F1 star Max Verstappen's car spews black smoke, catches fire on bad day at Australian Grand Prix

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Max Verstappen had a difficult outing on Sunday at the Australian Grand Prix in the third Formula 1 race of the 2024 season.

After winning the first two races and taking pole for the Melbourne event, Verstappen was in trouble from the jump. He had Carlos Sainz on his tail and was unable to hold him off as he slipped in a corner. That's when his Red Bull Racing vehicle started smoking.

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Max Verstappen upset

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, right, chats with a teammate after his retirement from the Formula One Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park, Melbourne, Sunday March 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Scott Barbour)

Verstappen began to lose power and was forced to abandon the race in one of the shocking events of the season. As he entered the pits, the rear of his car exploded and briefly spewed black smoke. His pit crew came to put out the flames and his day was quickly over.

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“My right rear brake locked up from the moment the lights went out,” he said afterwards. “The temperatures (in the car) kept rising to the point where it caught fire. They (the mechanics) could see what was happening, but they don't know what the cause was.”

“We had a lot of good races in a row, I knew a day would come when we would finally give up and, unfortunately, that day was today.”

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Max Verstappen's car smokes

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen exits his car as it is shrouded in smoke during the Formula One Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park, Melbourne, Sunday March 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Scott Barbour, Pool)

Verstappen won 19 races last season en route to his third consecutive world championship.

“It's a shame because the car felt really good on the laps all the way to the grid, but you can't control these problems and these things happen,” he added. “Of course I'm disappointed that we didn't finish the race because we had a good chance of winning and the car improved throughout the weekend.”

Sainz – 16 days removed from appendix surgery – held on for victory. His Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc finished second and McLaren's Lando Norris third.

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Max Verstappen arrives

Flames come from the rear of Max Verstappen's car as he returns to the pit lane to abandon the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix, Sunday March 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Scott Barbour, Pool)

Lewis Hamilton also had engine problems, causing him to finish 18th. Hamilton's teammate George Russell crashed and nearly overturned his vehicle on the final lap while trying to get around Fernando Alonso.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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