Carlos Sainz wins Australian F1 Grand Prix in one-two finish for Ferrari

Carlos Sainz wins Australian F1 Grand Prix in one-two finish for Ferrari

Carlos Sainz wins Australian F1 Grand Prix in one-two finish for Ferrari


Lying in bed just nine days ago with the wound from his appendectomy still tender, Carlos Sainz had held no expectation of even competing in the Australian Grand Prix. Yet there was the Spaniard in Melbourne on Sunday afternoon, roared on by an appreciative crowd when he climbed from his car after a victory as unlikely as it was valiant.


An achievement with doubtless special resonance for Sainz, the driver who had comeback from surgery and helped return Ferrari’s first one-two since 2022 as world champion Max Verstappen’s dominant run of victories came to an explosive end, but who, as yet, does not have a Formula One drive for next season.


Before the season began the 29-year-old had been dealt a body blow when Ferrari announced they were to drop him for Lewis Hamilton in 2025. A dispiriting moment to which he responded in feisty fashion with a podium at the season opener in Bahrain only for further ill-fortune to then strike when two weeks ago he was forced to withdraw from the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix with appendicitis.


After the subsequent operation he was in bed for seven days and it was as late as the Friday of the Australian GP before he and Ferrari felt confident he was able to drive.


The 29-year-old’s preparation could not have been less suitable. He is still far from fully recovered, had lost several kilos of weight, could not complete the usual fitness and simulator work pre-race and admitted that coping with the intense G-forces at Albert Park after the operation was a unique challenge.


He had noted on Saturday after qualifying with a surprising level of sangfroid just quite the effect a return to the car was having, observing of his body that “everything in the inside just feels like it’s moving more than normal”. A notion such as to induce queasiness while sitting down with a cup of tea, let alone hurtling round one of the most demanding circuits on the calendar.


Yet there he was not only on the grid but the driver closest to Verstappen, lining up in second behind him. Of course Verstappen promptly showed a clean pair of heels from the off and the prospect of a further 58 laps of the Dutchman’s dominance loomed only for fate to finally throw Sainz a bone.


With Verstappen struggling with a stuck brake, Sainz swept past before smoke began bellowing from the world champion’s right rear tyre. Unstoppable for a nine-race run, Verstappen was finally floored as the brake exploded while he crawled into the pit lane, smoke, dust and flame ejected sideways with similar anger to that the Dutchman displayed when he climbed from his car. His race was done after four laps and Red Bull’s record of mechanical infallibility, held since Bahrain in 2022, was also over.


Sainz took advantage to then deliver a consummate, controlled drive, doubtless minding his stitches, as on a circuit notoriously hard on the tyres he eased his rubber through the race with the gentle touch of the shrewdest trout tickler. On the in-lap after the flag he gave his traditional rendition of “smooth operator”, most assuredly deserved. “Spending seven days in bed is, for your physical fitness and for all the muscles, just not very healthy for an athlete,” he said afterwards.


He had, accordingly, done everything to attempt to speed the recovery, using hyperbaric chambers twice a day and an Indiba device that deploys electrical charges to accelerate tissue healing. There was a diet and timetable to dictate periods and what exercise he could manage.


All of which paid off. “When I was about to catch the flight to Australia, I was still in bed,” he said. “I could barely use my abdominals to move and I thought: ‘This is not going to happen.’ But I took the flight, and when I landed the feeling was a lot better and every 24 hours I was making a lot more progress.”


What progress it was, such that once he was on track and had the lead he was untouchable, comfortably taking the flag from his teammate Charles Leclerc in second and McLaren’s Lando Norris in third.


When he emerged from the cockpit, he looked understandably physically shattered but was lifted by the moment to immediately race into the arms of his waiting Ferrari teammates who have ended Red Bull’s hegemony once more with Sainz behind the wheel, the driver who denied them the clean sweep last season with victory in Singapore and the only driver to have beaten Red Bull since the Brazilian GP in November 2022. Verstappen might consider him now something of a turbulent priest as the investigation began into the smoking remnants of his rear wheel.


Sainz is making his case for a good seat next season then with striking effect, after a performance and particularly a car that Hamilton will be eyeing enviously after the seven-time champion endured another dismal weekend in an underperforming Mercedes. He correctly pronounced it his worst ever start to a season when he retired with an engine failure on lap 17.


The win will not also have not gone unnoticed by Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Pérez whose seat at Red Bull is one Sainz would jump at. The Mexican, in the field’s quickest car was soundly beaten into fifth by both Ferraris and both McLaren’s and he was not nursing scars still raw from the scalpel.


With two wins already under his belt Verstappen still holds the world championship lead from Leclerc by four points and for all that the Ferrari was quick, he will expect to be on top again at the next round in Japan, but for now at least F1 could revel in proving it is hard to keep a good man down. “Life is crazy sometimes,” a grinning Sainz concluded. “What happened at the beginning of the year and the podium in Bahrain, then the appendix, the comeback, the win, a rollercoaster but I love it.”


Mercedes’ George Russell lost his rear and hit the wall after coming up behind Fernando Alonso who appeared to slow at turns six and seven on the final lap. The stewards investigated the incident afterwards and Alonso was given a drive-through penalty converted to 20-seconds for “potentially dangerous driving” dropping him to eighth from sixth.


Oscar Piastri was fourth for McLaren, Lance Stroll was sixth for Aston Martin. Yuki Tsunoda in seventh for RB and Nico Hülkenberg and Kevin Magnussen ninth and 10th for Haas. For Daniel Ricciardo it was a home race to forget as the Australian could manage only 12th.


Richards, G. (2024, March 25). Carlos Sainz wins Australian F1 Grand Prix in one-two finish for Ferrari. The Guardian.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.