Bottas masterclass headlines Mercedes one-two

Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas produced a masterclass at the Formula 1® Rolex Australian Grand Prix 2019 to win the season-opening event in Melbourne by 20.886 seconds.

The Finn was completely dominant at the Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit on Sunday, starting superbly to take the lead off teammate Lewis Hamilton going into Turn 1 and he rarely looked back to claim just the fourth Formula 1® race victory of his career and first since 2017.

Bottas also made history as the first Formula 1® driver to claim an extra point for producing the fastest lap of the race, provided they finish in the top 10, setting the benchmark on his penultimate lap.

Hamilton, who was quickest in all three practice sessions before winning pole position, had to settle for second, making it seven of the last eight years that the polesitter in Melbourne has failed to triumph.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen drove well to finish third, 22.520 seconds behind Bottas.

Ferrari pair Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc struggled to keep the pace, finishing fourth and fifth respectively, and it will be of concern to the Maranello-based team that both of their drivers finished more than 57 seconds behind Bottas.

Drama unfolded from the very start and the home crowd were stunned when local favourite Daniel Ricciardo spectacularly lost his front wing on the run down to Turn 1.

Attempting an ambitious overtake of Sergio Perez, Renault driver Ricciardo drove onto the grass on the right side of the circuit and quickly fled to Pit Lane in search of a new front wing, however, his car struggled to keep up the pace before he eventually retired on Lap 31.

At the front of the pack, Bottas nudged ahead of Hamilton going into the first corner and they maintained that order until pit stops started, with Vettel the first to stop in a bid to pass Hamilton.

But Vettel had enough trouble just defending third and Verstappen’s tyre strategy was better, helping him overtake the German on Turn 3 on Lap 31.

Verstappen shot clear of the Ferrari duo and for a while, it appeared as if he may have the pace to move into second.

Hamilton held him off, though, while Bottas did as he pleased en route to a comfortable victory.

No driver has won more points in a single round than Bottas, either, who made history with his 26-point haul.

At the other end of the field, Carlos Sainz and Romain Grosjean joined Ricciardo as retiring prematurely.

Sainz’s McLaren came to a halt on Lap 11, his car going up in smoke, while Haas driver Grosjean had to retire for the second successive race in Melbourne.

His race ended due to a loose front-left tyre, almost a carbon copy of his retirement at Albert Park in 2018.

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