Dubai – It’s good beginning of the season as Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari beat Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton to win the season-opening Australian Grand Prix and the first race of Formula One’s new era.
Despite the fact that Vettel executed a flawless 58 laps at Albert Park to win by just under 10 seconds, the race was as much lost by Mercedes as it was won by Ferrari. A dubious strategy call from the Mercedes pit wall saw Hamilton pit relatively early from the lead and lose time behind Max Verstappen at a crucial part of the race.
Hamilton, who made a perfect start to retain his lead over Vettel into the first corner, pitted on lap 17 after complaining of a loss of grip from his tyres. He switched from the ultra-soft compound he started the race on to a fresh set of softs and dropped to fifth behind Vettel, Valtteri Bottas, Kimi Raikkonen and Verstappen.
Hamilton’s strategy initially went to plan as he used his fresh tyres to set laps several tenths faster than Vettel’s Ferrari in the lead, but then he came up behind the No.33 car of Verstappen.
Rewind two weeks and Hamilton had spent much of pre-season testing voicing his concerns about how difficult it would be to overtake in this new generation of cars.
Those fears were brought to life over three nightmarish laps behind the Red Bull in which Verstappen barely had to defend to keep the Mercedes behind. With each passing lap, Hamilton was losing over a second a lap to Vettel’s Ferrari, which was enjoying clear air at the front of the field and maintaining a decent pace.