Australian GP: Vettel beats Hamilton with strategy call

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Australian GP: Vettel beats Hamilton with strategy call
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Mar 25, 2018, 6:51 AM

Sebastian Vettel took advantage of a mid-race safety car to steal victory from Lewis Hamilton in the 2018 Formula 1 season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG F1 W09 EQ Power+ leads at the start of the race
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF71H
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG F1 W09 EQ Power+ leads at the start of the race
Carlos Sainz Jr., Renault Sport F1 Team R.S. 18
Fernando Alonso, McLaren MCL33 Renault, Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL33 Renault
Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG F1 W09, Marcus Ericsson, Sauber C37 Ferrari, Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso STR13 Honda, anDrivers Charles Leclerc, Sauber C37 Ferrari
Fernando Alonso, McLaren MCL33 Renault, Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL33 Renault
Romain Grosjean, Haas F1 Team VF-18 Ferrari, Nico Hulkenberg, Renault Sport F1 Team R.S. 18, in the pit lane
Nico Hulkenberg, Renault Sport F1 Team R.S. 18, Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing RB14 Tag Heuer, and Carlos Sainz Jr., Renault Sport F1 Team R.S. 18
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W09, makes a pit stop
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB14 spins
Kevin Magnussen, Haas F1 Team VF-18 Ferrari, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB14 Tag Heuer, and Romain Grosjean, Haas F1 Team VF-18 Ferrari
Kevin Magnussen, Haas F1 Team VF-18 Ferrari, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB14 Tag Heuer, and Romain Grosjean, Haas F1 Team VF-18 Ferrari
Fernando Alonso, McLaren MCL33 Renault, leads Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL33 Renault, Sergio Perez, Force India VJM11 Mercedes, and Lance Stroll, Williams FW41 Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W09, leads Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari SF71H, and Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF71H
Kevin Magnussen, Haas F1 Team VF-18 as Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB14 spins

The Ferrari driver was third in the opening stint but ran longer than his teammate Kimi Raikkonen and early leader Hamilton and benefitted hugely from a caution period just before he was due to pit.

Vettel managed Hamilton's recovery with ease, aided by his fellow four-time champion running off-track in pursuit, to win by 5.9s as Raikkonen completed a double Ferrari podium in third.

Hamilton kept the lead at the start and rebuffed an attack from Raikkonen at Turn 3 before settling into a comfortable lead that stood at more than three seconds, as Vettel kept a watching brief in the second Ferrari.

Kevin Magnussen's move around the outside of Turn 1 to jump Max Verstappen gave the front three chance to break clear, and the race was descending into a procession as the first stint developed.

Verstappen's Red Bull looked erratic behind the Haas and he complained of overheating rears, which manifested itself in dramatic fashion with a spun at Turn 1 that dropped Verstappen to eighth.

The only other movement before the pitstops was Carlos Sainz running wide at Turn 9 in his Renault and allowing Fernando Alonso's McLaren into ninth, but the race was turned on its head by the two Haas pitstops.

Magnussen pulled up at Turn 3 after his left rear wheel was not correctly fitted, and teammate Grosjean suffered a similar fate just a lap later when a problem on his front left led to the Frenchman pulling over on the left-hand side on the exit of Turn 1 immediately.

That triggered a virtual safety car, which was a blessing to Ferrari as it had used its two-against-one advantage over Mercedes to good effect, bringing in Raikkonen early so Hamilton had to stop one lap later to protect against the Ferrari's fresh-tyre advantage.

Vettel stayed out several laps longer and, with the virtual safety car deployed, he was able to pit while the rest circulated slowly and emerge just ahead of Hamilton, turning a nine-second deficit into the race lead.

A real safety car soon replaced its virtual equivalent and the race remained neutralised until lap 32, giving Hamilton 26 laps to overhaul Vettel.

Hamilton stayed around a second behind Vettel for a lot of that time, then started a serious push with a dozen laps remaining but locked up at the Turn 9 right-hander and skated over the grass.

That dropped him back to almost three seconds behind and though he briefly got back within DRS range with five laps to go he complained of overheating rears and slipped back again.

Raikkonen kept a charging Daniel Ricciardo at bay to finish third, while the other big winner from the mid-race safety car, Alonso claimed fifth despite immense pressure from Verstappen.

Nico Hulkenberg had a quiet run to seventh place for Renault, while Valtteri Bottas's unspectacular recovery from 15th was boosted by the safety car and he took eighth from another beneficiary, Stoffel Vandoorne, with a nice move at Turn 3 on the restart.

The final point of the season opener went to Sainz in the second Renault despite claiming of nausea in the final third of the race.

As well as the race-changing Haas failures, three other teams lost a car over the course of the opening grand prix.

Williams rookie Sergey Sirotkin was the first retirement of the season after suffering what appeared to be a brake problem on lap six, while Marcus Ericsson brought his power steering-less Sauber into the pits on lap 14 and Pierre Gasly failed to finish after an apparent Honda engine problem in his Toro Rosso.

ClaDriverChassisEngineTime/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
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About this article

Series Formula 1
Event Australian GP
Location Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit
Author Scott Mitchell
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