Vettel Wins in Melbourne as Ferrari Gets New F1 Season Off to a Thrilling Start

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Photo Credit To @F1

Vettel and Hamilton went one-on-one in Melbourne with the German finishing a full nine seconds ahead to make it first blood to Ferrari in 2017.

Sebastian Vettel scored his first Grand Prix win since Singapore way back in 2015 in a thrilling race that demonstrated just how much the revamped Formula 1 will impact the championship this year with its faster cars and more hands-on approach to racing. Melbourne also gave the first indications that Mercedes’ long reign at the top might well be over in 2017 as the new regulations level the field for the teams.

Hamilton had taken pole in qualifying with a record-setting timing. But Vettel was just about 0.3 seconds behind the Briton. Ferrari may have had a quiet run-up to Melbourne through pre-season testing, but their cars proved more than competitive on the day. The faster car combined with excellent teamwork and strategy by Ferrari scripted the win at the Albert Park circuit.

The leading Hamilton began experiencing trouble with his tyre grip, forcing him into an early pit. He rejoined behind Red Bull’s Verstappen, but was unable to pass him quick enough. That was the turning point in the race. Vettel made a pit-stop later in lap 23 and rejoined ahead of both Verstappen and Hamilton. With an advantage in terms of both tyre wear and a lead, the German remained firmly in control for the remainder to claim a landmark win over Mercedes. And Valtteri Bottas almost caught up with Mercedes teammate Hamilton to take third.

Australian Daniel Riccardio of Red Bull had his hopes of a good showing at home dashed early with engine trouble. His car first stopped en route to the grid itself, and even though Red Bull managed to get Riccardio going with the others already two laps down, the car stalled again in about 30 laps to make it a deeply disappointing end for the 27-year old.

First race under new regulations promises exciting times ahead for the sport

The results at Melbourne provided a great moment of release after the anxious build-up to the new season. The promise of faster cars with a focus on aerodynamics played out very well for spectators. The fact that Ferrari was able to go toe-to-toe with Mercedes – and prevail – was an encouraging sign for the competition. And both Mercedes and Ferrari acknowledged as much, predicting a hard fight for the championship in 2017.

However there was some concern over the renewed focus on the cars’ aerodynamics and its repercussions on driving. Although racing became much competitive and a truer test of the drivers’ skills, the increased turbulence and aerodynamic downforce caused by the new designs presents a real challenge in terms of close-quarters racing and particularly in overtaking others.

Lewis Hamilton, who experienced this first hand while grappling to pass Verstappen in Melbourne, spoke of these concerns:

“Big congratulations to Sebastian and Ferrari. I know it’s been a long time coming for them to get a result like this. It shows we are going to have a race on our hands, which we are very happy to have, which is great for the fans.

“Unfortunately it’s harder than ever to get close to cars, which is a shame. We can’t even have a close battle. I wish we could race a lot closer in the cars that we have today.”

Albert Park itself is noted to be a circuit where it’s challenging to pass drivers in the race. But the true impact of the regulations should come to light as the season wears on. In any case, most of the teams are perhaps gladder for the increased emphasis on the drivers’ abilities rather than the pit-and-tyre-strategy-driven races in recent years.

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Melbourne Grand Prix winner and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel on a long-awaited win for Ferrari:

“It’s a great relief for everyone. This is just the beginning.”

“I have great respect (for Hamilton). He has proven to be one of the quickest drivers on the grid and I would love to have a close battle. It is a lot of fun to race for victories and a lot of fun to race against the best.

“Right now it looks like we have equal machinery and I hope it stays that way.”

Lewis Hamilton also spoke of his excitement for the season ahead and his upcoming battles with Vettel:

“At least we have a great driver in Sebastian winning four titles after his incredible surge into Formula One. And he will continue to be a force for many years to come.

“I am really grateful to have that fight with him, against Ferrari which is the next best team. And there is a top driver there, too.

“It has been a privilege to be racing in an era with him. And finally we are in a period of time when we can actually have a real race.”

Local boy Daniel Ricciardo on the disappointment of his stalled race:

“It’s been a long day. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been fun but I feel bad for everyone. Bad for the fans. I believe there’s more people here supporting me than the others. And I’m sure they would have loved me to get out and race. But it just snowballed from (the crash) yesterday. And the five-grid penalty sounded bad enough and then obviously we had other issues.

“Obviously I’m disappointed but I’ll wake up tomorrow and be fine and be ready to prepare for China.”

Melbourne Race results

1 SEBASTIAN VETTEL FERRARI 1:24:11.672 25
2 LEWIS HAMILTON MERCEDES +9.975s 18
3 VALTTERI BOTTAS MERCEDES +11.250s 15
4 KIMI RÄIKKÖNEN FERRARI +22.393s 12
5 MAX VERSTAPPEN RED BULL RACING +28.827s 10
6 FELIPE MASSA WILLIAMS +83.386s 8
7 SERGIO PEREZ FORCE INDIA +1 lap 6
8 CARLOS SAINZ TORO ROSSO +1 lap 4
9 DANIIL KVYAT TORO ROSSO +1 lap 2
10 ESTEBAN OCON FORCE INDIA +1 lap 1
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