Max Verstappen won a chaotic and controversial Australian Grand Prix that finished under a safety car after a controversial crash-affected restart.
The Red Bull driver led Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso home to set the podium.
That was despite Alonso being tagged into a spin at a restart with two laps to go and dropped to the back.
Governing body the FIA said the order had to be declared as at the restart for one final lap behind a safety car.
To add to the controversy, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was given a five-second penalty for causing the decisive crash at the first corner by tagging Alonso’s car, dropping him from fourth to 12th and out of the points.
An emotional Sainz described that decision as “unacceptable”, adding: “They need to wait until after the race and discuss with me. Clearly the penalty is not deserved. It is too severe.”
The Alpine drivers Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon were the other big losers from the official decisions – they took the penultimate restart fifth and 10th but crashed into each other and retired at the second corner.
The unprecedented events will lead to controversy that F1 is putting showbusiness before sport.
There is a direct line from the final laps of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2021 – when officials made errors that changed the course of the world championship fight between Verstappen and Hamilton – to these events, as the final red flag was thrown to try to ensure the grand prix would finish under racing conditions.
Ironically, that desire led to the final, bizarre and confusing climax, and a race that did actually end under a safety car.
The first-corner crash led the FIA to make a decision that a lap had taken place but that most of the events during it had had no effect, other than the crash between the Alpines.