Finland's Bottas breaks free from Hamilton's shadow

Arnold Nichols
March 21, 2019

Ferrari's drivers finished only fourth and fifth in Sunday's race - a minute behind Mercedes race victor Valtteri Bottas.

"Nico showed in the race that the vehicle belongs in the top eight and we'll be aiming for a smoother weekend in Bahrain and a strong result", said Ricciardo.

"To whom it may concern, f*** you", he said after beating Hamilton by nearly 21 seconds, with the nearest Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel 57 seconds adrift. "Especially when you're aiming for the big points, should you go for the fastest lap?" Over 58 laps we have time to get a proper read of where we are but certainly Mercedes are the clear favourites.

Bottas failed to win a race in 2018, struggling in the second half of the season when Mercedes put its weight behind Lewis Hamilton's ultimately successful title challenge against Sebastian Vettel. Bottas had a quick getaway at the start and took the lead of the race. "That's pay back from past year Valtteri".

While Bottas drew first blood against Hamilton and Ferrari, there is a long season ahead with another 20 races to go before the world champion is crowded.

"Today in the morning meeting, when we talked about strategy, I forbid to go for fastest lap if we were running one, two or three", Wolff said.

"At that time, we did not want to jeopardize the result we had", Binotto said. Anyone who has seen F1's Netflix series can imagine the choice words coming from the mouth of team principal Guenther Steiner as it happened.

"When he left, after the Christmas party, he said he was exhausted and he needed to recover because it was the most shitty half of the season he has ever had", revealed the Austrian, "and he came back at the end of January and said: "I'm back".

How satisfying it must have been, then, to see Max Verstappen grace the podium in the opening race of a new partnership with Red Bull, the Dutchman finishing third.

Ferrari was unable to even muster a podium finish, with 2017 and 2018 victor Sebastian Vettel passed by Red Bull's Max Verstappen, leaving the German fourth.

"In this Ferrari it is possible", Leclerc smiled, but he also said he is not rushing. "Because I think the engineers were keen and the drivers were keen!"

Verstappen was challenging Hamilton in the later laps and finished less than two seconds behind.

"What I was shown and led to believe was that, from the analysis we were given, that they were ahead and obviously that wasn't the case during this weekend". The key thing, for me, was the race start.

Whiting died suddenly from a pulmonary embolism in Melbourne on the eve of the season-opener, and his presence and influence will be widely missed as the sport's worldwide governing body tries to find a permanent replacement.

It was the first time in his Ferrari career that Vettel - victor of the last two races in Melbourne - had failed to be on the podium at the Australian GP.

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