The 2023 Australian Grand Prix was disrupted by a late second red flag of three and a chaotic restart. It was Max Verstappen who took the title, with Hamilton finishing in second place to earn his first podium of the year, and Fernando Alonso, who had been involved in the late turmoil, taking third position.
Verstappen had to fight his way to the front in the stop-start Grand Prix at the Albert Park track after George Russell and Lewis Hamilton had the early lead.
Russell slid down the standings as a result of a first red flag brought on by Alex Albon's solo crash, which scattered debris and gravel across the track. Hamilton kept up his lead at the second standing start, but Verstappen quickly passed him as the DRS overtaking aid was turned back on.
Verstappen opened a nine-second advantage until he passed Hamilton on lap 12. His lead was slightly interrupted as he complained about front locking, and briefly skidded off the track at the penultimate bend, raising a late flag, the second of the race.
Aston Martin's earlier strong positions were also destroyed when Lance Stroll, who was battling Sainz, skidded into the gravel at Turn 3 just before the third set of red flags. Even though Verstappen made it through the restart, several drivers including both Aston Martin’s and Alpine drivers who were in better positions, did not.
After much debate over the rules, Race Control decided to run the final lap behind the safety car, in the position they were in at the start of lap 57, excluding the cars that were too damaged to continue.
With their vehicles having undergone modifications the night before, Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez started from the pit lane on the Albert Park grid, which lined up only 18 competitors. They were two of just seven drivers—the top eight were all on the yellow-marked tires—who chose not to start on the medium Pirellis.
Russell continued his position and had the inside line into Turn 1 to speed ahead of Verstappen, who was then attacked by Lewis Hamilton for a Mercedes 1-2 as the lights went out. Verstappen voiced his discontent, saying, "He pushed me off the track, I was ahead at the apex, then he pushed me off."
It was a hopeless weekend for Ferrari in Australia as Sainz, who was furious about not being able to explain his case to the stewards, dropped to 12th in the standings. Charles Leclerc had also retired on the Turn 3 gravel, way back on the opening lap after turning in, hitting Lance Stroll on the inside, and getting turned around in what was quickly ruled a racing incident.
While De Vries and Ocon made contact, Russell quickly overtook Stroll and Nico Hulkenberg to take fifth place. However, on lap 12, Verstappen quickly overtook Hamilton as DRS became available.
Verstappen crossed the finish line first, ahead of Hamilton and Alonso, while Sainz faced a five-second time penalty for spinning Alonso.
Stroll was fourth, ahead of Perez, Norris, and Hulkenberg. With Zhou in ninth place and Tsunoda in tenth. Piastri scored three points in his home debut. While Hulkenberg's Haas broke down on his in-lap at Turn 2 to further complicate the mayhem.
Edited by Yasmin Hailes
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