Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix 2019

Valtteri Bottas celebrates his victory on the podium at the F1 Australian Grand Prix

Formula 1 2019 kicked off in anger this weekend, but it’s a bittersweet weekend for drivers, teams, and fans alike as it was announced that FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting has passed away, suddenly and unexpectedly, just days before the first race of the season in Melbourne, Australia, suffering a pulmonary embolism at the age of just 66. Charlie’s passing is a great loss to F1 and motorsport in general.

The second, albeit less sad thing that happened in the weeks leading up to the Australian Grand Prix, is the introduction of a point being awarded to the driver with the fastest lap, as long as that driver finishes inside the top 10. I have to admit that I thought this was a gimmick, and still do to a certain extent, but it seems to be a real incentive for drivers, the top drivers were all pushing near the end of the race to claim the extra point for fastest lap, so I will admit that I was wrong about the effectiveness of this incentive.

After qualifying, like many fans, who are not Lewis Hamilton or Mercedes fans, I was disappointed to see the 7/10 of a second deficit between Ferrari and Mercedes on the grid. And from the race result, it seems worse than we feared, it looks like Ferrari are third in the pecking order, behind Red Bull. So much for Ferrari being the favorites going into the season with Mercedes 3/10 behind the Maranello based team.

Finally, onto the race itself and it was Valtteri Bottas that got the jump on polesitter Hamilton to lead into turn 1, Hamilton seemed to bog down slightly allowing his teammate to get ahead off the line. Daniel Ricciardo in his first race for Renault was squeezed onto the grass by Sergio Perez, breaking his front wing and causing damage to the right-hand side of his RS.19. Which, ultimately resulted in his retirement from his home race on lap 28 as a precaution, as he was circulating a lap down with little to no pace.

Between lap 2 and 31 there were some pitstops, and after the shakeup, the top five were back as they were on lap 2. HAAS’ Romain Grosjean had a terrible pit stop, his crew had issues with attaching his left front wheel, dropping him from 7th to 14th place, and on lap 31, he pulled off the track with a loose left front wheel. In the meantime, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, caught and passed Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari for 3rd place, getting a run on Vettel out of turn 1, through turn 2 to be clear of Vettel heading into turn 3.

Unfortunately for Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate, Pierre Gasly, after running in 6th place on the medium tire, when he stopped for fresh tires, he dropped to 11th place behind sister team, Squadro Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat and despite having the same Honda power unit and the faster soft tire, could not make an impression on the Russian driver, ending the race in 11th. But, despite Gasly’s failure to score points at the Australian Grand Prix, it’s a good showing for Honda in the back of the Red Bull’s.

In the final half dozen laps, Charles Leclerc closed to within 0.7 seconds of Ferrari team leader, Vettel, before clearly being told to hold station by the pit wall. Red Bull’s Verstappen also closed in on Hamilton for second place, but a small off-track excursion cost him the few additional seconds he needed to be in a position to challenge Hamilton for second place, finishing 1.6 seconds behind the Mercedes.

Race winner, Valtteri Bottas also claimed the fastest lap for a total haul of 26 points. Although I was hoping that Ferrari would be closer to Mercedes, I’m kinda happy to see Bottas win the race, maybe 2019 will be Bottas’ year? Maybe his change of preparation for 2019 is making all the difference, he seems like a changed man, compared to where he was last season, constantly being beaten by Hamilton.

Australian Grand Prix 2019 Results

1. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 1:25:27.325
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0:20.886
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0:22.520
4. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +0:57.109
5. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +0:58.230
6. Kevin Magnussen (HAAS) +1:27.156
7. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) +1 LAP
8. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo) +1 LAP
9. Lance Stroll (Racing Point) +1 LAP
10. Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) +1 LAP

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