Lewis Hamilton had to settle for second place in the Australian Grand Prix, as last year’s runner-up Sebastian Vettel secured what was a controversial victory, on the opening day of the new Formula 1 season.
Hamilton had made poll superbly and looked to be well in control at the front of the pack before the virtual safety-car came into play after Romain Grosjean’s car had come to a halt on the track. From there it was all downhill for the world champion.
Ferrari decided to call in Vettel for his pitstop while the virtual safety car was active, and this proved to be a masterstroke. World champion Hamilton had already pitted but when the virtual safety car restrictions are active it means that pit stops take 10 seconds less than usual. While Hamilton’s speed was restricted on the track, Vettel pitted and re-joined the race ahead of the Mercedes driver.
Hamilton did his best to strike back at Vettel in an attempt to regain first place for the majority of the race, but he was unable to find a way past the German who was thrilled to get the new campaign off to a winning start. In the latter stages, the defending world champion appeared to lose pace and he then had to switch his attention to securing a second-place finish.
This season Hamilton is aiming to be the only driver of this current generation to have five world title wins to his name but coming second in Australia will be a blow for the Mercedes man, even at such an early stage. This will especially be the case as Hamilton had built up a good lead over second-placed Kimi Raikkonen, who had started second on the grid. He then built up an even bigger lead over the Finn after pitting but it was Ferrari’s strategy to call Vettel in when they did that proved to be the difference.
Hamilton’s team have come out and said that their computer system had miscalculated the time gap he would need to hold first place while the VSC was active. So, in reality, all Hamilton could have done to ensure victory would have been to open up a bigger lead. If he had been instructed to do so he would have done this, but the software error proved how fine lines can be the difference between finishing in first or second place.
Over the course of the race weekend, Hamilton really excelled and showed everyone that this could be another successful season as he goes in search of a fifth world title. Putting the Mercedes error to one side, the Brit was superb on his pole lap in qualifying and drove well in the first part of the race. If he performs in the same manner for the rest of the season he will be very hard to stop and drivers like Vettel will need to continue to take every chance that comes their way.