Vettel stuns Hamilton with Ferrari victory

Ferrari defeated Mercedes for the second successive year in Australia as Sebastian Vettel made the most of good fortune to snatch victory from Lewis Hamilton in the 2018 F1 season opener on Sunday.

amilton looked on course for victory, but Vettel took advantage of running longer and pitting during a virtual safety car period to lead the race before absorbing massive pressure from his old rival to secure his 48th career victory.

Reigning world champion Hamilton has now converted just two of his seven pole positions in Melbourne while Vettel’s victory means he has now achieved 100 podiums, joining Michael Schumacher, Alain Prost and Hamilton in that elite club.

Vettel’s team mate Kimi Raikkonen kept Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo at bay to secure the final podium position, but there was heartbreak for Haas as both Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean retired from fourth and fifth following a wheel gun issue during their pit stops, which stewards are investigating.

Hamilton got away cleanly from pole to maintain the lead into Turn 1 and then held off an optimistic attack from Raikkonen into Turn 3.

The duo then traded fastest laps across the first stint, with Hamilton gradually stretching his lead as the first round of pit stops approached.

Ferrari were the first to blink, calling Raikkonen in from second on lap 19 with the Finn swapping the ultrasoft tyres for the more durable softs and rejoining in third.

Mercedes responded immediately, bringing Hamilton in next time around and mirroring Raikkonen’s tyre strategy, with the Briton re-joining in second. Vettel stayed out, as Ferrari rolled the dice, with Hamilton slowly chipping away at the German’s lead as he made the most of his fresher tyres.

However, the race was turned on its head when Haas drivers Magnussen and Grosjean, who were running fourth and fifth, retired within a lap of each other. The team had an issue with the wheel gun, as both pulled off the track on their outlaps after visiting the pits.

Haas team boss Guenther Steiner dumped his head in his hands on the pit wall, as the reality of the loss of a huge haul of points hit.

The virtual safety car was activated, allowing drivers who had not pitted to gain an advantage by diving in as the rest of the field was driving to a permitted minimum lap time. Vettel was one of those drivers and a clean stop by Ferrari helped him emerge from the pits ahead of Hamilton.

Hamilton was gutted, asking his team on team radio what happened and whether he had made a mistake. His team responded that they thought they were safe but “there’s obviously something wrong”.

Vettel and Hamilton traded fastest laps, with Hamilton keeping himself within one second to give him access to the DRS, but he struggled to find a way past.

Further back, Ricciardo, who had started eighth after a three-place grid penalty, pulled off a brilliant pass on Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg to begin his recovery drive. The Australian came from miles back, going deep on the brakes into Turn 13 to make the pass stick.

As the two Haas drivers retired and his team mate Max Verstappen survived a 360-degree spin, he soon found himself fourth and heaping the pressure on Raikkonen, with the chance of becoming the first Australian to score a podium on home soil within touching distance.

Up front, it was nip and tuck between Vettel and Hamilton. The reigning world champion asked his team: “Can I push yet? You know how much you want it. Come on. I’m going for it”.

Hamilton put the hammer down, closing to within half a second, but he had a lock-up into T9, running wide and dropping back to 2.9s from Vettel, who then controlled things to the chequered flag.

McLaren kicked off their season strongly, with Fernando Alonso’s fine fifth the team’s best result since the 2016 United States Grand Prix and earning him the driver of the day award, with team mate Stoffel Vandoorne ninth.

Verstappen crossed the line sixth, with Hulkenberg seventh and Valtteri Bottas, who started from 15th after crashing his Mercedes in qualifying, eighth. Carlos Sainz completed the top 10 in the second Renault.

Force India finished just outside of the points with Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon 11th and 12th respectively, with Charles Leclerc impressing on his debut with 13th for Sauber. Williams’ Lance Stroll and Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley completed the finishers.

Sergey Sirotkin became 2018’s first retirement, following brake failure, while Pierre Gasly’s Honda engine expired to put the Toro Rosso driver out. Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber failed to finish, too, after he encountered a power steering problem.

Cla Driver Chassis Engine Time/Gap
1 germany Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari 1h29:33.283
2 united_kingdom Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 5.036
3 finland Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari 6.309
4 australia Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull TAG 7.069
5 spain Fernando Alonso McLaren Renault 27.886
6 netherlands Max Verstappen Red Bull TAG 28.945
7 germany Nico Hulkenberg Renault Renault 32.671
8 finland Valtteri Bottas Mercedes Mercedes 34.339
9 belgium Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Renault 34.921
10 spain Carlos Sainz Jr. Renault Renault 45.722
11 mexico Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 46.817
12 france Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes 1’00.278
13 monaco Charles Leclerc Sauber Ferrari 1’15.759
14 canada Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 1’18.288
15 new_zealand Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso Honda 1 lap
16 france Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 34 laps
17 denmark Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 36 laps
18 france Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso Honda 45 laps
19 sweden Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 53 laps
20 russia Sergey Sirotkin Williams Mercedes 54 laps

Source : F1

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