Vettel jumps Hamilton to score victory at Melbourne

Sebastian Vettel took advantage of a mid-race safety car period to steal victory from rival Lewis Hamilton at the Australian Grand Prix.

The Ferrari driver Vettel was third in the opening stint but ran longer than his rival Hamilton and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen. Sebastian benefited a great deal from a caution period just before he was due to pit for tyres.

Vettel was able to hold off Hamilton’s subsequent recovery attempt with ease, aided by his fellow four-time champion running off-track in pursuit, to win by 5.9 seconds as Raikkonen completed a double Scuderia Ferrari podium in third.

Hamilton kept the lead at the start and rebuffed an attack from Raikkonen at Turn 3 before settling into a comfortable lead that stood at more than three seconds, as Vettel kept a watching brief in the other Ferrari.

Kevin Magnussen’s move around the outside of Turn 1 to jump Max Verstappen gave the front three chance to break clear, and the race was descending into a procession as the first stint developed.

Verstappen’s Red Bull looked erratic behind the Haas and he complained of overheating rears, which concluded with a dramatic spin at Turn 1 that dropped Verstappen to eighth.

The only other movement before the pitstops was Carlos Sainz Jr running wide at Turn 9 in his Renault and allowing Fernando Alonso’s McLaren into ninth, but the race was turned on its head by the two Haas pitstops.

Magnussen pulled up at Turn 3 after his left rear wheel was not correctly fitted, and team-mate Romain Grosjean suffered a similar fate just a lap later when a problem on his front left led to the Frenchman pulling over on the left-hand side on the exit of Turn 1 immediately.

That triggered a virtual safety car, which was a blessing to Ferrari as it had used its two-against-one advantage over Mercedes to good effect, bringing in Raikkonen early so Hamilton had to stop one lap later to protect against the Ferrari’s fresh-tyre advantage.

Vettel stayed out several laps longer and, with the virtual safety car deployed, he was able to take advantage and pit while the rest circulated slowly. The Ferrari emerge just ahead of Hamilton, turning a nine-second deficit into the race lead.

A real safety car soon replaced its virtual equivalent and the race remained neutralised until lap 32, giving Hamilton 26 laps to overhaul Vettel.

Hamilton stayed around a second behind Vettel for a lot of that time, then started a serious push with a dozen laps remaining but locked up at the Turn 9 right-hander and skated over the grass.

That dropped him back to almost three seconds behind and though he briefly got back within DRS range with five laps to go he complained of overheating rears and slipped back again.

Raikkonen kept a charging Daniel Ricciardo at bay to finish third, while Alonso – the other big winner from the mid-race safety car – claimed fifth despite immense pressure from Verstappen.

Nico Hulkenberg had a quiet run to seventh place for Renault, chasing Alonso and Verstappen late on.

Valtteri Bottas’s unspectacular recovery from P15 was boosted by the safety car and he took eighth from another beneficiary, Stoffel Vandoorne, with a nice move at Turn 3 on the restart. He then closed on Hulkenberg but was unable to pass and ended up back under pressure from Vandoorne.

The final point of the season opener went to Carlos Sainz Jr in the second Renault, who held off Sergio Perez’s Force India despite claiming he was suffering from nausea in the final third of the race.

As well as the race-changing Haas failures, three other teams lost a car over the course of the opening grand prix.

Williams rookie Sergey Sirotkin was the first retirement of the season after suffering a brake problem on lap six, while Marcus Ericsson brought his power steering-less Sauber into the pits on lap 14 and Pierre Gasly failed to finish after a Honda engine problem in his Toro Rosso.

So a fantastic result for Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel at Melbourne. The virtual safety car definitely helped on race strategy to jump ahead of rival Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton. This was Vettel’s ninth victory for the Scuderia and his 48th in Formula 1. Congratulations on this top result.

Australian Grand Prix, race results:
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 58 1h29m33.283s
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 58 5.036s
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 58 6.309s
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 58 7.069s
5 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Renault 58 27.886s
6 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Renault 58 28.945s
7 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 58 32.671s
8 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 58 34.339s
9 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Renault 58 34.921s
10 Carlos Sainz Renault 58 45.722s
11 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 58 46.817s
12 Esteban Ocon Force India-Mercedes 58 1m00.278s
13 Charles Leclerc Sauber-Ferrari 58 1m15.759s
14 Lance Stroll Williams-Mercedes 58 1m18.288s
15 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso/Honda 57 1 Lap
– Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 24 Retirement
– Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 22 Retirement
– Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda 13 Retirement
– Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 5 Hydraulics
– Sergey Sirotkin Williams-Mercedes 4 Brakes

Drivers’ standings:
1 Sebastian Vettel 25
2 Lewis Hamilton 18
3 Kimi Raikkonen 15
4 Daniel Ricciardo 12
5 Fernando Alonso 10
6 Max Verstappen 8
7 Nico Hulkenberg 6
8 Valtteri Bottas 4
9 Stoffel Vandoorne 2
10 Carlos Sainz 1
11 Sergio Perez 0
12 Esteban Ocon 0
13 Charles Leclerc 0
14 Lance Stroll 0
15 Brendon Hartley 0

Constructors’ standings:
1 Ferrari 40
2 Mercedes 22
3 Red Bull-Renault 20
4 McLaren-Renault 12
5 Renault 7
6 Force India-Mercedes 0
7 Sauber-Ferrari 0
8 Williams-Mercedes 0
9 Toro Rosso-Honda 0

Hamilton achieves seventh Australian Grand Prix pole while Bottas crashes

A big contrast between the Mercedes drivers as Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position for the 2018 Formula 1 season-opening Australian Grand Prix, while Valtteri Bottas crashed out of qualifying.

Hamilton looked under pressure after the first Q3 runs, but produced an incredible final lap to take pole position by 0.664 seconds from Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.

Sebastian Vettel had been just 0.034 seconds behind Hamilton after the first runs, but couldn’t find enough time on his final run to keep team-mate at bay or pressure the Mercedes driver – suggesting he had pushed too hard in Turn 13 on his final attempt.

Max Verstappen, who had been just over half-a-tenth off Hamilton after the first Q3 runs, ended up third position after losing the rear through the Turn 13 right-hander ahead of team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.

While ultrasofts were the tyres of choice for the rest of the field throughout qualifying, the Red Bull drivers will start on the supersofts, having used them to set their Q2 times.

Despite qualifying fifth fastest, Ricciardo is set to start eighth thanks to a three-place grid penalty for a red flag infringement during Friday practice.

Haas pairing Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean made good on the team’s promising testing and practice pace with sixth and seventh fastest, albeit two seconds off the pace.

Thanks to Ricciardo’s penalty, this means Haas is set to start with a third-row lockout. An awesome result for the American team.

Renault pairing Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz were eighth and ninth, with The Hulk shading his team-mate by just under half-a-tenth.

Bottas ended up tenth after crashing at Turn 2 on his first flying lap in Q3.

The Mercedes driver hit the inside kerb at Turn 1, which appeared to push him deep mid-corner and meant he touched skimmed the damp grass with his left-rear wheel.

He attempted to hold it through the second part of the right/left, but lost the rear and backed into the wall – coming to rest in the middle of the track.

Fernando Alonso was eliminated in Q2 after failing to improve on his second run, having a moment in Turn 3 and ending up three-tenths slower than his earlier attempt.

That was enough to put him one place ahead of McLaren-Renault team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne.

Sergio Perez admitted Force India “has work to do” over the radio after ending up P13, one position ahead of Williams driver Lance Stroll.

Stroll, like Alonso, overdid it into Turn 3 but then ran through the gravel, meaning he was unable to improve on his first-run pace.

Esteban Ocon completed a difficult day for Force India, aborting his first run in Q2 and then lapping just over half-a-second slower than Stroll to end up P11.

Toro Rosso driver Brendon Hartley was quickest of the five drivers eliminated in the first segment of qualifying, missing out on a place in Q2 by just 29 thousandths of a second to Ocon.

The Sauber drivers completed three runs, with Marcus Ericsson ending up P17 and less than a tenth ahead of rookie teammate Charles Leclerc.

Leclerc complained of an error in the Turn 4 left-hander that cost him a shot at advancing to Q2.

Williams debutant Sergey Sirotkin was outside the drop zone after the first Q1 runs in 15th place, but was shuffled down to P19 by the end of the session despite improving by just over three tenths on his second run.

That put him ahead only of the second Toro Rosso of Pierre Gasly, whose final attempt was ruined by locking up and running off track and through the gravel at the Turn 3 right-hander.

So a superb seventh pole position for Hamilton at Melbourne. The speed of that Mercedes W09 is impressive. It’s going to be challenge for everyone to catch the champ on race day. Hopefully the Ferraris can keep Lewis honest.

Qualifying positions, Melbourne:

1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m21.164s
2 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m21.828s
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m21.838s
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Renault 1m21.879s
5 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m23.187s
6 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1m23.339s
7 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m23.532s
8 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1m22.152s
9 Carlos Sainz Renault 1m23.577s
10 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes –
11 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Renault 1m23.692s
12 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Renault 1m23.853s
13 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1m24.005s
14 Lance Stroll Williams-Mercedes 1m24.230s
15 Esteban Ocon Force India-Mercedes 1m24.786s
16 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso-Honda 1m24.532s
17 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1m24.556s
18 Charles Leclerc Sauber-Ferrari 1m24.636s
19 Sergey Sirotkin Williams-Mercedes 1m24.922s
20 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda 1m25.295s