Valtteri Bottas heard all the offseason noise. It was loud and clear to him. That’s why there was so much emotion out of him when he crossed the finish line first in Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix. Bottas, got by his teammate, Lewis Hamilton, on the initial launch and took the lead by time they got to the first turn on the opening lap.
From there, Bottas dominated the rest of the way in scoring max points (26) with also setting the fastest lap of the day in taking the win in dominating fashion. It was the Finland natives first win since the 2017 season finale in Abu Dhabi. That in turn spoke volumes because following a winless campaign in 2018 and seeing his teammate win 11 times including the overall championship, it showed that Bottas still had some work to do.
When the team signed Esteban Ocon and Stoffel Vandoorne as reserve drivers this offseason, the message was sent. This was a career defining year for Bottas. If he falters again, he’s likely out of a seat with Formula One’s top team in 2020. In turn, what ride is he going to get that’s better? Since 2013, Mercedes has now won 75 of the 101 races run, counting Sunday’s. If you can’t win in this era, how can you?
Well, Bottas had the drive of his life and silenced all those doubters in taking his No. 77 Mercedes to victory for the fourth time of his F1 career. It was also just his second career podium in seven career tries on the Melbourne circuit.
Pole sitter Lewis Hamilton gave Mercedes a 1-2 finish in his No. 44 Mercedes. It was Hamilton’s fourth consecutive runner-up result in Australia. He crossed the finish line 20.8-seconds behind Bottas, a margin much bigger than any race in 2018.
Also, there’s this, every time a team has finished 1-2 in Melbourne, the winning driver won the championship that year. Can Bottas be the eighth driver to accomplish that feat?
Max Verstappen earned his first career podium in Melbourne in his No. 33 Red Bull Racing Honda with a third place finish. It was the first podium for Honda since 2008 and Verstappen’s sixth straight top three finish dating back to last season.
The two Ferrari’s rounded out the top five with Sebastian Vettel finishing fourth in his No. 5 Ferrari and Charles Leclerc bringing his No. 16 Ferrari home fifth.
Australian Grand Prix Results
27 Hulkenberg -1
7 Raikkonen -1
18 Stroll -1
26 Kvyat -1
16 Gasly -1
4 Norris R -1
11 Perez -1
23 Albon R -1
99 Giovinazzi R -1
63 Russell R -2
88 Kubica -3
8 Grosjean OUT
3 Ricciardo OUT
55 Sainz OUT
Mercedes Team To Beat Again
The stat above says it all. Mercedes has history on their side to win the championship for the eighth time for a team that started the season off with a 1-2 finish. They also look to be the premiere team in the series again. They’ve now won 75 times over the last seven years. The next best is 14 (Ferrari).
All weekend they were the team to beat with Hamilton being fastest in all three practice sessions and qualifying too. For the race, they started 1-2 and finished that way too.
Ferrari Has Some Work To Do
They looked to be the clear cut favorites heading into the weekend. Ferrari’s were the quickest in the offseason testing and had won the last two years in Albert Park. But, after this weekend, it’s clear that they may have fallen back to the grasps of Red Bull.
Max Verstappen passed Sebastien Vettel towards the end to take a podium away. That gave Honda their first podium in 11 years. That’s saying something.
Haas Best Midfield Team
Both drivers were found in the top five of the final practice on Saturday. They each qualified in the top three rows. But, another tire problem for Romain Grosjean cost him a top 10 finish. It was the same tire as last year at that.
Kevin Magnussen still brought his No. 20 Haas home sixth as the “best of the rest.”
It’s clear that the Haas team is the best of the rest.
Ricciardo Has Disaster Home Race, Renault With A Bad Weekend In General
It wasn’t the home coming with a new team that Ricciardo had hoped for. The new Renault driver was only 17th, eighth and 10th respectively in practice and failed to make it out of Q1 in qualifying. He had a frustrating race and failed to finish. The Aussie was scored with a disappointing 19th place result. He’s never scored a podium in his home race and now has a DNF in two of his last three starts.
His teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. struggled too in a last place finish. It was the first time that he’s failed to score points in the annual season opener.
Out of the three cars that failed to finish, Renault had two of them.
Williams Will Be Back Markers
They knew this heading into this weekend. I just don’t think that they thought it would be this bad. Both drivers were 3-5+ seconds off pace in every session. The only reason they even finished where they did P16 (Russell) and P17 (Kubica) is because there were three DNF’s.
They were the only ones not on the lead lap or a lap down at the finish.
Then, there’s this, in terms of qualifying pace based off last year, everyone improved – except for Williams. For the third straight year, they went backwards.