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Carlos Sainz Returns to the Formula 1 Grid to Capture Spectacular 2024 Australian Grand Prix Victory

Carlos Sainz (55) celebrates with Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc (16) following the team 1-2 finish in the 2024 Australian Grand Prix (Source: Scuderia Ferrari)

Carlos Sainz (55) celebrates with Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc (16) following the team’s 1-2 finish in the 2024 Australian Grand Prix (Source: Scuderia Ferrari)

MELBOURNE, Australia — As Ferrari and McLaren staked their claim during the opening practices and Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen stormed to pole position during qualifying, it was set to be a battle between Verstappen, Lando Norris’s McLaren and Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz’s Ferraris. Sainz, who had sat out in Saudi Arabia, looked strong during the first couple of days in Australia. Knowing that he will be out of his Ferrari seat in 2025, Sainz was determined to make a lasting mark.

Shakeups to the grid compared to the previous day’s qualifying session were highlighted with a three-place grid penalty for Red Bull’s Sergio Perez following an impeding incident in the first round. He went from starting third to sixth. Kick Sauber’s Zhou Guanyu, slated to start in the 19th position, instead had to start on the pit lane after the team made component changes following qualifying. Meanwhile, as planned from the first day, Logan Sargeant was sitting out in favor of his Williams teammate, Alex Albon.

In the waning moments before the lights went out, teams removed the tire covers to finally show how their strategies would play out. This was the greatest anticipation of the weekend with Pirelli bringing a softer set of compound tires than in previous years. A majority of the grid decided to start on the Medium compound tires. At the same time, the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso and the Haas of Nico Hulkenberg elected to start on the Hard tires. In contrast, the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton, the Visa Cash App RB of Daniel Ricciardo and the Kick Sauber of Guanyu decided to start on the Soft tires.

The grid went out on the formation lap, led by pole-sitter Verstappen, and quickly returned to their grid slots. Once the lights finally went out to start the Australian Grand Prix, Verstappen had a clean getaway ahead of the Ferrari of Sainz while the field filtered into position behind them.

Under the new regulations for 2024, DRS opened up just one lap into the race. With Sainz keeping close tabs on Verstappen, he wasted no time and started an early attack on the defending race winner. Shortly afterward, through Turns 9 and 10, the Ferrari sailed by the Red Bull, after a shaky moment and a quipped “The car is loose” from the reigning World Champion.

However, Red Bull’s handling conditions soon became the least of the team’s concerns. Smoke started trailing after the Red Bull. With thoughts of an engine failure, the race’s complexion turned upside down. As Verstappen fell through the order, he soon entered the pits to retire the car; his first retirement since the 2022 Australian Grand Prix. The issue was diagnosed as his right-rear brake holding into place, effectively acting as a constant handbrake.

With Verstappen out, the race was now wide open for a different winner. Success was dropped perfectly into the lap of Sainz, who was looking to stake a claim to remain on the grid in 2025 and have an unforgettable comeback story following the removal of his appendix.

Carlos Sainz (55) on track in his SF-24 Ferrari during qualifying for the 2024 Australian Grand Prix (Source: Scuderia Ferrari)

Carlos Sainz (55) on track in his SF-24 Ferrari during qualifying for the 2024 Australian Grand Prix (Source: Scuderia Ferrari)

As the grid started to settle, Lando Norris’s McLaren and Charles Leclerc’s other Ferrari followed behind. A few laps later, the Soft tire runners made their first stops, all switching to Hard compound tires. Meanwhile, George Russell’s Mercedes started the opening round of stops for the Medium compound tires, along with Valtteri Bottas’s Kick Sauber, who once again endured a slow pit stop.

Pit cycles soon picked up as more drivers stopped, their tires degraded, and Sainz started stretching out his lead. In his home race, Oscar Piastri, as well as Leclerc, pitted from the leaders’ earliest, which allowed Norris and Sainz to continue.

A radio call from Ferrari, “You’re doing a mega job out there,” encouraged Sainz as he and Norris looked to extend their opening stint. However, Norris ended up getting jumped by both Leclerc and Piastri once he made his way down pit lane.

On Lap 16, Sainz finally went down the pit lane to take his pit stop, just a couple of seconds behind his fellow countryman of Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso. Perez, meanwhile, exited the pit lane ahead of Hamilton, who noted how quick the Red Bull was. But soon, engine troubles struck Hamilton’s Mercedes, and he stopped just outside a marshal post, bringing out the Virtual Safety Car.

The VSC gave a cheap stop to Alonso, who emerged in fifth and was headed towards a good points finish. Meanwhile, both Haas’ of Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen were looking to repeat some of the same strategy as the previous race. A surprisingly good race from Alpine’s Pierre Gasly allowed him to hold out in the points. However, his teammate, Esteban Ocon, faced struggles after a visor tear-off had entered his brake duct.

After a short while, the VSC was lifted as Hamilton’s car was pulled out of the way, and Russell lamented from the remaining Mercedes that the Red Bull of Perez was quick. Team orders were soon in play from the McLaren pit wall as the race allowed the quicker Norris past his teammate to make a run at the leading Ferraris. Perez quickly tried to charge through the field and stormed past Alonso to gain a podium for Red Bull.

With Norris closing in and tires slowly fading away, Leclerc went down the pit lane to open the final round of pit stops. Perez followed and Kick Sauber completed a clean pit stop for Bottas for seemingly the first time in 2024. Hulkenberg created a small amount of drama as he returned to the track just ahead of Albon’s Williams, who soon complained about the dangerous driving from the Haas driver.

Piastri and Sainz soon made their final pit stops, and the Ferrari driver set sail to close out the race with Leclerc following behind, hoping to solidify a Ferrari 1-2.

As the laps wound down, Russell descended the pit lane and slotted behind Perez and Alonso. He then set forth on his chase to pass the Aston Martin. But on the final lap, his pursuit of Alonso soon ended as he went off course and slapped the wall, coming to a stop in the middle of the course at Turn 6, bringing out the VSC once again and effectively ending the race.

Carlos Sainz (55) steps out of his SF-24 Ferrari following his victory at the 2024 Australia Grand Prix (Source: Scuderia Ferrari)

Carlos Sainz (55) steps out of his SF-24 Ferrari following his victory at the 2024 Australia Grand Prix (Source: Scuderia Ferrari)

Upon investigation, it was found that Alonso made potentially dangerous moves that caused Russell to go off the track. Because of that, Alonso was handed a 20-second time penalty.

With the race neutralized, it solidified Sainz’s victory, breaking Verstappen’s nine-race winning streak. Following behind came Leclerc for a Ferrari 1-2, with Norris closing out the podium. Piastri brought his McLaren home for his second fourth place in a row, while Perez closed out the Top 5.

Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin finished sixth, and Yuki Tsunoda’s Visa Cash App RB finished seventh, ahead of the penalized Alonso, who had been docked positions down to eighth. Haas brought home a surprise double-point finish, with Hulkenberg in ninth and Kevin Magnussen in 10th.

Albon finished just outside the points in 11th, with Ricciardo following in 12th. Gasly, Bottas, Zhou, and Ocon rounded out the runners at the finish as the Mercedes of Russell and Hamilton with Verstappen’s Red Bull did not finish.

F1 now heads to the Suzuka International Circuit for the Japanese Grand Prix. Will Ferrari be able to repeat for another victory, or will Red Bull fix their problems and get back to their winning ways?

Finish Start Car No. Driver Team Gap (in seconds) Points
1 2 55 Carlos Sainz Ferrari Leader 25
2 4 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 2.366 18
3 3 4 Lando Norris McLaren Mercedes 5.904 16
4 5 81 Oscar Piastri McLaren Mercedes 35.77 12
5 6 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing Honda RBPT 56.309 10
6 9 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes 93.222 8
7 8 22 Yuki Tsunoda RB Honda RBPT 95.601 6
8 10 14 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes 100.992 4
9 16 27 Nico Hulkenberg Haas Ferrari 103.553 2
10 14 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1 Lap 1
11 12 23 Alex Albon Williams Mercedes 1 Lap 0
12 18 3 Daniel Ricciardo RB Honda RBPT 1 Lap 0
13 17 31 Pierre Gasly Alpine Renault 1 Lap 0
14 13 77 Valtteri Bottas Kick Sauber 1 Lap 0
15 19 24 Zhou Guanyu Kick Sauber 1 Lap 0
16 15 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault 1 Lap 0
17 7 63 George Russell Mercedes DNF 0
NC 11 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes DNF 0
NC 1 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Honda RBPT DNF 0
DNS DNS 2 Logan Sargeant Williams Mercedes DNS 0

John Arndt is a graduate of Texas A&M University with a degree of communications who has been a life-long fan of NASCAR and motorsports. John is a member of The Podium Finish's photography team based in Texas and his home track is Circuit of the Americas. With a love of multiple racing series, he has started to write about Formula 1 and sports car racing to help expand the reach of The Podium Finish.

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