Australian Grand Prix – Sebastian Vettel took advantage of a well-timed virtual safety car to take victory ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen in Melbourne.
With all other front-runners pitting prior to the virtual safety car deployment, the Ferrari driver was able to capitalise on other driving at a slower speed to leap from third to first over the pit stop period.
With Hamilton leading the opening stages of the race ahead of Raikkonen and Vettel, the Briton appeared to be unchallenged.
However, back-to-back pit stop problems for the Haas team left Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean stranded on-track with loose wheels, with the virtual safety car – and then the full safety car – being deployed for the latter car.
With Vettel going for a longer first tyre stint than Hamilton and Raikkonen, the Ferrari man pitted during the virtual safety car and emerged in the lead of the race.
Vettel was then forced to fend off pressure from Hamilton over the remainder of the race, however the Briton was unable to create a solid opportunity to attempt an overtake, conceding victory to Vettel.
Raikkonen fell away from the top two and instead had to concentrate on defending against a recovering Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo, who had negotiated his way from eighth on the grid, but the home favourite couldn’t find a way past the Ferrari man.
McLaren’s Fernando Alonso also took advantage of the virtual safety car phase to rise to fifth place, fending off a combative Max Verstappen in the Red Bull.
Verstappen’s race was a scrappy affair. The Dutchman lost a place to Haas’ Kevin Magnussen at the start of the race and spun in his attempts to overtake in the early stages of the race.
He initially recovered to fifth in the virtual safety car phase, but he was instructed to allow Alonso to re-pass after he overtook the McLaren under yellow flags.
He stayed behind the McLaren to finish sixth, ahead of Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and the recovering Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas.
The second McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne finished the race in ninth, ahead of the second Renault of Carlos Sainz.
The early promise shown by the Haas team was brought to an agonising conclusion; both Magnussen and Grosjean were running in the top six at the time of the pit stops before wheel attachment issues derailed their race.
Magnussen’s car left the pit lane with the left rear wheel not attached properly, whilst front left wheel was at fault for Grosjean’s retirement.
The result means that Vettel and Ferrari unexpectedly lead both the drivers’ and constructors’ championship respectively, with the season continuing in Bahrain in two weeks’ time.
To view the full results of the race, click here.