Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands walks from...

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands walks from his car as his mechanics work to put out a fire during the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park, in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, March 24, 2024. Credit: AP/Scott Barbour

MELBOURNE, Australia — An angry Max Verstappen was an early exit from the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix on Sunday, with the Red Bull driver sustaining a fiery mechanical failure on the fourth lap of the race, enduring his first race retirement since Albert Park in Australia in 2022.

Minutes after his retirement, he was seen on TV coverage of the race in a heated discussion with Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.

Verstappen had won the first two F1 races of the season in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and was on a nine-race winning streak.

“My right rear brake basically stuck on from when the lights went off,” Verstappen said. “The temperatures (in the car) just kept on increasing until the point that it caught fire. They (mechanics) could see what was going on but they don’t know what caused it.”

“We had a lot of good races in a row, I knew that the day would come when you end up having a retirement and unfortunately that day was today.”

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton was another early retirement with an engine failure on lap 17.

Verstappen, the three-time F1 world champion, began the race from pole, but was passed by Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz on lap two at turn nine. Verstappen kept on the Spaniard’s tail, but just two laps later was spewing smoke from the back of his car, with fire following, forcing his retirement from the race.

Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz of Spain leads Red Bull driver...

Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz of Spain leads Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands during the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park, in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, March 24, 2024. Credit: AP/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake

The 26-year-old had earlier complained on team radio about “losing the car.” Soon afterward, smoke appeared at the rear of Verstappen’s car and he was forced into the pits, with no hope of a return.

Verstappen won 19 races last season — the most in F1 history — on his way to a third straight title.

“It’s a shame as the car felt really good in the laps to the grid, but you cannot control these issues and these things happen,” Verstappen said.

“Of course, I am disappointed we didn’t finish the race as we had a good shot at winning and the car has been improving throughout the weekend.”

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands prepares for...

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands prepares for the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park, in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, March 24, 2024. Credit: AP/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake

Sainz went on to win the race.

——

AP Formula 1: https://apnews.com/hub/formula-one

More motor racing

YOU'VE BEEN SELECTED

FOR OUR BEST OFFER ONLY 25¢ for 5 months

Unlimited Digital Access.

cancel anytime.