Hamilton victorious as Mercedes achieves fifth 1-2 result

Defending Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton recorded his third successive Spanish Grand Prix victory with a commanding drive, sealing a fifth 1-2 finish for Mercedes.

Hamilton’s victory ahead of Valtteri Bottas clinched the team’s fifth perfect one-two result in a row and put Lewis seven points clear of his teammate in the world championship.

Max Verstappen earned a second podium of the season for Red Bull Racing and Honda in third place, after Ferrari’s challenge faded early and never recovered.

Hamilton started second on the grid but crucially got ahead of poleman Bottas by winning a three-way duel into the first corner that also featured Sebastian Vettel.

Hamilton and Vettel swarmed Bottas on the run to Turn 1, with Hamilton moving to the inside of his team-mate and Vettel almost edging ahead of both on the outside.

Vettel locked up his front right tyre and ran deep into the corner, while Bottas backed out of it in the middle and give up the lead to Hamilton.

Bottas survived a big slide to hold second as Vettel rejoined the track having taken slightly to the run-off, which sent the Ferrari wide through the second corner.

That blocked Vettel’s team-mate Charles Leclerc and allowed Verstappen into third.

As Hamilton sprinted clear of Bottas into a commanding lead, Vettel fell further back in fourth as the flat spot he picked up at the first corner proved a “pain in the arse”.

He eventually let Leclerc into fourth on lap 12 of 66, and the top five held position for most of the rest of the Spanish Grand Prix.

The major differences at this stage were Hamilton, Bottas and Leclerc committing to a one-stop strategy but Red Bull putting Verstappen on a two-stop and an early change of tyres for Vettel giving him a second stop to make as well.

In the second half of the race Vettel – on medium compound – found himself bottled up behind Leclerc, who had switched to fresh hard tyres.

Ferrari deployed team orders again, this time in reverse, to briefly free up Vettel until he made his second stop with 25 laps to go.

That put him back to sixth, behind Pierre Gasly, but he made short work of the second Red Bull to regain fifth.

Verstappen’s own second pitstop dropped him to fourth but he was catching Leclerc and poised to retake third on fresh tyres when the safety car was deployed on lap 46.

Lando Norris tried to pass Lance Stroll on the outside into Turn 1, ran slightly deep and was still tight to the inside as the track went left for Turn 2 when Stroll turned in.

They made contact, pitching Stroll into the barriers across the gravel and leaving Norris’s McLaren with big damage to continue.

Hamilton, Bottas and Leclerc all took the option to make a safe second pitstop under the safety car, which dropped Leclerc behind both Verstappen and Vettel again.

It took until lap 54 for racing to resume, with Hamilton keeping Bottas behind at the restart with ease and going on to win by four seconds.

Behind, Gasly attacked Leclerc for fifth positions as the two Haas drivers made light contact into Turn 1 just behind them.

Gasly failed to pass Leclerc and then came under attack from Kevin Magnussen, who had got ahead of teammate Romain Grosjean by virtue of their minor collision, but just retained the place.

Magnussen went on to finish seventh, although he was fortunate to be in position to make the overtake on his teammate at the restart.

K-Mag dropped behind Daniil Kvyat in the second stint but regained the place when Toro Rosso had a horrible double-pitstop under the safety car.

Toro Rosso appeared not to have Kvyat’s tyres ready which meant his stop was slow and held up the second car of Alex Albon, dropping him out of the points as he waited for his teammate’s stop to end.

Kvyat fell to P10 but made it back up to ninth by the finish as Grosjean’s race worsened.

After the contact with Magnussen, Grosjean came under attack from Sainz and took to the Turn 1 run-off following a wheel-to-wheel hit.

With Sainz then into ninth, Albon sniffed an opportunity to haul himself back into the points and put Grosjean under pressure in the final laps, but could not steal P10.

So the perfect result for Mercedes with Lewis Hamilton winning from Valtteri Bottas. Ferrari’s race strategy comes into question again and it going to be fascinating if the Scuderia can fight back after five defeats. For the sake of the championship, please make this happen Ferrari.

Spanish Grand Prix, race results:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 66 1h35m50.443s
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 66 4.074s
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 66 7.679s
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 66 9.167s
5 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 66 13.361s
6 Pierre Gasly Red Bull-Honda 66 19.576s
7 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 66 28.159s
8 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault 66 32.342s
9 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda 66 33.056s
10 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 66 34.641s
11 Alexander Albon Toro Rosso-Honda 66 35.445s
12 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 66 36.758s
13 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 66 39.241s
14 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 66 41.803s
15 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 66 46.877s
16 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 66 47.691s
17 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 65 1 Lap
18 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes 65 1 Lap
– Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 44 Collision
– Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 44 Collision

Drivers’ standings:
1 Lewis Hamilton 112
2 Valtteri Bottas 105
3 Max Verstappen 66
4 Sebastian Vettel 64
5 Charles Leclerc 57
6 Pierre Gasly 21
7 Kevin Magnussen 14
8 Sergio Perez 13
9 Kimi Raikkonen 13
10 Lando Norris 12
11 Carlos Sainz Jr. 10
12 Daniel Ricciardo 6
13 Nico Hulkenberg 6
14 Lance Stroll 4
15 Alexander Albon 3
16 Daniil Kvyat 3
17 Romain Grosjean 1
18 Antonio Giovinazzi 0
19 George Russell 0
20 Robert Kubica 0

Constructors’ standings:
1 Mercedes 217
2 Ferrari 121
3 Red Bull-Honda 87
4 McLaren-Renault 22
5 Racing Point-Mercedes 17
6 Haas-Ferrari 15
7 Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 13
8 Renault 12
9 Toro Rosso-Honda 6
10 Williams-Mercedes 0

Bottas powers to the front to score a hat-trick of poles

Valtteri Bottas achieved a hat-trick of Formula 1 pole positions with a solid qualifying session at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

The championship leader had the edge on his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton throughout qualifying, ending up a massive 0.634 seconds quicker.

None of the top four were able to improve their lap times on their second runs on soft Pirelli compound in Q3, meaning Mercedes kept hold of the front-row lockout it had taken earlier in the final segment.

Sebastian Vettel was third and 0.866 seconds off the pace, less than a tenth quicker than fourth-best Max Verstappen’s Red Bull.

Charles Leclerc only had a single run in Q3 thanks to having to use two sets of soft Pirellis in Q2 after compromising his first run by running wide at Campsa – picking up some minor floor damage.

He put in two attempts on his one set of tyres, but ended up third and over two tenths slower than Verstappen – but ahead of the second Red Bull of Pierre Gasly.

Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen made good on the promise the upgraded Haas showed in practice by taking seventh and eighth positions, with Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat ninth.

Daniel Ricciardo was slowest of those in Q3 with P10, although he must serve a three-place grid penalty for reversing into Kvyat in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Lando Norris was the best of those who didn’t reach Q3 in P11 after being bumped down a position by Leclerc’s late improvement in Q2.

Toro Rosso driver Alex Albon, like his teammate, only had one run on fresh softs in Q2 and ended up P12 after running wide at Turn 5.

Carlos Sainz made an error on what should have been his quickest lap and ended up P13 ahead of the lead Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen and Racing Point’s Sergio Perez.

Nico Hulkenberg was the fastest of those eliminated in Q1 in P16, 19 thousandths slower than teammate Ricciardo.

Hulkenberg crashed at the Turn 4 right hander on his first run before he set a time, but was able to recover to the pits despite damaging his front wing.

The Hulk returned to the track in the closing stages and briefly lifted himself out of the drop zone with his first flying lap on the second set of options – although his pace was hindered by having switched to an older-spec front wing.

But Raikkonen then improved to push him down to P16, with Hulkenberg finding two-tenths on his second flying lap but not quite enough to escape.

Racing Point’s Lance Stroll was eliminated for the fifth time in five 2019 races in P17, two tenths faster than P18 quickest Antonio Giovinazzi’s Alfa Romeo.

George Russell won the intra-Williams battle for P19 despite a spin at the chicane on his first run, outpacing Robert Kubica by 1.2 seconds after Kubica failed to improve on his second run.

So congratulations to Valtteri Bottas on scoring another pole position for Mercedes. It’s going to be a fascinating battle royale in the main event as Lewis Hamilton aims to be more ruthless to his teammate in achieving race victories. Bring on the race!

Spanish Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m15.406s
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m16.040s
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m16.272s
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1m16.357s
5 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1m16.588s
6 Pierre Gasly Red Bull-Honda 1m16.708s
7 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1m16.911s
8 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m16.922s
9 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda 1m17.573s
10 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 1m17.338s
11 Alexander Albon Toro Rosso-Honda 1m17.445s
12 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault 1m17.599s
13 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1m18.106s
14 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1m17.788s
15 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 1m17.886s
16 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m18.404s
17 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 1m18.471s
18 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1m18.664s
19 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes 1m20.254s
20 George Russell Williams/Mercedes 1m19.072s

Bottas victorious at Baku

Valtteri Bottas scored his second victory of the Formula 1 season and resisted the late charge from Lewis Hamilton to win the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

What a difference 12 months make for Bottas, as he was about to win last year’s race but suffered a late puncture. This time, no issues and held his nerve under pressure to lead Hamilton home and regain the lead of the world championship.

As Mercedes clinched its fourth one-two in four races at the start of the 2019 season, Sebastian Vettel could only finish third again for Ferrari.

Vettel’s teammate Charles Leclerc recovered to fifth position, behind Max Verstappen’s Red Bull, after the qualifying crash that left him ninth on the starting grid.

Hamilton got the better start from the front row but Bottas held on around the outside of the first two corners and then built a strong margin through the rest of the opening lap.

Bottas kept Hamilton at bay until pitting on lap 12, one lap after Vettel and one lap before Hamilton.

That meant Bottas resumed in the race lead, but stopping two laps earlier than Hamilton drew Vettel closer to the other Mercedes.

The pace of the medium compound tyre was stronger than the soft, as demonstrated by Leclerc – who fell to tenth on the first lap but had charged to fourth by lap 10.

Leclerc, on new mediums following his crash in qualifying, assumed the lead when the top three pitted to get rid of their soft Pirelli.

He led the middle portion of the race, managing his pace effectively to stay ahead until Bottas finally got into DRS range and cleared the Ferrari into the first corner on lap 32 of 51.

Hamilton took another lap to get ahead of Leclerc, which gave Bottas more breathing space after Hamilton had reduced the advantage down to almost nothing.

Bottas had a two-second lead to protect once the Mercedes one-two was restored, and Hamilton’s attempts to cut into that were hit when Pierre Gasly ground to a halt and caused a virtual safety car.

Gasly had charged from the pitlane up to a comfortable sixth but his Red Bull, fitted with an upgraded Honda engine for this Baku weekend, had to be parked up on lap 39.

The two-lap VSC also helped Bottas by giving him an extra one second over his pursuers, presumably as it ended in a favourable position for the leader.

Hamilton chipped away at that margin and with three laps to go got within DRS range of his teammate.

Just as Hamilton looked like he might be about to launch a last-lap pass, Bottas picked up DRS himself down the start-finish straight as he lapped the Williams of George Russell.

That top-speed boost put Bottas 1.4 seconds clear as he started the final lap, and he finished it 1.5 seconds ahead to clinch his second win of the season.

Vettel ended up a lonely third, never quite close enough to attack a Mercedes but equally not under threat from Verstappen at the end.

Verstappen had a quietly effective race and looked like he could mount an attack on Vettel but fell away once the VSC period ended.

Leclerc finished almost a minute adrift of Verstappen after a second pitstop for another set of fresh soft tyres, which let him steal the fastest lap bonus point from Bottas.

Sergio Perez earned best-of-the-rest honours for Racing Point, finishing sixth to continue his fine record in Baku.

Though a third Azerbaijan podium was never on the cards, Perez was the class of the midfield after clearing early sixth-place runner Daniil Kvyat and never looked like being challenge.

Carlos Sainz finally scored some points for McLaren with seventh position, but only after twice overhauling teammate Lando Norris.

McLaren celebrated its first double points finish of the season as Norris came home eighth, while Racing Point also got two drivers in the top ten as Lance Stroll clinched ninth.

Kimi Raikkonen scored an unlikely point to keep his record of finishing in the top ten every race this season, despite starting from the pitlane after his Alfa Romeo failed a front wing deflection test.

Among the four retirements were Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo, who have been summoned to the stewards over a bizarre incident in which Ricciardo reversed into Kvyat trying to get back on track after a failed overtaking attempt at Turn 3.

So congratulations to Valtteri Bottas in winning the race and retaking the championship lead. Super impressed by Mercedes taking another 1-2 finish. That’s four out of four. May that success continue.

Race results, Baku:
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 51 1h31m52.942s
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 51 1.524s
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 51 11.739s
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 51 17.493s
5 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 51 1m09.107s
6 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 51 1m16.416s
7 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault 51 1m23.826s
8 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 51 1m40.268s
9 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 51 1m43.816s
10 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 50 1 Lap
11 Alexander Albon Toro Rosso-Honda 50 1 Lap
12 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 50 1 Lap
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 50 1 Lap
14 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 50 1 Lap
15 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 49 2 Laps
16 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes 49 2 Laps
– Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 38 Brakes
– Pierre Gasly Red Bull-Honda 38 Gearbox
– Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda 33 Accident damage
– Daniel Ricciardo Renault 31 Accident damage

Drivers’ standings:
1 Valtteri Bottas 87
2 Lewis Hamilton 86
3 Sebastian Vettel 52
4 Max Verstappen 51
5 Charles Leclerc 47
6 Sergio Perez 13
7 Pierre Gasly 13
8 Kimi Raikkonen 13
9 Lando Norris 12
10 Kevin Magnussen 8
11 Nico Hulkenberg 6
12 Carlos Sainz Jr. 6
13 Daniel Ricciardo 6
14 Lance Stroll 4
15 Alexander Albon 3
16 Daniil Kvyat 1
17 Antonio Giovinazzi 0
18 Romain Grosjean 0
19 George Russell 0
20 Robert Kubica 0

Constructors’ standings:
1 Mercedes 173
2 Ferrari 99
3 Red Bull-Honda 64
4 McLaren-Renault 18
5 Racing Point-Mercedes 17
6 Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 13
7 Renault 12
8 Haas-Ferrari 8
9 Toro Rosso-Honda 4
10 Williams-Mercedes 0

Bottas scores pole in Baku as Leclerc crashes

Valtteri Bottas scored his eighth career pole position in Formula 1 for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix after pre-qualifying favourite Charles Leclerc crashed out in Q2.

The Mercedes driver lapped 0.059 seconds faster than teammate Lewis Hamilton, who was in the tow behind him, on the final runs in Q3 to grab P1, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel three tenths down in third position.

Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen only did one single run in Q3 and ended up in fourth, almost three tenths behind Vettel and well clear of fifth fastest Sergio Perez.

Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat ended up sixth ahead of McLaren driver Lando Norris.

Antonio Giovinazzi headed Alfa Romeo teammate Kimi Raikkonen in the battle for eighth position, although the Italian must serve a ten place grid penalty for taking his third power unit control electronics of the season earlier in the weekend.

Leclerc was classified P10 in Q3 as his pace on medium-compound Pirellis before he crashed meant he made the top ten – but he was unable to run.

Leclerc was the faster Ferrari driver in free practice and Q1, but hit the wall at the narrow Turn 8 castle section after locking up the front-left on entry during Q2 – calling the error “stupid” over the radio.

Carlos Sainz was P11 fastest after being pushed into the drop zone by teammate Norris at the end of Q2 – missing out on a place in Q3 after lapping just 0.017 seconds than Giovinazzi.

That put him ahead of Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo, with Alex Albon P13 after clipping the wall with the right-rear of Toro Rosso late on in a Q2 session interrupted by the red flag that followed Leclerc’s crash.

Kevin Magnussen was P14 after locking up and heading up the Turn 3 escape road on his final lap.

Red Bull driver Pierre Gasly, who must start from the pitlane after missing the weighbridge during FP2, was P15 after not running in Q2 – but he did set the fastest time in Q1 with the help of a mighty slipstream from Lance Stroll’s Racing Point.

Stroll was eliminated in Q1 for the fourth time this season after being relegated to P16 by Ricciardo at the end of the session.

Ricciardo positioned himself behind Stroll for his final lap, benefitting from the tow both in the first and last sectors to take the position by a tenth and a half.

Haas driver Romain Grosjean was P17 after not improving by enough on his final lap, although it was enough to beat Nico Hulkenberg, who had briefly jumped ahead of him, by 0.02 seconds.

George Russell was P19 after missing almost all of Friday’s running as a result of hitting a manhole cover early in FP1, forcing the Williams team to rebuild his car around the spare monocoque.

Robert Kubica was slowest after crashing at the Turn 8 left-hander on his final push lap as a result of tagging the inside wall behind the apex.

This brought out the red flag, although little time was lost as the chequered flag had already been thrown.

So congratulations to Mercedes in achieving a front row slot and Valtteri Bottas in scoring pole position. Feel so sorry for Charles Leclerc after setting the pace in every sessions before that big mistake in Q2. Hopefully the Ferrari star can fight back in the main race.

Qualifying positions, Baku:
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m40.495s
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m40.554s
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m40.797s
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1m41.069s
5 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 1m41.593s
6 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda 1m41.681s
7 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 1m41.886s
8 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1m43.068s
9 Charles Leclerc Ferrari –
10 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault 1m42.398s
11 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1m42.477s
12 Alexander Albon Toro Rosso-Honda 1m42.494s
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m42.699s
14 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 1m42.630s
15 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1m43.407s
16 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m43.427s
17 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1m45.062s
18 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1m42.424s
19 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes 1m45.455s
20 Pierre Gasly Red Bull-Honda –

Hamilton victorious in Formula 1’s 1000th race

Defending world champion Lewis Hamilton scored a dominant victory in Formula 1’s historic 1000th Grand Prix event.

Hamilton led from lights to flag to score his second win of the 2019 season. Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas had to settle with second with Sebastian Vettel third for Ferrari.

Hamilton made a clean getaway from the start and got into Turn 1 first ahead of pole sitting Bottas, while Charles Leclerc went by his Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel to claim third position.

As the midfielders squeezed through the Turn 6 hairpin Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat caught a brief rear-end oversteer moment, bouncing off Carlos Sainz Jr’s McLaren and then interlocking wheels with Sainz’s team-mate Lando Norris, who was pitched into the air.

That prompted a brief virtual safety car deployment so that debris – including part of Sainz’s front wing – could be cleared.

Hamilton edged away at around half a second a lap in the initial phase of the race while the majority of the frontrunners settled into tyre-conversation mode – all except for Vettel, who was shaping up to pass his team-mate. Leclerc, for his part, was told to push harder or give way.

Ferrari quickly firmed up that team orders into a directive to let Vettel by, and Leclerc reluctantly complied at the beginning of lap 11 of 56.

But despite the position swap Vettel made few inroads into the advantage of Bottas, let alone Hamilton, even though he was clearly pushing his car’s limits – even snatching a front-left brake and running wide at the Turn 14 hairpin on lap 13. Leclerc wasted no time in telling his engineer that he, now, was being held up.

As the Mercedes disappeared into the distance, fifth-placed Max Verstappen joined the hunt for the podium by pitting for hard Pirelli compound on lap 18. That prompted Ferrari to pit Vettel to cover the potential undercut, and indeed when Vettel emerged on his new set of hards he was barely ahead of the Red Bull.

Verstappen made a DRS-assisted pass on the back straight and was ahead into Turn 14, but ran slightly wide and Vettel edged him onto the grass at the exit to reclaim what was now fourth position.

Ferrari was now committed to a long stint for Leclerc since he would inevitably leave the pits behind this battle – and when he did stop for hards, five laps after his team-mate, he was nearly 11-second adrift of Verstappen.

Bottas pitted for hards on lap 22, followed by Hamilton one lap later, and as the world champion departed the pitlane the gap between the two Mercedes had shrunk to 1.5 seconds.

But Hamilton extended his advantage again and strung out the gap beyond five seconds, and within ten laps of pitting his only concern was whether Bottas had set the fastest lap of the race and thereby secured an extra point.

Red Bull moved first to trigger the next rash of stops on lap 36, bringing Verstappen in for fresh mediums. Ferrari responded by pitting Vettel a lap later for similar rubber, and next time round Mercedes brought both Hamilton and Bottas in for mediums as well.

That meant Bottas emerged in third position behind the out-of-sequence Leclerc and had a fight on his hands. For almost two laps Leclerc denied him until Bottas launched a textbook DRS-assisted move into Turn 14.

Once clear, Bottas pulled away as Leclerc fell into the clutches of his own team-mate. Ferrari brought Leclerc in for mediums on lap 42 and he was slow out of the box, leaving the pits in fifth place and over 15-second behind Verstappen.

Though Leclerc tried to chip away at the margin, he reported gearbox issues later in the race – though Ferrari reassured him there was no problem – and Verstappen remained a distant speck.

Sixth-placed Pierre Gasly had a lonely race in the Red Bull, running immediately behind his team-mate in the opening laps, but it was probably too much to expect him to run 19 laps on the softs. By the time he pitted he was well adrift of the battle with the Ferraris.

With two laps to the flag, Gasly was in enough space for Red Bull to swap him onto soft tyres for a tilt at the fastest lap. He set personal bests in the first two sectors and went purple in the last to take the bonus point.

Renault split its strategy by bringing Nico Hulkenberg in early to swap from soft to hard tyres on lap 12 while leaving Daniel Ricciardo out for a long first stint on the softs. The outcome for Hulkenberg was rendered moot when he was forced to retire five laps later.

Ricciardo then had a relatively uneventful run to seventh as the final three points-paying places became the most hotly contested positions in the race.

Sergio Perez combined a strong start – he gained four places on the opening lap – with a 20-lap first stint on mediums to secure eighth place from P12 on the grid. Behind him Kimi Raikkonen also ran a long first stint on mediums, fell behind the early-stopping Haas entries when he did stop, then made the best of fresher rubber to go by both Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean to claim ninth.

Magnussen and Grosjean started ninth and tenth but stopped to get rid of their soft Pirellis early, before the race was ten laps old, and lost track position as a result. After dropping behind Raikkonen, Grosjean ran P10 ahead of Magnussen in the second stint until both cars made early second stops.

This gave the Haas drivers further work to do to overhaul the likes of Lance Stroll and Alexander Albon. Grosjean came close to getting the job done but had to obey blue flags for Leclerc on the final lap, enabling Albon to hold on and secure the final point for Toro Rosso despite starting from the pitlane having changed chassis after his huge practice crash.

So not the best race to celebrate the 1000th Formula 1 event but in terms of the championship, this is looking good for Mercedes. Three races in and three victories. Congratulations to the Brackley-based outfit with this Grand Prix achievement.

Chinese Grand Prix, race results:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 56 1:32:06.350
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 56 6.552s
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 56 13.744s
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 56 27.627s
5 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 56 31.276s
6 Pierre Gasly Red Bull-Honda 56 1m29.307s
7 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 55 1 Lap
8 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 55 1 Lap
9 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 55 1 Lap
10 Alexander Albon Toro Rosso-Honda 55 1 Lap
11 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 55 1 Lap
12 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 55 1 Lap
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 55 1 Lap
14 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault 55 1 Lap
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 55 1 Lap
16 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 54 2 Laps
17 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes 54 2 Laps
18 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 50 Not running
– Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda 41 Retirement
– Nico Hulkenberg Renault 16 Retirement

Drivers’ standings:
1 Lewis Hamilton 68
2 Valtteri Bottas 62
3 Max Verstappen 39
4 Sebastian Vettel 37
5 Charles Leclerc 36
6 Pierre Gasly 13
7 Kimi Raikkonen 12
8 Lando Norris 8
9 Kevin Magnussen 8
10 Nico Hulkenberg 6
11 Daniel Ricciardo 6
12 Sergio Perez 5
13 Alexander Albon 3
14 Lance Stroll 2
15 Daniil Kvyat 1
16 Antonio Giovinazzi 0
17 Romain Grosjean 0
18 Carlos Sainz Jr. 0
19 George Russell 0
20 Robert Kubica 0

Constructors’ standings:
1 Mercedes 130
2 Ferrari 73
3 Red Bull-Honda 52
4 Renault 12
5 Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 12
6 Haas-Ferrari 8
7 McLaren-Renault 8
8 Racing Point-Mercedes 7
9 Toro Rosso-Honda 4
10 Williams-Mercedes 0

Bottas achieves first pole position in Formula 1’s 1000th race

Championship leader Valtteri Bottas scored his first Formula 1 pole position of the season in qualifying at the Shanghai International Circuit.

The Mercedes driver beat his team-mate Lewis Hamilton to P1 by just 23 thousandths of a second, with Sebastian Vettel three tenths down in the Ferrari.

Bottas held the advantage through much of the Chinese Grand Prix qualifying, although Hamilton did set the pace in Q2 thanks to having a second run on medium Pirellis.

Vettel beat his Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc to fourth by 0.017 seconds, the Prancing Horse duo jumping ahead of Max Verstappen on their final runs.

This was thanks to Verstappen failing to cross the line to start his lap before the chequered flag after becoming stuck in a queue of cars, with Vettel passing him at the hairpin late in the lap to ensure that he was able to.

That left Verstappen fifth, 0.542 seconds off the pace and over eight tenths faster than Red Bull Racing team-mate Pierre Gasly, who was also unable to complete a second lap.

Daniel Ricciardo had only one fresh set of soft Pirelli for Q3, but used it to beat Renault team-mate Nico Hulkenberg to eighth by just 0.004 seconds.

Neither Haas driver set a time in Q3, with both also failing to start their laps at the end of the session due to traffic.

Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat failed to improve on his first-run time in Q2 having been seventh early on, meaning he was shuffled down to P11 and fastest of those eliminated in the first segment of qualifying.

Sergio Perez was just 0.063 seconds further behind in the Racing Point, just over a tenth faster than the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen.

The Iceman reported he lost some engine power over the radio after not improving by enough to make the top ten. This was his first non-appearance in Q3 since the 2016 season…

McLaren duo Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris were P15 and P16, separated by 0.444 seconds, with Sainz admitting he was disappointed not to be four positions higher after what appeared to be decent lap.

Racing Point’s Lance Stroll was the only driver with a fighting chance of escaping Q1 not to do so, ending up P16 after lapping 0.144 seconds slower than Norris – the third time this season he’s fallen in the first stage of qualifying.

Williams pairing George Russell and Robert Kubica were P17 and P18, a second down on Stroll and separated by 0.028 seconds.

Kubica complained of massive oversteer in the session, while Russell described his lap as “rubbish”.

Antonio Giovinazzi was unable to set a time after hitting problems on his first run suspected to be related to the engine.

Toro Rosso driver Alex Albon did not participate in qualifying thanks to monocoque damage sustained in his crash at the end of the final practice session.

Congratulations Valtteri Bottas in claiming pole position in the sport’s 1000th Grand Prix event. The new and confident Mercedes driver is looking strong heading into the race. It’s going to be a fascinating fight for championship honours.

Chinese Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m31.547s
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m31.570s
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m31.848s
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1m31.865s
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1m32.089s
6 Pierre Gasly Red Bull-Honda 1m32.930s
7 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1m32.958s
8 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m32.962s
9 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari –
10 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari –
11 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda 1m33.236s
12 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 1m33.299s
13 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1m33.419s
14 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault 1m33.523s
15 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 1m33.967s
16 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 1m34.292s
17 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1m35.253s
18 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes 1m35.281s
19 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari –
20 Alexander Albon Toro Rosso-Honda –

Hamilton wins Bahrain Grand Prix as Ferrari falters in night thriller

Defending world champion Lewis Hamilton claimed victory in a thrilling Bahrain Grand Prix, as Ferrari faltered due to an engine issue for Charles Leclerc and a spin from last year’s race winner Sebastian Vettel.

Leclerc recovered from a poor first lap to dominate the race, before what Ferrari initially believed to be an MGU-H failure – but later revealed was a cylinder issue – robbed his engine of power and left him limping to the finish.

This was a disappointing result for Charles after scoring his first pole position in the sport. His Ferrari lacked speed and was overtaken in the final stages of the race by both Silver Arrows.

Hamilton took the lead with nine laps to go as Leclerc was limping home to a depressing third position. At least the Ferrari driver was able to score a bonus championship point for fastest lap.

Leclerc was able to hang on to a podium finish from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, thanks to a late safety car period following a double retirement of Renault.

The Ferrari driver had recovered superbly from a poor start to dominate most of this race, dropping to third on lap one but quickly repassing Valtteri Bottas and team-mate Vettel to reclaim the lead and streaking clear before disaster struck.

Vettel compounded Ferrari’s nightmare by inexplicably spinning out of third position after being overtaken by Hamilton around the outside at Turn 4 just after the final round of pit-stops.

Vettel got his Ferrari the right way again, but his front wing shattered shortly thereafter and he was forced to make an unscheduled third pit-stop, eventually finishing a lowly fifth.

Bottas made it a Mercedes one-two by easily passing Leclerc on the main straight with just four laps to the flag, moments before the Renaults suffered problems.

The Australian Grand Prix winner was running in second with a strong first lap, including passing Leclerc around the outside at Turn 4, but generally struggled for pace and was not a match for Hamilton or either of the Ferraris.

Hamilton moved up to second position by pitting earlier than Vettel at the first round of pit-stops, but struggled to stay on the circuit, lacked pace and could not use his softer Pirelli tyres to prevent Vettel closing in and using DRS to retake the place around the outside at Turn 4 on lap 23 of 57.

But Hamilton came back at Vettel at the second round of pit-stops, attempting a brave move on Vettel at Turn 4 on lap 37, while Vettel’s tyres were cold, but could not quite gain enough momentum to complete the pass at Turn 6.

Hamilton gained DRS on the main straight but couldn’t pass into Turn 1. He went round the outside at Turn 4 again to make the overtake while Vettel spun as he tried to get back on the accelerator at the exit, dropping him down the race order.

Lando Norris sacred an impressive sixth position for McLaren, after team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr’s race was ruined by contact with Verstappen while trying to pass the Red Bull around the outside at Turn 4 early on.

Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo was seventh, ahead of Pierre Gasly, while Alexander Albon claimed his first points finish with ninth. Sergio Perez’s Racing Point rounded out the top ten, as the Renault drivers both lost likely points finishes when their cars broke down approaching Turn 1.

So an exciting night race at Bahrain Grand Prix with the unlikely winner Hamilton benefitted from the Ferrari nightmare. Such a crying shame that Charles Leclerc was unable to convert his pole position to his maiden victory. Making no mistakes and driving beautifully, the Ferrari let him down. At least Leclerc has showcased his talent to succeed.

The following race will be Formula 1’s 1000th race and it should be a spectacular contest as championship resumes in China. Mercedes have won two races with both drivers scoring victory. Can Ferrari fight back? They need to in order to make this season’s entertaining.

Bahrain Grand Prix, race results:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 57 1h34m21.295s
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 57 2.980s
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 57 6.131s
4 Max Verstappen Red Bul-/Honda 57 6.408s
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 57 36.068s
6 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 57 45.754s
7 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 57 47.470s
8 Pierre Gasly Red Bull-Honda 57 58.094s
9 Alexander Albon Toro Rosso/Honda 57 1m02.697s
10 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 57 1m03.696s
11 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 57 1m04.599s
12 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda 56 1 Lap
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 56 1 Lap
14 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 56 1 Lap
15 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 56 1 Lap
16 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes 55 2 Laps
17 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 53 Power Unit
18 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 53 Not running
19 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault 53 Not running
– Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 16 Retirement

Drivers’ standings:
1 Valtteri Bottas 44
2 Lewis Hamilton 43
3 Max Verstappen 27
4 Charles Leclerc 26
5 Sebastian Vettel 22
6 Kimi Raikkonen 10
7 Lando Norris 8
8 Kevin Magnussen 8
9 Nico Hulkenberg 6
10 Pierre Gasly 4
11 Alexander Albon 2
11 Lance Stroll 2
13 Daniil Kvyat 1
14 Sergio Perez 1
15 Antonio Giovinazzi 0
16 George Russell 0
17 Robert Kubica 0
18 Daniel Ricciardo 0
19 Carlos Sainz Jr. 0

Constructors’ standings:
1 Mercedes 87
2 Ferrari 48
3 Red Bull-Honda 31
4 Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 10
5 McLaren-Renault 8
6 Haas-Ferrari 8
7 Renault 6
8 Toro Rosso-Honda 3
9 Racing Point-Mercedes 3
10 Williams-Mercedes 0

Leclerc scores his maiden pole position in Bahrain

Ferrari’s new signing Charles Leclerc claimed his first Formula 1 pole position in qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix as Ferrari locked out the front row.

The 21-year-old put in a impressive performance in Q3, setting two fastest lap times which was good enough to score P1.

On his first run, Leclerc set a one minute, 27.958 seconds on the soft Pirelli tyres, which gave him the advantage over Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton while his Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel did not even set an initial run.

Leclerc then went out and improved to a one minute, 27.866 seconds on his second attempt, which was three-tenths faster than Vettel managed on his single Q3 run.

Hamilton lapped just 0.030 seconds slower than Vettel to take third spot, 0.066 seconds faster than Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen was best of the rest in fifth, but he faced a tough challenge from Haas driver Kevin Magnussen – who ended up just 0.005 seconds further behind.

Carlos Sainz Jr capped a strong qualifying session for McLaren with seventh, supported by team-mate Lando Norris who was also in Q3 and ended up tenth.

Romain Grosjean’s Haas and Alfa Romeo driver Kimi Raikkonen ended up between them in eighth and ninth respectively.

All drivers in the top ten set their fastest lap in Q2 on the soft Pirelli tyre, meaning they will start the race on those tyres.

Daniel Ricciardo was P11 for Renault after lapping just 0.017 seconds slower than Raikkonen in Q2.

The honey badger did not improve on his second run, meaning he was not able to improve on the position he claimed at the first attempt.

Toro Rosso’s Alex Albon was P12, just 0.042 seconds away from a place in Q1 despite only having one set of fresh softs for Q2, beating Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly.

Gasly failed to improve on his time from the first run, complaining over the radio that “I can’t put the throttle down, I don’t know why – it snaps everywhere”.

Sergio Perez only had one run on fresh softs in Q2, which was good enough for P14 ahead of Daniil Kvyat, who did not head out for a second run.

Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi was the fastest of those eliminated in Q1 in P16 after lapping just 0.067 seconds slower than team-mate Raikkonen.

Giovinazzi briefly lifted himself out of the drop zone with his pace on his second set of softs, only to be shuffled back down during a quick fire moments of late improvements – subsequently complaining that his front tyres were too cold.

Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg was the big casualty in Q1 after only improving by just over two tenths on his second run, which put him just ahead of Racing Point’s Lance Stroll.

George Russell prevailed in the battle of the Williams drivers in P19, just four-hundredths of a second faster than team-mate Robert Kubica after complaining over the radio that the “tyres were well out of the window”.

So congratulations to Charles Leclerc in achieving his maiden pole at only his second stint representing Ferrari. Hopefully this will be the first of many for the upcoming and exciting talent in Formula 1.

Qualifying positions, Bahrain Grand Prix:
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1m27.866s
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m28.160s
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m28.190s
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m28.256s
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1m28.752s
6 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m28.757s
7 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault 1m28.813s
8 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1m29.022s
9 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 1m29.043s
10 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1m29.488s
11 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1m29.015s
12 Alexander Albon Toro Rosso-Honda 1m29.513s
13 Pierre Gasly Red Bull-Honda 1m29.526s
14 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 1m29.756s
15 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda 1m29.854s
16 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1m30.026s
17 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m30.034s
18 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 1m30.217s
19 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1m31.759s
20 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes 1m31.799s

Bottas dominates Australian Grand Prix with fine victory

Valtteri Bottas dominated the 2019 season-opening Australian Grand Prix with fine style after such awful luck last season. He passed team-mate Lewis Hamilton on the start and drove off into the distance to earn his first Formula 1 victory since 2017.

Hamilton beat Bottas in qualifying but lost his advantage almost immediately after a slower getaway.

The defending champion was able to resist pressure from Sebastian Vettel and latterly Max Verstappen to complete an one-two for Mercedes, while Verstappen claimed Honda’s first podium finish since the 2008 British Grand Prix on its maiden race with Red Bull.

Bottas outdragged Hamilton into Turn 1 and was left untroubled for the entirety of the race, aided by Mercedes being forced to react to an early Vettel pitstop and switch Hamilton to an inferior strategy.

Vettel stopped on lap 14 of 58, with Mercedes bringing in Hamilton one lap later to protect against the Ferrari’s fresh-tyre advantage.

However, neither was able to lap as quickly on new medium tyres as Bottas on old soft compound, which allowed Bottas, Verstappen and Charles Leclerc to run several laps longer.

Bottas finally stopped eight laps after his team-mate and continued unimpeded throughout the race, crushing the opposition by 20.8 seconds to win for the first time since the 2017 season finale in Abu Dhabi and produce the perfect response to his winless 2018 season.

The gap was flattered slightly by Hamilton having to nurse his mediums to the end to preserve second place, but the five-time world champion saw off Vettel in the middle phase of the race.

Hamilton then kept Verstappen at arm’s length once the Red Bull driver had cleared Vettel with ease around the outside of Turn 3 on lap 31.

Verstappen hounded the Mercedes, running 1.5 seconds behind for most of the second half of the race, before running wide at Turn 1 and bouncing over the grass.

He dropped back, continued to push and set a new fastest lap of the race in the closing stages but was unable to overhaul Hamilton.

However, Bottas hit back on the penultimate tour to steal the first bonus point of the season and take his haul from the opening race to 26 points.

Ferrari’s pre-season promise translated into fourth and fifth in Melbourne as Vettel slipped further and further back, eventually only finishing just ahead of Leclerc.

Vettel finished 50 seconds behind race winner Bottas, with Leclerc – who had a trip across the gravel at Turn 1 earlier in the race – only fifth after appearing to back off once he caught his new team-mate.

Kevin Magnussen had a lonely run to sixth to earn best-of-the-rest honours for Haas and avenge the team’s horror show in Melbourne one year ago.

He shook off the race-long attention of Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, who slipped back in the final part of the race and only just held on at the head of a five-car train.

Kimi Raikkonen was next up, finishing eighth on his Alfa Romeo debut, with Racing Point’s Lance Stroll also scoring points on his first start for a new team.

Returning Toro Rosso Daniil Kvyat capped his F1 comeback with a point for P10, keeping the second Red Bull of Pierre Gasly at bay.

Gasly started near the back after a qualifying blunder from Red Bull and emerged from a late pitstop ahead of Kvyat, but was passed by the Russian into Turn 3 on his out-lap.

Qualifying surprise Lando Norris was unable to grab points on his F1 debut but did finish top rookie in P12 as McLaren’s pace dropped come race day.

There were three retirements: Carlos Sainz the first of the new season after a fiery exit in his McLaren-Renault.

Home favourite Daniel Ricciardo was next to go, a precautionary non-finisher after breaking his front wing taking to the grass on the run to the first corner.

Romain Grosjean stopped on track in his Haas after running in the points early on before slipping outside the top ten because of a slow pitstop.

Behind 15th-placed Antonio Giovinazzi, whose very long first stint held up early stoppers and played a big part in settling the final points, the Williams were a very distant 16th and 17th.

Robert Kubica lost his front wing on Gasly at the first corner and was a lonely last on his F1 return for most of the distance once passed by fellow early-pitter Ricciardo.

So a fantastic result for Valtteri Bottas after such a disappointing last season. To finish miles ahead of your rivals is so satisfying and such a good morale boost. Well done Bottas.

As for Ferrari, this was such a frustrating race after promising speed in pre-season testing. Hopefully Vettel and Leclerc are more competitive in the next race.

Australian Grand Prix, race results:
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 58 1h25m27.325s
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 58 20.886s
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 58 22.520s
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 58 57.109s
5 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 58 58.230s
6 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 58 1m27.156s
7 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 57 1 Lap
8 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 57 1 Lap
9 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 57 1 Lap
10 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda 57 1 Lap
11 Pierre Gasly Red Bull-Honda 57 1 Lap
12 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 57 1 Lap
13 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 57 1 Lap
14 Alexander Albon Toro Rosso-Honda 57 1 Lap
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 57 1 Lap
16 George Russell Williams/Mercedes 56 2 Laps
17 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes 55 3 Laps
– Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 29 Suspension
– Daniel Ricciardo Renault 28 Retirement
– Carlos Sainz McLaren-Renault 9 Power Unit

Drivers’ standings:
1 Valtteri Bottas 26
2 Lewis Hamilton 18
3 Max Verstappen 15
4 Sebastian Vettel 12
5 Charles Leclerc 10
6 Kevin Magnussen 8
7 Nico Hulkenberg 6
8 Kimi Raikkonen 4
9 Lance Stroll 2
10 Daniil Kvyat 1
11 Pierre Gasly 0
12 Lando Norris 0
13 Sergio Perez 0
14 Alexander Albon 0
15 Antonio Giovinazzi 0
16 George Russell 0
17 Robert Kubica 0

Constructors’ standings:
1 Mercedes 44
2 Ferrari 22
3 Red Bull-Honda 15
4 Haas-Ferrari 8
5 Renault 6
6 Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 4
7 Racing Point-Mercedes 2
8 Toro Rosso-Honda 1
9 McLaren-Renault 0
10 Williams-Mercedes 0

Hamilton scores pole in season opener

Defending world champion Lewis Hamilton kicked off the new Formula 1 season with style with pole position at the Australian Grand Prix, heading a front row lock-out for Mercedes.

This was the perfect result from the champions following the pre-season hype that Ferrari are the quickest. In actual racing performance, the Silver Arrows turned up to form factor to 11 and flew around the Albert Park circuit.

The time difference of seven tenths of a second between Mercedes to Ferrari is massive and really showcase how strong the W10 package is this season.

Hamilton achieved his sixth consecutive pole despite team-mate Valtteri Bottas holding an advantage of 0.457 seconds after the first runs in Q3.

And yet Hamilton stepped up to the challenge with his second set of softs to post a one minute, 20.486 seconds to secure P1. Bottas failed to improve on his second run, meaning he ended up 0.112 seconds behind.

After showing strongly in pre-season testing, the lead Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel was a massive 0.704 seconds off pole position having never shown Mercedes-threatening pace this weekend.

Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen split the Ferraris on his team’s debut weekend with Honda, lapping just over a tenth slower than Vettel.

That left Ferrari debutant Charles Leclerc fifth, 0.956 seconds off the pace.

Despite lapping only 0.144 seconds slower than team-mate Verstappen, Red Bull debutant Pierre Gasly was a high-profile victim of Q1 in P17.

He was one of only five drivers not to attempt a second run in the first segment in qualifying and was shuffled down amid the late flurry of improvements, describing the strategy as “a bit optimistic”.

As anticipated, Haas led the midfield with Romain Grosjean taking sixth place ahead of team-mate Kevin Magnussen.

One of the stars of qualifying was debutant Lando Norris, who qualified eighth and 1.818 seconds off the pace after a strong performance in both Q2 and Q3.

This was an outstanding achievement for Lando Norris in his first F1 appearance. To out-qualify your more experienced team-mate and record P8 in his first race for McLaren is simply remarkable.

Kimi Raikkonen was ninth, just 0.010 seconds behind Norris, on his Alfa Romeo return and Sergio Perez claimed P10 for Racing Point.

The Renault were both eliminated in Q2, with Nico Hulkenberg P11 after being pushed into the dropzone by Perez, who lapped 0.030 seconds faster.

Hulkenberg had gone out for a second run, but aborted that effort due to what he reported as a boost pressure dropout. He had to rely on his first run, which was compromised by time lost in the final sector.

Daniel Ricciardo was 0.008 seconds slower than Hulkenberg after being unable to make a big enough improvement on his second run to remain in the top ten, admitting he didn’t have the confidence early in the lap after traffic compromised his out-lap.

Alex Albon was the fastest of the Toro Rosso drivers in P13, 0.138 seconds faster than F1 returnee team-mate Daniil Kvyat, who was P15 – the duo sandwiching the second Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi.

Racing Point’s Lance Stroll was quickest of those eliminated in Q1. He had momentarily jumped up to eighth after being one of the first drivers to set a time on his second set of tyres before being bumped into the dropzone by late improver Ricciardo.

Stroll complained over the radio about being impeded by another car during the session, which he identified as either a Haas or a Toro Rosso.

Carlos Sainz Jr’s first qualifying session for McLaren ended in disappointment in P18, just over half a tenth behind Gasly.

Unsurprisingly, the final two places were filled by the Williams drivers, with George Russell the faster of the two after lapping 1.276 seconds slower than Sainz.

Robert Kubica, in his first F1 qualifying session since the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, was last and 1.707 seconds behind Russell.

He was unable to improve on his second run after kissing the wall exiting the Turn 9/10 right/left, which gave him a right-rear puncture that manifested itself at the approach to Turn 11.

So an excellent qualifying session from the champions. Can Hamilton and Mercedes start the season with the perfect result with race victory or will Ferrari strike back? Game on in Melbourne.

Qualifying positions, Australian Grand Prix:

1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m20.486s
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m20.598s
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m21.190s
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1m21.320s
5 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1m21.442s
6 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1m21.826s
7 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m22.099s
8 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 1m22.304s
9 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1m22.314s
10 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 1m22.781s
11 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m22.562s
12 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1m22.570s
13 Alexander Albon Toro Rosso-Honda 1m22.636s
14 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1m22.714s
15 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda 1m22.774s
16 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 1m23.017s
17 Pierre Gasly Red Bull-Honda 1m23.020s
18 Carlos Sainz McLaren-Renault 1m23.084s
19 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1m24.360s
20 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes 1m26.067s