Notebook – Australian Grand Prix – Review

Features Notebook

Sebastian Vettel has started the 2018 season by taking victory in the Australian Grand Prix. It was an opportunity thanks to the timing of his pit stop which gave him the lead as Lewis Hamilton made

How Vettel Won

Sebastian Vettel stayed with Hamilton throughout the early stages but the timing of the safety car because of the problems that Haas had during the pit stops and the following virtual safety car gave Vettel a free pit stop.

Vettel was handed the win as when he made his pit stop, he had a ten second lead which allowed him to come in ahead and stay ahead of the Mercedes. Mercedes made the mistake because they miss calculated the timing of the VSC gap they needed to stay ahead of Ferrari.

Ferrari got lucky, as the feeling was before the race that it was Mercedes who made the mistake and with the close fight between the top three teams it’s a mistake which could cost Mercedes if they keep making these errors.

Vettel told Sky Sports “We got a bit lucky but we will take it. Lewis did a great lap yesterday and deserved pole and he drove a very good race, controlling in the beginning. I was praying for a Safety Car and then there was a car stopped in Turn Four.

“The race is frozen but to come into the pits on the limit and when I got out ahead I knew it was difficult to pass. He kept the pressure on, especially the beginning of the last stint but the last five laps I could enjoy a little bit more.”

But, Mercedes will need to learn from the mistakes and try to figure out a way of stopping these mistakes. The thing is that because they don’t have to stick to the SC speed limit in the pit lane, meaning Vettel was able to get ahead of Hamilton.

The Start

Lewis Hamilton makes the better start off the line as Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen Slot in. Then Raikkonen goes around his teammate as they run into the first corner. It was also a great start for Kevin Magnussen going around Max Verstappen in the Red Bull. Verstappen backed off from Vettel, which allowed Magnussen to get alongside on the way to turn three.

Hamilton had “extra tools”

Lewis Hamilton says he had the “extra tools” he needed to win the race if it wasn’t for the timing of the virtual safety car, when drivers need to drive to a pre-set limit. If the team had made the stop under the VSC, it would have cost the team less time.

Hamilton had closed the gap to Vettel to 11.614 seconds when the VSC was deployed, which Mercedes thought was enough to ensure it would reclaim the lead when the Ferrari pitted.

It only realised its calculation was wrong when Vettel emerged from the pits in front. Those calculations are going to be key for all the teams this season, as there is little between the teams in the top and middle group this year.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was asked, could the gap have been bigger, he said “”I think we would have been able to, yeah. Lewis knew that he needed to make it to the end on the tyre and drove to the target, and we probably would have had the gap.”

Hamilton said he would prefer to be racing in an era that did not rely on technology so much. He also stressed that the negativity of the result should not overshadow a strong weekend.

“I wish it was more in my hands, because I feel like I was driving as good as ever today. Everyone in the team is feeling it, but there’s so much great work, there’s so much positivity to take forward with us.”

Haas denied pit stop blunders cost results

Haas was looking as if they were on for a strong and there best result when both drivers tyres failed to attach to the wheel hub. The thing which is slightly odder was it was different sides of the cars which failed to attach.

Both Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean were on course to finish in the top six before the tyre blunder and the unsafe realise. The cause of the problem has been put down to cross-threading wheelnuts at the stops. With the team, insisting would work harder on its procedures ahead of the next race.

“This weekend was very tense for us – we had some issues in FP1, FP2, we didn’t have a lot of spares, so we didn’t do a lot of pitstop practice, and that could be one of the reasons,” Steiner told TV crews after the race.

“It was just a bad pitstop. The wheelnut got on wrong and it was cross-threaded. We couldn’t catch it early enough. You work in a 2.5s window to do this and we were very unlucky.”

Steiner suggested that being a younger team doesn’t help and urged his squad to remain confident given the strong pace its cars showed in Australia, where they qualified best of the rest.

Sirotkin sandwich bag retirement

Williams’s Sergey Sirotkin believes his retirement from his debut race was caused by a sandwich bag being sucked into his exhaust. The Russians debut only lasted five laps, before he went down the run-off at Turn 13 after running out of brakes.

Sirotkin is convinced rubbish being sucked into the brake duct triggered it. He said “You would not believe what happened: it was a plastic sandwich bag, which went into the rear-right brake duct. We still have a piece of the bag in our bodywork. Yes, that’s how exciting it is. It was a big bag, a big sandwich bag.”

“It was lap three or lap four, and it made [the brakes] overheat massively. It caused massive temperature spikes and destroyed all of the brakes. There is no wall or anything there, so luckily the car is still in one piece. But I lost the pedal and went completely straight. It was day over.”

Chief technical officer Paddy Lowe admits that could have been the culprit but other things must be considered. Saying “We’ll go through and analyse it. But the pieces do seem to add up well to it being a complete blockage of the brake duct on the right rear.”

“With all the temperatures going through the roof and eventually catching fire, and then the actual catastrophic failure.”

Social Media

Max Verstappen, Red Bull P6 “Not the result we hoped for. From lap 1 on I had a lot of oversteer, which made my afternoon difficult on a circuit where overtaking is already hard. Not much more to say other than I will be back stronger in Bahrain #keeppushing #AusGP”

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes P8 “A tought race trying to come back up the field. Gave all I had and end result 8th from 15th. Team done great job getting the car back together just in time for the race ?? Bring on #BahrainGP ? #VB77 #F1 #AusGP @MercedesAMGF1”

Esteban Ocon, Force India P12 “Tough week end with no points for the team today, we leave Australia with plenty understood and we can only do better from here?! #EO31”

Charles Leclerc, Sauber P13 “Ciao Melbourne ! P13, very happy with the whole weekend, so much learnt. A lot of positive to take to Bahrain ! Had a lot of fun with the few overtakes today. I already want to race again ?”

The Week Ahead

Ferrari will be looking to spin the headlines to say Mercedes can be beaten, they will want to make it look like they won this race on merit. Mercedes should go away now over the coming days and figure out what went wrong for them on track.

We will get answers in the coming days to that but Mercedes will be eager to try and understand why that happen, they should have followed the lessons from last year’s race maybe? Mercedes need to be wary of the other cars around them this season.

Haas will now be focused on the pit stop practice following that blunder during the race. I think also we will hear from Toro Rosso, there will be media pressure following the failures because of the McLaren situation last year.

We will begin to look towards the strategy group which will discuss this engine formula post 2020, I feel the manufacturers want a similar engine to now. Now a decision needs to be made, as teams need some time to develop these engines going forward. Also how strong is that Mercedes/Ferrari alliance on engines?



Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.

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