It seemed that the Australian Grand Prix was coming to an almost lazy end. With less than five laps to go, Max Verstappen was well ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.

So the game changed.

Haas’ Kevin Magnussen left his car a little wide on lap 54 and his right rear tire hit the wall. The tire ricocheted off the car, sending debris flying all over the track in Melbourne. First a caution waved, then a virtual safety car was announced, and then the game changed completely.

Red flag.

It was the second red flag of the Australian Grand Prix, the first coming out early in the race when Alex Albon spun in the gravel, causing a stoppage.

The red flag sent some shivers down the pit wall at Red Bull. While Verstappen had been the stronger car for most of the Grand Prix and was running ahead of the field at the time of the red flag, if there was one weakness in his race, it was how he did at the starts. At the start of the Australian Grand Prix, George Russell in P2 got off to a much better start than Verstappen and eventually took the lead.

Then, after the red flag early in the race, Verstappen again got off to a slow start, this time behind Lewis Hamilton. A few laps later, Verstappen and the powerful RB19 were able to overtake Hamilton’s Mercedes. But with only a few laps remaining, if Verstappen had another slow start, would he have enough time to make up the gap?

The other problem? Tires. With the early red flag all the teams made the decision to switch to the hard compound. But with the red flag, the teams faced the decision to finish with hard worn materials or perhaps switch to a soft compound for the final few laps of the race.

Another new concern? The angle of the sun With the numerous delays that had already occurred in the race, the drivers now faced the setting sun. For this reason, the race officials moved up the start time of the Australian Grand Prix so that the drivers would not fight the twinkle in their eyes in the closing stages.

However, delays throughout the race had once again forced them to endure the angle of the sun.

When the red flag flew, these were the top ten, in order: Verstappen, Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Carlos Sainz Jr., Pierre Gasly, Lance Stroll, Sergio Pérez, Lando Norris, Nico Hülkenberg and Esteban Ocon. It was going to be a stopped start to conclude the Grand Prix, and all the teams made the decision to switch to soft compounds for the last two laps of the Grand Prix.

A two-lap shootout to decide the Grand Prix winner. Would Verstappen get his second win of the season? Would Hamilton finally get a win again? Will Alonso ensure that elusive “33 soon”?

From the start Verstappen took the lead, and then there was utter chaos behind him. Described as “carnage” by commentators in the cockpit, there was a collision between Alonso and Sainz that sent Alonso spinning across the gravel. Behind them, the rest of the field piled up, and eventually both Alpines made contact with each other, Gasly and Ocon out of the race.

Here’s a look at the reset:

Chaos swept over several drivers:

That brought up another red flag and even more questions. How would the field be classified? Would there be another reboot?

Race control then posted a restart order: Verstappen, Hamilton, Alonso, Sainz, Stroll, Perez, Norris, Hulkenberg, Oscar Piastri and Zhou Guanyu.

However, the decisions were not made. The race stewards then instituted a five-second penalty on Sainz for his contact with Alonso, leaving him out of the points and opening the door for Yuki Tsunoda, who had finished 11th in each of the first two races. season races. to finally enter the points:

That made for a brutal day for Ferrari as Charles Leclerc was knocked out of the race on the first lap.

The rolling start ensued, Verstappen took the checkered flag and the Australian Grand Prix finally came to a close. It was his first victory in Melbourne.

This is the final classification of the top ten:

And the full field:

Perhaps the biggest losers in all of this? Alpine. Despite both Ocon and Gasly being in the top ten at the late restart, both drivers were eliminated from the race. A rather bitter pill for the team.

Now, the teams have a long rest ahead of them, before the Azerbaijan Grand Prix scheduled for the last weekend of April.

It’s a long time for some of these drivers and teams to wonder what could have been.

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