Valtteri Bottas overtakes Lewis Hamilton on first corner to dominate Australian Grand Prix as Mercedes open new F1 season with one-two ahead of Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel
- Valtteri Bottas overtook Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton on the first corner to win Australian Grand Prix
- Hamilton was slow to react at lights out to allow Bottas to sneak past him and the Finn dominated the race
- Reigning champion Hamilton was left holding off the charge of Max Verstappen during the final laps
- Verstappen ultimately finished third, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel fourth and Charles Leclerc fifth
Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas pounced past Lewis Hamilton into the first corner as the Finn cantered to the chequered flag at the Australian Grand Prix.
Bottas completed a one-two lockout of the front row for the Silver Arrows in qualifying at Melbourne’s Albert Park with Hamilton going 0.112 seconds quicker for his 84th career pole.
But it was Bottas who led into the first corner with an excellent start guiding him into first position past his team-mate.
Valtteri Bottas overtook Mercedes team-mate and pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton on the first corner and went on to dominate the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne
Bottas celebrates making the perfect start to the new season following an outstanding drive in Melbourne on Sunday
Race winner Bottas sprays the champagne as he celebrates on the top step of the podium in Melbourne on Sunday
Bottas lifts the trophy in Melbourne alongside second-placed Lewis Hamilton (left) and Max Verstappen (right) in third
Defending world champion Hamilton was slow off the start line and allowed Bottas to get past him to take the lead
Hamilton spent the remainder of the 58-lap race trailing team-mate Bottas with the Ferrari and Red Bull cars chasing them
Hamilton pitted early – lap 10 – as Bottas put the hammer down with a string of fastest laps on tyres that had carried him nearly 20 times around the 3.295-mile circuit.
Only Red Bull’s Max Verstappen made his softs last longer than the Finn as he pitted on lap 27 and the Mercedes returned to the lead.
From the halfway point, there was only ever likely to be one winner as Bottas opened up a 20-second lead over Hamilton.
The five-time world champion appeared to labour on his medium compounds, telling his team he was struggling for rear grip as Verstappen made his case for the second step on the podium.
It was the perfect start to the new season for Bottas, the Finn demonstrating that he won’t play second fiddle to Hamilton
Max Verstappen claimed third place on the podium behind the two Mercedes with an encouraging drive for the season ahead
But the Dutchman ran into the grass on turn one as he closed in on Hamilton, losing ground to the reigning champion and finishing third.
By this point, Hamilton and Verstappen had put some distance between themselves and Ferrari rivals Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc, who wound up off the pace.
Vettel summed up the mood of his race, asking engineers ‘Why are we so slow?’ as he fell more than half a minute behind Bottas.
The Finn took his fourth career win and took the extra point for the race’s fastest lap which has been reintroduced this season.
The Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel in the pit lane in Melbourne during what was a disappointing start to the season for the German
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc holds off Kevin Magnussen of HAAS F1 during the opening race of the F1 season in Australia
The cars jostle for position in the opening couple of corners in Melbourne with the Ferraris of Vettel and Leclerc in front
Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo overtakes during the first turn of the Australian Grand Prix – he would be forced to retire though
Bottas said: ‘I don’t know what just happened. I don’t know what to say, the start was really good.
‘The car was so good today, it was truly enjoyable. It was definitely my best race ever. I can’t wait for the next race.’
Hamilton said: ‘It’s a good weekend for the team so I have to be happy for everyone. Valtteri drove an incredible race today and truly deserved the win today.’
Verstappen said: ‘I had to overtake Seb (Vettel) to get the podium which isn’t easy around here.
‘To start the season on the podium challenging Mercedes is very good for us.’