Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas dominated the 2019 Australian Grand Prix as the lights green for the Formula 1 season. Bottas edged past teammate Lewis Hamilton to secure his first win of the season and his first since the 2017 Abu Dhabi GP, with the Briton coming in second by a distant 20.886s over the race leader. Taking the final spot on the podium was Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen with the new Honda engine, marking the manufacturer’s first podium finish since the 2008 British GP. In a surprise twist Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finished fourth at the end of the race with newbie Charles Leclerc coming in fifth.
It was a front row lockout for Mercedes after a dominant qualifying with Hamilton on pole. The driver thought lost the advantage after a slow start while Bottas used this opportunity to slide into the lead at Turn 1 of the Australian GP. Bottas was pretty much unnerved since and retained the pace and position at the top, despite facing heat from Vettel and Verstappen through the race. The driver was also backed by Mercedes to the top, with Hamilton pushed to an inferior strategy as Vettel made for an early pitstop. With a fresh tyre advantage, Hamilton defended his teammate and pitted on Lap 15, a lap after the German as he switched to mediums for the remainder of the 58 lap race.
Meanwhile, Bottas was running on soft tyres which allowed him to stay out longer along with Verstappen and Leclerc. The move paid off well as Bottas entered the pits only eight laps later and was able to build the gap over his rivals. The result was astounding victory for the driver after an underwhelming 2008 F1 season.
While the top two spots were undisputed, there was a duel for the third place. Verstappen build the pressure on Vettel and passed the Ferrari comfortably on Lap 31 as the latter was pushed down the order. The Red Bull driver then went on to attack Hamilton for P2 but remained over a second behind the W10. Verstappen also set the fastest time soon after, only to be thwarted by Bottas’ fastest time on the penultimate lap that earned him an extra point.
It wasa mixed bag for Scuderia Ferrari as the young Leclerc managed to finish fourth in after slipping down further, but recovered to complete the race just ahead of his new teammate. The performance from the Italian team does come as a shock after the promising pre-season testing. Coming in sixth was Kevin Magnussen of Haas, albeit in a lonely finish, while Nice Hulkenberg from Renault finished seventh leading a five car pack in the final stages. Up next was Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen taking eighth while Lance Stroll took ninth place for Racing Point, both drivers taking points for the newly named teams. The last point was taken by Daniil Kvyat making his Formula 1 comeback with Torro Rosso.
Teammate Pierre Gasly finished 11th after started at nearly the end of the grid, and was followed by McLaren’s Lando Norris and Racing Point’s Sergio Perez at P12 and P13 respectively. Norris had a good running during qualifying but couldn’t manage to keep the pace on race day. Rookie Alex Albon of Torro Rosso finished 14th ahead of Antonio Giovinazzi of Alfa Romeo, while the bottom finishers were the Williams crew of George Russell and Robert Kubica. The opening race of the season also saw three retirements including Carlos Sainz Jr. from McLaren, Daniel Ricciardo of Renault and and Romain Grosjean of Haas.
With 26 points to his name, Valtteri Bottas leads the championship standings for 2019 F1 followed by Hamilton. It needs to be seen now if the other teams will actually be a threat to the Silverstone-based team for the rest of the season.