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.