Sebastian Vettel has confirmed Ferrari's strong pre-season pace by taking victory at the Australian Grand Prix, the inaugural race of the 2017 Formula One Championship. Lewis Hamilton finished second as Valtteri Bottas completed the podium in third.
At Red Bull Racing, the team opted to get Ricciardo started from the pits, opting against starting from 15th, which would have been his starting position. Even then, it turned out Red Bull weren't ready at all anyway, and Ricciardo was only sent on track when the race was more than a lap underway.
For the others, it became a delayed start as well, with the first one aborted due to yellow flags, requiring all to do another installation lap before being released. The actual start proved to be reasonably straight forward as well, despite new regulatory restrictions on the clutch that were meant to make it less predictable.
All got away cleanly, with Hamilton maintaining his pole advantage, followed by not a single position change in the top 8. Perez moved up into 9th ahead of Kvyat while Alonso gained a position to 11th.
The only incident at the start came at turn 3 where Ericsson was pushed off the track by Kevin Magnussen. The latter subsequently pitted to get new tyres, but other than that, no permanent harm was done to the cars.
As the laps passed by, Hamilton seemed to pull a small gap to Vettel from lap 5, but by lap 15, Hamilton saw Vettel come back, and replied "nothing left" when his race engineer asked him to pull a gap ahead of the pit stops. It soon triggered Hamilton's pitstop on lap 18, switching to softs and returning to the track in 5th, behind Verstappen.
By that time, Haas' Grosjean retired with a blown Ferrari engine while Palmer eventually retired as well, having repeatedly suffered power outages in several laps ahead of him pitting.
On lap 23, Vettel pitted and returned to the track just ahead of Verstappen. As Hamilton was still stuck behind the Dutchman, that changed the face of the race completely, and disheartened Hamilton who immediately seemed to lose of a bit of ground on Verstappen as well. Vettel meanwhile pushed hard
Meanwhile, Valtteri Bottas was still happily continuing on his ultra softs, until finally pitting on lap 25. Verstappen pitted the same lap, though he changed to supersofts. This put Raikkonen in the lead for a single lap until the Finn pitted as well, taking softs, just like his team mate did earlier on.
2 further laps later, Daniel Ricciardo parked his car, having been let with a car without power. The Australian sat in his car for at least another minute before eventually stepping out. As he jumped behind the fence, a short talk with the marshalls made him turn back and step back into his RB13 to aid the marshalls.
The subsequent race to the finish was stale, with Vettel having a sizeable advantage to Hamilton. In fact, Hamilton lost further time while his team mate managed to close in. Bottas at the time was obviously running tyres that were 8 laps newer. The Finn stopped getting closer when the gap was reduced to 3s, possibly opting against a fight following a - unconfirmed - team suggestion.
Behind them, Verstappen closed in to Raikkonen in the battle for 4th.
Further down, there wasn't really any competition at all, with Massa driving an anonymous race in 6th. Sergio Perez followed in a distant 7th place, followed by Kvyat and Sainz. Fernando Alonso continued in 10th, fending off Sebastian Ocon on the second Force India. Hulkenberg was in 12th after a second pitstop that put him on used ultra softs for the final laps. Giovinazzi, Vandoorne and Magnussen complete the field.
Lance Stroll meanwhile also retired following a brake failure. After a bit of a scare on track, he safely returned to the pits to hand his car back to the Williams mechanics.
5 laps from the end, there was some action eventually as Alonso had more and more issues to keep Ocon and Hulkenberg behind. It eventually became a three abreast fight on the straight, with Ocon getting the upper hand, and Alonso having no means to defend against two cars with DRS wide open. The Spaniard subsequently said his car seemed off - possibly the result of a minor touch from Ocon - and he retired the next lap.
At the front, nothing more changed, with Vettel taking a reasonably easy victory following Hamilton's early pitstop.
|5||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer||57||+28.827s||10|
|6||19||Felipe Massa||Williams Mercedes||57||+83.386s||8|
|7||11||Sergio Perez||Force India Mercedes||56||+1 lap||6|
|8||55||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso||56||+1 lap||4|
|9||26||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||56||+1 lap||2|
|10||31||Esteban Ocon||Force India Mercedes||56||+1 lap||1|
|11||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Renault||56||+1 lap||0|
|12||36||Antonio Giovinazzi||Sauber Ferrari||55||+2 laps||0|
|13||2||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren Honda||55||+2 laps||0|
|NC||14||Fernando Alonso||McLaren Honda||50||DNF||0|
|NC||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||46||DNF||0|
|NC||18||Lance Stroll||Williams Mercedes||40||DNF||0|
|NC||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer||25||DNF||0|
|NC||9||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber Ferrari||21||DNF||0|
|NC||8||Romain Grosjean||Haas Ferrari||13||DNF||0|