Formula 1: Carlos Sainz wins Australian Grand Prix as Max Verstappen fails to finish

Mechanics deal with the smoke coming out of Red Bull Racing's Dutch driver Max Verstappen car during the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne on March 24, 2024. (Photo by Scott Barbour / POOL / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo by SCOTT BARBOUR/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Max Verstappen's Australian Grand Prix was over on lap 3. (Photo by Scott Barbour / POOL / AFP) (SCOTT BARBOUR via Getty Images)

Max Verstappen’s quest for a 10th straight Formula 1 win ended on the third lap of the Australian Grand Prix.

Verstappen started on pole and led the first lap before he was passed by eventual race winner Carlos Sainz. Shortly after Verstappen was passed by Sainz, smoke started bellowing from the right rear of his car and he started to slow. As he brought his car into the pits to retire the car, Verstappen's right rear brake rotor exploded.

The retirement was Verstappen’s first since the third race of the 2022 season — also at the Australian Grand Prix. Verstappen had won 36 of 44 races since that retirement two years ago in Melbourne. He won 19 of 22 races on the way to a third consecutive F1 title in 2023 and had won the first two races of the 2024 season.

Not long after he got out of the car, Verstappen said he knew something was wrong with the right rear brake as soon as the race began.

After Verstappen's retirement, Sainz went unchallenged throughout the rest of the race. No one got close to him as the race had two virtual safety cars. The first came for an engine failure on Lewis Hamilton’s car and the second happened on the last lap for Hamilton's Mercedes teammate.

George Russell was chasing Fernando Alonso for sixth when he crashed as the two drivers were on their penultimate lap. The VSC was deployed as Sainz was on his final lap when the crash occurred.

After the race, stewards penalized Alonso for slowing abruptly ahead of Russell. The 20-second penalty dropped him to eighth.

Sainz entered the race weekend as the most recent non-Verstappen winner and the only non-Red Bull driver to get a victory in 2023. And his victory comes in some extraordinary circumstances.

Sainz missed the second race of the 2024 season two weeks ago in Saudi Arabia after he had to undergo an appendectomy following an appendicitis diagnosis during the race weekend. He also doesn't have a ride lined up for the 2025 season. Hamilton is set to replace Sainz at Ferrari in 2024.

At the moment, there's no clear landing spot for Sainz in 2025, though it'll be an absolute stunner if he isn't on the grid next season. He has a win in each of the past three seasons and has proven he's one of the better drivers in the series.

Charles Leclerc finished second to give Ferrari a 1-2 finish, while McLaren’s Lando Norris was third ahead of teammate Oscar Piastri.

Official race results

1. Carlos Sainz, Ferrari

2. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari

3. Lando Norris, McLaren

4. Oscar Piastri, McLaren

5. Sergio Perez, Red Bull

6. Lance Stroll, Aston Martin

7. Yuki Tsunoda, RB

8. Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin

9. Nico Hulkenberg, Haas

10. Kevin Magnussen, Haas

11. Alex Albon, Williams

12. Daniel Ricciardo, RB

13. Pierre Gasly, Alpine

14. Valtteri Bottas, Kick Sauber

15. Zhou Guanyu, Kick Sauber

16. Esteban Ocon, Alpine

17. George Russell, Mercedes

Not classified: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), Max Verstappen (Red Bull)