MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Charles Leclerc ended a dominating weekend in his Ferrari after converting his pole position into a complete triumph at the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday.
The 24-year-old Leclerc extended his lead in the Drivers’ Championship while taking his second win of the season after winning the season-opening race in Bahrain.
Leclerc was able to hold off Red Bull rival Max Verstappen on the opening laps and defended well mid-race in safety car conditions to pull away for a decisive victory in 20.524 seconds.
Sergio Perez overcame a slow start to take second place ahead of the Mercedes combination of George Russell, who secured his first podium of the season, and Lewis Hamilton.
McLaren pair Orlando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo finished fifth and sixth.
Verstappen, the world champion, endured another frustrating run when a mechanical failure ended his hopes as he ran 39 laps second in the 58-lap race.
But Verstappen never really challenged Leclerc, whose Ferrari was clearly the fastest car in Melbourne racing conditions.
The Drivers’ Championship leader, who stopped on lap 22, confirmed that by setting the fastest lap of 1 minute, 20.260 seconds with a flourishing final lap.
“The car was amazing today. Really. What a race. What a day,” said Leclerc.
His teammate Carlos Sainz, who finished on the podium in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, was less fortunate during a trying weekend.
After a problem in qualifying caused him to start from ninth place, he fell further back in the field with a slow start, then lost control on lap two, ending his race.
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