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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.


WATCH: Red Bull F1 team completes pit stop in zero gravity

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The Red Bull Racing pit crew may have already made headlines last weekend when it completed the fastest pit stop in Formula One history, changing Max Verstappen’s tires in 1.82 seconds, but the team’s most recent stunt took their skills to new heights – quite literally.

With the help of the Russian Space agency Roscomos, a group of the team’s mechanics completed the world’s first zero-gravity pit stop, on-board a IIyushin II-76K cosmonaut training plane.

Using a 2005 BR1, the team filmed the viral video over the course of a week, enduring seven flights and about 80 parabolas – periods in which the plane climbs 45 degrees before falling again at a ballistic arch of 45 degrees, creating a period of weightlessness for approximately 22 seconds.

With such a short time frame between weightlessness periods, the car and equipment had to be both quickly and safely secured before gravity once again took effect. Each filming lasted roughly 15 seconds, and the stunt was the most physically and technically demanding activity the live demo team had ever undertaken.

“It pushed us harder than I thought it would,” said Red Bull Support Team Mechanic Joe Robinson. “You realize how much you rely on gravity when you don’t have any!

“It challenges you to think and operate in a different way – and that was brilliant. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and honestly, I could have stayed and done it all month. It was amazing. I think it’s the coolest, most fun thing the Live Demo team has ever done with a show car.”

Though Red Bull was the first team to perform a pit stop in zero gravity, surprisingly Red Bull was not the first team to put a car through zero gravity. In 1999, McLaren driver David Coulthard and his car experienced zero gravity as part of a promotion for then-sponsor West Cigarettes.

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