Ferrari’s 2018 Formula One campaign got off to a near-perfect start with 1st and 3rd places in the Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne.
Lewis Hamilton, starting from pole position in his Mercedes, led from the green light, and looked to have control of the race as Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel, the Ferrari pair, followed.
In the early stages the Ferrari’s looked beaten by the Mercedes, but things were about to change.
With this being a one-stop race, Ferrari opted to bring Raikkonen in early – on lap 18 – to give them a choice of strategies. As they expected, this prompted Mercedes to do the same for Hamilton, covering any chances of Raikkonen getting ahead on his out lap.
This left Vettel in front, but with a pit stop to do. Haas, the US team that is unofficially a Ferrari ‘b-team’, had both cars, for Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean, in the top six at this point. Both, however, made pit stops and returned to the track with unsecured wheels, a disaster that later earned them a large fine for unsafe releases.
As Grosjean’s car sat stranded by the trackside, the Virtual Safety Car (VSC) was enforced.
All Change up Front
During the VSC period, drivers have to race to a set lap time. Ferrari brought Vettel in for a tyre change, and – much to the surprise of Hamilton and Mercedes – the Ferrari emerged from the pits in front.
This prompted much chat from Hamilton, who wanted to know if he had made a mistake; the team responded that no, he hadn’t, they had somehow miscalculated and given the lead away.
No Way Past
Hamilton tried his best for the remaining laps to get by the Ferrari, but fond that running too close led to his engine running too hot. Albert Park is also very difficult to overtake on, and despite his best efforts, he opted to back off in the closing laps, secure 2nd place and preserve his engine.
Vettel took the flag for the win to much jubilation in the stands and the pit lane, with Hamilton behind and Raikkonen taking third place.
Fourth place went to local hero Daniel Ricciardo, for Red Bull, with 5th taken by a delighted Fernando Alonso in the McLaren, a massive improvement on last year’s efforts for them.
Max Verstappen brought the second Red Bull home in 6th, Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz gained points for Renault in 7th and 10th, while 8th and 9th positions went to Valtteri Bottas for Mercedes, and Stoffel Vandoorne in the McLaren.
The next race is in Bahrain, on April 8th, a race that Vettel and Ferrari won last season, and will be looking to add to their tally this year.
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