Hamilton was comfortably in control of the race, heading both Ferraris up until the pit stops. But when both Haas’ retired with a couple of laps of each other, everything changed.
Whereas Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen (who’d been running ahead of his teammate) had pitted, the Virtual Safety Car that was deployed to recover Romain Grosjean’s car was perfectly timed for Vettel, who was running long, to make his stop and emerge in front of the pair of them to take the lead.
And that was pretty much how it stayed until the end. Hamilton pushed hard to try and grab the lead back but with Albert Park being such a difficult track to pass on, he never really had a chance. After a brief error at Turn 9 and a few more charging laps, he gave up the chase with a few laps to go to finish a very disappointing second as a flawless Vettel cruised to his 48th victory and his 100th podium. Raikkonen held off the recovering Daniel Ricciardo to round out the podium.
Max Verstappen had a very scruffy race. After losing a place to Kevin Magnussen at the first corner he looked ragged in his attempts to try and pass the Dane, eventually spinning at the first corner and dropping down a few positions. He ended up sixth, behind the McLaren of Fernando Alonso, who’d also benefitted from the VSC.
Stoffel Vandoorne was ninth, making it two McLarens in the points, whilst Renault also secured a double-points finish. Valtteri Bottas had a very quiet race following his qualifying crash and ended up seventh, although considering the lack of overtaking opportunities, perhaps that’s not such a bad result.
As well as the two Haas’, other retirements were Pierre Gasly, Marcus Ericsson and Sergey Sirotkin, all three suffering from some sort of mechanical failure.
INITIAL CLASSIFICATION – LAP 58/58
Sebastian Vettel takes his third win in Australia
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 25, 2018
OK, so it wasn’t exactly the most thrilling race as the extra DRS zone did little to help with the overtaking. But the top three teams seem to be very closely matched in terms of race pace, at least, which is seriously encouraging for the rest of the season. Roll on Bahrain!