Sebastian Vettel secured victory in the opening round of the 2017 Formula 1 season in Australia as he jumped Lewis Hamilton in the pits and never looked back thereafter for his first win since 2015.
For the first time in the hybrid era, Scuderia Ferrari lead the championship, with Vettel ultimately taking victory by 9.975 seconds from Hamilton, who seemed to lose the race after pitting earlier than the German.
Hamilton led away from the start but Vettel did not let him get away, and when the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver pitted on lap eighteen, the German stayed out on track. Whereas Vettel had a clear track and blue flags when it came to backmarkers, Hamilton did not have it as easy, and found himself losing time as he got stuck behind Max Verstappen, who had yet to stop his Red Bull Racing RB13 at that point.
Vettel eventually made his pit stop and came out ahead of both Verstappen and more importantly Hamilton, and was able to pull away and manage the gap thereafter.
Hamilton was forced to manage his own race as he saw team-mate Valtteri Bottas significantly close the gap towards the end of the race, but the Finn came up 1.275 seconds shy at the chequered flag, but it still meant a podium finish on his first appearance with his new team after replacing Nico Rosberg.
The fight for points
Kimi Raikkonen had a relatively quiet race in the second Ferrari, finishing 22.393 seconds behind his team-mate, with the Finn setting the fastest lap of the race as Pirelli’s new 2017 tyres enabled drivers to push throughout their stints, while Verstappen went for a different compound on his pit stop but could only manage fifth, a further 6.434 seconds back after a slow final lap.
Felipe Massa was the final driver to finish on the lead lap for Williams Martini Racing, the Brazilian making a good start to run sixth, a position he would hold until the end of the race without challenging those in front of him or being pushed from behind.
Sergio Perez secured seventh for the Sahara Force India F1 Team ahead of the two Scuderia Toro Rosso drivers, Carlos Sainz Jr ahead of Daniil Kvyat, however the latter was forced to make an additional pit stop late in the day whilst challenging Perez to have his air system on his STR12 refilled that dropped him behind his team-mate.
The second Force India of Esteban Ocon finished tenth, with the Frenchman claiming his first point in Formula 1 as a result, just ahead of Nico Hülkenberg, who could only finish eleventh for the Renault Sport Formula 1 Team.
Antonio Giovinazzi ended up two laps down on his Formula 1 debut with the Sauber F1 Team following his late call up on Saturday morning to replace Pascal Wehrlein, while Stoffel Vandoorne was the final finisher for the McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team despite running for much of the race without his dashboard working. The positive for McLaren however will be that a full race distance was run, meaning they can work with the data to improve the car going forward.
Alonso shows fight before retirement
Vandoorne’s McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso ran just inside the points in tenth for the majority of the afternoon, but the Spaniard found himself passed by both Ocon and Hülkenberg in one move down the start and finish straight to drop to twelfth, before he pulled into the pits to retire with just a handful of laps to go with a suspected suspension issue after he complained that the car was pulling to the left.
Kevin Magnussen found himself pitting on the opening lap with damage after a coming together with Marcus Ericsson at turn three that saw both drivers in the gravel trap, but the Haas F1 Team driver trailed at the back thereafter before he retired with a suspension issue.
Lance Stroll’s debut race started with a lock-up into turn one that resulted in an earlier than planned first pit stop, but the Canadian showed good pace thereafter until a braking issue saw him run off track at turn thirteen before he returned to the pits with a brake disc failure.
Ericsson’s run also came to an early end, even after somehow getting out of the gravel trap on the opening lap. The Swede appeared to have an issue on his Sauber, running far from the pace of team-mate Giovinazzi before he brought out the yellow flags as he stopped on track.
Home hero Ricciardo endures tough day
Daniel Ricciardo’s Sunday started badly and ended horribly in front of his home fans as a penalty for a gearbox penalty meant he was set to start from fifteenth on the grid but a sensor issue denied him even that. The Australian ground to a halt on his way to the grid, with his car being lifted onto a flatbed truck and returned to the pits where his mechanics worked hard to fix his car to get him out for the start.
Unfortunately, despite an aborted start giving them an extra few minutes, he was unable to take the start but joined the race two laps down. Ultimately though it was to no avail as an engine issue curtailed his afternoon completely, pulling off the track between turns three and four.
Unfortunately for Jolyon Palmer, his torrid weekend continued into race day, with the Briton complaining heavily about his breaks locking on a number of occasions before finally his Renault team brought him into the pits to retire, probably on safety grounds, but after mechanical issues and a crash on Friday and a difficult qualifying session on Saturday, it was a weekend to forget for Palmer.
Romain Grosjean’s promising weekend came to a premature end when his Haas car suffered a suspected engine failure, with the Frenchman, who had lost a position at the start to Massa, retiring in the pits for the season’s first retirement.
Albert Park Race Result
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