F1 2019 Australian GP result: Valtteri Bottas wins as Lewis Hamilton is second best for Mercedes
PUBLISHED: 15:56 17 March 2019 | UPDATED: 16:06 17 March 2019
© Steve Etherington for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd.
It was a Mercedes 1-2 in the 2019 Australian Grand Prix but the result was an emphatic win for Valtteri Bottas and not pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton. Formula One writer Alan Davies reflects on the season opening race in Melbourne.
After world champion Lewis Hamilton claimed his 84th Formula One pole position – and eighth at the Albert Park circuit – on Saturday, the 34-year-old from Hertfordshire was expected to win the first race of the season.
He started the 2019 season as favourite to take the chequered flag Down Under after pulling out a last-gasp track record in qualifying to snatch pole from his Mercedes team-mate.
However, Hamilton’s Silver Arrows colleague Valtteri Bottas had other ideas on race day.
Lining up on the front row alongside Hamilton, the flying Finn got the jump on his Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport rival and was leading at the first corner.
It was game over for Hamilton then, who finished more than 20 seconds adrift.
“I had a pretty straightforward race today,” admitted Hamilton.
“I lost position at the start and my race was pretty much done and dusted after the first corner.
“Afterwards it was really about bringing the car home and bagging the points.”
A pumped up Bottas, meanwhile, drove superbly out in front to claim his fourth career victory and first in Australia.
Just for good measure, he also recorded the fastest lap of the race to gain an extra championship point, giving him a maximum 26 to start the season with.
That gives him an eight-point lead over Hamilton heading into round two in Bahrain.
Bottas was naturally delighted. He said: “This feels so good – I don’t think I’ve ever had a race like this!
“We could not have asked for a better start to the season – getting maximum points for the team is a perfect result and we couldn’t be happier.
“It’s also an important result for me personally, I’m really pleased with how the race went.
“These things don’t just happen – both the team and I have worked hard for this and it seems like the hard work paid off today.”
The race was effectively won and lost on the run down to the first corner.
Bottas said: “The key was the start; I think Lewis may have had a bit of wheel spin, so I was able to take the lead.
“My race pace was really strong, I could pull away and build a gap.
“In the end, I managed to get the fastest lap as well, which of course means an extra point this season, so I went for it.
“It can be a little risky with worn tyres, but I had it all under control.
“I’m very, very pleased with today, but it’s only the first race and we have another 20 races to go.”
For Hamilton it was another missed opportunity in Australia.
He’s started on pole eight times now in Melbourne and only won the Australian GP twice.
Today, he had to settle for second place after holding off Max Verstappen’s Red Bull, with the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel fourth.
In mitigation, the team later revealed that Hamilton suffered damage to the floor of his F1 W10 EQ Power+ car.
Hamilton was gracious in defeat, praising both Bottas on his victory and the team on a 45th 1-2 finish in Formula One.
He said: “It was an incredible weekend for the team, we’re leaving Melbourne with maximum points.
“Valtteri did an exceptional job today – congratulations to him.”
Talking about his race, Hamilton explained: “I had to pit early to cover the pit stop from Ferrari, so I had a long second stint and drove super carefully to make sure I had tyres left at the end of the race.
“I’ll bag the 18 points I got today, keep working and come back recharged for the next one.
“It was a really great weekend for the team and I’m really happy for everyone.
“We showed a great performance today and we need to continue to build on this – we have a long season ahead of us.”
Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff described Bottas’ drive as “awesome”, adding it was “a perfect rebound after how last season finished”.
He continued: “Over the winter, Valtteri recharged the batteries, reset, found his joy of driving again with the rally in Finland – then today it all came together for him.
“I can see again the young boy I first met over 10 years ago and who dominated the junior series in 2008; it was a strong comeback and a really well earned win today.
“For Lewis, it was a harder afternoon – the start was not as good as Valtteri, then we had to pit him earlier than ideal to cover the risk of being undercut by Vettel.
“That gave him a long stint on the tyres and none of us knew if they would make it to the end, so it was hard to judge the right pace and he wasn’t happy with the car balance.
“My feeling is that it can be tricky to find the sweet spot with these new cars and tyres, and probably we didn’t manage that today with Lewis.
“Overall, though, a fantastic day for the team and a perfect result in the opening race – including the point for fastest lap.”
With Bottas and Hamilton taking the top two spots on the podium, Mercedes already lead the Constructors’ Championship by 22 points from Ferrari.
Considering the red Maranello team had looked so strong in pre-season testing, that’s come as a pleasant surprise to Mercedes officials.
Technical director James Allison said: “Days in motor racing do not come much sweeter than this.
“A 1-2 finish is a precious thing and to top it off with the cherry of the fastest lap point for the first time, makes it feel even nicer.
“I guess the main reason it feels so good is that it was unexpected.
“We came to Australia expecting a very tough fight against a car that had set the benchmark throughout winter testing.
“But we found ourselves in the happy position of being very competitive from the first time we turned a wheel – and almost spent our weekend waiting to wake up from that state of slight disbelief.
“However, we should have trusted what our numbers told us, because Sunday turned out almost exactly how an impressive Friday had promised, and it’s a fantastic feeling for all of us to achieve this result at the first race.
“That doesn’t mean we will do the same at the next race but it is a good start.”
Allison added: “It was fantastic to see Valtteri drive so flawlessly to answer some of his critics and remind everybody that he is a class act.
“Lewis on the other hand was punished for a poor start and had to contend with damage to the floor of his car, but nonetheless was able to drive a strong race to seal off the 1-2 finish for the team, which will see us heading to the next race with very happy spirits indeed.”
Could Bottas, and not Vettel, be Hamilton’s closest title challenger this season?
We’ll find out when the F1 circus heads to Bahrain for the second grand prix of the season.