In the confetti rain in Melbourne, Carlos Sainz treated himself to a generous sip of champagne after his personal rollercoaster ride that included an appendectomy and an astonishing Grand Prix victory.

In front of his dad Carlos and girlfriend Rebecca, the Ferrari driver even enjoyed the Scuderia double success after the braking disaster for Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen. “I like this rollercoaster ride. Life is just unbelievable sometimes,” said Sainz after his third career win and took a selfie for the family album with teammate Charles Leclerc.

Just two weeks after his absence due to illness in Saudi Arabia, the Spaniard, who has to make way for record world champion Lewis Hamilton in the coming season and is still without a cockpit for 2025, also benefited from Verstappen’s lightning exit. After just five laps on Sunday, the Red Bull driver from the Netherlands had to park his car, which was burning at the rear, thus early burying his hope of his tenth Grand Prix victory in a row across the season.

Verstappen’s first retirement since 2022

“As soon as the lights went out, the right brake jammed, so the car was difficult to drive from the start. It was very cumbersome,” explained Verstappen. “If the brake is stuck, it doesn’t help.” Verstappen still remains the World Cup leader.

Without the eliminated three-time world champion, Sainz and his pursuer Leclerc gave Ferrari its first double success since Bahrain 2022, but for Verstappen it was the first failure since 2022. At that time, a fuel leak also stopped him in Melbourne.

Sainz’s joking recommendation to his colleagues

“I felt really good out there,” said Sainz. “Of course it was a bit stiff and not the easiest physically, but I was lucky that I was more or less on my own and had my pace, my tires and everything else under control.” The joking Sainz had a tip for his Formula 1 colleagues after the appendectomy: “I will recommend to all drivers to take it out this winter.”

McLaren driver Lando Norris finished third at Albert Park, thwarting the first podium for an Australian at his home race. His teammate Oscar Piastri had to be content with fourth place. Nico Hülkenberg, who started from 16th place, fought for two valuable points in ninth place in the Haas; he had previously finished tenth in Saudi Arabia.

Hülkenberg: “Also happy due to the racing circumstances”

“The bottom line is that the speed was quite okay compared to the other midfield teams,” said the Rhinelander on the TV channel Sky, whose stable rival Kevin Magnussen finished tenth. “We scored twice, also fortunately due to the racing circumstances, you have to remain fair and realistic.” Hülkenberg was referring to Verstappen’s retirement and a crash involving Hamilton’s teammate George Russell on the last lap.

For Verstappen, only the first lap went as usual on the outside. After his 35th career pole, the Red Bull driver got off to a good start and led the field into the first corner. But Sainz passed him in the second lap. “The brake no longer released,” said Red Bull motorsport consultant Helmut Marko, describing Verstappen’s problem.

Flames shoot out of Verstappen’s rear wheel

“There is smoke, blue smoke, fire, fire,” Verstappen then alerted the command post on the fourth lap. The Dutchman’s Red Bull became slower and slower and passed to the end of the field. Flames shot out of the right rear wheel as Verstappen drove his car into the garage.

The crew put out the fire immediately, but the world champion had to park his car after just five laps. Uncomprehending and annoyed, Verstappen took off his helmet. Wearing a T-shirt, Verstappen then discussed the fiasco with his team boss Christian Horner at the command post.

Hamilton also experiences a debacle

The Grand Prix in Australia was also one to forget for record world champion Hamilton. After 17 laps, the Mercedes driver had to drive onto the grass verge and park the car. An engine failure made it impossible to continue driving and the virtual safety car was briefly called out.

Sainz, who had delayed his first tire change for a long time, remained at the front. It was a remarkable performance from the Spaniard. In Jeddah two weeks ago he had to give his car to teenager Oliver Bearman due to illness – and he immediately came seventh. “Those were hard weeks in which I spent many days in the hospital bed,” said Sainz about the time after the procedure.

Doubts accompanied Sainz’s comeback

The Ferrari driver reported back in Melbourne. However, at first he had a queasy feeling as to whether he could really drive without any problems. Sainz admitted that he was “a bit rusty” and took second place in the qualification.

“We had real doubts as to whether he could drive the race,” reported happy dad Carlos senior, whose son felt exhausted on the final laps. “Life is crazy sometimes.”