Max Verstappen secured his second win of the 2023 Formula 1 season, avoided the carnage at an incident strewn Australian Grand Prix, which saw three red flags and eight retirements.
The race finished behind the safety car as the Dutchman crossed the line ahead of Lewis Hamilton, while Fernando Alonso completed the podium.
Verstappen immediately came under pressure from the cars behind as George Russell got the better of him at turn one, before Hamilton forced his way past a couple of corners later.
Russell appeared to have good pace in the Mercedes, quickly pulling away from the rest of the field, but his progress was halted when the safety car was needed to clear Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari from the gravel after he tangled with Lance Stroll.
The safety car was out again less than 10 laps into the race when Alex Albon spun his Williams, colliding heavily with the barrier and sending gravel and debris across the racing line.
Russell and Carlos Sainz were among those to pit under the safety car, promoting Hamilton to the lead, but due to the amount of debris on the track the race director put out the red flag soon after, giving those at the front of the field a free pitstop.
After the restart, Hamilton got the better start off the line to maintain his lead, but Verstappen’s race pace soon showed, and the reigning champion regained the lead and started to pull away.
Russell’s day came to a disappointing end when flames started to come from the back of his car, forcing him to pull to the side of the track, leading to a virtual safety car period.
Having start in the pitlane after a mistake in qualifying, Sergio Perez made strong progress through the field, running in the points by the midway point of the race, but came up against a strong defence from Lando Norris, which slowed his progress.
Fernando Alonso started to close the gap to Hamilton in second, while Verstappen lost a couple of seconds at the front after running wide.
There was late drama when Kevin Magnussen ran wide and clipped the wall, ripping the rear tyre off his Haas, leaving the Pirelli in the middle of the track.
Initially, the safety car came out with four laps to go, but with so much debris to clear, it was soon followed by the second red flag of the race, suspending the action and allowing drivers to change tyres before returning for a two-lap sprint.
There was chaos on the restart as Sainz spun Alonso, leaving the Aston Martin facing the wrong way and dropping him to the back of the pack.
Two of the rookies collided as Logan Sargeant thumped the back of Nyck DeVries’s AlphaTauri, while there was disappointment for Alpine as Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly came together, while Lance Stroll ran wide into the gravel.
There was confusion over the rules as Alonso called for the order to go back one lap because the cars hadn’t completed a full sector when the red flag was shown, while Haas suggested the cars would return to the track in the order they were at as the flag came out.
After a period of deliberation, the FIA agreed that the order should go back to what it was at the previous restart, with the cars to head back out behind the safety car for the final lap of the race.
The stewards decided Sainz was at fault for the collision with Alonso, handing him a five-second time penalty which made him the last of the cars to finish the race. There result also sees Oscar Piastri pick up his first points as an F1 driver, doing so at his home race.
1 Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
3 Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin)
4. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)
5. Sergio Perez (Red Bull)
6. Lando Norris (McLaren)
7. Nico Hulkenberg (Haas)
8. Oscar Piastri (McLaren)
9. Guanyu Zhou (Alfa Romeo)
10. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri)
11. Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo)
12. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)
Pierre Gasly (Alpine)
Esteban Ocon (Alpine)
Nyck DeVries (AlphaTauri)
Logan Sargeant (Williams)
Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
George Russell (Mercedes)
Alex Albon (Williams)
Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
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