Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel has beaten Mercedes’s Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas to win the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. The four-time champion piled the pressure on the three-time champion from the first run after he made a great start.
Hamilton made a strong start, but he couldn’t shake off the Ferrari in the opening stint allowing Vettel to close up and get within a second of him by the time he made his first stop. Then Vettel jumped him allowing him to build an unbeatable lead.
Mercedes were telling Hamilton he needed to up his pace to build a gap before his pit stop. The Briton was complaining his tyres were going off and he had no more pace. The talking points going towards China will be whether Ferrari forced Mercedes into making decisions which didn’t work out.
Vettel will take the race as a good result, but more significantly that nineteen out of the last twenty-seven seasons, the winner of the first race of the campaign has proceeded to win the championship.
Vettel said “It’s unbelievable. It was quite mad in a positive way with people running towards the pits with flags. It’s what we needed. The guys have been working really hard and not getting much sleep. It’s a really fun car to drive.”
Hamilton said “A big congratulations to Ferrari and Sebastian. In the race, I struggled with the tyres. I had to stop very early and I got stuck behind one of the Red Bulls but that’s just the way it goes.”
Hamilton still had the momentum until he got caught behind the Red Bull of Max Verstappen which he was unable to pass early on which allowed Vettel to get ahead to seal his win. That win for Vettel, proves that Ferrari will be a strong contender for the championship.
Verstappen’s fifth place will have no joy for Red Bull as they have struggled all weekend. Any hopes of a good weekend for Australian Daniel Ricciardo was in doubt early on, stopping before the race had begun before missing the start. He did get back out, but he was two laps down before he re-joined.
Then, later in the race his Red Bull came to a halt at the halfway stage after his Red Bull slowed to a halt exiting Turn 3.
Williams Felipe Massa finished sixth, but was almost a minute and a half, while both Force India’s and Toro Rossos secured points-scoring results despite being lapped.
Romain Grosjean lost sixth to the Brazilian at the start before retiring on lap thirteen. Before team-mate Kevin Magnussen made contact with the Sauber’s Marcus Ericcson in the closing stages.
Sergio Perez was another winner at the start getting past Daniil Kvyat at the start then passing his team-mate mid-race, with a move around halfway mark with a fine round-the-outside move at Turn 3.
Kvyat ran extremely long on ultra-soft tyres in the first stint, before losing out to team-mate Sainz after a surprise second stop late on to top up the air for the pneumatic system.
Esteban Ocon, held off the McLaren of Fernando Alonso until a suspension problem enabled both Ocon and the Renault of a closing Nico Hulkenberg to pass him in one corner on the 52nd lap. Before a handling problem forced him to retire with six laps to go.
Both Renault’s Jolyon Palmer and Williams’s Lance Stroll, who had made a good start both retired with brake problems.