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Formula 1

Verstappen wins messy F1 Australian GP with three red flags

by Matt Beer
5 min read

Max Verstappen took a third Red Bull victory of the 2023 Formula 1 season in bizarre circumstances as a third red flag created a confusing end to the Australian Grand Prix.

After an early stoppage for Alex Albon heavily crashing his Williams from sixth place, the race ran relatively uneventfully with Verstappen overcoming Mercedes’ initial 1-2 formation to dominate.

But then the red flag was called for again when Kevin Magnussen crashed his Haas on the exit of Turn 2 near the end.

Many drivers expressed surprise that the officials felt the level of debris merited a stoppage.

The grid was reformed for what should’ve been a two-lap dash to the flag, but it immediately descended into destructive chaos.

Carlos Sainz ran into Fernando Alonso’s third-placed Aston Martin and sent it spinning in front of the pack.

In the wake of that, the Alpines of Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly came together at the exit of Turn 2 and slammed into the wall, Lance Stroll slewed into the Turn 3 gravel dodging Sainz’s limping, damaged Ferrari and Sergio Perez skittered over the gravel as well. Logan Sargeant and Nyck de Vries had their own unrelated tangle at the back too.

The red flag instantly came out again, leaving uncertainty over whether the race would be declared over or another restart attempted, and whether the order used would be taken from prior to or after the crashes.

The FIA announced that it would reset the order to what it had been prior to the disastrous restart, minus any cars now out, for a single lap behind the safety car and then a relatively redundant rolling restart at which the chequered flag would come out.

Before the late madness unfolded, this had been another demonstration of Verstappen and Red Bull’s 2023 superiority.

Mercedes had moved up to first and second at the start, with George Russell grabbing the lead off the line and team-mate Lewis Hamilton then overtaking Verstappen into Turn 3 in a move that left Hamilton worrying his car might be damaged and Verstappen complaining Hamilton had pushed him wide.

The top three ran close together until Albon lost control into Turn 7. Russell pitted under the safety car that initially emerged, but that backfired as the amount of gravel on the track then prompted a full red flag under which everyone else could take a free tyre change.

Russell took that restart from seventh and got back up to fourth before a fiery failure ended what had been a very promising day.

Hamilton held off Verstappen at first but the Red Bull soon breezed around the Mercedes in the DRS zone to take the lead then vanish – his advantage so great he could easily afford to lose 4s late on with a trip over the grass at the penultimate corner.

Alonso kept the pressure on Hamilton for second until the race’s odd ending. Aston Martin’s day was saved by the decision to reset the order as its cars had dropped right out of the points in the chaos, but they ended up third and fourth as Stroll gained from Sainz being given a 5s time penalty for hitting Alonso. That dropped the Ferrari from fourth on the road to 12th and last given how tightly everyone was bunched behind the safety car.

Prior to that blow, Sainz had charged impressively from 11th – after pitting at the same time as Russell – to join the podium fight, with Gasly showing promising form for Alpine by keeping pace with that battle even after Sainz passed him in a brilliant move. The Alpine wipeout at the end took away what would’ve been a double points finish.

Ferrari also scored zero, having lost Charles Leclerc at the original race start when he collided with Stroll.

Perez ended up fifth from his pitlane start, with McLaren getting a welcome double points finish as Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri sandwiched Nico Hulkenberg’s Haas in sixth and eighth.

Zhou Guanyu and Yuki Tsunoda completed the scorers, though the restart order reset decision was a blow for Hulkenberg and Tsunoda as they had emerged from the crashes fourth and fifth. Hulkenberg then completed the surreal afternoon by breaking down after the chequered flag.

Race Results

Pos Name Car Laps Laps Led Total Time Fastest Lap Pitstops Pts
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 58 46 2h32m38.371s 1m20.342s 3 25
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 58 12 +0.179s 1m20.613s 3 18
3 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin-Mercedes 58 0 +0.769s 1m20.476s 3 15
4 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 58 0 +3.082s 1m20.934s 3 12
5 Sergio Pérez Red Bull 58 0 +3.32s 1m20.235s 5 11
6 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 58 0 +3.701s 1m21.173s 3 8
7 Nico Hülkenberg Haas-Ferrari 58 0 +4.939s 1m21.124s 3 6
8 Oscar Piastri McLaren-Mercedes 58 0 +5.382s 1m21.335s 4 4
9 Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 58 0 +5.713s 1m21.819s 5 2
10 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda RBPT 58 0 +6.052s 1m21.789s 4 1
11 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 58 0 +6.513s 1m22.233s 6 0
12 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 58 0 +6.594s 1m20.467s 4 0
Pierre Gasly Alpine-Renault 56 0 DNF 1m20.995s 2 0
Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 56 0 DNF 1m21.203s 3 0
Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri-Honda RBPT 56 0 DNF 1m21.183s 4 0
Logan Sargeant Williams-Mercedes 56 0 DNF 1m21.456s 6 0
Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 52 0 DNF 1m21.685s 2 0
George Russell Mercedes 17 0 DNF 1m22.68s 2 0
Alex Albon Williams-Mercedes 6 0 DNF 1m23.349s 0 0
Charles Leclerc Ferrari 0 0 DNF 0s 0 0
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