Valtteri Bottas has drawn first blood over his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton at the Australian Grand Prix.
Bottas won the first Grand Prix of the 2019 season in Melbourne from his team-mate Lewis Hamilton but Bottas never looked unduly troubled, as Max Verstappen came home third for Red Bull Racing.
Hamilton started from pole position but a lighting start from Bottas seen him jump up to P1 before Turn 1.
Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo was forced to retire after damaging his front wing and barge boards having run on the grass on the opening lap of his home GP.
A stellar start for Bottas, and a bumpy ride for Ricciardo
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 17, 2019
Elsewhere, there were multiple overtaking moves until everyone found their natural place in the order and the race settled down just after the half way mark, with most drivers running a one-stop race, it was a question of going short or long.
The Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel opted for a short first stint, meaning Mercedes had to cover him with Lewis Hamilton.
This ultimately hurt both their races as they had to manage their tyres throughout the race.
Vettel’s team-mate Charles Leclerc made a strong start, but was squeezed out by Vettel while trying to go up his inside at turn two, this hampered any progress he could make for the rest of the race.
“The race start was pretty good from my side, Seb didn’t see me and I had to go on the grass,” Leclerc said after the race.
“Unfortunately, I then lost Seb’s position and Max’s position, so then I was fifth and we finished there.”
He managed to catch Vettel near the end of the race, but Ferrari decided to play it safe and told him to hold station during the final laps.
After the race Vettel was asked if his early stop was to blame for his lack of pace:
“Of course, by the looks of it, because I was struggling with the tyres. We need to have a good look at it.”
Vettel added: “A difficult weekend for us. Still we got a decent amount of points but not the result we wanted.”
“Not the strong form we had some weeks ago, so we need to understand but the next race is coming up quickly so we will see what we can do.”
“For today that was all we could do.”
A race of one of two halves for Red Bull, Max Verstappen came home in P3 for Honda’s first podium since 2008, while his team-mate Pierre Gasly lingered in P11 behind former Red Bull driver Danill Kvyat.
Very happy to start the 2019 season on the podium 💪 We had a great car, so a big thank you to @redbullracing and congrats to @HondaRacingF1 for their 1st podium in the V6 era 🙌 #KeepPushing 🇦🇺 #AusGP pic.twitter.com/pWNHWAsdGw
— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) March 17, 2019
Some “Déjà vu” for Haas after running in a strong P6 and P7 most of the race.
Unfortunately Grojsean had to retire as his left front wheel didn’t go on properly during his pit stop.
This is exactly what happened to them at last years Australian GP, lucky for them it was only one car instead of two this time around.
Haas’s misfortune allowed Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg to pick up P7 ahead of Kimi Raikonnen, Lance Stroll and Daniil Kvyat which rounded out the top 10.
A day to forget for McLaren as the British outfit failed to score any points after their rookie Lando Norris qualified in P8 yesterday.
An MGU-K failure for Carlos Sainz Jr. on lap 11 made him the first retirement of the race.
Meanwhile Norris did have a strong start keeping his P8, unfortunately after his pit stop he got caught up behind Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovanazzi costing him time which ultimately dropped him to P12 after everyone else had pitted.
Sergio Perez, Alexander Albon, Antonio Giovanazzi and both Williams were the final finishers.
Williams still seem to have some fundamental problems as they are actually slower then both their 2017 and 2018 cars.
— Mercedes-AMG F1 (@MercedesAMGF1) March 17, 2019
Bottas eventually finished the race over 20 seconds clear of Hamilton in P2, and even claimed a bonus point for the fastest lap of the race to come away from Albert Park with a full 26 points.
“I don’t know what to say, the start was really good,” Bottas stated.
“It was definitely my best race ever. I don’t know what happened it just felt so good and everything was under control and the car was so good today. Truly enjoyable.”
In a little under two weeks the teams will be heading to Sakhir for the Bahrain Grand Prix.
A track very different to Albert Park. Bahrain has lot more overtaking opportunities.
Who will come out victorious in the deserts of Bahrain?