Motor racing-Leclerc wins the Australian Grand Prix for Ferrari | The mighty 790 KFGO

By Ian Rancon

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Charles Leclerc claimed his second victory of the Formula One season for Ferrari with a pole victory at the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday as Red Bull world champion Max Verstappen suffered from “deja vu” with another retreat.

Leclerc’s car showed impressive pace and performance around the improved Albert Park circuit to seal his fourth career victory ahead of Red Bull runner-up Sergio Perez, while third-placed George Russell claimed his second podium and the first for Mercedes in an encouraging day for struggling manufacturers. champions.

“What a race and at what pace,” an elated Leclerc told team radio, after finishing more than 20 seconds ahead of Perez in the 58-lap race.

“The car was amazing today, well done guys.”

Leclerc has now built a 34-point lead over Russell in the F1 championship.

Verstappen was second behind the leader Monagesque when his RB18 car suffered a reliability problem and came to a stop during his 39th lap with smoke.

“I smell a weird liquid,” Verstappen said before stopping at turn two.

It was a similar result at the season opener in Bahrain, where Verstappen retired with three laps remaining on his way to a second-place finish.

Lewis Hamilton finished fourth for Mercedes after starting fifth on the grid, having been overtaken by Russell due to the deployment of a safety car.

A first safety car was activated a few minutes after the start of the session after Carlos Sainz (Ferrari), who started ninth on the grid after set-up problems during qualifying, left the race on hard tyres.

After skidding in the grass, his car raced back onto the track, somehow missing oncoming traffic before coming to a stop in the gravel at Turn 10.

He had narrowly avoided a collision with other cars at the first corner, after falling back to 13th place in a terrible start.

Sebastian Vettel also finished early, crashing onto a curb at turn four before steering his Aston Martin into a wall and leaving a trail of debris on the track.

It capped a forgettable racing comeback for the German four-time world champion, who missed the first two races after testing positive for COVID-19.

Vettel’s crash saw the safety car deploy again, and Russell capitalized by stopping before rejoining in third place ahead of Perez and Hamilton.

Leclerc’s lead was wiped out by the safety car and nearly taken as Verstappen dived after the restart, but the Monagesque saw the Dutchman and built his lead.

Russell fought hard to hold off Perez but was finally passed on lap 37.

Russell then held on to Hamilton to seal his podium.

Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo finished fifth and sixth respectively as McLaren showed improvement after a poor start to the season.

Organizers said around 420,000 people flocked to Albert Park during race week, making it the biggest attendance at a weekend sporting event in Australia.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Robert Birsel..)

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