Melbourne followed up the AFL’s opening round record attendance at the MCG of 90,000 with an equally impressive 94,000 strong turnout to witness Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel spill first blood over Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and set up an enticing 2018 Formula One season.
The city awoke to the roar of the first round of the 2018 Formula 1 season over the weekend. In typical temperamental Melbourne conditions, Friday practice was held under blue skies and hot sun, Saturday morning was awash, but the weather cleared to provide ideal Qualifying conditions. Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position, with Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen showing he’s not there to make up the numbers by qualifying on the front row beside Hamilton. Australian hometown hero Daniel Ricciardo qualified in 5th, but was penalised 3 positions to start from 8th. Ricciardo was visibly unhappy with the penalty, which was for failing to slow under flags during P2 and put in place after qualifying had concluded.
In a heavy hit, Finn Valtterri Bottas visited the wall, crashing out of qualifying on turn 2. His Mercedes spun after getting on the power too early with rear wheels touching the grass on the outside of turn one, unsettling the car into turn 2 and off the track. It was a long night in the garage but the car was repaired and he started from 10th in the race.
The grid saw 5 drivers fail to finish the 58 lap race at Albert Park. Most notably, this included both Haas drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen. Unfortunately for the team who were on track to see some of their best results ever, it was pit errors that aided their retirements due to technical issues with the cars.
It was a great race for Ricciardo in front of his hometown. Climbing from 8th to 4th and overtaking teammate Max Verstappen, Ricciardo drove to impress and gave the Red Bull all it had. Verstappen spun whilst chasing Magnussen, dropping to 8th position but his car was unharmed and seeing him to a 6th place finish after a good recovery.
The next round of the 2018 Formula 1 Season is at the Bahrain International Circuit on April 9th.