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‘Life is crazy sometimes’ – Sainz overjoyed after ‘rollercoaster’ ride from hospital bed to Australian GP victory

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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 24: Race winner Carlos Sainz of Spain and Ferrari celebrates with his

Carlos Sainz could not hide his delight as he marked his return to action at the Australian Grand Prix with a commanding victory, making the most of an early-race retirement for Max Verstappen.

Just two weeks on from sitting out the Saudi Arabia race with appendicitis and undergoing surgery, Sainz challenged Verstappen for pole position at Albert Park and took the lead on the second lap of the race as the Red Bull driver battled brake issues.

READ MORE: Sainz storms to victory amid drama in Australia as Verstappen retires and Russell crashes out

With Verstappen soon retiring, Sainz’s path to victory was clear and he added to a “rollercoaster” period – which also included the winter news that Lewis Hamilton will replace him next year – by leading a Ferrari one-two.

“It was a really good race; I felt really good out there,” said Sainz, who finished just under two-and-a-half seconds clear of team mate Charles Leclerc. “Of course, [I’m] a bit stiff, especially physically, it wasn’t the easiest, but I was lucky that I was more or less on my own.

2024 Australian Grand Prix: Pole-sitter Verstappen leads away from Sainz on the race start at Albert Park

“I could manage my pace, manage the tyres, manage everything. It wasn’t the toughest race of all, but yeah, very happy, very proud of the team. I’m happy to be in a one-two with Charles here. It shows that hard work pays off.

“Life sometimes is crazy, what happened at the beginning of year, then the podium in Bahrain, then the appendix, the comeback, the win... it’s a rollercoaster but I loved it and I’m extremely happy.”

READ MORE: Verstappen explains ‘really weird’ cause of early retirement from Australian Grand Prix

Sainz then shared what he saw of Verstappen’s struggles at the start of the race after he exploited a moment from the Dutchman to get a run on him between Turns 9 and 10 with the “super powerful” DRS.

“I felt like I could keep up with him on the first lap and try and take DRS,” said Sainz. “Then he lost car into Turn 3 and there was my chance to get close and attempt an overtake, and as soon as he was behind he started struggling with the brakes and that was it for him.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 24: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull

Sainz took the lead from Verstappen early on and never looked back

“It’s a pity because I think we would have had a very good fight for P1 today, but I’m happy to take the win – he’s had plenty of them! I’m happy to be back here.”

As for when he felt victory was on the cards, Sainz continued: “I think from Lap 2 when I was leading. I said with the pace I had yesterday I knew I could get it done. Especially in clean air, managing the tyres, I could get it done.

AS IT HAPPENED: All the action from the 2024 Australian Grand Prix as Verstappen and Hamilton retire

“Obviously the risk of a Safety Car and red flag here was always in the back of my mind, but luckily it was a clean race, and not too much happened. Sorry for George [Russell with his crash] there at the end, it looked like a big one, I hope he’s okay, [but] I could finish the race, win it, bring it home, [so it’s] a great feeling.”

Sainz’s win puts him fourth in the drivers’ standings after the opening three rounds, despite his missed race, while Ferrari are second to Red Bull in the constructors’ battle, just four points adrift of the reigning world champions.

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