Formula 1 nearly had its own No. 16 over No. 1 'March Madness' upset

Charles Leclerc was one spot away from pulling off the only No. 16 over No. 1 upset this March during Sunday's Formula 1 race in Australia.
Australian Grand Prix, Formula 1
Australian Grand Prix, Formula 1 / Kym Illman/GettyImages

The last two times Max Verstappen didn't win a Formula 1 race, he proceeded to go on a winning streak that either matched or surpassed the previous record of nine wins in a row. He will be hoping for a similar scenario to unfold after a mechanical failure ended his Australian Grand Prix just a couple laps into Sunday's 58-lap race at Albert Park Circuit.

The three-time reigning world champion still leads the world championship standings after the season's first three races, but it's an extremely narrow margin from his first place standing down through fourth. Sunday's race winner, Ferrari's Carlos Sainz Jr., occupies that fourth place position just 11 points behind Verstappen, and he missed the season's second race in Jeddah.

Considering Verstappen's run of 19 wins in 20 races heading into this past weekend's race, it's safe to say that Sainz's victory was the biggest upset of the weekend.

While this year's NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament did not produce any No. 16 over No. 1 upsets like we saw last year when Purdue completed their third consecutive postseason collapse to a double-digit seed, the Australian Grand Prix provided its own dose of "March Madness".

And it was almost a No. 16 over a No. 1.

If there was ever a week for the driver of the No. 1 car, numbered due to the 26-year-old Dutchman's three consecutive world championships, to hit a roadblock, it was the opening weekend of "March Madness". Unfortunately for Charles Leclerc, it was not the No. 16 car over No. 1 car upset he was looking for.

Teammate Sainz, still recovering from his appendix removal, dominated the Australian Grand Prix after Verstappen was knocked out. Leclerc had to settle for second place as his teammate maintained his status as the only non-Verstappen winner in the last 21 races, having now won twice during that stretch.

Sainz, driving car No. 55, has now won in each of the last three seasons, something only Verstappen (nine straight seasons) can also say; Leclerc has just one winning season since the two became teammates in 2021.

Sainz's 20 points per race average this season leads all drivers, yet he finds himself without a ride for next year after Ferrari effectively fired him to bring in Lewis Hamilton for 2025 and beyond.

Leclerc has not won a race since July 2022 at the Red Bull Ring. Since then, Verstappen has won 30 times, which is good enough for a top 10 spot on the all-time wins list on its own. Verstappen's 56 wins place him third, and he won more races over the 2022 and 2023 seasons than any driver has won over any three-year span in Formula 1 history.

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The fourth race on the 24-race 2024 Formula 1 schedule is a race Verstappen is set to enter as the two-time reigning winner: the Japanese Grand Prix. ESPN is set to provide live coverage from Suzuka Circuit beginning at 12:55 a.m. ET on Sunday, April 7. Start a free trial of FuboTV and don't miss it!