Leclerc wins Australian Grand Prix for Ferrari

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton finished fourth after starting fifth on the grid, having been passed by George Russell due to the deployment of a safety car

Charles Leclerc claimed his second win of the Formula One season for Ferrari with a pole-to-flag victory at the Australian Grand Prix yesterday, as Red Bull’s world champion Max Verstappen had deja vu with another retirement.

Leclerc’s car showed impressive pace and performance on the upgraded Albert Park circuit to seal his fourth career win ahead of Red Bull’s runner-up Sergio Perez, while third-placed George Russell grabbed his second podium and first for Mercedes in an encouraging day for the struggling constructors’ champions.

“What a race and what pace,” said a thrilled Leclerc on the team radio, having finished 20 seconds ahead of Perez in the 58-lap race.

Photo: EPA-EFE

“The car was incredible today – well done, guys,” he said.

Leclerc has built a 34-point lead over Russell in the F1 championship.

Verstappen was second behind Leclerc when his RB18 car experienced a reliability problem and rolled to a halt during his 39th lap with smoke billowing.

“I smell some weird fluid,” Verstappen said before coming to a stop at turn two.

It was a similar outcome to the season-opener in Bahrain, where Verstappen retired three laps from the end.

Lewis Hamilton finished fourth for Mercedes after starting fifth on the grid, having been passed by Russell due to a safety car deployment.

A first safety car was activated a few minutes into the session after Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who started ninth on the grid after set-up troubles in qualifying, spun out of the race on hard compound tires.

After skidding into grass, his car spun back onto the track, somehow missing oncoming traffic before coming to a stop in gravel at turn 10.

He had narrowly avoided a collision with other cars at the first corner, after falling back to 13th place in a terrible start.

Sebastian Vettel also finished early, locking up on a curb at turn four before shunting his Aston Martin into a wall and leaving a trail of debris across the track.

It capped a forgettable return to racing for the German four-time world champion, who missed the first two races of the season after a positive COVID-19 test.

Vettel’s crash saw the safety car deployed again, and Russell capitalized by pitting before rejoining in third place in front of Perez and Hamilton.

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