Sebastian Vettel took advantage of a virtual safety car period, along with a well-timed pit stop, to come out in front of rival Lewis Hamilton halfway through Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park to win by five seconds with Kimi Räikkönen finishing in third.
Vettel trailed Hamilton for the early part of the race, but Vettel got the break he needed when the Haas F1 entries of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean stopped on-track because of wheel nuts that were cross threaded. The stalled cars resulted in the Virtual Safety Car (VSC) being put out. During the brief VSC, Vettel dived into the pits for his only pit stop. Shortly afterwards, the VSC became a regular Safety Car period.
Due to the FIA rules regarding the VSC, the German suddenly found himself on the track in front of Hamilton. From there, Vettel more than held his own, ending up five seconds ahead of Hamilton for the victory.
In a fierce battle in the midfield, Daniel Ricciardo just missed catching Räikkönen for a home podium by finishing fourth, while Fernando Alonso took fifth ahead of Max Verstappen, Nico Hulkenberg and Valtteri Bottas. Stoffel Vandoorne and Carlos Sainz Jr. rounded out the top 10.
For Vettel, it is his 48th career victory. But Vettel knew there was still a long way to go.
“We’re not yet there where we want to be.” Vettel said. “But I think it gives us a good start, a good wind, and fresh motivation for the coming weeks.
Next up for the Formula 1 World Championship will be the Grand Prix of Bahrain at the Bahrain International Circuit. While teams will get a little preparation time, the cars and equipment will travel by air to Bahrain. The race is scheduled for Sunday, April 8 at 11:10 a.m.