The 2023 Formula 1 Australian grand prix was possibly the messiest F1 race I've ever seen, from beginning to end. Red Bull's Max Verstappen got off to an uncharacteristically bad start, Ferrari's Charles Leclerc crashed out of the race barely a kilometer into the first lap, and Williams' Alex Albon was shunted from behind and crashed out in the ninth lap. The latter of which drew a red flag, causing a standing restart. However, none of that compares to the absolute mess that occurred within the final laps, which caused the Haas F1 team to file a protest.
In lap 55, Haas driver Kevin Magnussen crashed out of the race, sending debris all over the track and forcing yet another red flag and another restart. Moments after the restart, chaos once again ensued, as several drivers immediately crashed. Both Alpines crashed out, Ferrari's Carlos Sainz shunted Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso off the track, and Williams' Logan Sargeant crashed into AlphaTauri's Nyck de Vries. All of which drew yet another red flag and another standing restart. However, that was actually good news for Haas F1, as those crashes moved Nico Hulkenberg to the number four spot for the final lap.
The race stewards determined that the final lap would just be a formation lap after the restart, meaning Haas and Hulkenberg were guaranteed to snag a fourth place finish. However, the stewards then decided that the final restart order would instead be the same as the previous one, dropping Hulkenberg from P4 to P7, losing quite a few points.
Following the race, the Haas F1 team filed a protest with the race stewards. While the nature of the protest wasn't announced, it seems likely that it's about the final grid positions.
As Motorsport points out, FIA sporting regulation 57.3 about restart position order says: "In all cases the order will be taken at the last point at which it was possible to determine the position of all cars. All such cars will then be permitted to resume the sprint session or the race."
It's understandable that determining new grid positions was difficult for the race stewards, following the chaos of the penultimate restart. However, Haas is also understandably upset about losing three positions and valuable points due to red flag confusion.
Who isn't upset is Fernando Alonso. When Alonso was shunted off by Sainz, he lost his third-place position. However, since the final restart reverted him back to third place, he finished on the podium for the third time this season. Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton finished second, his best finish of the season. Finally, Verstappen won his second grand prix this year, which marks the first time Red Bull has won the first opening three races of a season, as teammate Sergio Perez won two weeks ago.
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