Charles Leclerc has extended his lead at the top of the drivers’ championship after securing a comfortable victory at the Australian Grand Prix.
As Formula 1 returned to Melbourne for the first time since 2019, the pole sitter never came under pressure at the front of the field, while nearest rival Max Verstappen was forced to retire.
Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez crossed the line second, but was more than 20 seconds behind the Ferrari, while Mercedes’s George Russell claimed his first podium with the team.
Carlos Sainz lost places from the start and found himself running well down the order, before spinning and ending up beached in the gravel.
Initially it led to an early virtual safety car period, but the marshals couldn’t get the stricken Ferrari cleared, and a full safety car was needed.
Sebastian Vettel also had difficulties early on, struggling with braking before running across the gravel, but he was able to keep the car going.
At the front of the field, Verstappen was the first of the front runner to stop, coming in less than 20 laps into the race, having been unable to challenge Leclerc in the early laps.
Leclerc and Hamilton came in three laps later, with Leclerc comfortably rejoining ahead of Verstappen, while the Mercedes driver managed to come out in front of Sergio Perez.
The safety car was out again when Vettel spun and broke his front wing, before grinding to a halt a corner later. It allowed George Russell to make his pitstop while the safety car was out, moving him up to third.
Red Bull’s reliability issues struck again two thirds of the way through the race when Verstappen lost power, and needed the fire extinguisher to put flames out at the back of his car as he pulled to the side of the track.
Perez had the pace to get ahead of Russell, but he was unable to challenge Leclerc for the lead, with the Monegasque driver also setting the fastest lap of the race.
Fernando Alonso’s hopes of a points finish were dealt a blow when he suffered a puncture late on, while Lance Stroll picked up a five-second time penalty for weaving on the straight.
Williams did secure their first point of the season though with Alex Albon leaving his pitstop until the final lap of the race, having just enough pace to hold on for a top 10 finish.
1 Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
2. Sergio Perez (Red Bull)
3. George Russell (Mercedes)
4. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
5. Lando Norris (McLaren)
6. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren)
7. Esteban Ocon (Alpine)
8. Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo)
9. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri)
10. Alex Albon (Williams)
11. Guanyu Zhou (Alfa Romeo)
12. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)
13. Mick Schumacher (Haas)
14. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
15. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri)
16. Nicholas Latifi (Williams)
17. Fernando Alonso (Alpine)
Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin)
Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)