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The seven biggest talking points from the Australian Grand Prix

Carlos Sainz gets emergency lightweighting surgery, immediately wins. Coincidence?

Carlos Sainz wins Australian Grand Prix 2024
  • Having your appendix removed makes you faster

    Having your appendix removed makes you faster

    This is the only logical conclusion you can make following Carlos Sainz’s remarkable journey from a hospital bed to the top step of the podium in just 16 days. Expect the rest of the grid to book in their appendectomies as soon as humanly possible.

    Despite still feeling “weird” just a fortnight on from major abdominal surgery, Sainz was in unbelievable form in Melbourne as he qualified on the front row of the grid, before passing Max Verstappen for the lead on the second lap of the race.

    From there he never looked back, except perhaps to chuckle with glee as Verstappen’s brakes caught fire and exploded behind him.

    And even when the virtual safety car on lap 17 put Charles Leclerc right on his gearbox, the Spaniard simply pulled away again and wasn’t challenged on his way to the chequered flag. Without doubt his smoothest operation to date.

    Sainz has now won as many races (three) as Leclerc at Ferrari since the pair became teammates in 2021, and is surely now a top contender for the currently vacant seats at Red Bull and Mercedes in 2025?

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  • Was the racing better without Verstappen?

    Was the racing better without Verstappen?

    ‘Imagine how mega the championship would be without Verstappen in it’ has been the argument among straw-clutchers throughout F1 for a while now. And when the world champ’s right-rear brakes went pop in Australia, we finally got a chance to play out that hypothetical.

    Um… it wasn’t great was it? After Sainz had cruised past Verstappen’s disintegrating Red Bull there was basically no wheel-to-wheel action between the top four at all. And the best Sergio Perez could manage in the other Red Bull was a miserly P5. Sigh.

    As it stands Verstappen, Leclerc, Perez and Sainz are now separated by just 11 points in the championship, fuelling talk that the title fight has been ‘reignited’. Seems a bit premature to us. Max is gonna win by half a minute in Japan next time, isn’t he?

  • Did Alonso brake test Russell?

    Did Alonso brake test Russell?

    Now this really did divide opinion: with George Russell hunting down Fernando Alonso on the final lap, the Mercedes driver caught his rival with such speed approaching Turn 6, that he binned his car in the wall. Cue a very scary team radio message of the Brit begging for a red flag as he lay upturned in the middle of the track.

    So who was in the wrong? According to the stewards, it was Alonso. They decided that the way he slowed down, sped up, and then slowed down again on entry to the corner was ‘potentially dangerous’, although the Aston Martin driver said afterwards he was “surprised” to be handed a 20-second penalty for the incident. What do you reckon?

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  • Mercedes now permanently lives in the doldrums

    Mercedes now permanently lives in the doldrums

    How much worse can things get for the Silver Arrows? With Lewis Hamilton’s engine going pop and Russell finishing his weekend pointing skywards, a double DNF was the icing on the cake for what has been a terrible start to the season for Mercedes.

    Both Ferrari and McLaren have leapt ahead of Merc over the winter, and more worrying than one point-less weekend is that Mercedes is still talking about its car not having the performance that its wind tunnel data says it should have. Which it’s done for the last three seasons.

    Now people are starting to ask if Toto Wolff (who is a part-owner, don’t forget) is the right person to lead the team. How did it come to this for an outfit that won eight constructors’ titles in a row?

  • Williams had every right to be ruthless

    Williams had every right to be ruthless

    It’s fair to say that kicking Logan Sargeant out of his car so that Alex Albon had something to race this weekend was a PR disaster for Williams. Especially as it was Albon who totaled his car.

    But let’s look at the bare facts here: Sergeant hasn’t out-qualified Albon in 24 attempts so far and has scored just the one point for the team since making his debut last season. He’s very lucky to still be in F1 at all, and with the backmarkers so closely matched, Williams made the only decision it could be sticking its number one driver in the race. Not that it paid off, of course: Albon came home 11th, having been passed by both Haas cars. Oops.

    The more pertinent question to be asking is ‘How did an F1 team arrive at a race without a spare chassis?’ Team principal James Vowles admitted the situation was “unacceptable”, an odd choice of words given that… he’s the one in charge.

  • Sauber still can’t get its pit stops right

    Sauber still can’t get its pit stops right

    A dodgy wheel nut cost Valtteri Bottas 52.4 seconds in Bahrain a few weeks ago, and another one dropped Zhou Guanyu to last place in Saudi Arabia a fortnight ago. Surely the team had got on top of the problem by now?

    Er, no. Bottas was yet again sat stationary for an absolute age as a wheel nut slipped out of a mechanic’s gun during his pit stop, ultimately costing the team a shot at its first points of the season. Oh dear.

    Meanwhile Zhou was also held up in the pits, although that was because of a gearbox problem and nothing to do with being able to attach wheels to the car. Still…

  • Is Ricciardo in trouble?

    Is Ricciardo in trouble?

    When Daniel Ricciardo returned to F1 in the middle of last season, many wondered if he was back on the path to a seat at Red Bull alongside Max Verstappen in 2025. The popular Aussie has even said that this is the target.

    The signs aren’t promising though, are they? Since linking up with Yuki Tsunoda at AlphaTauri-slash-RB it’s arguably the less experienced Japanese driver who’s fared better, and the 23-year-old was on song in Melbourne as he qualified P8 and finished the race a place higher as D-Ric languished out of the points.

    Meanwhile RB has got Liam Lawson - who performed brilliantly as Ricciardo’s super-sub last year - waiting in the wings for a full-time drive. Might RB do the unthinkable and jettison an eight-time race winner from its programme?

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