Australian GP marked the start of the 70th F1 World Championship
The Australian Grand Prix 2019 marked its 84th running since 1928 and its 35th time as part of F1 World Championship. This race, which is officially called Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix 2019, is Round 1 of 21 in the 70th season of the Formula One World Championship.
The venue for the race was the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, a 3.295-mile track raced for 58 laps, at Albert Park in Melbourne. This circuit consists of 16 turns and uses public streets and areas within the park for the competition. It has very similar characteristics to the circuit used in the Canadian Grand Prix.
The Australian GP used to be held in Adelaide as the last round of the F1 World Championship event. When it was transferred to Melbourne, it has since been run as the first race. The McLaren and Ferrari teams held the most number of wins in this grand prix, each having recorded twelve wins.
The Melbourne circuit has seen many drivers launch their F1 career here, including the 5-time world champion and current defending titlist Lewis Hamilton. A former world champion and incidentally a competing racer this season, Kimi Räikkönen, also made his debut in this grand prix.
2018 F1 World Champion Hamilton snatched pole
Lewis Hamilton clocked the fastest lap in the qualifying sessions at 1:20.486, beating teammate Valterri Bottas by a fraction of a second to the pole. Let’s see from the list of entries below who else are competing this season.
Carlos Sainz Jr.
Scuderia Toro Rosso
From the roster of drivers slated to race this season, it is worth-noting that the following have repeatedly won the F1 Australian Grand Prix in the previous years.
- 3 times - Sebastian Vettel in 2011, 2017, and 2018
- 2 times - Kimi Räikkönen in 2007 and 2013
- 2 times – Lewis Hamilton in 2008 and 2015
Would this grand prix be a lucky season opener for one of them? Or would another AGP winner emerge from this batch of contenders?
A first Mercedes win for 2019 with Bottas this time
Hamilton was quick to the pole, but it was Bottas who brought home the win! Below are the lap highlights for the very first Formula One race this season.
- The qualifying laps showed Hamilton pipping teammate Bottas’ fastest laps. This was Hamilton’s 8th pole at the Australian GP. Bottas shared the first row with him, with Vettel (3rd) and Verstappen (4th) on the second row. The rest of the top 10 places were occupied by Leclerc, Grosjean, Magnussen, Norris, Räikkönen, and Pérez, in that order. Ricciardo qualified 12th—not a very impressive start for the home racer, but not as bad as those in the back rows either.
- Cars roared to the thrill of the first race day. The Pirelli tyres available for this circuit were C2 Hard, C3 Medium, and C4 Soft. The fastest strategy according to Pirelli would be a two-stopper, starting on soft followed by another soft for a total of 42 laps and changing to medium for 16 laps. A one-stopper strategy may also work with soft for 27 laps and medium for 31 laps.
- The lights went out, and Lap 1 was all about action right away, with Bottas whizzing past his teammate even before Turn 1. Leclerc overtook Verstappen and was in pursuit of his teammate who held onto his place. Meanwhile, Ricciardo was also into some action but not in the way he must have wished—he ran wide while chasing Pérez, hurled over the grass, and ripped his front wing off. Leclerc tangled with Vettel and nearly brought both Ferraris to a disastrous finish even before the starting lap ended.
- The red cars messing things by themselves was exactly what Verstappen had been looking out for, as he weaved the orange car in Lap 3 to chase Hamilton who was now running second to Bottas. So it’s now the lone orange car sandwiched by the Silver Arrows in the lead and the Prancing Horses in 4th and 5th. Magnussen moved up to 6th edging his teammate Grosjean to 7th, with Hülkenberg making an impressive leap from 11th to 8th.
- As late as Lap 10, it was Bottas still in the lead, comfortably increasing the gap between him and Hamilton to 3.3s. At Lap 13, Gasly crawled from P17 to P12, which was rather slow considering that his Honda-powered RB car possessed the same capabilities as the car that the Ferraris are taking the dust from at this very lap. Incidentally, this was the first race that the Red Bull-Honda partnership would be put to a test.
- In Lap 16 Hamilton pitted for medium tyres and rejoined the race ahead of Vettel. The two were now behind Bottas, Verstappen, and Leclerc. The Top 5 held on to this sequence up to Lap 23 when Bottas pitted for medium tyres! This gave Vestappen the temporary lead—this was a landmark lap for the team because it was the first time since 2008 that a Honda-powered car has led a race. But he had to pull to the pit to change to medium tyres, so this was a short-stint glory. He rejoined behind Vettel and Hamilton.
- Kyvat, who started from P15 in the grid, has changed to fresh tyres and cleared his way ahead of Norris and Grosjean.
- Verstappen was on his feisty mood again, sliding past Vettel and putting the pressure on Hamilton next. This was Lap 35, with Bottas in the lead, followed by his teammate with the Dutchman in hot pursuit. They formed a train with the red cars on 4th and 5th and Gasly’s orange car on 6th.
- The retired cars at this point were Ricciardo’s Renault due to front-wing damage, Sainz’s McLaren due to an engine fire, and Grosjean’s Haas due to front-left wheels coming loose. Gasly who had been overextending his first tyres finally pulled to pit in Lap 38 and changed to mediums. He rejoined behind Kyvat who was on P11.
- At Lap 42, Bottas had set the fastest lap, keeping a comfortable 25s distance from the other silver car. Versttapen, who was behind Hamilton by only a bit over a second, received an order to have a little fun in the remaining 10 laps. Lap 49, however, was not so much fun for Verstappen as he pitched over the grass, stretching further his distance behind Hamilton.
- Eight laps before the finish—it was still a double-Mercedes lead. Red Bull trailed them by a good 3.5s. Vettel was ahead of Leclerc but not by much, as his teammate bore down on him!
- Four laps more—it was Magnussen leading the midfield on 6th, Hülkenberg on 7th, Räikkönen on 8th, Stroll on 9th, and Kyvat and Gasly battling for 10th.
- Verstappen did the fastest lap in Lap 55 but was outdone by another fastest lap by Hamilton in Lap 56. Bottas, however, wouldn’t take any of it and settled the issue by setting his own fastest lap in Lap 58 and adding the bonus point to his win!
1-2 finish for Mercedes in Round 1 of F1 2019
It’s a two-horse win for the Mercedes Team with Bottas ahead of the reigning F1 World Champion by a generous margin. Bottas called it his best race ever, becoming his fourth F1 career win and his second one-two finish led by him. This was indeed a sweet season starter for the Finn after a full year of drought in 2018.
As for Red Bull-Honda, this podium win by Verstappen showed that the new partnership has great potentials in the races ahead. The Ferrari team may need some serious assessing and strategizing ahead to look back at their performance and make drastic improvements in the next race.
Final result of the Australian GP, Top 5
Team and Number
Red Bull, #33
Opening GP has set the tone for the next F1 races
For F1, this season’s opening round has brought new faces, new partnerships, and team changes. The Top 10 race results show eight different teams—which only goes to show that the battle for this season’s world championship is going to be very close and seriously fought.
Heading next would be Round 2 in Bahrain! Would Bottas replicate his first victory in the next race? Let’s watch out what happens next here at Carpart.com.au!
By Patrick Lumontod