F1 Australian GP: Vettel proves Ferrari’s title challenge is legitimate

 

  The season opening race of the Formula 1 World Championships in Melbourne witnessed a very early season ‘sound-off’ by Ferrari to snatch the titles from rivals Mercedes-AMG F1 Team. Sebastien Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen were first and third at the Australian Grand Prix, while Lewis Hamilton and colleague Valtteri Bottas, second and eighth.

Starting from third on the grid, Vettel made the most of the Safety Car period to pop out of pit lane ahead of Hamilton. The Ferraris sprinted from the starting line in second and third, with Raikkonen and Vettel right behind Hamilton. As was all past Australian GP race, the positions early on didn’t change much, eventhough there were three DRS zones (first time in F1).

Raikkonen held firm in second to gun down the race leader and Vettel posted a fastest lap. After the first stint, it was time for the stops; at the end of lap 18, Raikkonen pitted as planned, with the mechanics staying put until the very last moment. Hamilton pitted from the race lead and the race lead was assumed by Vettel. The lead Ferrari’s stop came at the end of lap 26, at the same time as the Virtual Safety Car was engaged, after Romain Grosjean’s Haas stopped out on the track.

Following his quick stop, Vettel took opportunity of the DRS zone and emerged ahead of the lead Mercedes. It wasn’t mid-distance of the race yet, but the advantage went to Vettel after that brilliant move. Another safety car period put everyone right up tight to one another. As soon as the safety car disappear, Vettel held firm and set the fastest lap on lap 34. Behind Hamilton was Raikkonen who was pursued hard by Daniel Ricciardo. Another fastest lap for Vettel on lap 45, although Hamilton tried to put up a couple of fast laps. The gap was almost 2 seconds.

In the final laps, Vettel was all clear as the grid settled. Vettel pulled out a bit of an advantage, while Raikkonen had a gap of just under two seconds to manage, but then closed on Hamilton who had lost his rhythm. The last lap was a heart-stopper but it finished with a first and a third place. Hamilton boarded the podium finishers with his second place, and Ricciardo ended up fourth, just ahead of a more competitive McLaren of Fernando Alonso and his team mate Max Verstappen.

Nico Hulkenberg brought some much needed points for Renault with a seventh, while Bottas struggled to an eighth place finish. The second McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne managed to bump the Renault of Carlos Sainz for ninth spot.

Ferrari now leads both standings on 25 and 37 points respectively.

2018 Formula 1 Australian GP results

1 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 58 1:29:33.283 25
2 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 58 +5.036s 18
3 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 58 +6.309s 15
4 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 58 +7.069s 12
5 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN RENAULT 58 +27.886s 10
6 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 58 +28.945s 8
7 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 58 +32.671s 6
8 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 58 +34.339s 4
9 2 Stoffel Vandoorne MCLAREN RENAULT 58 +34.921s 2
10 55 Carlos Sainz RENAULT 58 +45.722s

Drivers standings
1 Sebastian Vettel GER FERRARI 25
2 Lewis Hamilton GBR MERCEDES 18
3 Kimi Räikkönen FIN FERRARI 15
4 Daniel Ricciardo AUS RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 12
5 Fernando Alonso ESP MCLAREN RENAULT 10
6 Max Verstappen NED RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 8
7 Nico Hulkenberg GER RENAULT 6
8 Valtteri Bottas FIN MERCEDES 4
9 Stoffel Vandoorne BEL MCLAREN RENAULT 2
10 Carlos Sainz ESP RENAULT 1

Constructors rankings
1 FERRARI 40
2 MERCEDES 22
3 RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 20
4 MCLAREN RENAULT 12
5 RENAULT 7