It was the first podium for Ferrari since Fernando Alonso finished second in last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix and it was Vettel’s first since a third place in Japan, also in 2014.
Melbourne – “Forza Ferrari!:” the Italian accent might still need some work, but this was Sebastian Vettel’s happy radio message to the team on his slowing down lap, as he made it to the podium in his debut race for the Prancing Horse. It was the Scuderia’s first podium since Fernando Alonso finished second in last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix and it was Vettel’s first since a third place in Japan, also in 2014.
The season started with a Safety Car, as Maldonado’s Lotus spun and crashed at Turn 2 on the opening lap, leaving plenty of debris to deal with. By then we had already lost Magnussen and Kvyat who had problems on the way to the grid and, of course the two Manor cars were not there either.
The Mercedes duo led off the front row, followed by Massa in the Williams. Kimi and Sebastian were behind the lead trio, but the Finn’s Ferrari found itself trapped behind Massa and dropped to eighth.
Once the Safety Car came in, Vettel managed his race to the end and thanks to a well planned strategy, he was able to get ahead of Massa at his pit stop on lap 24.
Kimi’s race was complicated by a problem with the left rear wheel, during his pit stop on lap 16. Trying to make up for lost time, he put in several fastest lap after fastest lap, passing Verstappen on lap 27, he was fifth and set off in pursuit of Massa. Unfortunately, there was a problem at his second pit stop, again with the left rear, which resulted in the Finn having to park his SF-15T at the side of the track.
Sebastian Vettel’s third place is a great reward for all the hard work over the winter and a great incentive to learn lessons from the weekend and mount an even stronger challenge in a fortnight’s time in the heat of Malaysia.
Maurizio Arrivabene: “I’m only half happy today, because the real joy comes when you win. I am happy about the podium and for Seb, but above all I am pleased for the team, because this is a good starting point, although it’s definitely not the end of the road. I am sorry for Kimi, because everyone could see how strong he was in the race. But at the second pit stop, there was a problem with a wheelnut on which the threads had already been crossed during the first one.
We realised there was a possible problem and we decided to stop the car immediately, because safety is the number one priority. Looking to Malaysia, we will keep our feet on the ground, because the Albert Park is a rather unusual track. If the second Williams had also been racing today,there would have been a clearer picture of the opposition we face. But now we have realised we can do well, we must begin to stop thinking about being “second best” and start aiming higher.”
Kimi Raikkonen: “Shortly after the start, someone hit me from behind. Then I felt another contact on my right side, but I don’t think it was Sebastian’s car. The impact activated the anti-stall system and did some damage to the floor of the car. We were very quick in the race, able to catch the Williams and to fight for the podium: but then there were problems at both pit stops. I don’t know exactly what happened, but I know I lost something in terms of downforce. However, my team-mate’s podium is a great result for the team. Already in qualifying, despite my mistake on the quick lap, we knew we had a good car. And in the race, the gap to the Mercedes seemed less than on Saturday. It’s simply that, today, everything happened to me.”
Sebastian Vettel: “They did not play the Italian anthem on the podium, but we can be very pleased with this weekend. It’s a shame that a small mistake prevented Kimi from finishing the race but, in general, it was a very “clean” weekend. The most important thing is we have a good car, a real platform from which to carry on working. So thank you and congratulations also to the people who have worked hard in Maranello, as well as those here in Australia. Without them, this result would not have been possible. The start was not the best, there was too much wheelspin and when I tried to hold the inside line, my tyres were still too cold. We had a great race strategy, which allowed us to jump the Williams, which had a good top speed, at our one pit stop.
Now we must confirm our performance in the coming races and then, one step at a time, let’s hope we can begin to close on the Mercedes. The gap is still big, but of all the teams, I think ours is the one that has improved the most over the winter. For a long time, I’ve dreamed of driving for Ferrari and it’s happened at the right time. I drank the champagne on the podium and I kept some for the guys in the team, because they told me they like it a lot… Thanks also to the fans. We have a great car, not just for qualifying but also for the race. Let’s hope we can get on the podium again and maybe even get a few wins!”