Valtteri Bottas enjoyed an impeccable race at Melbourne, starting his season with 26 points after also recording the fastest lap of the race. Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen finished in distant 2nd and 3rd places.
Ahead of the start, a fitting minute of silence was held to remember Charlie Whiting, who had passed away on Tuesday at Melbourne.
When the lights went out to kick off the 2019 F1 season, Bottas enjoyed a really strong start from second on the grid to take the lead of the Grand Prix, taking it away from Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton.
Behind the Silver Arrows, Leclerc got ahead of Verstappen before the first corner, but then got squeezed by Vettel, had two wheels on the grass and dropped back behind the Red Bull.
Everyone starting on soft tyres apart from Gasly, Stroll, Giovinazzi, Kvyat and Russell on medium. Kubica starts on hard: the only driver to do so.— Pirelli Motorsport (@pirellisport) March 17, 2019
The start immediatly brought trouble for home driver Daniel Ricciardo. With two wheels on the grass, he encountered a dip in the surface that broke the front wing of his Renault, immediately relegating him to the back of the field after his pitstop. Kubica also had to pit for the new front wing, and got out ahead of Ricciardo, only to get passed by the Australian a few laps later on.
On lap 13, Hulkenberg is the first to make a regular pitstop, soon followed by Vettel the next lap, along with Magnussen and Albon. Hamilton would do so another lap later.
By that time, Carlos Sainz's race was already over, as on lap 11, he had to park his McLaren in the pitlane after the Renault engine had started to throw white smoke.
As Vettel eaked out some of his disadvantage on Hamilton after the pitstops with some solid laps, Bottas went on with the soft tyres to still be faster than anyone else. In fact, his team told him to just stay out and do a few more laps because of exactly that.
While the top three continued longer than expected on the softs, the trio of Stroll, Kvyat and Gasly also slowly moved up into the rankings as the others pitted. All three had started on the medium tyres and were 6th, 7th and 8th by lap 22.
On lap 24, the race leader pitted to change for medium tyres, returning to the track in second place, 7s behind Verstappen, and 4 ahead of Lerclerc.
2 laps later, Norris had eventually found a way past Giovinazzi, who by then had formed a 5-car train behind him. Struggling ever more, but having been asked to extend his first stint, he held back Grosjean and Albon as well. And even though Norris managed to make the pass eventually, it was too late, as Kvyat by then had just pitted, and still exited well ahead of Norris, even though he was largely behind in the earlier parts of the race. the same happened with Stroll, who changed to hard tyres one lap later, and rejoined in 10th.
At the front, Verstappen was pressuring Vettel and immediately made his first passing attempt stick on lap 31, clearly thanks to better grip and the strong DRS effect. This forced Vettel into a 1m30, 3 seconds slower than Leclerc behind him.
Gasly at the time was 6th, still running on his tyres from the beginning.
Meanwhile, Grosjean retired with the front left wheel coming off of his car. It was the one that had caused trouble during his earlier pitstop, and apparently, the wheel had not been fitted well at all. At the same time, Ricciardo had pulled into the pitlane to retire, starting his term at Renault in the same way as he finished at Red Bull Racing.
By lap 48, 10 laps from the end, Bottas was leading 24s over Hamilton, and putting in an extremely impressive display. Hamilton on the other hand is just trying to keep it clean to keep Verstappen at bay. Vettel followed at 13s of the Red Bull while Leclerc in 5th closed into Vettel by 1s a lap, probably thanks to using the hard tyres, compared to the even older mediums on Vettel.
Verstappen is later seen going through the gravel on Turn 1, only to follow it up by a few fastest laps to get back behind Hamilton.
Chasing the additional point for fastest lap, Bottas gives it a go on the penultimate lap and records 1m25.580, a lap that went unchallenged by his rivals.
Neither Ferrari is on the podium today, with Vettel taking 4th after Leclerc was clearly told not to attempt to make a pass on the German. Team orders in the first race of the year.
|3||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Honda||58||+22.520s||15|
|6||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||58||+87.156s||8|
|7||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Renault||57||+1 lap||6|
|8||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||57||+1 lap||4|
|9||18||Lance Stroll||Racing Point Bwt Mercedes||57||+1 lap||2|
|10||26||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||57||+1 lap||1|
|11||10||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull Racing Honda||57||+1 lap||0|
|12||4||Lando Norris||McLaren Renault||57||+1 lap||0|
|13||11||Sergio Perez||Racing Point Bwt Mercedes||57||+1 lap||0|
|14||23||Alexander Albon||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||57||+1 lap||0|
|15||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||57||+1 lap||0|
|16||63||George Russell||Williams Mercedes||56||+2 laps||0|
|17||88||Robert Kubica||Williams Mercedes||55||+3 laps||0|
|NC||8||Romain Grosjean||Haas Ferrari||29||DNF||0|
|NC||55||Carlos Sainz||McLaren Renault||9||DNF||0|