‘Formula 1 needed a feel-good story, and Carlos Sainz provided it’

Sainz and his team-mate Charles Leclerc, who completed Ferrari’s first one-two since the opening race of the 2022 season, were the fastest men on track from the first day of practice at Albert Park.

And while Verstappen took pole, the feeling among rivals before the grand prix was that he was for once not going to have it all his own way. “For Max, it will be the most uncertain race for some time,” a rival team boss said on Sunday morning.

That remark was a reference to the relative pace of the Ferrari and Red Bull, and particularly to Ferrari’s apparent advantage in tyre usage. But that never got a chance to play out – Verstappen lost the lead to Sainz midway around the second lap and was out just two laps later with his right rear brake on fire.

Sainz’s victory prevented Verstappen from matching the all-time record he set last year of 10 consecutive wins – a run that started after Sainz’s triumph in Singapore last September, when he became the only non-Red Bull driver to win a race in 2023.

The 29-year-old Spaniard is now the only man to beat Red Bull to a grand prix victory since Mercedes’ George Russell won in Brazil on 13 November 2022, a quite extraordinary statistic.

More impressive even than that, though, was the fact that it came just 16 days after he had abdominal surgery following an appendicitis diagnosis that forced him to miss the last race in Saudi Arabia.

And as if that wasn’t enough, this was a man who went into the season knowing that Ferrari had decided he was surplus to requirements, following their decision to sign Lewis Hamilton for 2025.

As Sainz put it: “Life sometimes is crazy, you know? It’s not only the last two weeks. It’s the whole start to the year in general, how the year started with the news of the non-renewal.

“Then you get yourself fit. You get yourself ready for the start of the season, pushing flat out. And then you get to [the first race in] Bahrain. You do a good podium. You say, ‘OK, now the season is starting well and I can keep the momentum going.’ And suddenly, boom, you’re missing a race in Jeddah and the operation.

“Long days in bed, not knowing if I was going to be back in time. Obviously, a lot of unknowns.

“Am I going to be back fit? Am I going to be back feeling still good with the car? And then suddenly you come back and win.

“So, yes, life is a rollercoaster sometimes, but it can be really nice and good to you.”

SOURCE: BBC Sport   (go to source)
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