Valtteri Bottas dominates Australian GP, Hamilton and Ferrari struggle
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Finland's Valtteri Bottas has won the opening round of the 2019 Formula 1 calendar, dominating the race from start to finish to lead a Mercedes-Petronas 1-2.
Although it was a result few predicted, Bottas looked unflappable for the majority of the race — driving away from defending series champ teammate Hamilton before extending the lead even further during his long pit-stop-free early run.
Bottas eventually finished the completely green race with a huge margin of 21 seconds. Hamilton collected second, fending off a rapid Max Verstappen challenge in the closing laps.
The icing on the cake for Bottas? He claimed the fastest lap of the race on the penultimate lap, earning himself a bonus championship point as part of a new off-season rule change.
Along with Hamilton, Ferrari also struggled to match Bottas' race-winning pace. After getting carved up in pit-lane and on track by Verstappen's Red Bull Honda, Sebastian Vettel and fresh recruit Charles Leclerc finished fourth and fifth.
While the likes of Mercedes celebrated, the Australian Grand Prix was a horrible one for local favourite Daniel Ricciardo. After starting just outside the top 10 with new team Renault, he ripped his front wing off on the grass while trying to make positions off the start. He eventually retired on lap 31.
He was one of several drivers who didn't make it to he finish line. Ironically, the driver that Ricciardo replaced — Carlos Sainz Jr — retired very early in the race in his new McLaren via an engine failure and subsequent fire. Romain Grosjean also made it to the finish, after holding a points-paying position early on.
Grosjean's Haas F1 teammate Kevin Magnussen had a better race, finishing in sixth, ahead of Nico Hulkenberg and Kimi Raikkonen. Ninth and 10th, meanwhile, were filled by Toyota Racing Series graduates Lance Stroll and Daniil Kyvat.
The first positions just outside the points-paying top 10 were occupied by new Red Bull driver Pierre Gasly, and 2016 Toyota Racing Series champion Lando Norris on his Formula 1 debut with McLaren.
Fellow full-season rookies Alexander Albon (Brendon Hartley's replacement at Scuderia Toro Rosso), Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo), and George Russell (Williams) finished 14th, 15th, and 16th respectively, while returning driver Robert Kubica completed the field in 17th after losing his front wing on lap one.
The series now travels to Bahrain for the second event of the season, on March 31.
1. Valtteri Bottas
2. Lewis Hamilton
3. Max Verstappen
4. Sebastian Vettel
5. Charles Leclerc
6. Kevin Magnussen
7. Nico Hulkenberg
8. Kimi Raikkonen
9. Lance Stroll
10. Daniil Kyvat
11. Pierre Gasly
12. Lando Norris
13. Sergio Perez
14. Alexander Albon
15. Antonio Giovinazzi
16. George Russell
17. Robert Kubica
18. Romain Grosjean (DNF)
19. Daniel Ricciardo (DNF)
20. Carlos Sainz Jr (DNF)