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03/25 2018

SEBASTIAN VETTEL WINS SEASON OPENING F1 AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX FOR SECOND CONSECUTIVE YEAR

 

Bests polesitter Lewis Hamilton for the second consecutive year

BY:  SAM HALL

Sebastian Vettel won the Formula 1 season opener in Australia for Ferrari Sunday leaving Lewis Hamilton to wonder what went wrong after he failed to convert his pole on Saturday into victory for the third year in a row.

Hamilton said after qualifying that he’d saved his best effort till late so he could wipe the smile from Vettel’s face but, it was Vettel who got the last laugh thanks to a timely virtual safety car period and pit stops.

Having struggled to pass teammate Kimi Raikkonen, Vettel opted to stay out for a much longer stint than Raikkonen or leader Hamilton. Had there not been a safety car, Vettel would have been out of the podium places in fifth or sixth place after his stop, but the gamble paid off when both Haas cars stopped out on track following problems in the pits.

With the field slowed the time lost for pitting was massively reduced and Vettel was able to exit the pits just ahead of Hamilton’s Mercedes – a lead that he would not relinquish and one that saw him become just the third man to lead over 3000 laps in Formula 1 after Hamilton (3536) and Michael Schumacher (5111).

“(It was) Pretty good,” said Vettel. “We got a bit lucky obviously with the safety car but yeah. I really enjoyed it. I mean, great turnout today. I saw the grandstands and really enjoyed the lap coming back in and for the race, my start I was hoping to be a bit better. Didn’t really work so I had to settle for third and then, towards the end of that stint, I lost a little bit of the connection to Lewis and Kimi ahead.

“I was struggling a bit with the tires. I felt happier with the soft tires, the yellow tires at the end and obviously I was praying for a safety car. There was a car (Kevin Magnussen) stopped at turn four and I was like, ‘no that’s not going to happen’, and then somebody stopped, I think it was a Haas, at the exit of turn two. When I saw it I was really full of adrenaline even though the race is frozen.

“But still, to come into the pits with everything on the limit, trying to get back out because they told me it’s really close with Lewis and when we got out ahead I knew that it’s very difficult to pass but he kept the pressure on, especially the beginning of the last stint.

“Obviously, we were a little bit lucky today. Lewis had a great lap yesterday, he deserved pole position and he drove a very good race. He controlled it at the beginning then, as I said, we got a bit lucky but we’ll take it.”

After seeing Vettel exit the pits ahead of him, Hamilton instantly got on his team radio, demanding to know what went wrong or what he had done wrong to lose the lead. The short answer was nothing and that he was simply a victim of the regulations and circumstance falling in the favor of Ferrari.

Sunday marked the eighth time Hamilton has stood on the podium in Australia — the most of any driver in Formula 1 history — yet he seemed determined to take the positives from the weekend having been dominant through most of it.

“It’s been an incredible weekend, honestly,” said Hamilton. “To arrive and have the performance we’ve had today. Big congratulations to Sebastian and Ferrari.

“Today obviously, they did a better job and we’ve got to go back to the drawing board and work on it but we still have great pace. Our qualifying was great, our qualifying was great. I think in the race I was able to apply some pressure at the end.

“This is one awesome circuit but it’s so hard to overtake. Even with the extra DRS (zone added for this year) with the cars being as close as they were. At the (I) was really trying to live to fight another day, save the engine and we’ll try to regain the points later on.”

Raikkonen could feel justly aggravated to have finished behind his teammate after qualifying ahead of the German and easily fending off Vettel for second place for long periods of the race.

“I think it (my race) was ok,” said Raikkonen. “We didn’t have the most luck but what can you do? I mean, luckily it was Seb who got the luck and it was our team at least.

 

“I think I had decent speed all day long and it’s just difficult to pass. I got a good go at the second corner (lap one) and just tried to follow and see if we could do something around the pit stop. Then obviously, with the safety cars it’s pure luck but we held on to third place. I’ll take it, third place. I’ve been happy with the car and it’s nice to go onto the next races.”

Daniel Ricciardo recovered from his three place grid penalty to climb from eighth to fourth, narrowly being blocked by Raikkonen for the final podium spot, while Fernando Alonso gave McLaren fans the result they had been hoping for in fifth place.

The Spaniard may have been another beneficiary of the virtual safety car but, having stated on Friday that this would be their toughest weekend of the season and big upgrades were expected for Bahrain in two weeks-time, the season ahead is looking a lot brighter than the last few. Stoffel Vandoorne made it a double points day for McLaren with ninth.

Max Verstappen mounted an early charge for the podium but a mid-race spin saw him drop down the order to finish sixth. Valtteri Bottas slowly climbed through the pack from P15 to eighth with Renault filling out the remaining points spots with Nico Hulkenberg seventh and Carlos Sainz tenth.
The win was the 48th of Sebastian Vettel’s career.PHOTO BY LAT PHOTOGRAPHIC

 

1 Sebastian Vettel Scuderia Ferrari  
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport +5.036
3 Kimi Raikkonen Scuderia Ferrari +6.309
4 Daniel Ricciardo Aston Martin Red Bull Racing +7.069
5 Fernando Alonso McLaren F1 Team +27.886
6 Max Verstappen Aston Martin Red Bull Racing +28.945
7 Nico Hulkenberg Renault Sport Formula One Team +32.671
8 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport +34.339
9 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren F1 Team +34.921
10 Carlos Sainz Renault Sport Formula One Team +45.722
11 Sergio Perez Sahara Force India F1 Team +46.817
12 Esteban Ocon Sahara Force India F1 Team +1:00.278
13 Charles Leclerc Alfa Romeo SauberF1 Team +1:15.759
14 Lance Stroll Williams Martini Racing +1:18.288
15 Brendon Hartley Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda +1 LAP
16 Romain Grosjean Haas F1 Team OUT
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 Team OUT
18 Pierre Gasly Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda OUT
19 Marcus Ericsson Alfa Romeo SauberF1 Team OUT
20 Sergey Sirotkin Williams Martini Racing OUT

Fastest Lap: Daniel Ricciardo (1:25.945)