Rick Rycroft/Associated Press
Valtteri Bottas dominated the Australian Grand Prix to make a perfect start to the 2019 Formula One season, finishing ahead of Mercedes team-mate and defending world champion Lewis Hamilton.
Bottas took the lead on the opening lap and consistently posted the fastest lap times throughout the race. Despite a late surge from third-placed Max Verstappen, he took home the one-point bonus for the fastest lap.
Ferrari were off the pace, with Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc taking fourth and fifth place, respectively, while Daniel Ricciardo retired after a nightmare start.
Here’s a look at the race results:
Formula 1 @F1
Your full race classification from the season-opener 👇
Best-ever finish for Leclerc, solid points for Magnussen & Stroll 👏
Kvyat holds off Gasly for the final point 😅
#AusGP 🇦🇺 #F1 https://t.co/pVSiCkUhhw
The 2019 season got off to a spectacular start, as Bottas surged ahead of team-mate Hamilton early and Ricciardo took an ill-advised detour:
Daniel Ricciardo suffers nightmare start to Australian Grand Prix.
WATCH: https://t.co/brOlDsqEyB https://t.co/XUHr6S9dZH
Robert Kubica was also forced into an early pit stop, and Williams struggled throughout the race.
The first retirement of the 2019 season was a fiery one, with Carlos Sainz Jr.’s McLaren suffering engine problems:
Formula 1 @F1
Carlos Sainz’s McLaren bursts in to flames 🔥
He comes to a halt at the end of the pit lane and is our first retirement
#AusGP 🇦🇺 #F1 https://t.co/XLci70AGyX
While the battle for the race lead quickly settled into a familiar pattern―Mercedes dominated―the midfield served up a tasty outing. Haas had yet another year of pit-stop problems in Melbourne, with Romain Grosjean the victim, while Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi held up Lando Norris to such an extent a train formed at the midway point of the race.
Near the front, Verstappen easily passed Vettel, drawing praise for his wonderful move:
Raja Sen @RajaSen
Ooh, Verstappen on song is a thing of beauty. Smoothly picked off Seb. Watch out Lewis Hamilton, you’re next. #F1 #AustralianGP
The Dutchman steadily made up ground on an inconsistent Hamilton and made a late push for the fastest lap time―holding that honour until Bottas reclaimed it―but never came close to challenging for second place.
Further back, Leclerc had better pace than Vettel but backed off once he got into DRS range. Vettel voiced his frustration with the car over the radio, per ESPN’s Nate Saunders:
Nate Saunders @natesaundersF1
“Why are we so slow?” Vettel asks Ferrari, echoing the team’s story of the weekend.
The Australian Grand Prix turned into a bit of a nightmare for the Italian outfit:
Pablo Elizalde @EliGP
Fun fact: This is Ferrari’s worst Australian GP result since 2014 in terms of position and the worst since 2009 in terms of gap to the winner.
Ferrari didn’t have Leclerc pit late to make a push for the fastest time, either, inviting criticism for their questionable tactics.
In the midfield battle, Lance Stroll bagged two points for Racing Point, silencing some of his critics, while Daniil Kvyat won an entertaining battle against former Toro Rosso man Pierre Gasly for the final point.
Ferrari were the big losers of the weekend and have major questions to answer ahead of the second race of the year in Bahrain on March 31. Vettel has won back-to-back races at Sakhir, but Mercedes carry all of the momentum after a great showing in Melbourne.