Charles Leclerc cruised to a win at the Australian GP as reigning champion Max Verstappen suffered his second retirement of the season in three races. Leclerc led the race from the pole and held a commanding lead when the Dutchman, around 5 seconds down the road, suffered another power unit failure.
The battle for the win was over after that as Leclerc's Ferrari was in a different zone compared to the rest of the field. At the end of the race, the Monegasque picked up an extra point for the fastest lap as he completed the first Grand Chelem of his career (pole, win, fastest lap, led all laps of the race). Sergio Perez finished second while George Russell finished third to round off the podium.
Let's take a look at some of the key highlights of the Australian GP.
#1 Max Verstappen retires, while Charles Leclerc dominates from the lead
Charles Leclerc led the Australian GP from the start. Within a few laps, it became obvious that the Red Bull could not lap at the same pace as the Ferrari. Leclerc had an advantage of close to half a second per lap throughout the first stint as Max Verstappen suffered from severe graining on his tires.
After the second safety car restart, where Leclerc was in a spot of bother against Verstappen, he was able to defend and keep the lead. From that point onwards, however, it was once again clear that the Dutchman had no answer to the speed of the Ferrari as Leclerc pulled out a five-second gap again.
It was at this point that Verstappen's car gave up and the Dutch driver had to retire from the Australian GP. After the first three races of the season, Leclerc leads the championship by 34 points from George Russell while Max Verstappen faces a 46 points deficit to the Ferrari driver.
#2 Russell scores his first podium for Mercedes
George Russell drove a measured race for Mercedes as he benefitted from the timing of the safety car to pick up his first podium of the season. During the Australian GP, Russell got the jump over Lando Norris at the start of the race and was minding his business behind Lewis Hamilton in the first stint.
During the second stint, Russell, benefitting from the safety car, was able to leapfrog both Hamilton and Sergio Perez. Perez, on his part, was able to pass the Mercedes driver but Hamilton could not close down the gap and overtake his teammate.
Russell finds himself second in the championship right now with 37 points to his name, while Hamilton is a further 9 points behind.
#3 Alex Albon scores points in the drive of the day
Williams employed a rather strange strategy that included Alex Albon going almost the entire race distance on a single set of hard tires. The gamble paid off as the Thai-British driver was able to score his, and Williams' first points of the season.
What was surprising, however, was Albon's ability to hold off Esteban Ocon in the Alpine on fresher tires. Many drivers around him, like Kevin Magnussen and Fernando Alonso, started losing life in their tires. Albon, however, was able to hold on to them as he made the most of the fact that the entire pack was stuck behind Lance Stroll.
Albon would finally pit one lap before the end and eventually finish 10th to score a surprise points finish for Williams at the Australian GP.
#4 Sebastian Vettel and Carlos Sainz Jr. crash out of the Australian GP
The Australian GP featured two safety cars. The first was caused by Carlos Sainz as he crashed out very early in the race while trying to overtake Mick Schumacher. The second was caused by Sebastian Vettel, who crashed after spinning his wheel on the kerb.
The crashes ended what was turning out to be a disappointing weekend for both drivers. Vettel just didn't look race-ready as he had ventured through the gravel once already while Sainz was trying to overcompensate for a poor qualifying that was made worse by a poor start.
Both the drivers will be going home disappointed after the race and hoping to make amends at Imola.
#5 McLaren stages a comeback with a double points finish
McLaren are back to their traditional fourth position in the constructors' championship and this weekend was a perfect reflection of that. Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo, both very close to each other in terms of pace, finished the race in fifth and sixth position. They capped off what has been a sensational return to the front of the midfield for the team.
In the initial stages of the race, it did appear that McLaren had the legs on the Mercedes cars at the front. As the race developed, however, it became apparent that it was not the case. Having said that, McLaren has made huge strides this season and should be proud of the improvement the team has seen in the last few races.