A bitter and bitter disappointment marked the last part of last season for Valtteri Bottas. At the Russian Grand Prix, and no longer in the championship fight, he was ordered to give up his lead to Lewis Hamilton. He duly played the team match, but it would have been as difficult to swallow as any moment of his career. Here in Melbourne, he found the most emphatic way to restore his glory by putting Hamilton to the sword during the very first race of the 2019 season and by winning the Australian Grand Prix.
Bottas was open about the frustration he had felt with some of his performances last season and that he had returned this year with the absolute intention of leaving his mark. His triumph was palpable. "Who's right: Fuck you," he announced on the radio after winning the flag in what he later described as the best race of his life.
The 29-year-old defenseman believes he can participate in the fight for the title of world champion. To do this, he knows that he must first beat his teammate. He did it in Melbourne steadily and Hamilton acknowledged that he had been left behind. He finished 20.8 seconds behind the Finn, although the world champion did not push too far, controlling his pace due to a problem of damage to the floor of his car that he had caught up in the fourth lap .
Mercedes, who has repeatedly explained that he would let his drivers run without a team order while both are vying for the title and the rest here, will welcome the double, especially after appearing to be lagging behind. Ferrari. after the test. They were dominant while Scuderia leave Albert Park with some serious questions to answer.
Sebastian Vettel finished fourth for Ferrari with teammate Charles Leclerc in fifth. Vettel started in third place, but was not happy with the balance of his car throughout the weekend. Vettel was finally almost a minute back on Bottas when the checkered flag fell. Ferrari 's car looked absolutely stuck in testing, fast and enjoying a wonderful balance that allowed its drivers to attack in corners. In Australia, they had a completely different beast.
To draw too many conclusions from the race here is however delicate. The Albert Park is not typical of most circuits, a special case and a notoriously difficult going beyond. Nevertheless, the fact of having won such an impressive victory will be considered as a very positive indicator for the coming season by Mercedes and Ferrari and that there is still work to be done.
Red Bull and their new Honda engine partner will also be thrilled to have been so strong out of the pack and having finished the weekend without any major engine problems. For Honda, which has earned its first podium since returning to the sport as an engine supplier in 2014, its perseverance seems to be paying off.
For Bottas, a fourth career victory and his first since Abu Dhabi in 2017 is the much needed confidence boost. The crucial moment came when the lights went out. Bottas took a quick start in second place on the grid, while Hamilton had a few wheel strokes, and the Finn was leading the moment they entered corner one.
Valtteri Bottas leads the rest of the field through the first corner at Albert Park. Photography: Mark Sutton / Images Sutton / REX / Shutterstock
By letting Mercedes drive their drivers to the race, they were satisfied with Bottas' pace and, during pit stops, he was able to create the advantage he had taken on the line and take an insurmountable lead.
Vettel opened the sequence of pit stops arriving to take the middle tire on the 14th lap. Hamilton then followed a lap later to cover the undercut. But the team told the Finn that his pace was faster and he would keep it outside. Bottas quickly confirmed it by making faster turns.
This is the form that Bottas has only modestly demonstrated in 2018 and, in doing so, he was sometimes the victim of bad luck. As in Baku last year, when he had a puncture while heading. In Australia, lady luck finally smiled at the Finn. Hamilton and Vettel were simply unable to challenge his pace and when Mercedes turned it on lap 22, he only overtook Verstappen who had not stopped yet and was comfortably clear of Hamilton and Vettel . Mercedes then announced that the damage to the floor of Hamilton's car had impacted his balance, but when Verstappen faced the 25th lap, Bottas took over the advantage.
The sequence of pit stops completed, he held a considerable advantage. On lap 30, he was 16 seconds ahead of Hamilton and 2 of 18 ahead of Vettel. The German was then pressured by Verstappen, who attacked turn three with his new rubber and held it to take third place.
For Bottas, however, he clearly explained to his team that he was trying to get the fastest point for the fastest lap added to the regulations. in 2019. He got it right before the victory. That leaves him at the top of the table and compared to the sorrow and despair that ended last season, positively at the top of the world.
Daniel Ricciardo, the local hero, went into the grass from the starting line and lost his front wing, forcing him to make a quick stop to replace him. He sent it to the back of the pack and the Renault driver finally had to give up on the 31st lap as a precaution.
Kevin Magnussen of Haas was sixth; Nico Hulkenberg of Renault in seventh place and Kimi Raikkonen of Alfa Romeo in eighth place. Lance Stroll finished ninth for Racing Point and Daniil Kvyat in Toro Rosso in tenth place. Britain's Lando Norris was a very impressive 12th for McLaren in his first GP. George Russell, who struggled to make his debut, was 19th ahead of teammate Robert Kubica.