Scuderia Ferrari F1 driver Sebastian Vettel nabbed the first race victory of the 2018 Formula One season over the weekend, winning the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne despite a fierce performance by 2017 F1 champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes-AMG. Hamilton landed on the podium in second, while Vettel’s teammate, Kimi Räikkönen, secured third place.
Things might well have been different if not for the “virtual safety driver” put in place toward the middle of the race – a response to both Haas F1 entries leaving the pits with improperly-secured wheels. By that point, Hamilton (in second) and Räikkönen (in third) had already pitted for fresh tires, while Vettel’s Pirelli Supersofts were in need of replacing.
Had Hamilton and Räikkönen both been driving all-out, they might easily have passed Vettel while he pitted, pushing him back to third. But because both drivers were constrained to a slow speed limit under caution, Vettel was able to pit for tires and reemerge out on track before Hamilton could pass.
After the caution ended, for Vettel, it was simply a game of holding off the 2017 F1 champion until the end of the race. Hamilton maintained a tight gap, applying pressure to the No. 5 Scuderia Ferrari driver, but never quite found his chance to make a pass. A failed attempt on Turn 9 late in the race put Hamilton partly off the track, costing him time and widening the gap further.
“A big congratulations to Sebastian and Ferrari,” Hamilton said after the race. “Today, obviously, they did the better job and we have to go back to the drawing board and work on it.”
Sebastian Vettel’s win at the 2018 Australian Grand Prix – his 48th race victory – marked his 100th F1 podium, making him the fourth driver in series history to reach that milestone. The German driver also crossed 3,000 career laps led – an accomplishment he now shares with Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton.