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Red Bull's reputation as unstoppable crumbles as F1 title battle heats up | Jack Snape
F1 Sport

Red Bull’s reputation as unstoppable crumbles as F1 title battle heats up | Jack Snape


The burning tire was placed on top of another tire behind the Red Bull garage, causing a foul odor to rise up and interrupt the elegant atmosphere of Albert Park’s corporate hospitality. Its failure was a letdown for Max Verstappen’s supporters, but it provided hope for the other Formula One teams.

During the third lap of the third race in the 2024 season, Red Bull’s undefeated reputation came to an end. Verstappen had previously won nine consecutive races and seemed on pace to make it ten from pole position. This would have marked his third consecutive win in the 2024 season.

However, shortly after, he voiced his frustration over the radio, stating that he had “misplaced the car” while smoke emerged from the rear right side. Soon after, he made a pit stop where a fire extinguisher was used to subdue the fire.

Unfortunately, Sergio Pérez was facing difficulties racing against the Ferraris and McLarens on the track. Meanwhile, the media surrounded Verstappen in the paddock. The pit crew brought out his tires that were not used from the garage, almost causing a cameraman to topple over when the trolley hit the grass. Throughout the weekend, the troublesome team manager, Christian Horner, was constantly plagued by controversy. There were early indications that things were not going well.

Horner exclaimed to a gathering of followers in the paddock prior to the race that it was a considerable distance to travel. However, it proved to be a beneficial journey for Ferrari, as Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc secured first and second place for the Italian team. Leclerc also set the fastest lap of the race. The red car displayed strong performance throughout the weekend and successfully fended off the competing McLarens and Red Bull of Pérez on Sunday.

The race ended under caution due to a crash involving George Russell. This resulted in Mercedes leaving the race without earning any points, as Lewis Hamilton had to retire early. Hamilton had a difficult weekend and did not make it to Q1, starting in a position outside the top 10. This was his last race for Mercedes in Melbourne before moving to Ferrari next season. After his DNF, he appeared most at ease riding on the back of a steward’s motorcycle. This vehicle then took him and the VIPs away from the Albert Park infield before he hopped onto his own scooter to make his way down to the paddock.

Someone else took the honor in the ever-changing driver situation. Sainz joyfully crossed the finish line after carefully managing his tires in the final laps. The Spaniard had his appendix removed 14 days ago, causing him to miss the race in Saudi Arabia. He will be leaving Ferrari at the end of the season to open up a spot for Hamilton. “Life has its ups and downs,” Sainz shared over the radio during his victory lap.

Carlos Sainz of Ferrari celebrates on the podium after winning the Australian F1 Grand Prix ahead of teammate Charles Leclerc in Melbourne.View image in fullscreen

Back in the pit lane, the red overalls were jubilant, but the celebrations this year were somewhat different. Fines of A$17,000 (£13,480) were threatened for any fans who set foot on the track, after the dangerous invasion last year while cars were still lapping. The crowds that had once filled main straight are no more, and now the podium presentation can only be viewed from the grandstands opposite.

Melbourne’s Formula One glamour has been maintained despite the setback to tradition. Notable figures such as Hollywood actors Zac Efron and Eric Bana, along with Guenther Steiner from the Netflix series Drive to Survive, were seen in the paddock taking advantage of the sunny weather that graced the hours leading up to the race.

However, the main highlight of the event were the drivers. Local favorites Daniel Ricciardo and Oscar Piastri were seen walking towards the garage shortly before the start of the race. “Go get them, Danny,” one fan cheered, as Ricciardo was asked to autograph someone else’s orange McLaren polo which had “PIASTRI” printed on the shoulders.

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During the formalities of the grid ceremony following the playing of the national anthem, it was the hand of the younger Australian that many dignitaries sought out first, leaving Ricciardo – who began the race in last place – on the sidelines.

The new pecking order was made obvious as Piastri cruised to the finish in fourth. His senior teammate Lando Norris bested him but was himself a beneficiary of McLaren’s hierarchy. Midway through the race, Piastri had track position in front of his teammate before the order came on the team radio to swap positions.

Ricciardo faced challenges in his performance today. His qualifying lap was disqualified, forcing him to start from the back. Despite this setback, the 34-year-old managed to make his way to 12th place, starting on soft tires. Meanwhile, his teammate Yuki Tsunoda ended up in seventh position, with Fernando Alonso being pushed down the rankings due to a penalty for causing George Russell’s late incident.

This was a rare day in Formula One where the excitement did not come from the middle of the pack. Instead, with the picturesque scenery of the Albert Park circuit and the unfortunate incident of Red Bull’s overheating car due to a faulty brake, the championship has been injected with new energy.

Source: theguardian.com