Max Verstappen’s bid to win a record-equalling 10 consecutive races went up in smoke as Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz returned from surgery just 16 days ago to win in Australia.

Verstappen suffered a brake failure after just four laps of Sunday’s 58-lap race at Melbourne’s sun-cooked Albert Park to end his winning streak which stretched back to September’s Japanese Grand Prix.

Sainz took advantage of Verstappen’s first retirement in 43 races to claim just the third win of his career a fortnight after he was ruled out of the previous round in Saudi Arabia with appendicitis.

Charles Leclerc finished second to complete a Ferrari one-two with Lando Norris next up as the British driver landed his first podium of the year.

Australia F1 GP Auto RacingSainz is congratulated by McLaren driver Lando Norris (Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/AP)

Lewis Hamilton’s miserable start to his final season with Mercedes continued after he retired on lap 17 with an engine failure.

Hamilton, who is leaving Mercedes to join Ferrari at the end of the season, has taken just eight points from the opening three rounds – the worst start of his 18-season career.

Both Mercedes cars failed to make it to the end in Melbourne after George Russell crashed out on the penultimate lap. Russell’s Mercedes ended up on his side but the Englishman was able to walk away from the accident.

More than 132,000 spectators were crammed into Albert Park anticipating another Verstappen victory after the Dutch driver took pole position here on Saturday.

And when the 26-year-old held off Sainz at the start, and ended the opening lap one second clear of the Spaniard, Verstappen looked on course to take his third victory from the opening three rounds.

But to the amazement of the record crowd in Australia, Sainz sailed past Verstappen on lap two before smoke began pouring out the back of his Red Bull machine.

“I have smoke,” he said over the radio “Fire, fire, brake, my brake.”

Verstappen was falling back through the pack and the crowd cheered his demise. He managed to get his wounded machine back to the pits before his right-rear brake temporarily caught fire.

Verstappen remonstrated with performance director, Tom Hart at the back of the garage – appearing to say “that is f***** stupid” – before heading to his changing room and putting on his Red Bull civvies and taking the long walk through the paddock to the media pen.

“The brake stuck on from when the lights went off,” said Verstappen. “The temperatures kept on increasing until the point where it caught on fire.

Australia F1 GP Auto RacingMechanics work to extinguish a fire in Red Bull driver Max Verstappen’s car (Scott Barbour,Pool/AP)

“Having one brake caliper on was like driving with the handbrake on. I didn’t know at the time but I could feel the balance in the car was off.”

Asked about his exchange with Hart, he replied: “That was related to us doing a pit stop while the car was on fire!”

It was a bad day for the winners of the past seven world championships after Hamilton’s miserable weekend here ended with him stopping on track as his engine expired.

Hamilton started 11th and was running in ninth before his Mercedes gave up the ghost.

Hamilton’s previous worst start to a season had been back in 2009 when he was disqualified at the first round before finishing sixth and seventh. Before today’s retirement, Hamilton had started the season with a seventh and ninth in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

But for Sainz, the man making way for Hamilton at Ferrari next year, he had an afternoon to remember by leading home a Ferrari one-two from Charles Leclerc with Lando Norris completing the podium.

Sainz took his win under the virtual safety car after Russell’s Mercedes dramatically ended up 90 degrees to the floor after he thudded into the wall in his pursuit of Fernando Alonso.

Russell reported over the radio that he was “OK” and was able to walk away from the crash. Oscar Piastri took fourth for McLaren ahead of Sergio Perez’s Red Bull with Alonso sixth.