MEDIA RELEASE/McLaren Formula 1 Team - Main Photo: Supplied The McLaren Formula 1 team have…
Sebastian Vettel has managed to snatch the Australian Grand Prix from the grasp of Lewis Hamilton in another exciting start to the Formula 1 season.
Hamilton had dominated qualifying after the Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull cars seemed closely matched during the earlier practice sessions.
Rumours of a qualifying engine mode for the Mercedes’ entries appeared to be substantiated when Hamilton posted the fastest ever lap of the Albert Park circuit and lowered his best time by almost a second.
Daniel Ricciardo later referred to Hamilton’s time as a “Kick in the stomach to the other teams”.
Lewis Hamilton lead from the start as the field funneled into turn 1 from the Ferraris of Raikkonen and Vettel. Brendan Harltey’s race effectively ended when he locked a front wheel heavily in the braking zone. The flat spot to his tyre was so severe that the kiwi had to pit for fresh rubber. He then suffered a puncture which saw him drop a lap to the leaders and was the last classified finisher at the conclusion of the race.
Kimi Raikkonen tried to take the Mercedes into turn 3, but Hamilton was quick to cover the move. Lewis drove away from the field and soon established a 2 second lead. Raikkonen pitted first and was followed by Hamilton one lap late.
Daniel Ricciardo managed one of the few passing maneuvers when he found a way around Nico Hulkenberg in the Renault. A spin for teammate Max Verstappen, moved Daniel into 6th. He then found himself in 4th as both Haas cars retired within a few laps of each other. Magnussen stopped at turn 4, while Grosjean ground to a halt at turn 2. The Virtual Safety car was used for the Magnussen retirement, while the actual car was deployed for Grojean’s Haas.
Sebastian Vettel took advantage of the VSC to pit, as did Ricciardo. Vettel emerged ahead of the Mercedes as the Safety Car toured the circuit. It first picked up Ricciardo’s Red Bull, which was waved by and allowed the Australian to move up behind Raikkonen’s Ferrari.
The top 4 remained the same for the remainder of the race. Hamilton and Ricciardo both got close to the Ferraris of Vettel and Raikkonen respectively, but could not find a way past. Hamilton took to the grass around the back of the circuit when he left his braking just a little too late.
Sebastian Vettel went on to take back to back wins at Albert Park from Lewis Hamilton, with Kimi Raikkonen 3rd. Daniel Ricciardo was left to lament what might have been in 4th, while Fernando Alonso, Max Verstappen, Nico Hulkenberg, Valtteri Bottas, Stoffel Vandoorne and Carlos Sanz rounded out the top 10.
The Force India and Williams struggled for competitive pace and battled near the rear of the field. Sergey Sirotkin was the first retirement of the race with brake issues and fellow debutante Pierre Gasley was the 3rd retirement in the Torro Rosso.
The second round on the 2018 takes place in Bahrain on 8 April 2018.