Lewis Hamilton must have thought he had it covered at Melbourne. He had an awesome practice session. He grabbed the pole with a flawless performance. But on Sunday, as the race started at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, he could only watch his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas wrooming past him on Turn 1.
Bottas Wins in Style
Hamilton’s Finnish understudy last won a race in 2017, at Abu Dhabi. He did not have an impressive 2018 either. So, Bottas winning the season’s first race does appear a bolt out of the blue. He was second in the grid. Once he moved past Hamilton, there was no looking back.
He finished 20 seconds clear of the rest and won the bonus point for the fastest lap as well. This was the kind of performance that understudies tend to display when they are good enough to come out of the giant shadow of their champion teammates.
Bottas was understandably ecstatic after the race:
“I knew I could do it, I had done it before, it was about being at my best level, at one in the car. The second stint… I don’t know. When you’re really on it, it feels kind of easy. In the end, it isn’t but that’s what you[r] brain tells you.”
Hamilton Held to Second Position
Hamilton could not do much to catch Bottas after the first lap. In fact, he did well to hold off the adventurous Max Verstappen of Red Bull during the final phase of the race to finish second. It later emerged that Hamilton’s car’s floor was damaged. So, it could have affected his race.
He sounded disappointed in the post-race presser:
“Ultimately I didn’t do a good enough job. Once we got through the first corner, it was pretty much done and dusted, so it was about bringing the car home and bagging the points really.”
Vettel Struggles with His Ferrari
Perhaps the most disappointed person after the race will be Sebastian Vettel. More than anything else, the car looked distinctively slower, especially while negotiating the corners. The German was heard asking his technical crew midway through the race: “Why are we so slow?”
Vettel could not stop Verstappen from overtaking him. He had to contend with the fourth slot as the Dutchman grabbed the third position.
The Ferrari car, which had generated much pre-season buzz, does not look like a title-clinching one. This is only the first race. The next race starts in two weeks’ time in Bahrain. Vettel will hope that the team’s engineers will be sorting out whatever problems surrounding the car by then.