Ferrari to the fore in Melbourne
- Formula 1 2018 season underway
- Ferrari, Mercedes & Red Bull set early season pace
- Hamilton & Vettel chase fifth world championship
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel claimed the opening victory of the F1 season in the Australian Grand Prix 2018 after a faultless drive and a decent slice of luck along the way.
The arrival of the Australian Grand Prix signals the end of a long winter away from Formula 1, marking the return of the teams and drivers to the international F1 merry-go-round and bringing with it all the unpredictability and excitement of the new campaign.
Melbourne provides a suitably colourful and atmospheric stage for the first race of the season and thousands of fans lined the Albert Park circuit to see the action unfold throughout an eventful weekend.
Australian Grand Prix pole position for Hamilton
Amid the nervous excitement around the uncertainty of the overall pace of each team’s new 2018 car, Lewis Hamilton duly stamped his authority on the qualifying session. It had been nip and tuck between Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull in the first two qualifying sessions, which also saw Valtteri Bottas put his Mercedes into the barrier in a shower of carbon fibre.
Q3 was an eagerly awaited top ten shootout, but Hamilton appeared to have plenty let in his box of Mercedes tricks, dialing the imperious Silver Arrow’s power train into ‘party mode’ before recording a phenomenal lap to claim the first pole position of the season by over 0.6 seconds from Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel in third.
Enigmatic talent Verstappen qualified behind the Ferrari’s, with a gap of just 0.7 seconds separating the top four cars on the grid; a good omen for a competitive season ahead.
Daniel Ricciardo secured 5th on the grid, ahead of Magnussen and Grosjean in the impressively quick new Haas, followed by the Renaults and McLarens.
Leading lights closely matched up front
Lewis Hamilton took control of the early stages of the Australian Grand Prix and the race got underway without incident as all 20 cars safely negotiated the start in Melbourne.
Kimi kept Lewis honest in the opening stint, maintaining a gap of only a few seconds to the leader and not letting Hamilton sail off serenely into the distance. Likewise, Vettel remained only a few seconds behind his team-mate in third despite struggling for grip on the ultra soft tyres in the dirty air of the other Ferrari.
Ferrari split the strategy of their two drivers, pitting Raikkonen early in an attempt to force the undercut – getting fresh tyres on first in order to put some quick laps in and overtake the car in front by the take it has made its pit stop.
Mercedes reacted and Hamilton made his stop on the following lap leaving Vettel, yet to stop, leading of the race and hoping for a safety car incident to give him the opportunity to make a quick stop and retain the lead.
Safety car sparks drama
The promising early performance of the Haas came to a sorry end for the American team, as first Magnussen and two laps later Grosjean both fell victim to a faulty wheel gun in the Haas garage and with a tyre not secured properly, both devastated drivers were forced to retire their cars, relinquishing what would have been a bumper points haul.
The stricken Haas of Grosjean triggered a virtual safety car on track, ensuring drivers are restricted to a slower lap time while track marshalls recovered the car and racing could resume.
Ferrari sensed their opportunity, pitting Vettel immediately and after a slick stop the Ferrari rejoined the track just in front of Hamilton’s Mercedes on the start/finish straight, retaining his lead of the Australian Grand Prix.
Hamilton give it his all in the closing stages, following Vettel closely but was unable to force an error from the German, who resisted the current world champion’s advances and went on to secure the opening race victory of the 2018 season.
A combination of tactical nous and a huge slice of good fortune for Ferrari secured the win for Vettel in Australia, with team-mate Kimi in third place.
Daniel Ricciardo battled hard in his Red Bull to claim fourth place at his home Grand Prix, with the McLaren of Fernando holding off the other Red Bull of Max Verstappen to take an excellent fifth position.
Hulkenberg, Bottas and Vandoorne rounded out the top 10 in Melbourne in what was a dramatic first race of the 2018 Formula 1 season.
Round 2: Bahrain
The teams head to deserts of Sakhir in Bahrain for the second race of the season for another exciting instalment of F1 where the teams again should be closely matched in what is usually an eventful night race in the Arabian Gulf.
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Australian GP 2018 Round-Up