Max Verstappen has been dealt a brutal championship blow, retiring late from the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday as Charles Leclerc stormed home to claim his second win of the year.

Verstappen was running in second on Lap 39 when he abruptly parked his car outside Turn 2, reporting he could smell a “weird fluid.”

“Everything has s**t itself,” he added.

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Leclerc was already pulling away in the Albert Park sunshine, but the retirement allowed the Ferrari driver to cruise to a pole-to-flag win that extends his championship lead to 34 points, and moves him 46 points clear of Verstappen.

Speaking after the race, Verstappen said: “We’re already miles behind (Leclerc). I don’t even want to think about the championship fight at the moment.

“It’s pretty frustrating and unacceptable.

“I knew there was a problem (before the race). It was always going to be a question finishing the race, but these sorts of things, if you want to fight for the title, cannot happen.”

Meanwhile, Daniel Ricciardo enjoyed a strong points-finish, completing a clean race to come home in sixth — one spot up from his grid position.

The Australian stuck close to teammate Lando Norris all race but lost time behind the Haas’ of Kevin Magnussen after a second safety car period. He ultimately maintained a comfortable gap to Norris with the pair coming home in fifth and sixth for a strong McLaren points haul.

Red Bull’s Sergio Perez finished second, while Mercedes’ George Russell capitalised on a timely pit stop at a second safety car to jump up to third.

Lewis Hamilton didn’t have the same luck, losing spots after the safety car to finish fourth.

He later said to his team: “You put me in a really difficult position.”

Verstappen is now behind the two Mercedes in the drivers’ standings, while Red Bull was at a loss to provide an immediate explanation as to why the Dutchman had a second retirement for the season.

Sky F1 pitlane reporter Ted Kravitz said: “They can’t really say, it’s too early, but Red Bull need to investigate, pull the car to pieces.

“But it might not be until it returns to Milton Keynes that they know what part of the car let go of its senses.”

Earlier, after a slow start, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz lost control at Turn 9 on the second lap and becahed his car in the gravel, forcing the safety car to come out.

“He has had a miserable, miserable weekend,” Martin Brundle said in commentary of Sainz, who gambled by starting the race on the hard tyre.

There was a second safety car on Lap 22 when Sebastian Vettel completed a shocking weekend with a spin and crash into the wall at the exit of Turn 4.

TOP 10 STANDINGS

1) Charles Leclerc

2) Sergio Perez

3) George Russell

4) Lewis Hamilton

5) Lando Norris

6) Daniel Ricciardo

7) Esteban Ocon

8) Valtteri Bottas

9) Pierre Gasly

10) Alex Albon

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Daniel Ricciardo at Melbourne Walk.
Daniel Ricciardo at Melbourne Walk.Source: News Corp Australia

Bizarre crash interrupts GP Qualifying | 00:57



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