Vettel pips Hamilton in the Australian Grand Prix
Sebastian Vettel won the first race of the 2018 Formula One in dramatic fashion. A mistake by Lewis Hamilton’s team Mercedes gifted the German victory in the Australian Grand Prix. A lack of communication and a software error allowed Vettel to steal first place and take an early lead in the F1 championship.
Four-time Formula One World Champion Sebastian Vettel claimed a surprise win in the first race of the 2018 season in Australia. Britain’s Lewis Hamilton looked to be cruising to victory but a miscalculation by Hamilton’s support team allowed Vettel to steal victory and claim his first win since the Singapore GP in 2015.
Vettel claimed victory in what was widely expected to be a routine win for Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton produced a lap of excellence in qualifying to take pole and was an astonishing six tenths of a second ahead of Kimi Räikkönen. This is virtually unheard of in Formula One.
In the race itself, Hamilton was comfortably in control. He was leading Räikkönen in the Ferrari and had made his pitstop. But then the virtual safety car was deployed because of Roman Grosjean Haas rolling to a stop.
This placed Sebastian Vettel in the lead, although he hadn’t pitted. He took advantage of the slowdown in action whilst the safety car was in effect to make his pit stop, this gained Vettel plenty of time and he emerged from the pit stop in front of Lewis Hamilton who had been held up by Max Verstappen.
Despite Hamilton pressuring Vettel, the 30-year-old managed to hold on to claim the first Grand Prix of the season.
Hamilton came in second, 5 seconds behind Vettel with Kimi Räikkönen completing the podium finishers. Redbull’s Daniel Ricciardo achieved fourth with McLaren’s Fernando Alonso finishing in fifth place.
For Vettel, the circumstances of the win would have reminded him of last year’s Chinese Grand Prix. On that occasion, it was Hamilton who benefitted from the deployment of the safety car.
On lap four, a crash involving Williams’ Lance Stroll and Force India’s Sergio Perez meant that Vettel took the opportunity to change to dry tyres. This dropped Vettel down to 6th position with the drivers ahead of him electing to stay on the grooved intermediate tyres. It seemed that Vettel would take advantage when the leading pack pitted, but a crash by Sauber’s Antonio Giovinazzi meant the safety car was deployed which allowed Hamilton to make his needed pit stop without losing ground to Vettel.
Software glitch blamed for Hamilton’s defeat
When a pit stop is made under the safety car, it takes on average ten seconds less than when the F1 cars are going at full speed. Hamilton’s team should have factored this into the equation and warned the British number one that Vettel could take the lead.
That call never came and in the aftermath of the race Hamilton blasted his team for not telling him that his rival had entered the pits. There can be little doubt that Hamilton would have won the race had his team not miscalculated the gap that Hamilton needed to keep the lead, a mistake that has been blamed on a software glitch.
Hamilton when talking to the press after the event explained that his team were still baffled how Vettel was able to turn third into first. Saying:
I don’t fully understand at the moment, they don’t still fully understand it still, they couldn’t give me an exact reason as to why it was the way it was. I can’t really say how I feel about it, but it’s never easy to lose a Grand Prix.– Lewis Hamilton, F1 Driver
Vettel was able to take advantage and has taken a slight lead in both men’s quest to be the first Formula One driver of the current era to win five world titles, with both Hamilton and Vettel currently on four.
Interestingly, the next Formula One race is in Bahrain on the 8th of April. Both Hamilton and Vettel are multiple winners at this circuit. Hamilton has two victories, winning the race in 2014 and 2015. Vettel has the upper hand, winning in 2012, 2013 and 2017.