Chaos, Controversy, and Red Flags Reign in F1 Australian GP

It would be easy to say simply that Max Verstappen won the F1 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne Sunday. It’s a little more complicated than that, however.

Verstappen did indeed win, but that was only after emerging from several safety car periods, and three red flags. In the end the race ended with a slow parade lap under caution, while a total of 8 drivers watched from the sidelines.

Included among them was Mercedes’ George Russell who briefly led, but was forced to retire with a blown engine on lap 17 of 58.

Both Mercedes, Russell and Lewis Hamilton were able to charge past Verstappen at lights out, but the first safety car of the day had to be deployed when Charles Leclerc and Lance Stroll got together. Alex Albon had a heavy crash shortly after the restart leading to the race’s first red flag of the day and put the field in the pit lane. That group was led by Hamilton followed by Verstappen and Fernando Alonso after Russell had the misfortune of pitting just before the chaos and red flag.

On the restart, Hamilton led but was no match for Verstappen who was able to pounce as soon as DRS was enabled and re-took the lead. Russell was meanwhile charging from the back until his engine expired, leaving his car on the side of the track in flames.

Despite a short off-track excursion for Verstappen, he was able to hold the top spot as the laps wound down.

With just a few laps remaining, Haas’s Kevin Magnussen crashed hard into the Turn 2 barriers, ripping the right-rear wheel off, leaving debris on the track and leading to the second red flag of the race. On the standing restart, Carlos Sainz tapped Fernando Alonso sending him spinning and sweeping up his Aston Martin teammate Lance Stroll while behind that Williams’ Logan Sargeant also collected AlphaTauri’s Nyck de Vries.

The race was red flagged again and restarted under caution on Lap 58 of 58 – but the order of classification for the restart was reverted to before the previous accident-filled restart had begun; that put Alonso back to third, Stroll to fourth, and led to a protest from Haas after the race as their second driver, Nico Hulkenberg  was dropped from P4 to seventh in the provisional classification.

Verstappen meanwhile was able to celebrate his first career F1 win in Australia.

“It’s great to win here, my first win as well,” Verstappen said. “It’s been a while for the team as well but very, very happy but also, it’s still great to see that the fans are having a good time even now. They had a long wait for the whole day, so I’ll say a big thank you to them as well for sticking around.

“We had a very poor start and then Lap 1, I was careful because I had a lot to lose, and they had a lot to win. After that, I think the pace of the car was quick, you could see that straight away, we were always there waiting for the DRS to open up, to have a chance to pass.

“But with these red flags, the first one maybe you can do it but I think that second one I don’t really understand. Was a bit of mess but we survived everything, we had good pace on the car today again, and we won, which of course is the most important.”

Likewise, Hamilton was pleased with his first podium finish of the season.

“I’ve got to say a huge thank you to everyone here in Australia and in Melbourne,” he said. “I’ve had the best week here this week. The weather has been amazing today and this track or this town just continues to put on a great show.”

“[It was] really unlucky for George. From our side, we’ve got to look into it, our reliability has generally been very good. Otherwise, to get those points is really amazing today. I definitely didn’t expect to be second, so I’m super grateful for it.”

And for the first time since 2013, Fernando Alonso now has three consecutive podium finishes.

“We had a rollercoaster of emotions today,” he said. “Many things going on at the beginning, but then also at the end. The last half an hour was difficult to understand what was going on.

“But the race itself, it was good for us in terms of pace. I think Mercedes was very fast, and Lewis did an incredible job today… I tried to force a mistake from Lewis all race long, [I] tried to get close, but he drove fantastically well, as the champion he is, and no mistakes.”

Sergio Pérez was fifth ahead of Lando Norris, Hulkenberg, Oscar Piastri and Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu in ninth; AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda rounded out the top 10.

F1 will take a near month-long break before the Baku City Circuit from April 28-30 for the 2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix – where the Sprint format make its first appearance of the season.


Pos No Driver Car Laps Time/Retired PTS
1 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Honda RBPT 58 2:32:38.371 25
2 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 58 +0.179s 18
3 14 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes 58 +0.769s 15
4 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes 58 +3.082s 12
5 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing Honda RBPT 58 +3.320s 11
6 4 Lando Norris McLaren Mercedes 58 +3.701s 8
7 27 Nico Hulkenberg Haas Ferrari 58 +4.939s 6
8 81 Oscar Piastri McLaren Mercedes 58 +5.382s 4
9 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo Ferrari 58 +5.713s 2
10 22 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri Honda RBPT 58 +6.052s 1
11 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Ferrari 58 +6.513s 0
12 55 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 58 +6.594s 0
13 10 Pierre Gasly Alpine Renault 56 DNF 0
14 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault 56 DNF 0
15 21 Nyck De Vries AlphaTauri Honda RBPT 56 DNF 0
16 2 Logan Sargeant Williams Mercedes 56 DNF 0
17 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 52 DNF 0
NC 63 George Russell Mercedes 17 DNF 0
NC 23 Alexander Albon Williams Mercedes 6 DNF 0
NC 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 0 DNF 0

* Provisional results. Note – Perez scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race. Sainz received a five-second time penalty for causing a collision.




Greg Engle