Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel at the 2018 Formula 1 Australian Grand PrixEnlarge Photo
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel on Sunday took home the first win of the 2018 Formula 1 World Championship after a bit of luck and some cunning strategy at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. It was Vettel's 100th podium, a feat only achieved by Michael Schumacher, Alain Prost and current Mercedes-AMG driver Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton finished the race in second, 5.036 seconds behind Vettel, while Vettel's teammate Kimi Räikkönen finished in third, 6.309 seconds back.
The race started with Hamilton on pole and in the lead until his first pit stop, when Vettel, who was yet to pit, took over the lead spot. But on lap 26, Haas driver Romain Grosjean crashed due to a wheel issue. The crash brought out the virtual safety car, which requires drivers to slow down to a set speed. Ferrari immediately sent Vettel into the pits, and as luck would have it the German was still in the lead upon exiting since Hamilton was kept at bay by the virtual safety car.
Normally, teams take into account the possibility of a safety or virtual safety car in calculating the necessary gap a lead driver requires to remain in the lead. Mercedes thought Hamilton's gap with Vettel was sufficient but it turns out the team had made a miscalculation. Mercedes later blamed a software issue.
Hamilton chased Vettel hard and closed the gap to within half a second but then suffered a lock-up and ran wide close to the end, with the gap stretching to 2.9 seconds. He then slowed down and Vettel controlled the race from there.
2018 Formula 1 Australian Grand PrixEnlarge Photo
It wasn't just Hamilton that suffered on the day. Grosjean had been running fifth when he crashed. And the same issue plagued fellow Haas driver Keven Magnussen who was running fourth when he had to retire. Hamilton's teammate Valtteri Bottas aslo could only muster 8th position after start further down the grid due to a crash in qualifying.
As for Räikkönen, he had to fend off Red Bull Racing's Daniel Ricciardo for third. There was just 0.7 seconds separating them by the finish line.
It's still too early to have a clear picture of the relative competitiveness of the cars from Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull, but the strong performance of the three teams at the Australian Grand Prix bodes well for the rest of the season. With any luck, we'll be in for a three-way fight between them.
Thanks to his win, Vettel leads the 2018 Drivers' Championship with 25 points. Hamilton is second with 18 points and Räikkönen third with 15 points. In the Constructors' Championship, Ferrari leads with 40 points versus the 22 of Mercedes and 20 of Red Bull. The next race on the calendar is the Bahrain Grand Prix in a fortnight.
Hit the next page for the full results from the 2018 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix.