Leclerc wins Australian Grand Prix as Verstappen fails to finish
A flawless Charles Leclerc led from start to finish to steer his Ferrari to an action-packed win at the Australian Grand Prix yesterday with world champion Max Verstappen failing to finish.
The world championship leader from Monaco started from pole, held his position at the first turn and never looked back, scorching round the 58-lap Albert Park circuit to take the chequered flag by a massive 20.5 seconds.
Red Bull’s Sergio Perez was second with George Russell an encouraging third for the struggling Mercedes and his seven-time world champion teammate Lewis Hamilton fourth.
“It’s amazing, the car was incredible today. What a race and what a pace today,” said Leclerc after clocking a fourth career win and second of the season.
“Honestly, what a car today. I did a good job all weekend but it’s not possible without the car. I’m just so happy.
“Obviously we have only had three races so it’s difficult to think of the championship but we have a very strong car and a reliable car. It’s great to be back in this position,” he added.
The Mclarens of Lando Norris and Daniel Riccardo were fifth and sixth.
Alpine’s Esteban Ocon came seventh ahead of Valtteri Bottas in an Alfa Romeo, with Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri and Alex Albon’s Williams rounding out the top 10.
But there was disaster for Red Bull’s Verstappen, the winner two weeks ago in Saudi Arabia, who pulled over on lap 39 when second, saying on the team radio: “I smell some weird fluid.”
It was the second time in the opening three races of the season that the Dutchman had failed to go the distance after also retiring in Bahrain.
“We are so far behind [Ferrari]. We need to finish races,” Verstappen said after pulling over on lap 39 at Albert Park when running second to winner Leclerc’s Ferrari.
“I smell some weird fluid” Verstappen reported over team radio before stopping the car, jumping out and grabbing a fire extinguisher to help marshals to put out flames.
“Today was a bad day, I was managing the tires, I could not fight Charles,” he added.
“It was an easy P2 but we didn’t even finish the race, frustrating and unacceptable. These kind of things, if you want to fight for the title, are unacceptable.”
In contrast, Russell was delighted with his podium place after Mercedes’ early season struggles with porpoising, bouncing at high speed.
“We’ve got to be in it to win it and capitalize on others’ misfortune and obviously we got a little bit lucky today twice, but we’ll take it,” he said, referring to two safety cars.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and Aston Martin veteran Sebastian Vettel also failed to finish after spinning out.
Victory consolidated Leclerc’s championship lead after three rounds with the Ferrari ace, who also won the year’s opening grand prix in Bahrain, earning the extra point for the fastest lap to add to 25 for the race victory.
He now sits on 71 points ahead of Russell on 37. Verstappen is sixth with only 25.