Australian Grand Prix: Valtteri Bottas beats Lewis Hamilton on first corner to claim emphatic season opening win

17 Mar

Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas pounced past Lewis Hamilton into the first corner as the Finn cantered to the chequered flag to win the Australian Grand Prix.

Bottas completed a one-two lockout of the front row for the Silver Arrows in qualifying at Melbourne’s Albert Park with Hamilton going 0.112 seconds quicker for his 84th career pole.

Bottas took the lead at the first corner and held on to win in Melbourne

But it was Bottas who led into the first corner with an excellent start guiding him into first position past his team-mate, eventually finishing more than 20 seconds clear.

“How about that?!” he said on the radio after taking the victory.

Bottas said: “I don’t know what just happened. I don’t know what to say, the start was really good.

“The car was so good today, it was truly enjoyable. It was definitely my best race ever. I can’t wait for the next race.”

Hamilton said: “It’s a good weekend for the team so I have to be happy for everyone. Valtteri drove an incredible race today and truly deserved the win today.”

Hamilton praised his team-mate after the race

The Briton pitted early – lap 10 – as Bottas put the hammer down with a string of fastest laps on tyres that had carried him nearly 20 times around the 3.295-mile circuit.

Only Red Bull’s Max Verstappen made his soft tyres last longer than the Finn as he pitted on lap 27 as the Mercedes returned to the lead.

From the halfway point, there was only ever likely to be one winner as Bottas opened up a 20-second lead over Hamilton.

The five-time world champion appeared to labour on his medium compounds, telling his team he was struggling for rear grip as Verstappen made his case for the second step on the podium.

But the Dutchman ran into the grass on turn one as he closed in on Hamilton, losing ground to the reigning champion and finishing third.

By this point, Hamilton and Verstappen had put some distance between themselves and Ferrari rivals Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc, who wound up off the pace.

Vettel summed up the mood of his race, asking engineers “Why are we so slow?” as he fell to more than half a minute behind Bottas.

The Finn took his fourth career win and the extra point for the race’s fastest lap which has been reintroduced this season.

Kevin Magnussen took sixth for Haas, ahead of Nico Hulkenberg for Renault and Kimi Raikkonen in the Alfa Romeo.

Max Verstappen rounded out the top three with Sebastian Vettel down in fourth

The final two points positions went to Lance Stroll for Racing Point and Daniil Kvyat for Toro Rosso.

Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Pierre Gasly improved from a 17th place in qualifying to 11th, while the rookie British pair of Lando Norris and George Russell finished 12th and 16th respectively.

There was to be no home joy for Daniel Ricciardo – a trip to the grass on the opening lap saw him lose his front wing and the damage proved too much as he retired on lap 28.

Australian Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton lays down marker in Melbourne with fastest lap in second practice

15 Mar

Lewis Hamilton looked in fine form ahead of the 2019 season opener as Mercedes finished both first and second in the second Australian Grand Prix practice session.

The reigning world champion had said his team had “work to do” after Ferrari proved faster in pre-season testing in Barcelona.

Hamilton was fastest in both practice sessions

But no-one could match the Silver Arrows under blue skies at Melbourne’s Albert Park in second practice on Friday afternoon.

First Valtteri Bottas went around in one minute 22.648 seconds to lead the pack halfway through the 90-minute session with his first lap on soft tyres – half a second quicker than his pace on mediums.

Then Hamilton went purple in his first sector and laid down a marker ahead of Saturday’s qualifying session with a time of 1min 22.600secs.

The Mercedes team, who have won the constructors championship for the last five seasons, look in imperious form with the remaining pack at least 0.8 seconds behind the 34-year-old Briton.

Such was the dominance of Mercedes that Hamilton’s quickest time on the slower medium compound – one minute 23.148 seconds – would have been good enough for second place.

Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc for Ferrari, under new management this season, managed to get within hundredths of a second in first practice but were left with food for thought.

The German, a four-time winner of the world championship, recorded a fastest lap of one minute 23.473 – an improvement of 0.164 seconds compared to FP1 and only good enough for fifth place.

His teammate Leclerc fared even worse, spinning out at turn five late in the session and finishing ninth in the classification, 1.154 seconds behind Hamilton.

Red Bull took third and fourth, with Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly separated by 0.042 seconds, while Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and Australian Daniel Ricciardo found the pace they missed in the first session to come in seventh and eighth respectively.

Verstappen came in third with Red Bull team-mate Gasly in fourth

Kimi Raikkonen, preparing for his 17th Australian Grand Prix, was a tenth of a second behind Vettel in his Alfa Romeo for sixth, with Haas driver Romain Grosjean rounding out the top ten 1.214 seconds off the pace of Hamilton.

Just as was the case in first practice, two of the British newcomers finished in the bottom three in second practice.

Lando Norris was more than two seconds behind the lead with a best lap of one minute 24.733 seconds in his McLaren – 0.6 seconds behind teammate Carlos Sainz – while the Williams duo of George Russell and Robert Kubica were at the back of the pack with a deficit of 3.853 and 4.055 seconds respectively.