Melbourne, March 26 (IANS) Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel stormed to victory ahead of the UK’s Lewis Hamilton and Finland’s Valtteri Bottas at the Australian Grand Prix here on Sunday, giving the Italian team a second victory in 18 months.
In a surprise win, Ferrari demonstrated that the team is now equipped to challenge Mercedes’ recent dominance, reports Xinhua news agency.
Sunday’s result is Vettel’s 43rd victory of his career, 18 months after his last win with Ferrari in September 2015 at the Singapore Grand Prix.
“There is a long, long way ahead but for now we are over the moon. It has been a hard winter and an incredible race today,” the German said.
“I was a bit nervous at the start and Lewis was better, then I had to take care of Valtteri in turn one, then I had to keep the pressure on, to get the message that we are here and we are here to fight,” he added.
The race was decided in the pit lanes, with Mercedes opting for a risky strategy by having Hamilton come in early on lap 17 with a clear lead ahead of Vettel in second.
Mercedes’ gamble did not pay off as Vettel took the lead from Hamilton when the Brit emerged from the pit lanes behind Vettel, Bottas (also Mercedes), Finnish Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) and Dutch Max Verstappen (Red Bull).
Vettel, on the other hand, was able to delay the tire change and maintain his lead with Hamilton stuck in traffic behind him.
However, the Briton managed to claw his way back into second place ahead of Bottas in third and Raikkonen in fourth.
Verstappen took fifth, Brazilian Felipe Massa (Williams) took sixth and the Mexican Sergio Perez (Force India) finished seventh.
Spain’s Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso) finished eighth ahead of his Russian teammate Daniil Kvat and France’s Esteban Ocon (Force India), who closed the points zone at 10th place after overtaking the Spaniard Fernando Alonso (McLaren-Honda), who was forced to abandon three laps from the end due to a mechanical problem.