In Brief

F1 Australian GP: Valtteri Bottas dominates in his ‘best race ever’

Bottas takes 26 points with Mercedes team-mate Hamilton second and Red Bull’s Verstappen third

The first race of the 2019 Formula 1 season was won by Valtteri Bottas after the Mercedes driver dominated the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday.

Bottas finished more than 20 seconds clear of Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton while Max Verstappen was third in the Honda-powered Red Bull. Ferrari duo Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc missed out on a podium place after finishing fourth and fifth respectively.

Bottas secured a maximum 26 points after winning the extra one thanks to his fastest lap. The victory was his first since November 2017.

Speaking after the race, the Finn said: “I don’t know what just happened. The start was really good, definitely my best race ever, I just felt so good and everything was under control and the car was very good, I just need to enjoy today.

“The fastest lap is a new rule as I had strong pace, I had to go for that. I’m just so happy and can’t wait for the next race.”

When asked by Sky Sports about Bottas’s performance Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said: “The second half of the season [in 2018] he was completely written off, people didn’t think he was up to the job, but he’s bounced back in the most dominant way.

“When he came back from the winter he said ‘I’m back’. I think he rediscovered the joy of driving with his rally driving and mentally he’s been very strong.”

Lance Stroll scored two points in his first grand prix for Racing Point while British rookies Lance Norris (McLaren) and George Russell (Williams) were 12th and 16th respectively on their F1 debuts.

Driver reactions after the Australian GP

Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes, 1st place): “I truly enjoyed it and it would not be possible without the amazing car. In the beginning it was about managing the race and I saw after five, six seven laps I was starting to build the lead. I knew I could do it, I have done it before. When you are really on it it feels kind of easy.”

Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes, 2nd): “It’s a good weekend for the team so I have to be happy for everyone, and Valtteri drove an incredible race today, and deserved it. It’s a great start to the year and it’s what we could have hoped for for the team. I had Max covered behind me, and I had some ideas of where the pace went, but I’ll go through it with my engineers afterwards. I’ll just train and work hard to stay and improve for next time.”

Max Verstappen (Red Bull, 3rd): “I had to overtake Seb to get on to the podium which is not easy around here so I was happy to pull off that move. To start the season on the podium, challenging the Mercedes in front of us, is a very positive start to us and a big thank you to the team after a tough Friday.”

Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari, 4th): “I guess we were just slow. I was struggling with the tyres, but even ignoring the lap I pitted, it looks like everyone else was having way less problems than l was.”

Daniel Ricciardo (Renault, retired on lap 31): “I’m gutted for sure, I hit a gutter sometimes you feel you can get away with that at every other track. I had the run on [Sergip] Perez, I just moved, dropped my wheel on the grass, then I felt a big bump and thought something would happen into turn one and it did. It is hard, especially at home. The whole week is full on and I’m pretty flat right now.”

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