Melbourne: Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has claimed his first Australian Grand Prix in remarkable circumstances in a chaotic Formula 1 race filled with drama from the green light to the checkered flag.
Although Red Bull’s first triumph in Melbourne since 2011 was expected, the carnage that unfolded in the latter stages of the race at Albert Park made it an extremely hard-fought triumph.
Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, who drove superbly in his Mercedes, finished second, while Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso filled third spot on the podium.
Three red flags
“That is a really good weekend for us. I am happy with that,” Verstappen said to his team on radio.
Verstappen had appeared to be coasting to victory with an eight-second lead when debris from Kevin Magnussen’s Haas forced the second of three red flags issued in the race with three laps remaining.
On the restart, Verstappen was able to hold Hamilton to the first turn as bedlam unfolded behind his RB19, sparking a massive reshuffle of the finishing order in the 58-lap race.
Alonso, who had challenged Hamilton for second position throughout much of the race, was hit by Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz on the first corner of the restart. Sainz, whose Ferrari showed good speed throughout the race, was issued with a five-second penalty which relegated him to 12th.
Williams driver Logan Sargeant also drove into the back of Nyck DeVries and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly also crashed.
Earlier, Ferrari’s defending champion Charles LeClerc exited after crashing on the opening lap, while the Mercedes of one-time leader George Russell caught fire on Lap 18.
Australian Oscar Piastri claimed his first championship points when finishing eighth in his McLaren.