Ferrari has scored a double podium at the 2018 Formula 1 season opener, the Australian GP. Vettel won the race from Hamilton and Raikkonen in what was an intense battle to the chequered flag. Hamilton started from P1 but strategy worked in favor of Vettel who pitted under the VSC and emerging in the lead. At the time, Hamilton and Raikkonen were in the lead.
The results were: 1 Vettel; 2 Hamilton; 3 Raikkonen; 4 Ricciardo; 5 Alonso; 6 Verstappen; 7 Hulkenberg; 8 Bottas; 9 Vandoorne; 10 Sainz; 11 Perez; 12 Ocon; 13 Leclerc; 14 Stroll and 15 Hartley.
The 2018 Australian Grand Prix kicked off smoothly with Hamilton leading Raikkonen, the Mercedes driver began by setting a new fastest time. Trouble came immediately for both newcomer Sirotkin and Ericsson who retired after the start with technical issues.
More drama came on lap 11 when Verstappen did a full 360 spin, and was passed by Grosjean, Ricciardo and Hulkenberg. Luckily for the Dutchman, he ended up pointing in the right direction of the race.
Raikkonen was the first to stop among the leaders, on lap 19 when he picked up softs and returned ahead of Magnussen. Hamilton was called in almost immediately and switched into softs before rejoining the race ahead of Raikkonen. New race leader Vettel was still on ultrasofts.
…And Hamilton follows suit one lap later
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 25, 2018
Verstappen also made his stop and ditched his supersofts for softs, Vettel on the other hand was urged to stay out. First trouble for Sainz hit when he locked up at turn 9 and drove into the gravel, allowing Alonso to pass into 9th. After a good race, Magnussen parked his Haas immediately after his pit stop owing it to a suspension failure.
But his teammate Grosjean was not lucky either, after pitting on lap 25 the Haas also stopped. It was a double disaster for the Haas team and the VSC was called out to help clear Grosjean’s car. Vettel, Vandoorne, Bottas and Stroll all stopped under the safety car and for Vettel, the German rejoined in the lead!
— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) March 25, 2018
Mercedes was no longer in the lead as that VSC played out in favor of Ferrari. “What just happened guys? Was that my mistake?” asked Hamilton who was clearly confused after Vettel emerged in the lead. “We thought we were safe, but there’s obviously something wrong” said Mercedes. The new order was 1 Vettel; 2 Hamilton; 3 Raikkonen; 4 Ricciardo; 5 Verstappen; 6 Alonso; 7 Hulkenberg; 8 Vandoorne; 9 Bottas; 10 Sainz. The retirements comprised of Grosjean, Magnussen, Gasly, Ericsson and Sirotkin.
The full safety car was now in play as the marshalls struggled to remove Grosjean’s car. The safety car ended on lap 32 and Vettel managed to hold his lead over Hamilton thanks to strategy. Things got worse for Haas after The FIA decided to investigate unsafe releases for both Grosjean and Magnussen, the two retirements were caused by poor pitstop and loose wheel.
We're back to green in Melbourne, and Vettel hits a milestone
He's now only the third driver in history to lead 3000 laps in his career
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 25, 2018
Hamilton was asked to coast his engine as it was running too hot, he responded by saying he needed to push to the limit and pointed out that there was liquid coming out of Vettel’s car. The battle behind was between Ricciardo and Raikkonen, the Red Bull driver was eyeing for a P3 finish in order to become the first Australian to finish on the podium on home soil.
Vettel was warned that Hamilton had DRS on lap 42, the gap was down to 0.9s.
— Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) March 25, 2018
Hamilton locked up at turn 9 and lost 2s to the Ferrari after setting a new fastest lap of the race. “I’m struggling with my stomach,” Sainz told Renault. “I’ve got a lot of nausea from the water.” Meanwhile, 8 laps were left in the race at it appeared as if Vettel had everything in control despite Hamilton setting another fastest lap.
In the final five laps, Hamilton reduced his pace significantly, Vettel’s lead was up to 5s in the last lap. The Ferrari man took P1 ahead of Hamilton while Raikkonen made it a double podium for Ferrari.