A dominant Valtteri Bottas victory from lap one quickly erased 2018 doubts, as Mercedes claimed a one-two, at the Australian Grand Prix, in Melbourne. This triumph was then added with a bonus point for claiming the DHL Fastest Lap.
Despite starting the race in second behind team-mate Lewis Hamilton, Bottas swiftly overtook the Brit into turn one, forcing the reigning champion to think about the chasing pack with his Mercedes counterpart too far in front. Looks like Hamilton fooled everyone in pre-season by saying Ferrari: “Are potentially half a second quicker”.
With Bottas out of sight, this left Hamilton, Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel fighting for second and third.
Two seconds behind Hamilton on lap 14, Ferrari attempted the undercut. This forced Mercedes to respond a lap later, pitting the Brit to cover off his rival, however it left Hamilton pondering as to why they did this, due to Bottas carrying on for ten more laps and re-entering twelve seconds ahead of his team-mate. Although, such tactic worked as Hamilton was firmly ahead of Vettel.
Whilst he pulled away from the German, Verstappen was then fixed on gaining that final podium spot with the gap between the two constantly decreasing. As pressure thoroughly increased on Vettel, there was then only one outcome. With DRS activated leaving the opening chicane, Verstappen then took his chance on the outside going into turn three as he moved into third squeezing his Red Bull past the Ferrari. It was from this point onwards that a podium finish was looking ever more unlikely for Vettel, as the gap to Leclerc in fifth was decreasing, yet it appeared the Monegasque was given orders when the youngster backed off.
With four drivers making their debut in Melbourne, there was a lot to look out for in this opening weekend to the 2019 season. Impressively starting eighth on the grid, Lando Norris in the McLaren then dropped out of the points to finish twelfth. Whilst losing a couple of places at the start, he was then stuck behind fellow debutant, Antonio Giovinazzi, for a significant part of the race.
It was not a great weekend for the Italian finishing fifteenth, whilst his Alfa Romeo counterpart Kimi Raikkonen, impressively finished inside the points, with eighth place.
Alexander Albon marked his debut in the Toro Rosso finishing fourteenth whilst George Russell came home in sixteenth, two laps behind the lead but out-performing his Williams team-mate Robert Kubica, who finished three laps behind the lead.
DHL Fastest Lap
With bonus points now awarded for the fastest lap of the race, Bottas and Verstappen drove at full pace in attempt to gain that reward. Despite being told to not take any risks in the latter stages of the race, the Mercedes driver however, stated to his race engineer that he wanted 26 points. In which he endeavoured to achieve this target, only for Verstappen to set the fastest time with a few laps to go. However, with only a couple to go, Bottas then pipped the Dutchman to the bonus point gaining himself 26 points for the victory.
Valterri Bottas; “This feels so good – I don’t think I’ve ever had a race like this! We could not have asked for a better start to the season – getting maximum points for the team is a perfect result and we couldn’t be happier. It’s also an important result for me personally, I’m really pleased with how the race went. These things don’t just happen – both the team and I have worked hard for this and it seems like the hard work paid off today. The key was the start; I think Lewis may have had a bit of wheel spin, so I was able to take the lead. My race pace was really strong, I could pull away and build a gap. In the end, I managed to get the fastest lap as well, which of course means an extra point this season, so I went for it. It can be a little risky with worn tyres, but I had it all under control. I’m very, very pleased with today, but it’s only the first race and we have another 20 races to go”.