MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Red Bull’s Max Verstappen claimed his first Australian Grand Prix on Sunday in remarkable circumstances after a chaotic F1 race filled with drama from the green light to the checkered flag.
Although Red Bull’s first triumph in Melbourne since 2011 was expected, the carnage that unfolded in the latter stages of the race at Albert Park made it an extremely hard-fought win.
Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, who drove superbly in his Mercedes, finished second, while Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso took third spot on the podium.
Only 12 of the 20 starters finished the race, with Australian Oscar Piastri making the most of the disorder to finish eighth and claim his first championship points for McLaren.
Verstappen was pleased to clinch victory but queried the decision by stewards to issue a red flag after a crash on lap 55 of the 58-lap race instead of deploying a safety car.
He held a comfortable lead at that stage but then had to fight to hold the front position from Hamilton when the race was restarted.
Hamilton was delighted with the improvement Mercedes showed in Melbourne, which included a competitive qualifying performance on Saturday.
On the restart on lap 55, Verstappen was able to hold off Hamilton to the first turn as bedlam unfolded behind his Red Bull, resulting in a reshuffle of the finishing order.
Alonso, who had challenged Hamilton for second position throughout much of the race, was hit by Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz on the first corner of the restart.
Sainz, whose Ferrari showed good speed throughout the race, was issued with a five-second penalty that relegated him to 12th.
The Ferrari driver was upset with the decision and Alonso later said he believed the penalty issued to his rival was too harsh.
In a separate incident, Williams driver Logan Sargeant drove into the back of Nyck de Vries and the Alpines of Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly also exited the race after crashing into each other.