Australian Grand Prix: Sebastian Vettel edges out Lewis Hamilton to take season opener

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Lewis Hamilton needed to accept second on the season-opening Australian Grand Prix after an obvious error by Mercedes gift-wrapped victory to his rival Sebastian Vettel.

Defending champion Hamilton appeared on track to cruise to the chequered flag at Melbourne’s Albert Park after successful the sprint to the opening bend and build up a cushty lead over the pack.

However the curtain raiser turned on its head within the house of a frenetic few laps when Vettel leapfrogged Hamilton following the deployment of a digital security automobile after Romain Grosjean stopped on observe.

Hamilton had already made his one cease for tyres, however Vettel took benefit of the VSC – by which the drivers must run at restricted velocity – to tug into the pits and emerge forward of the Englishman.

Hamilton led the inquest over the crew radio, by which Mercedes replied: “We thought we were safe, but there was obviously something wrong.”

The suspicion right here was that Mercedes ought to have instructed Hamilton to make sure he was nearer to Vettel to cowl off the opportunity of a digital security automobile interval.

Hamilton tried to make his transfer on the Ferrari within the closing levels, however after vowing to “go for it”, he locked up his tyres, ran over the grass, and misplaced additional time from which he wouldn’t get better.

Kimi Raikkonen held off the problem from house favorite Daniel Ricciardo to finish the rostrum locations, whereas McLaren’s Fernando Alonso completed fifth for McLaren. Max Verstappen was sixth for Pink Bull.

On a bleak day for Mercedes, Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas completed solely eighth after beginning 15th following his qualifying crash.

The slim confines of the short-term Albert Park circuit makes overtaking nigh on inconceivable and, after Hamilton roared off the beginning line, the 33-year-old Briton appeared sure to open the defence of his championship with a victory.

Certainly the race was passing by with comparatively little incident, however a double retirement by each Haas vehicles modified the course of proceedings.

On lap 23, Kevin Magnussen, operating in fourth, was the primary to fall after the American crew did not correctly match his rear-left tyre.

Then, inexplicably, the Haas pit crew made one other error solely two laps later, after an equivalent mistake on Grosjean’s automobile. This time it was the front-left tyre which was not on securely, and the Frenchman needed to pull over on observe.

His stoppage led to the deployment of the VSC, and Vettel, 11 seconds away from Hamilton – with the Briton already having stopped – dived into the pits to tackle recent set of tyres. He exited within the lead and half-a-second away from Hamilton.

“What just happened, guys?,” a perplexed Hamilton quizzed over the radio. “Why did you not tell me Vettel was in the pits? Was that my mistake? Was I supposed to go quicker through the safety car?”

The reply from the Mercedes pit wall advised Hamilton was not at fault.

With the inquiry nonetheless going down, the VSC was changed by the security automobile correct because the marshals eliminated Grosjean’s stricken automobile.

The security automobile got here in a matter of laps later, however Hamilton by no means troubled Vettel because the German took the opening spoils of the brand new marketing campaign.

“A big congratulations to Sebastian and Ferrari,” Hamilton stated. “They did a greater job. We’ll return to the drafting board and work on it, however we now have nice tempo.

“This is one awesome circuit but it is so hard to overtake. At the end we decided to fight another day, save the engine, and try to get the points elsewhere.”

Vettel, who secured his 48th profession victory, added: “We’re a little bit bit fortunate at present. Lewis did an ideal lap and deserved pole yesterday. We obtained fortunate at present, however we’ll take it.

“We are not where we want to be with the car. It gives us a good start, a good win, and fresh motivation for the coming weeks.”

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