Ferrari’s Sebsatian Vettel takes first win of the season in Australia
By: S. Harding, Xiro Xone News March 25, 2018 Updated: 3:15 AM PT
MELBOURNE, Australia — Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel took his 48th career win at the 2018 Formula One Grand Prix season opener, at Albert Park in Melbourne, Australia.
When the race lights went out down under, pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton got off to a great start slightly ahead of the Ferrari's of, Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel. Vettel was third behind Mercedes driver Hamilton, while teammate Raikkonen remained in second.
Haas driver Romain Grosjean was forced to retire his car after leaving the pits with a loose wheel nut. This triggered a virtual safety car (VSC), which allowed Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel to pit. Fans were on the edge of their seats as Vettel emerged from the pit onto the track ahead of race leader, Lewis Hamilton.
Once Vettel took the lead, Hamilton was at a disadvantage due to turbulent air created from Vettel’s car, making it difficult for the four-time world champion to follow.
Hamilton made several attempts to apply pressure on Vettel, and even with the addition of a third DRS zone, it was not working. Combined with the fact that Hamilton was in dirty air, overtaking was no longer an option. Hamilton had no choice but to give up, and save his engine.
"The Safety Car helped of course, but apart from that, I think we did everything we could do as a team. So when something happened, we were ready to react. We did our job before the race, evaluating different scenarios, and then in the race we had the pace as well. Lewis was under pressure, he was fast, but not as much as he needed. As for me, I need a little bit more of confidence with the car, which is not where we want it to be yet. There is a lot of work to do, but it is great to have both cars on the podium today,” said Vettel after taking his third Australian Grand Prix victory.
Teammate Kimi Raikkonen, who made a hard push to challenge Hamilton at the start of the race, had a hard fight for third with Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo's eyes trained, on his gearbox. Australian Ricciardo had a strong drive at his home race after recovering from eighth, and receiving a three-spot grid penalty.
McLaren’s Fernando Alonso made an impressive fifth place finish after working his way up the field, and fending off Max Verstappen, the second Red Bull. Verstappen finished sixth after struggling with his car throughout the weekend, and going into a spin during the opening laps of the race.
Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg finished seventh ahead of Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas, who finished eighth, starting in 15th after receiving a penalty for a gearbox change.
Stoffel Vandoorne brought the second McLaren home in ninth, earning points for his team, and the second Renault driven by Carlos Sainz, finished tenth.
Sahara Force India got off to a rough start after both of their drivers failed to score points. Sergio Perez ended the day in 11th and Esteban Ocon in 12th. Rookie driver Charles Leclerc, making his Fornula 1 debut, was able to make the most of his day by finishing 13th, which made him Sauber's only driver to finish after teammate, Marcus Ericsson, was forced to retire.
Williams Lance Stroll finished 14th but lost his teammate after a stray plastic bag blocked the break cooling duct, on Sergey Sirotkin’s car causing it to overheat. The incident forced Sirotkin to retire very early in his, debut race.
Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley was the final car across the finish line at the Australian Grand Prix, coming in 15th. Hartley’s teammate Pierre Gasly, was forced to retire after the team discovered an issue with his power unit. Toro Rosso preformed exceptionally well in preseason testing. As they start the season running the Honda Power unit, expectation is high.
The American team, Haas, ended the day with a double retirement after Kevin Magnussen, like teammate Romain Grosjean, was forced to retire following the discovery of a lose wheel, shortly after pitting. This ended what could have been the team’s best results as they enter their third year in the Formula One racing. But both drivers remain optimistic of what they saw from their performance. “It’s a very tough one to swallow for the whole team. To have both cars not finishing – having been in such good positions and with so much anticipation – it’s just heartbreaking to finish like that. We’ll get on top again. We’ll fight back,” said Magnussen.
“We’ll come back stronger as we always do. It’s a lot of points lost today, but if we can repeat that performance over and over, we’re going to forget this very quickly,” said Grosjean.
Round two of the 2018 Formula One season continues in Bahrain April 6-8.