Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas has delivered the race of his life, sealing the Australian Grand Prix for the first time with searing, unmatchable pace - finishing 20.8 seconds ahead of his five-time F1 World Champion teammate Lewis Hamilton, and securing the point for fastest lap to leave Melbourne with a maximum of 26.
Bottas got ahead at the start, passing polesitter Hamilton into Turn 1 and never looked back. The Finn, who came into the season with his seat for 2020 in question after a winless 2018 campaign, returned fire in the best possible way with untouchable form.
“I don’t know what to say, the start was really good. It was definitely my best race ever,” Bottas said.
“I don’t know what happened, I just felt so good and everything was under control.”
Hamilton finished second for a Mercedes’ one-two, the Brit unable to live with his teammate’s pace on the medium tyres, but remained ahead of Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen - who put him under pressure all the way to the chequered flag.
The sport now has a two-week break before the next round in the Kingdom of Bahrain on March 31.
|3||33||Red Bull Racing Honda||58||+22.520s||15|
Here’s how the FORMULA 1 AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX played-out lap-by-lap:
There’s plenty of tension at Albert Park as we prepare for another F1 season, with a shuffled grid (eight of the 10 teams have new driver combination) and what we hope are racier cars (care of aero changes that have been made to reduce the dirty air that a car leaves behind it for closer racing).
5-time F1 World Champion, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton starts from pole in Australia for the sixth-straight time, his eighth overall to match the record owned by Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna. His teammate Valtteri Bottas is alongside, locking out the front row, and the Silver Arrows were in a league of their own yesterday in qualifying. Will they be scampering away at the start?
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel starts third, just as he did in 2018 (a race he won after a strategic masterstroke, when the four-time F1 World Champion pitted under the Virtual Safety Car) but he was seven tenths off pole. He’ll be hoping to have better race pace, and to stay ahead Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen - who will have no fear going into Turn 1, from fourth.
New Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc starts his first race for the Scuderia from fifth, the Monegasque stating he didn’t get the best from Q3, but he starts ahead of both Haas cars - who are definitely best of the rest here in Melbourne. F1 rookie Lando Norris was impressive, the youngest-ever British F1 driver eighth on the grid on debut - 10 spots ahead of his more experienced teammate Carlos Sainz.
Kimi Raikkonen starts P9 in his return to Sauber-now Alfa Romeo Racing, while Racing Point’s Sergio Perez closes out the top-10. Renault is just outside the field’s first half, with Nico Hulkenberg in P11 and local hero Daniel Ricciardo starting his first race for the French marque in P12.
It’s a beautiful 26-degree Celsius day here in Melbourne, blue skies - perfect for racing, but it’s likely to be a one-stop strategy by default. Can anyone on the grid match Mercedes? That’s the key question.
The majority of the field are on the softs, with Giovinazzi (P14), Kvyat (P15), Stroll (P16), Gasly (P17) and Russell (P19) on the mediums and Kubica who is last starts on the hards. Those on the softs are likely to do a stop between 12-20, those starting on mediums between 30-40.
Hamilton has a bad start as Bottas gets ahead - Vettel stays third, with Verstappen and Leclerc behind. Ricciardo is down to P19, losing his front wing into Turn 1. Hulkenberg is up to P8 behind Grosjean.
Bottas leads this race, 1-second ahead of Hamilton - then Vettel is less than a second behind. 5-seconds covering the top-seven. Ricciardo has pitted for a new nose, as has Kubica. Ricciardo looks to have hit a gutter on the way down to Turn 1.
Bottas leads, setting the fastest lap, a 1:29.662. He’s 1.2 seconds ahead of Hamilton, Vettel now 1-second adrift in P3. Verstappen keeping touch in P4. Ricciardo is 20th and last. Albon is in P11 from P13.
Bottas still leading this race, setting another fastest lap, a 1:29.246. He’s 1.4 seconds up on Hamilton. And absolutely on a charge as he lights up the timing boards in purple. Cubic in P19 is half a second behind Russell his teammate.
Another fastest lap for Bottas, a 1:28:641 - he’s 1.6 seconds up on Hamilton now. The top-9 all doing personal best laps. The start showing Leclerc having to go wide to avoid Vettel. George Russell going over Ricciardo’s wing after Turn 2.
Bottas leads Hamilton by 1.7 seconds. Vettel now 2-seconds behind Hamilton in P3, 1.1 seconds behind is Verstappen. Gasly in P16 is chasing down Sainz, 0.5 seconds the gap there.
So it’s Bottas, Hamilton, Vettel, Verstappen, Leclerc, Magnussen, Grosjean, Hulkenberg, Raikkonen, Norris as the top-10. Kubica pitted end of Lap 1 after front wing broken by contact with Gasly.
Bottas leads Hamilton by 2.3 seconds now, the Finn four tenths faster than Hamilton on that last lap. Bottas knows he has to win this race for his Mercedes career. Gasly still racing Kvyat for P15, six tenths the gap there.
Bottas pulling out the gap further, sixth tenths faster than Hamilton on that last lap - 2.9 seconds the gap. Vettel is falling back, 2.7 seconds the gap. Replays showing Leclerc going over the Turn 1 gravel, he’s in P5 - in his own race. Verstappen 6.2 seconds up the road.
Bottas is controlling this race, 3.4 seconds the gap back to his teammate - half a second faster on that last lap. Bottas is the only one in the 1:28s. Hamilton, Vettel and Verstappen are in early 1:29s.
Bottas still building that gap, 3.5 seconds the difference. As Sainz looks like he has an power unit issue, he stops in the pit entry - fire and smoke billowing from his car. Hamilton is starting to respond to Bottas’ pace with the fastest first sector.
Hamilton has just done a personal best lap, two tenths faster than Bottas’ last lap - the gap still 3.5 seconds. Vettel is now 3.2 seconds behind Hamilton. Hulkenberg in P8 is less than a second behind Grosjean.
Bottas responds to Hamilton, fastest lap, a 1:28.633 - one tenth faster than his teammate on that last lap. Raikkonen pits. He’s onto the mediums.
Hamilton sets the fastest lap, a 1:28.616, one hundredth up on Bottas’ last lap, 3.6 seconds the gap. Hulkenberg pits from P8. Mercedes is in its own league here. Vettel 4-seconds behind the leading Silver Arrows. Sainz failure said to be MGU-K.
Bottas sets his own fastest lap, a 1:28.300 - as Vettel pits from P3. He’s onto the mediums - and exits in P6 behind the Haas of Grosjean. The main battle between the lead Mercedes’ pair, 4.3 seconds the gap.
Hamilton pits from P2, trying the undercut - as Bottas sets another fastest lap, a 1:28.217. Hamilton is onto the mediums, and exits in P4. So it’s Bottas, Verstappen, Leclerc, Hamilton, Vettel and Stroll - as the top-six. Grosjean and Albon are going wheel-to-wheel, after Haas had an issue at its pit stop on the front left holding the Frenchman up.
Bottas leads Verstappen - but 29-seconds between the leader and Hamilton. Vettel sets the fastest lap, a 1:27.954. He’s 1.7 seconds behind Hamilton. Giovinazzi gets past Magnussen at Turn 3.
Bottas six tenths faster than Verstappen on that lap, Hamilton’s out lap was about 2-seconds slower than Vettel’s - enabling the German to close up. Ricciardo is in P18, and has now been lapped.
Hamilton struggling on mediums, six tenths slower than Bottas - who is pulling out a gap on Verstappen. Hulkenberg passes Giovinazzi for P10 into Turn 1. Bottas is on a personal best lap now, searing pace from the Finn.
Fastest lap for Bottas up front, 1:27.836. He’s now 13.2 seconds up on Verstappen, and 31 up on Hamilton - so will be comfortably in the lead after pitting with no mistakes. Kvyat in P7 is still yet to pit.
Bottas looking comfortable on worn softs, setting the fastest lap - a 1:27.832. Hamilton in P4 is only able to do 1:29.3 on that last lap.
Bottas in control out front, with another fastest lap, a 1:27.815. He’s 14-seconds up on Verstappen, and 33-seconds ahead of Hamilton in P4. Top-10 is Bottas, Verstappen, Leclerc, Hamilton, Vettel, Stroll, Kvyat, Gasly, Magnussen and Hulkenberg.
Norris is chasing down Giovinazzi for P12, heated battle there as they jockey into Turn 3. Hamilton has just done a personal best, four tenths up on Bottas’ last lap. Only Bottas, Verstappen and Leclerc up front are on softs. Bottas told to pit, box.
Bottas pits from the lead, he goes onto the mediums - 3.3 second stop slow due to small issue with left front. Verstappen is past for the lead. Order is now - Verstappen, Bottas, Leclerc, Hamilton and Vettel. Bottas pitted seven laps later than his teammate, so is sitting pretty right now.
Verstappen leads Bottas by 5.4 seconds but is yet to stop - Leclerc in P3 hasn’t stopped either. Hamilton says he’s not likely to make the end of the race on the set of tyres he’s on.
Verstappen pits from the lead, unleashing Bottas. He’s onto the softs, 2.3 second stop - and comes out in P5. So the order is now Bottas, Leclerc, Hamilton, Vettel, Verstappen. Bottas has also set the fastest lap, a 1:27.338.
Norris got past Giovinazzi on the previous lap at Turn 3, and Grosjean is now all over the back of the Alfa Romeo. Grosjean is past into Turn 13 - and up to P13.
Bottas leads Leclerc by 10-seconds, Hamilton in P3 is a further 4.2 seconds behind. Giovinazzi pits.
Leclerc pits from P2 and is onto the hard tyres, releasing Hamilton into second - 15-seconds behind his teammate. Leclerc exits in P5 behind Verstappen. No cars are within one-second at the moment. Medium tyre said to not be enough to get to the end of the race at this stage, so Leclerc’s run on hards is hedging that bet.
Bottas leads Hamilton by 16-seconds, the Finn one second faster than his teammate. Vettel is in P3, 2-seconds behind the Silver Arrows. Verstappen is just 0.6 seconds behind the Ferrari - and he’s matching the Mercedes’ pace of Bottas.
Verstappen is all over the back of Vettel, and attempts a move into Turn 1 - but can’t make it stick. Out front, Bottas leads Hamilton by 17.5 seconds. Leclerc in P5 set the fastest lap, a 1:27.240. Ricciardo retires.
Verstappen gets past Vettel for P3 into Turn 3, as Bottas sets the fastest lap, a 1:27.235. Grosjean retires with some kind of mechanical failure.
Bottas leads Hamilton by 19.4 seconds. An amazing lead from the Finn, who was 0.7 seconds faster on that last lap. Grosjean had left front issue.
Kvyat in P11 is less than a second behind Stroll. Verstappen is catching Hamilton, 1.1 seconds the gap there. Hamilton doesn’t have the rear end grip.
Bottas leads Hamilton by 18.8 seconds, almost a pit stop in hand. The rest of the field trails behind. Gasly in P6 is yet to pit on Lap 35. Kvyat is all over Stroll, and after that final world championship point.
Hamilton has upped his pace, done a personal best lap - three tenths up on the trailing Verstappen, 1.5 seconds the gap. Stroll locking up in the braking zone against Kvyat.
Stroll under pressure from Kvyat, this is one of the big battles of the race. The Russian is applying the pressure.
Kvyat goes wide and into the Turn 3 gravel, destroying all that momentum. Bottas sets the fastest lap, a 1:27.108. He’s now 20-seconds ahead of Hamilton. Gasly pits.
Kvyat passes Gasly into Turn 3 and up into P10. Bottas leads Hamilton by 20-seconds, Hamilton and Verstappen doing identical times - 1.5 seconds still the gap there. Vettel is in P4, 8.2 seconds behind the top-3, with his teammate Leclerc 9-seconds behind him.
Bottas pulling even further away, 21-seconds now the gap. This is absolute dominance from the Finn. The top-five are covered by 39-seconds. Magnussen in P6 is 25-seconds behind Leclerc.
Only the top-12 are on the lead lap. Bottas now 22-seconds up on Hamilton. Verstappen 1.6 seconds behind Hamilton now.
Bottas set the fastest lap, a 1:27.043 - he’s now 23.7 seconds ahead of Hamilton. Ferrari fourth and fifth, over half a minute behind the leaders.
Another fastest lap for Bottas, a 1:26.739. The Finn is in a league of his own. “Why are we so slow?” asks Vettel.
Bottas now 24.6 seconds up on Hamilton, Verstappen faster on that last lap (0.3 seconds) but the gap is still 1.5 seconds.
Only the top-11 are on the lead lap now. No drivers are within one-second of another. Bottas leads by 25-seconds. Stunning lead.
Vettel doing 1:28.2s, with his teammate behind on 1:27.6s. Vettel’s lack of pace puzzling. Verstappen is closing in on Hamilton, 1.3 seconds the gap. Bottas told the only way they can lose the race is “by not having enough rubber for a safety car.”
Bottas comfortable up front, 24.7 seconds up on Hamilton - he’ll be protecting those medium tyres. Verstappen has done a personal best, one tenth faster than Hamilton. 1.4 seconds the gap now.
Stroll - who’s chasing Raikkonen - in P9 has Kvyat and Gasly behind him, a close train there.
Bottas, Hamilton, Verstappen all doing low 1:27s. But only Hamilton is under fire.
Verstappen goes wide at Turn 1, loses time - he’s now 3.4 seconds behind Hamilton, so some breathing space there for the Brit. Verstappen upping the pace now to recover the mistake, fastest second sector.
Bottas 25-seconds up on Hamilton, who is 3.1 seconds ahead of Verstappen. Vettel can’t challenge the Dutchman though with 13.8 seconds the gap - and one second per lap off the pace.
Leclerc is 1.7 seconds behind Vettel in P5. Bottas is told he’s holding the fastest lap, and asks if he’s going to stop for fresh rubber for the fastest lap… he wants maximum points.
Hulkenberg in P7 has a big train behind him - Raikkonen, Stroll, Kvyat and Gasly. Bottas is going through that traffic. Only the top-nine are on the lead lap at this stage.
Bottas leads Hamilton by 23.8 seconds. Verstappen in P3 is 1.6 seconds adrift.
Raikkonen in P8 is chasing down Hulkenberg, as we see Verstappen set the fastest lap of 1:26.540 - the gap to Hamilton 1.3 seconds.
Bottas does fastest first sector, Verstappen all over the back of Hamilton. 1.1 seconds the gap. Just the top-six on the lead lap.
Verstappen within 0.8 seconds of Hamilton. Hamilton has done a personal best lap.
Lap 58 - FINAL LAP:
Bottas sets the fastest lap, a 1:25.580 - and wins the Australian Grand Prix, his first race victory since 2017. Hamilton retains second, Verstappen settles for third.
|3||33||Red Bull Racing Honda||58||+22.520s||15|
|8||7||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||57||+1 lap||4|
|9||18||Racing Point BWT Mercedes||57||+1 lap||2|
|10||26||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||57||+1 lap||1|
|11||10||Red Bull Racing Honda||57||+1 lap||0|
|12||4||McLaren Renault||57||+1 lap||0|
|13||11||Racing Point BWT Mercedes||57||+1 lap||0|
|14||23||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||57||+1 lap||0|
|15||99||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||57||+1 lap||0|
|16||63||Williams Mercedes||56||+2 laps||0|
|17||88||Williams Mercedes||55||+3 laps||0|