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Max Verstappen beats Lewis Hamilton to win the Australian Grand Prix

George Russell got a first look at the head. Lewis Hamilton got a brief glimpse of it. But once Max Verstappen got his hands on the top spot in the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday, he never gave it back.

Verstappen snatched the lead from Hamilton with a ruthless early pass and rode away, smashing his way to their second win of the season which offered the latest evidence of Red Bull’s significant competitive advantage over their rivals.

Verstappen’s dominating performance, delayed only by a late restart which made the final margin closer than it had been in two hours of racing, reinforced the idea that the Red Bull team may well be unbeatable. this season. Verstappen looked like he couldn’t be caught, opening a lead of more than 10 seconds at one point, easily overtaking slower drivers and then fending off a last-lap challenge on a crash-laden final restart.

“It was a bit of a mess but we survived it all,” Verstappen said. “We won, which is of course the most important thing.”

Hamilton, a seven-time world champion amid a frustrating season, held off Fernando Alonso for second place. On Sunday, that qualified as its own type of victory.

A red flag on lap 9 stopped the race for 16 minutes and, crucially, gave Verstappen a free run over early leader Hamilton. He took it almost immediately, passing Hamilton like a roadside fruit stand and continuing to drive away. The gap was soon two seconds, then four, then eight. The race, at least for first place, was effectively over.

Alonso again finished third, the same place he held in each of the first three races of the season. That stance was briefly in doubt, however, after he was spun by Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz on the day’s final competitive restart. It led to tense minutes as race officials reviewed video, considered penalties and decided the order of the slow-speed final lap that ended the day. “We had a rollercoaster of emotions today, a lot happened at the start and in the last half hour,” Alonso said. “Mercedes was very fast and Lewis did an incredible job. I couldn’t keep up with the pace, but we’ll take P3.

Charles Leclerc. His race ended before he could complete a lap, being pushed off the track and into the gravel in a collision with Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll at Turn 3. That’s two retirements in three races for Leclerc. (Ferrari’s unforgettable day somehow got worse when a five-second penalty on Carlos Sainz for causing a last-lap crash sent him down to 13th and Ferrari out of the points.)

George Russell. If Leclerc had a nightmarish start, but Russell’s day was not far behind. He took the lead from Max Verstappen in the opening moto but barely had a chance to enjoy the view as he quickly came under pressure from his own teammate, Lewis Hamilton. Then he pitted early and got stuck there in a frustrating seventh place when Alex Albon’s crash spread gravel on the track and caused a red flag. The nadir? His engine caught fire on lap 18 and that was it. His day – good, then bad, then terrible – was over.

Alpine. It had been a bright day for Alpine’s pink cars, but everything clouded over on the final restart after Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon – fifth and 10th – came together in a chaotic few moments that scrambled the race order and released six. cars. Within seconds, both were sliding along a wall in the grass, wondering how such a positive afternoon, and the promise of a few valuable points, had gone so wrong. “Incredible” is about all team principal Otmar Szafnauer could say.

Two weeks after Verstappen rallied from 15th to finish second, his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Pérez had the trick to show that there seems to be no way to keep Red Bull down. Sent to the back of the starting grid after stranding his car in a sea of ​​gravel in qualifying on Saturday, Pérez started in the pits after some equipment repairs, then methodically worked his way through the field all day. . He finished fifth, recovering some points and saving his weekend.

  • “There’s no way I’m losing to him.” — Lewis Hamiltonon the radio, focused on the driver behind him (his former rival Fernando Alonso) rather than the one ahead of him (Verstappen).

  • “What?!?!?” — Several pilots, after the race was red-flagged – for the second time – with two laps to go. The decision was caused by debris on the track after Kevin Magnussen cut the wall and destroyed his right rear tire. Little did they know it wouldn’t be the last stop of the day.

  • “No, it’s not possible, it’s unacceptable!” — carlos sainz, of Ferrari, after learning he was given a five-second penalty for spinning Alonso on a late restart. The penalty taking him out of the top five, and the points.

April 30: Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Baku City Circuit

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