Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel took advantage of a mid-race safety car to take an opportunistic victory ahead of reigning champion Lewis Hamilton in the Australian Grand Prix.
The German initially ran third behind pacesetter Hamilton’s Mercedes and Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen. He took the lead when both pitted, and then made his stop under a virtual safety car, emerging just in front of Hamilton.
It was the second year in a row that Hamilton started on pole in Melbourne but lost out to Vettel; in 2017 he lost out after getting stuck behind Max Verstappen.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the Australian Grand Prix.
1: Mercedes is still the team to beat – but it’s close
Ferrari may have won, but even Vettel admitted he was “a little bit lucky” to snatch the win.
Until that point, Mercedes had shown ominous form. Hamilton set a new track record in qualifying and was controlling the gap to Raikkonen in the race – until the virtual safety car.
Despite that, Hamilton was unable to pass Vettel on the tight street circuit in the final portion of the race. Vettel admitted Ferrari “wasn’t quite there” with its car, but added: “In the last stint, we had enough pace to stay ahead.”
Mercedes said a computer error meant the team thought Hamilton had enough of a gap to cover a safety car pit stop by Vettel. That and F1’s overly complex safety cars rules distracted from the fact that Hamilton had a faster car and the use of three DRS zones, and still couldn’t pass Vettel. New-look F1, same old problems…