Melbourne has been the home of the Australian Grand Prix since 1996, the first of which was won by Damon Hill. Hamilton and Vettel are fighting to join Michael Schumacher and Jenson Button as the only drivers who have won at Albert Park more than twice.
There was a five place Grid penalty for Valtteri Bottas for changing his gear box after his qualifying crash which relegated him to 15th. Also hit with a penalty was Daniel Ricciardo, who lost three places after failing to slow down after the red flag had been shown. Ricciardo was furious with this decision, but I have very little sympathy for him. Red flag means slow down, be prepared to stop, not ignore, and carry on because the rules don’t apply to you!
Lewis Hamilton took pole with a stunning record breaking lap, and in the press conference he claimed he was waiting to “wipe the smile off” Vettel’s face. Confidence is one thing, arrogance however…
So as I was out last night and the clocks went forward, I thought it would then be a good idea to just stay up all night, as there was cricket on the other side! Just out of curiosity, is there a driver with the worst hair award for this season? They could put it to a public vote and at the end of the season the driver with the most votes can have a trophy. They can call it the James Toseland award! Leading contenders must be Ricciardo, Vettel and Hamilton.
But finally, after 5 months of no racing, we get under way. Hamilton took the lead from Raikkonen and Vettel and Bottas stayed 15th. Verstappen was pressuring Raikkonen for third, and Brendan Hartley pitted on the end of lap one having ruined his tyres with a huge lock up. Ricciardo took Nico Hulkenberg for 7th.
By lap 6 rookie Sergey Sirotkin was forced to retire with a suspected brake problem, but was at least nice enough to park the car where it could easily be recovered – maybe he isn’t just here because he has money! Max Verstappen was complaining about his tyres on the radio, and we were only on lap 8.
Time for the first Force India watch of 2018, and at this point, they were running in 12th and 13th. Well they were until Bottas got past Ocon. Bottas was really struggling despite the superior pace the Mercedes had over the midfield. Overtaking was nearly impossible, and it looks like Mercedes have not sorted out the issues they had last year following other cars.
YOU SPIN ME ROUND ROUND BABY RIGHT ROUND, LIKE A RACE CAR BABY ROUND ROUND ROUND ROUND! Sorry Max! A 360-degree pirouette dropped him from 4th down to 8th.
Honda had their first retirement of 2018, as Pierre Gasly was forced to retire in his Toro Rosso.
Lap 19 and Kimi pitted from 2nd, trying to perform the undercut on Hamilton, and coming back out in third. Hamilton pitted the following lap, forcing Ferrari to try something different with Vettel, as if he pitted at that point he would come back out behind Hamilton and Raikkonen.
Carlos Sainz ran wide and lost a place to Alonso, then went in the pits. Kevin Magnussen pitted, and was immediately told to stop as the team hadn’t put his left rear tyre on properly.
Romain Grosjean and Nico Hulkenberg both pitted together and came out behind Verstappen. And in what was now a disaster for the Haas team, Grosjean was also forced to pull over and stop as there had been an issue with his pitstop too, and his front left tyre has not gone on properly. Grosjean parked the car at the side of the track, bringing out the virtual safety car. Vettel pitted and jumped both Hamilton and Raikkonen in the pits, as they were both restricted by the maximum time of arrival.
Hamilton jumped on the radio to demand answers to what went wrong, only to be told that they will look at it after the race and to concentrate on getting back past Vettel. Alonso came back out of the pits right behind Verstappen who was told to give him the position as Alonso reached the second safety car line first.
The stewards announced that they would investigate the Haas pitstops after the race, for unsafe release.
The safety car came back in at the end of lap 31. The gap between Perez and Ocon was now 0.9! Bottas got past Stoffel Vandoorne and Ricciardo tried to get past Raikkonen while Hamilton was right on Vettel’s tail.
Hamilton asked the team if he could go for it now, but didn’t give them chance to answer before claiming that he was going for it anyway. He then locked a wheel going into turn 9, ran wide and lost 2 seconds.
10 laps until nap time! Alonso was playing trains as he held off Verstappen, Hulkenberg and Bottas for 5th place. Hamilton tried again to get Vettel but couldn’t get close enough to even think about making a bid for the lead, and eventually backed off to settle for second.
Daniel Ricciardo set the fastest lap of the race but again couldn’t get close enough to overtake the Ferrari in front of him.
Vettel crossed the line for his third Australian Grand Prix win, from Hamilton, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Alonso, Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Bottas, Vandoorne and Sainz taking the final point.
Driver of the Day fan vote: Fernando Alonso
Driver of the Day Fiona’s Vote: what can I say about that? I can’t think of any driver who actually had a drive worthy of this award! But Le Clerc on debut didn’t finish last, so yeah, he is my Driver of the Day!
Conclusions from Australia:
- Mercedes still cannot follow other cars.
- Haas deserved their 10 000 Euro fine for unsafe release. There is no excuse for that. Once is bad enough, but both cars!
- The McLaren looks a lot better with Renault engines!
- Hamilton, Ricciardo and Vettel all need haircuts!
- Vettel and Ferrari had the last laugh Lewis! Who is smiling now?
Finally something new from me. Fiona’s race rating. Each race I will give it marks out of 10 for excitement. Sorry Australia but that’s a 3!!!!! Virtually no overtaking, a race lost in the pits, I have had more exciting times watching grass grow! And I am not just saying this because I am tired and cranky!!