Mercedes enjoyed a dominant start to the 2019 Formula One season, with Valtteri Bottas winning the Australian Grand Prix ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton. Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari team never troubled the leaders.The Finnish driver started second on the grid but flew past Hamilton at the start of the race and never looked like letting his lead slip.
"I don't know what just happened," said Bottas after picking up his first race win since 2017 after spending last season in the shadow of Hamilton. "I don't know what to say. It was definitely my best race ever. I felt so good and the car was so good."
Bottas also ensured he claimed the new fastest lap bonus point, reclaiming that on the penultimate lap from Max Verstappen, who finished third.
German driver Sebastian Vettel was a fairly distant fourth after Verstappen eased past him just past the halfway point but it appeared team orders from Ferrari stopped his new teammate Charles Leclerc from going past him.
"I guess we were just slow," said Vettel. "I didn't have much chance to fight anyone becasue I was quite slow."
The dominance of Bottas in particular raises the notion that Mercedes, who have won the last five constructor's championship, will once again dominate and Hamilton said he was pleased for his teammate.
"It's a good weekend for the team so I have to be happy for everyone, and Valtteri drove an incredible race today, and deserved it," Hamilton said.
"It's a great start to the year and it's what we could have hoped for for the team. I had Max covered behind me, and I had some ideas of where the pace went, but I'll go through it with my engineers afterwards."
The second race of the season is in Bahrain in two weeks' time.
As it happened
Lap 58 of 58 – Bottas says that was "definitely my best race ever" and looks a little dumbstruck by his fourth race win. Hamilton says he's "happy for the team" and says he wasn't worried by the challenge of Verstappen at the end.
Lap 58 of 58 – A convincing win from Bottas, who was 21 seconds clear of Hamilton, who completed yet another Mercedes 1-2. Verstappen is the last man on the podium while the Ferraris of Vettel and Leclerc were fourth and fifth. Bottas also picked up the fastest lap bonus point.
Lap 58 of 58 – BOTTAS WINS THE AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX
Lap 58 of 58 – Bottas wrestles back the fastest lap and is about to win the first Grand Prix of 2019.
Lap 57 of 58 – Verstappen has cut the gap to Hamilton to under a second, does he have time to break up the Mercedes 1-2?
Lap 55 of 58 – Verstappen takes the fastest lap point. Can he challenge Hamilton?
Lap 54 of 58 – With Leclerc seemingly blocked from going past Vettel but leading Magnussen by about 30 seconds, there seems to be some discussion over whether he should pit and try to steal the fastest lap point from Bottas.
Lap 52 of 58 – Leclerc is close to Vettel but seems to have been told not to try and overtake the German, who seems to have a mechanical problem of some sort.
Lap 50 of 58 – Verstappen went on to the grass on that last lap and has lost a couple of seconds, that's probably it for his challenge for second.
Lap 49 of 58 – Bottas is completely untroubled and the battles are behind him. Verstappen hasn't quite been able to get in a position to have a stab at Hamilton yet but behind those two, the two Ferraris are getting pretty close.
Lap 46 of 58 – Leclerc now just over four seconds behind Vettel, having been over 10 seconds very recently. How will Ferrari handle this one?
Lap 44 of 58 – "Why are we so slow?" asks Vettel over the radio. A response is not immediately forthcoming and Leclerc is gaining on his teammate. He's been quicker in each of the last four laps.
Lap 43 of 58 – Leclerc, who is fifth and miles clear of Magnussen in sixth might be well placed to steal the fastest lap, he's certainly gaining on Vettel.
Lap 40 of 58 – Bottas has been almost entirely untroubled today and Hamilton, despite a few issues, looks relatively comfortable in second. Another dominant year coming up for Mercedes?
Lap 38 of 58 – Kvyat hits the gravel after trying once again to go past Stroll, he goes back a place. Went far too early there.
Lap 37 of 58 – Hamilton has steadied the ship a little now, holding Verstappen off while further back, Stroll and Kvyat are having a ding dong battle for 10th.
Lap 34 of 58 – Verstappen now has Hamilton in his sights. He'll be having a crack at the champ soon enough I'm sure.
Lap 32 of 58 – Grosjean is also out of the race, for the third time in a row at Albert Park.
Lap 31 of 58 – Verstappen's persistence and aggression finally pays off as he squeezes past Vettel. Meanwhile, Ricciardo retires, not for the first time in his home Grand Prix. Tough break.
Lap 30 of 58 – Hamilton is up in to second after a few pitstops elsewhere and Verstappen is having a few pops at Vettel, who is holding off the Red Bull tyro for now.
Lap 28 of 58 – Bottas has re-taken the lead and is very much in control of this race. Plenty of jostling further back though and Hamilton looks unusually vulnerable.
Lap 25 of 58 – Bottas has pitted allowing Verstappen in to the lead for the time being. But the Mercedes man emerges ahed of Leclerc in the Ferrari.
Lap 23 of 58 – Bottas still yet to pit but his lead is huge and this is in the bag unless something unusual happens. On the radio, Hamilton seems to be questioning how his teammate is so much quicker than him.
Lap 21 of 58 – Is Hamilton trying to manage these tires until the end of the race or is he just struggling with the pace? He's going backwards at the moment.
Lap 19 of 58 – Bottas miles clear now, his lead is more than 12 seconds from Verstappen. Hamilton is just struggling a little since gettting new medium tires, with Vettel gaining on him and competing for fourth.
Lap 17 of 58 – Vettel, on those new tires, sets a new fastest lap but he's still down in fifth.
Lap 16 of 58 – A flurry of pitstops now, including Hamilton, and Bottas has regained the fastetst lap.
Lap 15 of 58 – Vettel pit early. It's nice and quick but he drops down to sixth for now. You already get the feeling that third is the best he can hope for.
Lap 14 of 58 – Hamilton has just laid down the fastest lap and is currently in line for that bonus point.
Lap 13 of 58 – Raikonnen, now with Alfa Romeo, is the one of the first to pit tactically and change tires. That might prompt a few more to follow suit.
Lap 11 of 58 – The McLaren of Sainz is on fire, with smoke billowing out. It's not clear what happened there but it is a very hot day in Melbourne and perhaps there were overheating issuses. Sainz gets out the car and we have our first retirement.
Lap 10 of 58 – We've just seen Leclerc hit the grass on a corner, I'm not sure when that was but it looked a wholly unforced error. The Ferraris are losing a fair bit of ground on the Mercedes even at this fairly early stage.
Lap 9 of 58 – Bottas just starting to stretch his lead out, t's up to nearly three seconds now.
Lap 7 of 58 – It's settling down a touch now and we've just seen a replay of the start. Hamilton didn't seem to do a whole lot wrong but Bottas just flew off the start line. It also transpires that Kubica lost his wing early on.
Lap 4 of 58 – Tough break for Ricciardo, who has had pretty rotten luck ini his home Grand Prix over the years. He's last and Bottas continues to lead, he's 1.5 seconds quicker than Hamilton, whois about the same distance clear of Vettel.
Lap 2 of 58 – Home favorite Ricciardo is already in the pits, it looks like he lost his front wing trying to overtake early.
Lap 1 of 58 – Explosive start as Hamilton immediately loses his lead to Bottas, who is off to an absolute flyer. His lead is almost a second already. Vettel and Verstappen tay third and fourth and there's a fair bit of jostling further back.
06:12 – They're on the formation lap at the minute. Just a reminder that today is the first time we'll see an exta point awarded for the fastest lap of the day. Be interesting to see how that one works.
06:09 – There will be 58 laps of the 16 corner course today, with a tight turn 12 shaping up as a bit of a danger zone.
06:05 – The drivers are starting to clamber in to their cars, the interviews are being wrapped up and the excitement is buildiing in Melbourne. Just a few minutes now.
06:00 – Hello, and welcome to the first race of the 2019 Formula 1 season. Lewis Hamilton starts on pole for the sixth consecutive time at Albert Park with Valtteri Bottas making it a Mercedes front two.
Sebastian Vettel starts behind that pair but was 0.704 seconds slower than the British driver in qualifying, which will surely be a worry for Ferrari, though Vettel didn't seem too concerned yesterday.
"The car feels all right. There is not anything wrong, he said. "Certainly surprised (by the gap). I think everybody is, probably themselves. Yesterday we did not have a good day, today felt better but the gap was similar. There is some homework we need to do to understand. I still think we have a great car."