Winner in Melbourne, Carlos Sainz interrupts Verstappen hegemony in Formula 1

Carlos Sainz begins to specialize in interrupting series

Winner in Melbourne, Carlos Sainz interrupts Verstappen hegemony in Formula 1

Carlos Sainz begins to specialize in interrupting series. Especially those of Max Verstappen's victories. Six months after putting an end, in September 2023, to the ten Grand Prix won in a row by the Dutch ogre, the Spanish Ferrari driver did it again, Sunday March 24. Winner of the Melbourne Grand Prix (Australia) ahead of his Scuderia teammate, Charles Leclerc, he interrupted at nine the rank successes of the undisputed master of the circuits – who had won the first two races of the season, and the last seven of the previous one.

The Verstappen hegemony therefore ended in Melbourne – at least for a weekend. The Albert Park track, in the heart of Melbourne, did not succeed in “Mad Max”: for the first time since April 2022 (already in Australia), the Red Bull driver, leader of the world championship, was forced to abandon, due to a rare reliability problem on his car.

After easily winning the first two Grand Prix of the season, in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, the Dutchman signed his 35th pole position in Formula 1 on Saturday. And logically aspired to equal his record of ten consecutive victories, established last season by erasing from the shelves that of the German Sebastian Vettel (nine victories in a row in 2013). But if he managed to take the lead during the first lap, after the lights went out, the three-time world champion was overtaken by Carlos Sainz on the second, before signaling to his team for a few moments later that “blue smoke” was emanating from his car.

“As soon as the lights went out, the right brake locked, so the car was difficult to drive from the start,” explained the Dutch driver after the race, seeing another series interrupted: that of his 43 races in a row without abandoning. He retains the lead in the world championship, but sees Charles Leclerc, new second, coming back on his heels. After three races, the Monegasque driver is only four points behind the leader (51 points against 47).

Carlos Sainz winner two weeks after an operation

“It was a very good race, physically it wasn’t the easiest but I was largely alone so I was able to manage the pace, manage the tires,” said Carlos Sainz after his victory. The Spanish driver, back in the race two weeks after an appendicitis operation, did not tremble, and took the third victory of his career. And the first double for Ferrari since the Bahrain Grand Prix in 2022 – Briton Lando Norris (McLaren) completes the podium. “It feels good, especially for the team,” said Charles Leclerc. Next year, the Scuderia will be reshuffled, with the arrival of seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, in place of Sainz.

For Red Bull, the Australian weekend did little for the Austrian firm. Still entangled in a governance crisis linked to its boss, Christian Horner, recently cleared by the firm of "inappropriate behavior", the world champion team saw, in addition to the abandonment of Verstappen, its second driver struggling Sunday. Anonymous fifth, the Mexican Sergio Perez, reigning vice-world champion, has never been able to compete with the leading men.

“We didn’t have the right balance on the car,” the driver noted after the race. It was a bit in survival mode with the degradation [of the tires] that we had, and we were no match for Ferrari or McLaren.” A weekend to forget for Red Bull, as for other teams, starting with the French Alpine, whose two drivers Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon failed outside the top 10. But a salutary change in the monotony of Grand Prix weekends, which for more than a year had come down to a lone rider of Max Verstappen.