Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel has begun his 2018 Formula 1 World Championship campaign in the best possible way, winning the season-opening Australian Grand Prix for a third time, his second-straight. It was his 48th victory overall.
The German trailed fellow four-time F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton and teammate Kimi Raikkonen at the start, retaining third at the end of Lap 1, but he leapfrogged the Finn after his stop on Lap 19 - and then got ahead of Hamilton when he pitted under the Virtual Safety Car on Lap 27.
The Safety Car was deployed the following lap, putting Vettel under pressure at the restart on Lap 32. But the German stayed ahead - and remained ice cool all the way to the chequered flag, with Hamilton saving his engine in the closing stages to finish 5-seconds adrift. Raikkonen finished third.
”[It was] pretty good. We got a bit lucky, obviously, with the safety car,” Vettel said. ”My start, I was hoping to be a bit better so I had to settle for third. He kept some pressure on especially at the beginning of the last stint.”
Vettel now leads Hamilton in the drivers’ standings 25 points to 18, with the next round in Bahrain just two weeks away.
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Here’s how the FORMULA 1 2018 AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX played-out lap-by-lap:
Lots of happy faces here in Melbourne, with blue skies and warm ambient temperature of 24 degrees with just over 30 minutes until race start. A nice change from Saturday, when lots of rain lashed the circuit in the morning.
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton starts from pole position for a record-seventh time in Australia, his 73rd overall earned with one of his best-ever laps, a blistering 1:21.164. Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen sits alongside on the front row, the first time in six races he’s been ahead of his Scuderia teammate, Sebastian Vettel, in qualifying.
The Red Bulls have plenty of work to do, though both start on the harder supersoft tyres for a longer first stint. Max Verstappen starts fourth (his best slot in Melbourne), while Daniel Ricciardo is back in eighth after being slapped with a three-place grid penalty for speeding in FP2. While Haas has proved its pre-season pace is real with Kevin Magnussen starting from P5, Romain Grosjean P6.
One driver out of order is Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, who starts from P15 after a huge crash at Turn 2 in Q3 qualifying, the Finn also requiring a gearbox change that dropped him out of the top-10.
All the cars are away well. Air temp 23 degrees, with a track temp of 38. Headwind 10-15km down into Turn 1.
Hamilton gets a great start, Raikkonen slots into second with Vettel into third. Magnussen has slotted into fourth ahead of Verstappen. Grosjean is sixth. Ricciardo passes Sainz to regain eighth. Alonso in 10th is all over Sainz.
So it’s Hamilton, Raikkonen, Vettel, Magnussen, Verstappen, Grosjean, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Sainz and Alonso closes out the top-10. Verstappen is all over the back of Magnussen, in pursuit for fourth place. Bottas remains in P15.
Hamilton sets the fastest lap, a 1:30.265. He’s 1.2 seconds up on Raikkonen. Vettel is 1-second behind his teammate, while Magnussen is 1.1 seconds behind the Ferrari in fourth.
Hamilton is still just 1.2 seconds ahead of Raikkonen, despite setting another fastest lap - a 1:29.809. Verstappen is just 0.3 seconds behind Magnussen, the Dutchman getting frustrated behind.
Hamilton sets another fastest lap, a 1:29.473. He’s pulled out the gap to Raikkonen to 1.3 seconds. Vettel is the same gap to his teammate.
Ricciardo is past Hulkenberg into Turn 13 and up into P7. Hamilton another fastest lap, a 1:29.161. He’s pulled out a 1.9 second gap on Raikkonen. Sirotkin has stopped out on track.
Hamilton has pulled out a 2.2 second gap on Raikkonen. Vettel is 1.2 seconds adrift of his teammate. Verstappen is complaining that his tyres are overheating. Ericsson has lost power steering, and is back in the garage.
Hamilton leads Raikkonen and Vettel. Magnussen is fourth ahead of Verstappen. Grosjean, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Sainz and Alonso closes out the top-10.
Hamilton sets the fastest lap, a 1:29.092. He’s now 2.6 seconds up on Raikkonen. Vettel remaining in touch with his teammate, 1.3 seconds the gap. Bottas passes Ocon for P13.
Raikkonen sets the fastest lap, a 1:29.003, while Verstappen spins at Turn 2. Ricciardo in P7 is all over the back of Grosjean, 0.7 the gap.
Vettel sets the fastest lap, a 1:28.665. He needs to catch up to Raikkonen, 1.5 seconds the gap. Hamilton is 2.6 seconds ahead of the Finn, leading the race. Ricciardo/Grosjean remains the toughest battle at this stage.
Raikkonen sets the fastest lap, a 1:28.485. Top-3 is Hamilton, Raikkonen and Vettel. 10.3 seconds the gap back to Magnussen in P4. Ericsson is out of the race, and is the second retirement of this Grand Prix.
Hamilton responds to Ferrari’s pace, setting the fastest lap - a 1:28.329. He’s now 2.7 seconds up on Raikkonen. Bottas in P13 is 1.1 seconds behind Perez, and chasing.
Bottas is closing down Perez for P12, 0.7 sec the gap. Up ahead, Ricciardo is also 0.7 seconds behind Grosjean.
Hamilton sets another fastest lap, a 1:28.098. He’s 2.8 seconds up on Raikkonen. Vettel is a further 2.8 adrift in P3. Magnussen is now 14.2 seconds behind the Ferrari in P4. Gasly’s power unit is smoking through sector three, and looks set to retire.
Hamilton leads Raikkonen by 3-seconds, same gap back to Vettel in P3. Then it’s Magnussen, Grosjean, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Verstappen, Sainz and Alonso closes out the top-10. Verstappen is in P8, 1-second behind Hulkenberg. Verstappen says he thinks there’s something wrong, he has “so much oversteer”.
Raikkonen sets the fastest lap, a 1:27.982, pulling the gap to Hamilton in by a tenth. Ricciardo in P6 is 0.4 seconds behind Grosjean.
Hamilton responds with a 1:27.753, the fastest lap so far. His teammate Bottas is 0.5 seconds behind Perez. Raikkonen told to pit at the end of this lap.
Raikkonen stops for softs, drops down to P3 ahead of Magnussen. Hamilton told to box at the end of this lap, so Mercedes responds to the Ferrari pit stop.
Hamilton stops for softs, 3-second stop. He comes out ahead of Raikkonen, so Vettel takes the lead of this race - with a stop yet to happen. So could Hamilton and Raikkonen be one-stopping? Verstappen in P8 has dropped away from Hulkenberg, 1.4 seconds the gap there.
Vettel leads Hamilton by 13 seconds. Raikkonen is 4.7 seconds adrift of his teammate in P3. Grosjean in P5 now has DRS on his Haas teammate with 1-second the gap, Ricciardo is behind the pair in P6 - 0.6 sec the gap to Grosjean.
Verstappen pits for the softs, comes out in P14 behind Ocon.
Vettel leads Hamilton by 12.7 seconds. Alonso forces Sainz off-track at Turn 9, and goes into P7. Sainz rejoins in P14. Magnussen is slowing between Turns 2-3. It looks like he has a loose wheel. He stops at Turn 4.
Top-10 is Vettel, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Grosjean, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Alonso, Vandoorne, Perez, Bottas. Ricciardo is now P5, 0.9 seconds adrift of Grosjean.
Grosjean and Hulkenberg pit, Ricciardo now up to P4. Grosjean has now retired at the exit of Turn 2. So both Haas cars out despite incredible pace throughout the weekend.
Vettel, who is yet to stop, leads Hamilton, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Alonso, Vandoorne, Bottas, Verstappen and Hulkenberg. Vandoorne and Bottas pit. Hazard on track, Grosjean at Turn 2, virtual safety car deployed.
Vettel pits from the lead, switches to the softs. And comes out just ahead of Hamilton, so he is now leading the race. The pair now about to fight for the lead. Ricciardo pits as well, as does Alonso.
Safety car deployed, with marshals out on track to recover Grosjean’s car. Top-10 is Vettel, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Alonso, Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Vandoorne, Bottas, Sainz. Hamilton is now questioning his team, wondering why they didn’t tell him Vettel pitted under the VSC. “Whatever, guys. Was that my mistake?” he asks in frustration.
We’re still under safety car conditions, as Hamilton continues to question how Vettel got ahead.
Safety car conditions prevail. Lapped cars may now overtake. Verstappen told he has to give position back to Alonso, given his pass when he exited the pits.
Verstappen trying to wave Alonso past. Still under the safety car. Hamilton staying very close to Vettel. Safety car coming in at the end of this lap.
Vettel stays in P1, Hamilton behind. Ricciardo is all over the back of Raikkonen. Verstappen in P6 is being chased hard by Hulkenberg. Top 10: VET, HAM, RAI, RIC, ALO, VER, HUL, VAN, BOT, SAI.
Vettel leads Hamilton by 0.7 seconds, Raikkonen is 2-seconds adrift in P3. Ricciardo is keeping in touch in P4, 0.7 seconds the gap to the sister Ferrari. Grosjean’s pit stop issue will be investigated after the race.
Vettel has pulled out a tenth on Hamilton, Verstappen in P6 is all over the back of Alonso. Bottas in P9 is 0.5 seconds behind Vandoorne, so very close battle there.
Vettel sets the fastest lap, 1:27.559, stays 0.7 seconds ahead of Hamilton. 15 racers still on track, with five retirements so far. Verstappen is 0.5 seconds behind Alonso.
Hamilton responds with the fastest lap, a 1:27.043 - to pull back the gap to Vettel by a tenth to 0.6 seconds. Ricciardo in P4 is all over the back of Raikkonen, and looking to become the first Australian to be classified on the podium at home.
Vettel leads Hamilton, and he’s pulled out 0.2 to be 0.8 seconds up. Verstappen in P6 is 0.4 seconds behind Alonso. Lance Stroll in P14 is 0.7 seconds behind rookie Leclerc.
Vettel still leads Hamilton, 1.1 seconds the gap now - impressive race pace. Raikkonen in P3 is 3.5 seconds behind. Ricciardo is 0.5 seconds adrift of the Finn, and trying everything to get past.
Ricciardo looks much closer to Raikkonen on this lap, but can’t get past into Turn 3. Vettel leads Hamilton, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Alonso, Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Bottas, Vandoorne and Sainz. Bottas in P8 is very close to Hulkenberg, 0.7 seconds the gap.
Hamilton sets the fastest lap, a 1:26.889 - trying to come back to Vettel, the Brit now in the DRS zone with 0.9 seconds the gap.
Hamilton sets another fastest lap, a 1:26.880 - as we see Vettel’s car smoking. Vettel told Hamilton has DRS.
Hamilton with yet another fastest lap, a 1:26.843. 0.8 the gap to leader Vettel. The biggest battles further down the field are Ricciardo on Raikkonen, 0.9 seconds the gap - and Verstappen in P6 chasing Alonso, 0.6 the gap there.
Vettel leads Hamilton by 0.9 seconds, Raikkonen 5-seconds adrift, but under pressure from Ricciardo. Vettel told his car is struggling with power unit temps, so the Scuderia giving it everything to stay ahead.
Vettel now 1-second ahead of Hamilton. Sainz complaining he has no power now.
Top-4 covered by 4-seconds. Alonso in P5 is 12.3 seconds adrift of Ricciardo. Ricciardo asked if he wants to keep pushing Raikkonen or chill out and go again towards the end of the race? Ricciardo says he doesn’t want to let him breathe.
Vettel sets the fastest lap, a 1:26.785, remaining 1-second ahead of Hamilton. He looks very comfortable out front. Verstappen in P6 remains 0.5 seconds behind Alonso.
Hamilton asks can I push yet? I’m going for it. He’s just set the fastest lap, 1:26.523. He’s clawed back the gap to 0.8 seconds. Can he get any closer? He’s gone wide at Turn 9.
Hamilton’s off-track excursion has cost him, the gap to Vettel now 2.9 seconds. Verstappen’s push to get past Alonso means that the Renault of Hulkenberg and Bottas have been able to catch up and will not put pressure. Hamilton told tyre temps are under control, but he’ll pass Hartley in a few laps so a good opportunity to pass Vettel.
Vettel told of Hamilton’s plan, the German now just 2.2 seconds up on Hamilton. Hartley shown blue flags. Hamilton clawing back the gap. Sainz tells team he’s feeling nauseous from the drink, and having stomach issues.
Vettel only 1.4 seconds ahead.
Hamilton sets the fastest lap, a 1:26.444. Ricciardo in P4 has dropped to 1.1 seconds behind Raikkonen.
Vettel leads Hamilton by 1.4 seconds. Raikkonen is in P3, 1.3 seconds up on Ricciardo. Verstappen still hunting down Alonso, just 0.8 the gap.
Vettel now just 1-second up on Hamilton, the gap is slowly disappearing. Can he get past in the closing stages? Both Force Indias pushing hard, knowing Sainz isn’t feeling well in the car.
Hamilton has made a mistake somewhere, making changes on his steering wheel, 2.3 seconds the gap now to Vettel. Could he have given up or perhaps risking his power unit. Verstappen told he’ll have a bit more performance for the last two laps.
Ricciardo sets the fastest lap of the race, a 1:25.945. He’s 1.3 seconds adrift of Raikkonen in P4. And a second quicker than anyone else, so has the pace to close down the Ferrari.
Vettel leads Hamilton by 4.4 seconds now, Raikkonen 4.6 seconds adrift in P3. So Hamilton looks like he’s given up. Ricciardo is 1.1 seconds behind Raikkonen.
Vettel now 4.8 seconds ahead of Hamilton. Raikkonen 1.1 seconds up on Ricciardo in P3. Verstappen is 0.6 seconds behind Alonso, so that will be the battle to watch in the last two laps.
Lap 58 - FINAL LAP:
Vettel wins the Australian Grand Prix for the third time, his second-straight with Ferrari.
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