Ferrari has graced the top step of the podium at the Australian F1 Grand Prix for the first time since 2007, with lead driver Sebastian Vettel claiming victory at the 2017 season-opener.
Under sunny Melbourne skies, the Ferrari driver showed a clean pair of heels against main rival, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who struggled with tyres during the race.
The Briton made an early stop to change from the ultra-soft tyre to the soft tyre, saying that the ultra-soft rubber was overheating.
But the timing was poor for Hamilton, who re-joined the track stuck behind Red Bull driver Max Verstappen. With Vettel’s later stop, the German also switched to the soft tyre from the ultra-softs and retained the lead after a few tense cornering moments while he brought his tyres up to temperature.
For Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo, it was a weekend to forget, marred with a series of mishaps including a gearbox-change which cost him five grid positions, under the rules.
The penalty saw Ricciardo slide from an unfamiliar tenth on the grid to a rather lowly fifteenth.
But the penalty stood for nothing in the end, with Ricciardo’s Red Bull grinding to a halt with electrical gremlins as he took to the circuit to start the race.
The team ‘s frantic efforts saw Ricciardo eventually start the race from the pit lane around two laps down, with the Australian taking to the Albert Park circuit for what would amount to a test session at worst, or a miracle championship point (or two) at best.
But when the Grand Prix was 28 laps old, the Red Bull again spluttered to a halt with Ricciardo summing up his weekend with a message to the team: “Let’s get the f___ out of here”.
“We did a few laps, which was better than nothing, but in the end we got hit with another issue,” Ricciardo said in a post-race interview with Network Ten.
“I feel for the fans. When I stopped on the warm-up laps, and I stopped in the race, they still cheered - still called my name. I appreciate the support through all the ups and downs this weekend.”
Behind Vettel and Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas claimed third place on his debut for Mercedes, while Kimi Raikkonen ensured Ferrari and Mercedes locked out the top-four spots with fourth place.
Best of the rest was Verstappen, with the remaining Red Bull finishing fifth.
From Australia, the teams travel to China for round two of a 20-round F1 season in 2017.
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2017 AUSTRALIAN F1 GRAND PRIX
- #5 - Sebastian Vettel - FERRARI - 57 laps - 1:24:11.672 - 25 points
- #44 - Lewis Hamilton - MERCEDES - +9.975s - 18 points
- #77 - Valtteri Bottas - MERCEDES - +11.250s - 15 points
- #7 - Kimi Räikkönen - FERRARI - +22.393s - 12 points
- #33 - Max Verstappen - RED BULL RACING - +28.827s - 10 points
- #19 - Felipe Massa - WILLIAMS MERCEDES - +83.386s - 8 points
- #11 - Sergio Perez - FORCE INDIA MERCEDES - 56 laps - 6 points
- #55 - Carlos Sainz - TORO ROSSO - 4 points
- #26 - Daniil Kvyat - TORO ROSSO - 2 points
- #31 - Esteban Ocon - FORCE INDIA MERCEDES - 1 point