Ferrari are back! Vettel victorious in Australia

Sebastian Vettel defeated Lewis Hamilton in the opening race of the new Formula 1 era with a superb Australian Grand Prix victory.

The Ferrari driver jumped pole sitter Hamilton in the pit-stops then comfortably led home from the Silver Arrows, with Valtteri Bottas claiming third.

Hamilton made a strong start from pole position, but Vettel kept him in sight throughout the opening stint and closed to within a second before Hamilton dived into the pits on lap 17.

The Mercedes driver still had the upper hand when he emerged, but the pendulum swung towards Vettel when Hamilton got bottled up behind Max Verstappen’s Red Bull.

Verstappen’s defence cost Hamilton dear when Vettel emerged in front of both when he stopped on lap 23.

Vettel then ran off, extended his lead to almost ten seconds before Hamilton made inroads late on – then back to 9.975 seconds behind at the flag.

Bottas caught his team-mate after a disappointing first stint left him a few seconds adrift, but ended up settling for a third position.

Behind the top three, Kimi Raikkonen had a quiet race for Ferrari, only coming into play late on when Max Verstappen briefly threatened to steal fourth.

The Red Bull driver was running super-softs compared to Raikkonen’s softs in the second stint, and caught The Iceman at a rapid rate in the final third of the Australian Grand Prix.

Verstappen’s charge included a brief hold on fastest lap, but Raikkonen kept pushing and settle the score by taking fastest lap from Bottas on the penultimate tour.

Felipe Massa earned best-of-the-rest honours for Williams in comfortable fashion with sixth place, the last of the drivers not to be lapped, while Sergio Perez claimed seventh after two bold passes in his Force India.

Perez dived inside Daniil Kvyat at Turn 10 on the opening lap, then nailed the other Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz before the halfway mark with a fine round-the-outside move at Turn 3.

Kvyat ran extremely long on ultra-soft tyres in the first stint but lost out to team-mate Sainz after a surprise second stop late on.

The Toro Rosso driver finished ninth ahead of Esteban Ocon, who earned his first Formula 1 point on his Force India debut after catching and passing Fernando Alonso late on.

Alonso lost tenth to Ocon into Turn 1 and then P11 to Nico Hulkenberg as the Renault made it three-wide on the main straight, then retired his McLaren-Honda with a handling problem.

The double world champion was one of seven retirements from the opening race of the season, with Romain Grosjean the first.

Grosjean lost sixth to Massa on the opening lap, then brought a smoking Haas into the pits after just 13 laps. His team-mate Kevin Magnussen made it a double retirement for Haas in the closing stages after hitting Marcus Ericsson on the opening lap.

Home crowd favourite Daniel Ricciardo started two laps down after stopping on a reconnaissance lap to the grid, and his race ended at the halfway stage after his Red Bull slowed to a halt exiting Turn 3.

Ericsson rejoined after his Magnussen clash but retired just before Ricciardo, while Williams rookie Lance Stroll and Jolyon Palmer – who rose to P14 in the early stages but suffered a braking problem in his Renault – also failed to finish.

So a fantastic result for Ferrari. Sebastian Vettel’s fourth victory for the Scuderia and the four-time world champion now leads the drivers’ standings for the first time since 2012.

Australian Grand Prix, race results after 57 laps:

1    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    57    1h24m11.670s
2    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    57    1h24m21.645s
3    Valtteri Bottas    Mercedes    57    1h24m22.920s
4    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    57    1h24m45.063s
5    Max Verstappen    Red Bull-Renault    57    1h24m40.497s
6    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    57    1h25m35.056s
7    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    56    –    1 Lap
8    Carlos Sainz    Toro Rosso-Renault    56    –    1 Lap
9    Daniil Kvyat    Toro Rosso-Renault    56    –    1 Lap
10    Esteban Ocon    Force India-Mercedes    56    –    1 Lap
11    Nico Hulkenberg    Renault    56    –    1 Lap
12    Antonio Giovinazzi    Sauber-Ferrari    55    –    2 Laps
13    Stoffel Vandoorne    McLaren-Honda    55    –    2 Laps
–    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    50    –    Retirement
–    Kevin Magnussen    Haas-Ferrari    46    –    Retirement
–    Lance Stroll    Williams-Mercedes    40    –    Brakes
–    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    25    –    Retirement
–    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    21    –    Retirement
–    Jolyon Palmer    Renault    15    –    Retirement
–    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    13    –    Engine
–    Pascal Wehrlein    Sauber-Ferrari    0    –    Withdrawn

Hamilton takes Australian Grand Prix pole from Vettel

Lewis Hamilton kicked off his 2017 season with pole position for the Australian Grand Prix, after winning a tense qualifying battle with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton was three tenths up on Vettel after the first runs in Q3, with Bottas just two thousandths of a second slower in third, before Daniel Ricciardo crashed his Red Bull heavily at Turn 14 and caused the session to be red flagged.

The triple champion went even faster on his final run once Q3 resumed, sealing pole with a time of one minute, 22.188 seconds lap – the fastest ever recorded by an Formula 1 car around Melbourne’s Albert Park circuit.

Bottas held top stop for a few moments before Hamilton’s improvement despite a scruffy final flying lap, with Vettel then denying Mercedes a front row lockout by posting the second quickest time on his final run.

Despite setting the pace in final practice, Ferrari ultimately didn’t quite have the speed to challenge the best of the Mercedes drivers, with Vettel 0.268 seconds down on Hamilton, but fractionally quicker than Bottas.

Kimi Raikkonen was fourth fastest, more than half a second further back, while Max Verstappen claimed fifth.

Romain Grosjean produced a solid effort to qualify his Haas inside the top six, nearly four tenths clear of Felipe Massa’s Williams.

Massa was just 0.044 seconds clear of Carlos Sainz, who in turn narrowly beat Toro Rosso team-mate Daniil Kvyat to eighth on the grid.

Ricciardo wound up tenth after failing to set a time before his crash.

Neither Force India made it through to Q3. Sergio Perez, who complained of a gearshift problem, missed the cut by just 0.074 seconds despite improving by nearly four tenths on his final flying lap, while Esteban Ocon failed to find time on his final run and wound up in P14.

Nico Hulkenberg qualified P12 on his debut for the works Renault team, only 0.010 seconds down on Perez, while Fernando Alonso manhandled the troubled McLaren-Honda to take P13, ahead of Ocon and Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber.

Last-minute Sauber stand-in Antonio Giovinazzi was P16, after replacing the unfit Pascal Wehrlein ahead of final practice.

The Ferrari reserve driver was quicker than Ericsson after the first runs in Q1, but went off at the penultimate corner on his final effort, so wound up 0.183 seconds down and failed to make the Q2 cut.

Kevin Magnussen’s difficult first weekend racing for Haas continued. K-Mag went off track on his final Q1 flier and failing to improve his time.

He was fractionally faster than Stoffel Vandoorne, who completed only one flying lap in the McLaren after a fuel-flow problem forced him to return to the pits for most of the session.

Williams repaired rookie Lance Stroll’s car in time to make a late appearance in Q1, following his heavy crash at the end of FP3.

Stroll was P19, though faces a grid penalty for a gearbox change ahead of the session, while Renault’s Jolyon Palmer qualified slowest. More than a second down on Stroll and over three adrift of Renault team-mate Nico Hulkenberg.

So an interesting grid line-up for the Australian Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton earning his 62nd career pole in the sport with Sebastian Vettel on the front row. The Ferrari seems to be quick and it’s great to see the champions at the top. Roll on race day.

Qualifying positions for the Australian Grand Prix:

1    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    1m22.188s
2    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    1m22.456s
3    Valtteri Bottas    Mercedes    1m22.481s
4    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    1m23.033s
5    Max Verstappen    Red Bull-Renault    1m23.485s
6    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    1m24.074s
7    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    1m24.443s
8    Carlos Sainz    Toro Rosso-Renault    1m24.487s
9    Daniil Kvyat    Toro Rosso-Renault    1m24.512s
10    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    –
11    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1m25.081s
12    Nico Hulkenberg    Renault    1m25.091s
13    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    1m25.425s
14    Esteban Ocon    Force India-Mercedes    1m25.568s
15    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    1m26.465s
16    Antonio Giovinazzi    Sauber-Ferrari    1m26.419s
17    Kevin Magnussen    Haas-Ferrari    1m26.847s
18    Stoffel Vandoorne    McLaren-Honda    1m26.858s
19    Jolyon Palmer    Renault    1m28.244s
20    Lance Stroll    Williams-Mercedes    1m27.143s*

*Five-place grid penalty for gearbox change

Force India goes pink

Force India has revealed a dramatic new pink colour scheme for the upcoming Formula 1 world championship.

The switch to the pink, magenta and silver livery is now a complete contrast to the drab, grey look when the VJM10 was launched. The new colours signals a new sponsorship deal with water technology specialists BWT.

As well as the pink colours on the car, Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon’s racing helmets will also switch paint schemes too.

Force India team boss Vijay Mallya said: “The arrival of BWT in Formula 1 is huge news and represents one of the most significant partnerships in our ten-year history.

“It’s a sign of how far we have come as a team with our strong results and completes a solid commercial performance over the winter.

“For 2017 our cars will sport a vibrant new colour scheme with a smart matte finish.

“Changing the colour of our cars is an indication of the strength of this new partnership and a real statement of intent from BWT as they begin their relationship with the sport of F1.”

It’s certainly a bold new look. Pink is rarely seen in motor sport and will definitely add some colour to the Formula 1 grid.