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Vettel feels fortunate, but happy with Australian Grand Prix win

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Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who was victorious on Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix, was relieved that the team’s strategy, which saw him run longer on his opening stint than those around him, most notably early race leader Lewis Hamilton, worked to perfection to vault Vettel up from third on the grid and into the lead, which he held for the entire second half of the race on his way to victory.

“It’s been the other way around a couple times, especially last year. So, I think what goes around comes around. Maybe sometimes it feels bad to wait for it, so on a day like this obviously you don’t mind,” Vettel said to Formula 1’s Will Buxton during a post-race edition of F1 Paddock Pass.

Vettel added that the Virtual Safety Car period, brought out by Haas F1’s Team’s Romain Grosjean when he stopped on course with a loose wheel, was a scenario that the team had discussed in great detail ahead of the race, and things worked out exactly as they had planned.

“Obviously, we did our homework,” Vettel quipped. “We spoke about exactly that (scenario) before the race. Obviously, you never know what happens, and that’s the proof you have to remain sharp. As soon as I saw the Virtual Safety Car I knew what to do. And we tried to do everything, and it worked. It was tight, but it worked.”

Conversely, Mercedes AMG Petronas’ Lewis Hamilton, who led early after starting on the pole, was dumbfounded that the race got away from them after a dominant display in qualifying saw him outqualify the field by over half a second.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 25: Second placed Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP on the podium during the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park on March 25, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

“I am in disbelief because I did everything I was supposed to do. I came, I was prepared, I drove as well as I could, I didn’t put a foot wrong and all of the sudden I came out behind (Vettel) and I was thinking ‘What just happened?’ I’m sure the team is feeling pain right now, but we’ll regroup and I’m sure we’ll work on it,” he explained in the aforementioned F1 Paddock Pass video.

Hamilton added that, while his F1 W09 EQ Power+ is certainly quick, he expects Ferrari to be neck and neck with Mercedes all year.

They had some good pace today,” he said of Ferrari’s performance. “We’re going to other races where they’re going to potentially be…their performance is going to be a little bit higher, and there’s going to be races where our performance is a little bit higher. But, I think it’s going to be a close battle through the year.”

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Valtteri Bottas takes pole position for season-opening Austrian GP

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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas upstaged Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to take pole position Saturday for the Formula One Austrian GP.

The Finnish driver edged out the world champion by 0.012 seconds to claim the top spot for the season opener at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. He clenched his fist as he climbed out of his car and shared a hug with Hamilton.

“It’s something special when you push the car to the limit,” said Bottas, who is chasing an eighth career win. “Feels so good. It’s very impressive (from the team).”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third, and Lando Norris gave McLaren a boost by finishing fourth. Verstappen has won the past two years here, including 2019 when he started third behind Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

“It’s going to be interesting quite a bit warmer tomorrow and hopefully this will play to our advantage,” Verstappen said. “Today, Mercedes was on a different level, unfortunately. Last year we were also a little bit off in qualifying so I expect we will be a bit better in the race.”

Bottas had the leading time when drivers embarked on their final laps and beat his own mark before sliding off the track into the gravel.

Hamilton was chasing a record-extending 89th career pole. He was ahead but then dropped off slightly as Bottas secured a 12th career pole.

“Great job by Valtteri. It’s a great start to the season,” Hamilton said. “We show year on year that we continue to be the best team. We’re open-minded … constantly learning from each other and pushing the boundaries.”

Ferrari struggled for speed, with Leclerc nearly one second behind in seventh and Sebastian Vettel failing to make it into the third and final part of qualifying, known as Q3. He starts the race from 11th on the grid.

Vettel is leaving Ferrari at the end of the season with his future in F1 uncertain.

Earlier, Hamilton posted the fastest time in morning practice. The 35-year-old British driver was also quickest in both sessions on Friday.

Midway through third practice, F1 newcomer Nicholas Latifi misjudged the exit of a turn and spun his Williams car into a protective tire wall.