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Max wins bizarre race in Melbourne: 'We had a poor start'

Published on 02 April 2023 by Kees-Jan Koster

Max Verstappen won a tumultuous Australian Grand Prix. The Dutchman, who started from pole, took his first win in Australia and Oracle Red Bull Racing's first win down under since 2011. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) and Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin), completed an all world champion podium.

After the race Max said: “We had a very poor start. In lap one I was careful, because I had a lot to lose, and they had a lot to win. I think the pace of the car was quick, we were always there waiting for the DRS to open and a chance to pass. It was a bit of a mess with all the red flags. But we won, which is of course the most important.”

Despite starting from pole position, Max is unable to hang onto the lead at the start of the race. George Russell takes P1 turning into the first corner, with Mercedes colleague Lewis Hamilton passing Max into turn three. Further back, Lance Stroll taps Leclerc’s Ferrari, ending the Monegasque’s race early as well as prompting a safety car.

The race continues in lap four with Max immediately putting the pressure on both Mercedes in front of him. Before the Dutchman is able to mount an attack, the safety car comes out again, following a crash; Alex Albon has lost control of his Williams and has hit the barriers at turn five.

Mercedes respond quickly to the safety car and pit Russell. Unfortunately for the British driver, the race is eventually red-flagged due to too much gravel and debris on the track.

The race is resumed with a standing start. Again, Max struggles on the opening lap, but is able to hang on to second place with Hamilton out in front. Max patiently waits for DRS to be enabled a couple of laps later and eventually breezes past the Mercedes.

The other Mercedes causes a virtual safety car following an engine failure on the start-finish straight on lap 19. Russell is able to park his smoking car near the end of the pitlane, prompting race control the temporarily close the pits until the stricken Mercedes is removed.

Meanwhile, Perez is slowly working his way to the front after starting in the pitlane. The Mexican has worked himself up to sixth, behind Max, Hamilton, Alonso, Sainz and Gasly, but in front of Norris, Hulkenberg and Stroll.

At the front, Max comfortably dictates the pace and defends a ten second lead. Although his performance looks effortless, the Dutchman does give his fans a minor scare as the RB19 misses the penultimate corner following a lock-up. Max releases the brakes and finds his way back on track after a brief trip through the gras. Although he’s lost a couple of seconds, he quickly regains his rhythm and clocks the quickest lap of the race soon after.

With five laps to go, Kevin Magnussen causes another safety car. The Dane hits the wall at turn two and the Haas sheds its left rear tyre. Soon after, race control deems there is too much debris on track and the race is red-flagged for the second time.

When the circuit is cleared, the race is restarted with a standing start. Despite struggling at the previous restarts, Max holds off Hamilton into turn one and consolidates his lead. Behind the two front runners, chaos ensues with third-placed Alonso being tapped into a spin by Sainz’ Ferrari as the pair manoeuvre through the first turn, followed by the two Alpines taking each other out on the exit of turn two.

Once again, the race is red flagged and the drivers are primed for a rolling restart in the starting order of the previous restart, minus any cars that are too damaged to partake. The field is released from behind the safety car on the 58th and final lap, meaning once the leader crosses the start-finish straight, the race officially ends. Hence, no overtakes are allowed and the Grand Prix finishes with Max claiming his second win of the season ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. Due to a 5-second penalty for causing a collision with Alonso, Sainz is demoted from fourth to P12 meaning the top five is completed by Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and Max’ team mate Sergio Perez.

Results Grand Prix Australia:

1Max VerstappenVERRed Bull Racing Honda RBPT582:32:38.37125
2Lewis HamiltonHAMMercedes58+0.179s18
3Fernando AlonsoALOAston Martin Mercedes58+0.769s15
4Lance StrollSTRAston Martin Mercedes58+3.082s12
5Sergio PerezPERRed Bull Racing Honda RBPT58+3.320s11
6Lando NorrisNORMcLaren Mercedes58+3.701s8
7Nico HulkenbergHULHaas Ferrari58+4.939s6
8Oscar PiastriPIAMcLaren Mercedes58+5.382s4
9Zhou GuanyuZHOAlfa Romeo Ferrari58+5.713s2
10Yuki TsunodaTSUAlphaTauri Honda RBPT58+6.052s1
11Valtteri BottasBOTAlfa Romeo Ferrari58+6.513s0
12Carlos SainzSAIFerrari58+6.594s0
13Pierre GaslyGASAlpine Renault56DNF0
14Esteban OconOCOAlpine Renault56DNF0
15Nyck De VriesDEVAlphaTauri Honda RBPT56DNF0
16Logan SargeantSARWilliams Mercedes56DNF0
17Kevin MagnussenMAGHaas Ferrari52DNF0
0George RussellRUSMercedes17DNF0
0Alexander AlbonALBWilliams Mercedes6DNF0
0Charles LeclercLECFerrari0DNF0