Leclerc claims easy Australian GP victory after Verstappen DNF

CON CHRONIS / AFP / Getty

Charles Leclerc cruised to an easy win at the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday to extend his early lead in the drivers' championship to 34 points over George Russell.

The Ferrari driver led the entire race from pole position for his fourth career victory and second in three races this season. It's the third win at Albert Park in the last four races for the Scuderia.

"What a car today," Leclerc said. "Of course, I did a good job all weekend, but it was not possible without the car. I'm just so happy."

Red Bull's Sergio Perez and Mercedes' Russell finished second and third, respectively. It marked the second podium of Russell's career.

Reigning drivers' champion Max Verstappen was in second place for the majority of the race before suffering a mechanical issue with his Red Bull on Lap 39. Verstappen said he smelled fluid and pulled over and shut his car off. He failed to score points for the second time in three races.

"We're already miles behind," Verstappen said. "I don't even want to think about the championship fight at the moment. I think it's more important to finish races. Today, in general, was just a bad day again.

"It's frustrating and unacceptable."

Lewis Hamilton claimed fourth despite once again struggling with his Mercedes throughout the weekend. It's his second top-four finish this season.

Carlos Sainz was forced to retire from the race after losing control and beaching his Ferrari in the gravel on Lap 2, creating a safety car. It's the first time he didn't finish on the podium this season.

Sebastian Vettel's nightmare weekend also came to an early end. The Aston Martin driver, who won the Australian GP in 2017 and 2018, caused a safety car on Lap 24 after driving his front wing into the wall.

It was a record-setting event in Melbourne as 420,000 fans attended the race weekend, making it the largest sporting event in Australia's history. The last two grand prix were canceled due to the pandemic.

The F1 calendar now flips to the Emilia Romagna GP in Italy on April 24. Verstappen won last year's event, with Leclerc finishing fourth.

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Leclerc claims easy Australian GP victory after Verstappen DNF
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