. However, the Aston Martin emerged just behind the two McLarens in fifth, ahead of George Russell.

Lap: 17/58 NOR: 1’38.388
Joseph Virtual Safety Car deployed. Virtual Safety Car deployed. That’s Hamilton after turn ten, I think, on the right. Keep it on the delta.
Joseph Alonso will take it.
Norris Will he come out ahead, I guess?
Joseph Should be behind. Virtual Safety Car ending. Virtual Safety Car ending. Okay, so that’s Alonso 3.5 seconds behind you on a used medium. I.E., his scrubbed one.

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Team orders

Oscar Piastri, Landor Norris, McLaren, Albert Park, 2024

Piastri was ahead of his team mate in third, on course for a podium in his home grand prix. However, Norris behind had fresher tyres and pace that was quicker than the Ferraris ahead. So there was little argument when McLaren asked Piastri to step aside for his team mate.

Lap: 28/58 PIA: 1’22.204
Stallard Oscar, tyre and balance update: We’re looking more rear-limited than the other car.
Piastri Front-left is starting to struggle more now. The rears are not far behind.
Stallard And Oscar, we’d like to swap position. Swap position. Lando 0.9.
Lap: 29/58 PIA: 1’23.479
Piastri [Piastri allows Norris through into turn three] Okay Oscar, let’s try and keep in DRS as long as we can. Lando’s tyres are in a better state.

Ferrari were looking comfortable out front. Leclerc was just outside of DRS range of his leading team mate, but he got the call not to push to challenge Sainz ahead.

Lap: 19/58 LEC: 1’21.881, SAI: 1’21.811
Marcos Padros And hold position. Manage tyres. Sainz Gap, Ricci?
Adami We hold position, we hold position, both cars.
Sainz Gap?
Adami Gap is 0.9 behind, 0.9. Tyres are priority, both cars.
Lap: 20/58 LEC: 1’21.885, SAI: 1’21.602
Sainz [Unclear] struggling at the end on this tyre.
Adami Understood. You are doing well right now. Was just Charles was pushing more on the tyres. Now is keeping our rhythm.

Down in 11th, Haas driver Kevin Magnussen was just ahead of team mate Nico Hulkenberg. The earlier VSC allowed Hulkenberg to pit for mediums, which meant he was on newer, faster tyres than his team mate. For the second race in a row, Magnussen played the team game and would ultimately be rewarded by a double points finish by the end of the grand prix.

Lap: 21/58 HUL: 1’22.479, MAG: 1’22.860
Gannon Okay, Nico, I think we’re going to swap. I’ll let you know. Slade Okay, Kev, are you able to increase pace?
Magnussen No.
Slade Copy.
Lap: 22/58 HUL: 1’22.439, MAG: 1’23.315
Gannon Okay, Nico. Really good job. You’re catching Albon. Just keep doing the managing like you’re doing. That’s what we need. Good job. Albon on 24-lap old hards. Slade We just need to make sure we do not slow Nico down. We should not slow Nico down.
Magnussen Yeah, understood. Slade [Magnussen allows Hulkenberg through into turn 11] Okay, let’s get on it, Kev. Still everything to play for.

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Ferrari plays it safe

Leclerc pitted first out of the two Ferraris again the second time around. Sainz had a moment of concern that his team mate could manage to jump ahead of him, but he was reassured by the team that he had nothing to worry about.

Lap: 38/58 LEC: 1’20.949, SAI: 1’21.412
Adami Charles lap time: 20.7. 20.7. He’s pushing a lot now.
Sainz Okay, don’t put me under pressure. We’ll just slow each other.
Adami No, no. No problem.
Lap: 39/58 LEC: 1’20.909, SAI: 1’21.554
Leclerc Lap times of Carlos, please.
Marcos Padros So Sainz lap time: ‘21.4.
Marcos Padros So target lap time ‘21.5. That’s the lap times from Norris.
Lap: 40/58 LEC: 1’20.953, SAI: 1’21.443
Marcos Padros So we are 1.9 seconds ahead of Norris at the moment, and we believe he will pit this lap, so keep managing a bit the tyres.
Marcos Padros So 2.5 ahead of Norris at the moment.
Leclerc Xavi, come on. Not five times during a lap. One time’s enough, thank you.
Marcos Padros Copy that.

Norris was around three seconds behind Leclerc and trying whatever he could to catch up to the two scarlet cars. But he had to admit that at this race, he just did not have the same performance as the Scuderia.

Lap: 48/58 NOR: 1’20.260
Norris What did he do last lap?
Joseph Basically a 20-dead.
Norris Ah, okay. So he’s quicker.

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Celebrations and commiserations

Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Albert Park, 2024

The end of the grand prix was marred by the penultimate-lap crash of George Russell who lost control of his car at turn six in contentious circumstances chasing Alonso. The accident required all race engineers to respond quickly to the danger and a full breakdown of the reactions to the accident can be found here and Alonso’s messages prior to and after Russell’s shunt are here.

But as it was clear that Russell was safe and well, Ferrari, and Sainz, celebrated a rare and memorable grand prix victory – just two weeks after the driver had undergone emergency surgery during the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix weekend for appendicitis.

Chequered flag
Adami Yes, we have it! P1, baby! P1.
Vasseur Good job, Carlos!
Sainz Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! This is amazing! Thank you guys. Thank you.
Adami Unbelievable. Charge on.
Sainz Life is a roller coaster, eh?
Adami It is.
Sainz Life is incredible sometimes. Anyway. Thank you, Ricci. Thank you, Ferrari. Forza!
Adami Pass very slow where the crash is. Be careful. Charge on when you can. Medical Car is there. And pick up, please pick up. And you can drink. In the pit lane, in the pit lane. And pick up. In the pit lane now and drink all the way down to P1. P1.
Sainz Vamos!
Adami Yes! [Singing] It was a smooth operation…

Ferrari’s win ended a nine-race winning streak for Red Bull and Verstappen – one of the longest in Formula 1 history immediately following their last record-breaking winning streak. But while Sergio Perez came home in fifth place, it would later turn out that a discarded tear-off had caught underneath his car, affecting the efficiency of his floor.

Team principal Christian Horner offered condolences to his sole remaining driver, suggesting Red Bull’s result had reflected Perez’s car more than his own performance.

Chequered flag
Bird Okay, so Sainz, Leclerc, Norris, Piastri, ourselves, Fernando, Stroll, Tsunoda, Hulkenberg, Magnussen.
Perez Yeah, nothing really worked today. We were just tight, every stint.
Perez Yep. We’ll have some more normal Tarmac in Suzuka.
Horner Yeah, not our finest race, Checo. Sorry about that. Plenty of lessons out of today.
Perez Yep, definitely. Let’s get them back in Suzuka.

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2024 Australian Grand Prix

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