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Pit strategy nets Vettel win in Australian Grand Prix to kick off 2018 F1 season

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Scuderia Ferrari and Sebastien Vettel took advantage of a Lap 26 Virtual Safety Car to get around the race leading Mercedes AMG Petronas of Lewis Hamilton and win the Australian Grand Prix to open the 2018 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season.

Hamilton had pitted on Lap 19, in response to Ferrari pitting then second-place runner Kimi Raikkonen one lap earlier, while Vettel stayed out in hopes that an alternate strategy would vault him forward after he ran in third off the initial start.

Ferrari got their wish in the form of Haas F1 Team’s Romain Grosjean, who stopped on track after exiting the pits with a loose wheel. Grosjean’s problems forced a Virtual Safety Car, and Vettel and Ferrari took advantage by immediately getting into the pits, and they subsequently emerged in the race lead.

While he had to hold Hamilton at bay following a Lap 32 restart – the race eventually went into a full Safety Car to remove the stricken VF-18 of Grosjean – Vettel led the rest of the way to take his second consecutive win at the Australian Grand Prix.

Raikkonen held off Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo to take the final spot on the podium, while Ricciardo ended up fourth.

McLaren F1 Team’s Fernando Alonso enjoyed a solid first race in the team’s new partnership with Renault, the two-time world champion finishing in fifth.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen finished sixth, recovering from a quick spin in Turn 2 on Lap 10 to do so, followed by Renault Sport F1 Team’s Nico Hulkenberg in seventh. Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas finished eighth after starting 15th following a crash during Q3 in qualifying, and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne and Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr. finished ninth and tenth to round out the points finishers.

Haas F1 Team’s promising weekend – Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean started fifth and sixth and ran as high as fourth and fifth in the opening stint – came to an abrupt end, with both cars falling out after their pit stops, seemingly due to loose wheels.

Haas’ misfortune ended a weekend that could have seen both drivers finish inside the top five, which would have been the team’s best result since joining Formula 1 in 2016. Other non-finishers included Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly (with a power unit issue), Alfa Romeo Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson (with a power steering failure), and Williams Martini Racing’s Sergey Sirotkin (with brake failure).

Results are below. The 2018 Formula 1 season continues on April 8 with the Bahrain Grand Prix.

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Dutch Grand Prix becomes fourth Formula 1 race canceled this season

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ZANDVOORT, Netherlands — The Dutch Grand Prix became the fourth Formula One race canceled this season because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, after organizers decided Thursday they didn’t want to play host to an event without spectators.

It was to be the first Dutch GP since 1985, but F1 wants to start the season with no spectators at races.

“We would like to celebrate this moment, the return of Formula 1 in Zandvoort, together with our racing fans in the Netherlands,” race director Jan Lammers said in a statement. “We ask everyone to be patient. I had to look forward to it for 35 years, so I can wait another year.”

The race in Zandvoort was set for May 3 and initially postponed. Fans who bought tickets can use them next year.

The coastal circuit has been redesigned, with some corners banked to facilitate faster racing.

The other races canceled this year were the season-opening Australian GP on March 15; the Monaco GP on May 24; and the French GP on June 28.

Another six have been postponed.

F1 organizers still hope to reschedule those and hold 15 to 18 races this season, starting in July with back-to-back races at the Austrian GP.