Max Verstappen, the Dutch Formula One driver, has won the F1 Australian Grand Prix in a commanding run that saw him enjoy a significant pace advantage in Melbourne. The Red Bull driver returned after dropping places at the start but was then untroubled at the front of the field, albeit in a race dragged out to over two and a half hours with three red-flag stoppages.
Verstappen comfortably beat the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton into second and the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso into third, with his teammate Lance Stroll in fourth at Albert Park. The Australian Oscar Piastri scored his first F1 points in his debut home grand prix, finishing in eighth place.
The race had opened with some drama as Verstappen lost the lead to Mercedes’ George Russell, who was ultimately forced to retire with an engine issue. Still, it turned out to be a false dawn as the world champion’s pace proved too much for the rest of the field. Verstappen breezed back to the front and opened up a formidable lead with a race pace even by the standards Red Bull had already set this season. Until a late red-flag stoppage closed the field up, he was over 11 seconds up the road from Hamilton, a gap that could easily have been even larger.
A late red flag proved tense, but Verstappen rode it out calmly as six cars went out behind him in a chaotic restart, forcing another red flag. It was an unedifying end as confusion reigned about how the race would finish. The FIA took some time to reach a decision before closing on a lap behind the safety car, dragging out the inevitable conclusion with frustrating longevity.
Verstappen now leads the world championship from teammate Sergio Pérez, who finished fifth after returning from starting at the back of the grid by 15 points. Behind him, Hamilton did superbly hold second place from Alonso, who sacked him to the flag, with the British driver returning Mercedes’ best result of the season. This is Verstappen’s 37th career win and a first in Australia for the 25-year-old, who was enormously pleased to finally make it to the top step. Red Bull had reason to celebrate, with their 350th GP finally ending a drought in Australia that had stretched back to 2011 when Sebastian Vettel last won for them at Albert Park.
Russell made a blistering start, going up the inside of Verstappen into turn one. At the same time, Hamilton, too, took advantage and passed the Dutchman, out-braking him to claim second through turn three.
On an incident-packed opening lap, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc went off, clipped by Stroll at turn three, triggering a safety car. Racing resumed on lap four, Russell holding his lead, with the front three locked together within a second of one another by lap six.
Another safety car called when Alex Albon lost the rear and crashed in the Williams on lap seven. Mercedes opted to pit Russell early while Hamilton and Verstappen stayed out. A lap later, the race was stopped to deal with the gravel on the track, a significant advantage for Hamilton and Verstappen, who could take a free tire change in the pit lane. At the same time, Russell was hugely unlucky with the timing and had dropped to seventh.
Hamilton held his lead when racing resumed from a standing start but could not hold it long. With DRS, Verstappen closed quickly and, with a clear pace advantage, swept past around the outside heading towards turn nine, and Hamilton was powerless to resist. Russell moved through as well, making it up to fourth by lap 14, only for his bad luck to be.
Despite the drama and uncertainty surrounding the race’s conclusion, Verstappen and Red Bull will take immense satisfaction from their commanding performance. The Dutch driver demonstrated his exceptional skills, capitalizing on the opportunities presented to him and consistently delivering lap times that his rivals couldn’t match.
The result puts Verstappen firmly in control of the drivers’ championship standings, with a 15-point lead over teammate Sergio Perez. Red Bull also leads the constructors’ championship with a comfortable margin over Mercedes.
For Mercedes, it was a mixed weekend. Hamilton’s second-place finish was a strong result, but it was clear that the team was struggling to keep up with Red Bull’s pace. The reigning champions will be eager to bounce back in the next race and close the gap to their rivals.
Elsewhere on the grid, there were impressive performances from several drivers. Fernando Alonso showed that he still has plenty of talent and skill, finishing in third place for Aston Martin. Rookie Oscar Piastri also performed stellar in his home grand prix, finishing in eighth place and scoring his first F1 points.
However, the race will also be remembered for its chaotic and controversial conclusion. The multiple red flags and confusion over the race’s conclusion left many fans and commentators frustrated and disappointed.
It remains to be seen whether the FIA will review the race events and make changes to ensure a smoother and more straightforward conclusion in the future. But for now, Verstappen and Red Bull can celebrate a commanding performance and a well-deserved victory in the Australian Grand Prix.