F1: Bottas dominates at first race of 2019 in Melbourne
Bottas wins in Melbourne (Photo credit: Clive Mason, Getty images)

F1: Bottas dominates at first race of 2019 in Melbourne

Valtteri Bottas asserted the dominance of Mercedes after winning the opening grand prix of 2019 in Melbourne.

James Cowen

Valtteri Bottas put in a staggering performance, finishing more than 20 seconds ahead of his team-mate Lewis Hamilton, with Max Verstappen close behind the Brit in third for Red Bull.

Despite Mercedes achieving maximum points at the season-opening race, the thought of losing by over 20 seconds to his team-mate is not what pole man Hamilton would have been thinking.

Ferrari did not have the pace to keep up with their rivals, with Sebastian Vettel finishing fourth and Charles Leclerc fifth, the Italian team nearly a minute behind the race winner.

Bottas quick off the line and strong in pace

After just losing out to Hamilton in qualifying on Saturday, Bottas beat his team-mate off the line and led into the first corner.

Leclerc had also got off to a good start, getting past Verstappen and tried to swoop round the outside of Vettel into turn one, although ran wide and fell back to fifth.

Bottas started to build the gap in the early stages of the race before Vettel became the first of the front runners to pit for the mediums.

Mercedes responded by pitting Hamilton soon after, although the Brit struggled for pace on new tyres despite keeping Vettel behind him.

Bottas, Verstappen and Leclerc continued to extend their first stints on the soft tyres, with Bottas finding superior speed and setting quick laps out in front.

It meant the Finn was able to create a comfortable gap to the cars behind, later pitting for the medium tyres and coming out far ahead of Hamilton in third.

Verstappen pitted soon after Bottas, also moving onto the mediums and came out just behind Vettel, although quickly dispatched the German with superior grip in his tyres.

After Leclerc pitted, opting for the hards, Bottas was able to re-take the lead, whilst Hamilton and Verstappen scrapped for second.

However, Verstappen ran onto the grass going into turn one and lost time to Hamilton, although started to close up on the Brit towards the end of the race.

The Dutchman, however, could not pass the silver arrow, despite setting fast laps behind.

Although Leclerc closed in on Vettel with fresher tyres towards the end of the race in an attempt to take fourth, the Ferrari driver backed off and settled in behind his team-mate.

Fastest lap point for Bottas

With a point up for grabs for setting the fastest lap of the race, the top three aimed to set the timing sheets alight, although it was Bottas who prevailed after going quickest on the penultimate lap, picking up 26 points in total.

The win will be sweet for the Finnish driver, who in 2018 did not challenge for the top step of the podium and entered this season with his seat under pressure.

However, Bottas executed a perfectly driven race after claiming his aim was to make 2019 his best season so far.

Haas have flashback to 2018

Haas were able to live up to their qualifying pace, with Kevin Magnussen able to secure sixth place and best of the rest after the top five.

However, it wasn’t all good news after Romain Grosjean had deja vu from 2018, suffering a poor pit-stop and later retiring from the race.

Nico Hulkenberg finished a lonely but comfortable seventh for Renault, with Kimi Raikkonen able to take eight in his Alfa Romeo.

Lance Stroll put in a good performance to finish ninth for Racing Point, with Daniil Kvyat securing a point in tenth on his return to the track.

Norris impresses as Gasly struggles, home favourite suffers nightmare

Despite qualifying in eight, Lando Norris put in an impressive performance to finish 12th on his debut, with a stand out overtake on Antonio Giovinazzi after going down the inside into turn three.

However, fellow McLaren driver Carlos Sainz was forced to retire early on from the race after his car suffered an MGU-K failure.

Pierre Gasly, who only qualified in 17th for Red Bull, managed to make his way up to 11th, although struggled to put his car into the points after a close battle with Kvyat.

Home favourite Daniel Ricciardo had a dismal race, losing his front wing at the start and later retiring his car.