The 2018 Australian Grand Prix (officially the Formula 1 2018 Rolex Australian Grand Prix) was the first race of the 2018 Formula One season, the 34th time the Australian Grand Prix was held on the Formula One calendar, and the 23rd time it was held at the Albert Park Circuit. It was held between 23 March and 25 March 2018.
After a crash from his teammate Valtteri Bottas at the start of Q3, Lewis Hamilton took his fifth consecutive pole position at the circuit, while Kimi Räikkönen joined him on the front row, with Sebastian Vettel qualifying third.
In the race, Hamilton kept his lead at the start. However, after he and Räikkönen came in for their one and only pit stops, the virtual safety car was activated as a result of both Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean stopping beside the track due to having their tyres not fitted properly. Vettel took advantage and pitted under the virtual safety car, coming out in front of Hamilton and taking the effective lead. He went on to take the victory, winning the Australian Grand Prix for a second year in a row. Hamilton settled for second whilst Räikkönen completed the podium.
Despite the limited pre-season where testing was reduced to only eight days at the Circuit de Catalunya, Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton once again emerged as the favourites for the Constructors' and Drivers' World Championship for 2018.
The new Mercedes W09 at the very least, demonstrated impressive reliability heading into Melbourne where Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas completed a total of 4 087 kilometres during the two weeks of testing. Nonetheless, Toto Wolff believed that Mercedes would have to fend off Ferrari and Red Bull in order to retain their crown.
Ahead of the race in Albert Park, Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton had proven untouchable in qualifying having taken every single pole position since the beginning of the hybrid era.
However despite their largely superior pace throughout the era, the team would remember the reliability issues that cost Hamilton a race victory in 2014 and in 2017 when a pit-wall blunder cost Hamilton's race win to Sebastian Vettel. The team were described as "nervous" heading into the opening race due to an almost perfect reliability throughout testing. Nonetheless, the biggest threat Mercedes posed to the rest of the field was its significant increase in horsepower which could be used to great effect in the qualifying mapping. Hamilton dubbed this new fuel map, the "party mode".
Vettel noted that he and Ferrari would "try" to defeat Mercedes, however the Italian squad would not head to Melbourne as the title favourites despite some quick testing times. Although, Hamilton maintained his confidence in leading the Formula One field, Nico Rosberg made quick reminder that his former teammate's weakness was his "inconsistency" to which Vettel had best exploited in 2017. Hamilton, however responded to his former teammate in stating "I think consistency is the main reason I won last year".
Red Bull would still be considered the outside contender for 2018, however Daniel Ricciardo was optimistic that their team would remain within half a second of Mercedes and Ferrari ahead of the start of the season. In terms of his prospects for Melbourne, fellow Australian and former racer, Mark Webber commented that "He is not thinking about winning".
With his former teammate, Sebastian Vettel open to Ferrari signing him for 2019, Ricciardo asserted that Red Bull would have to be a position to challenge for the championship at "minimum" if they wanted him to stay. Hamilton, however remained wary that Ricciardo shouldn't "alienate" his team lest his future plans did not move in his favour. A mistake that had often been attributed to the career of Fernando Alonso.
For the past three years, Force India had consistently led the midfield battle, however with the rapid improvements from Renault, Haas and McLaren, the team would be hard pressed to maintain their position as the fourth best team in Formula One. Sergio Pérez was entering his fifth season with the team and during 2017 had proved a worthy rival of his teammate, the rising talent Esteban Ocon. Ocon whom was predicted as a future title rival to Max Verstappen noted that in 2018 "he has to prove himself to Mercedes".
For Ocon it would be absolutely critical to defeat Pérez in 2018 given he would have to face off current Mercedes driver Valterri Bottas, Mercedes reserve drivers, Pascal Wehrlein and George Russell as well as Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo for the 2019 race seat alongside Lewis Hamilton. The Force India team would provide a significant update to their new chassis in order to fight against the rest of the midfield.
\With the retirement of Felipe Massa at the end of 2017, there was much off-season debate about his potential replacement. There was much anticipation that Robert Kubica would make his Formula One comeback after a rally accident's devastating injuries to his right arm had prematurely ended his career in 2011.
However in his four evaluation tests with Williams at the end of 2017, the team found that despite his strong race pace, Kubica struggled over one-lap performace. Therefore the team decided to hire Sergey Sirotkin, the young Russian race driver whom was noted for his significantly larger financial backing than Kubica. With Sirotkin joining Lance Stroll in the team, Williams were noted for a very inexperienced line-up for 2018. Their main sponsor Martini would notably announce their withdrawal of sponsorship at the end of the 2018 season. Williams not keeping their agreement with their sponsor in ensuring they competed with at least one driver over the age of 25.
Although the team were criticised for signing what appeared to be two pay drivers, the team opted to sign the returning Kubica as a pay driver. Kubica, not without his own significant financial backing. Kubica would also participate in three FP1's throughout 2018 as well as perform simulator work for the team.
Jacques Villeneuve, the former world champion whom had his career ended to make way for the debutant Kubica back in 2006 suggested that Kubica "might sabotage the Williams car" in order to make racing difficult for Williams's inexperience line-up.
McLaren had yet another troublesome start to the pre-season testing, however with their new engine partnership with Renault, the team expected a swift rise up the field in 2018. Unlike in the previous three years with the powerless Honda engines, Eric Boullier confirmed that the team's reliability problems had been sorted ahead of the new season. Boullier also noted that Alonso was a "different driver" in 2018, becoming more involved with the team following the squad's cautious optimism.
Alonso, himself commented that although he expected Australia to be the team's low point, a rapid progression up the field would be expected throughout the season. Despite his confidence, Nico Rosberg doubted that he would ever get a race victory in 2018.
If McLaren were to gain footing with the top tier they would have to conquer the midfield challengers such as Force India, Renault, Williams and Haas. Haas's Guenther Steiner expected a close battle among the midfield teams where he expected only half a second would separate the midfield tier.
Having been tested throughout 2017, the "halo" device, designed to protect a car's cockpit in order to improve safety, was finally used for the whole Grand Prix weekend. Due to the halo blocking part of drivers' visibility, the start light gantry at the front of the grid was lower, while the second set that was originally around the middle of the grid was at the front.
For the first time, the circuit had three Drag Reduction System zones. The third zone is located on the straight between Turns 12 and 13, with the detection point just before the Turn 11-12 chicane. Soft, supersoft and ultrasoft tyres were used for the Grand Prix.
Despite the pre-season concerns with the overheating of the softer compound tyres, Mercedes and Red Bull both notably went aggressive in the session in fitting the ultra soft tyres. Ferrari in contrast were more conservative and fitted the harder compounds in the soft and super soft.
Vettel was the first car to enter the track, however it would be Hamilton and Verstappen whom would be the interest of the session. Throughout the early part of the session, Verstappen proved capable of matching Hamilton's leading times. However the Red Bull driver relayed fears to his team that his "aggressive" style was overheating the tyres. Hamilton in contrast was described as being "one with the car" and despite the early challenge from Verstappen, the two Mercedes took control later in the session.
Bottas had initially struggled to find the pace, the rear of his car could be seen sliding the car through Clark, however Hamilton likewise could be seen having a sliding rear through Senna. Bottas had dropped down to sixth before putting in a time that was 0.046 seconds off Hamilton's leading time. Hamilton set an ominous response when his final best set him 0.430 seconds faster than Bottas. This was despite him reporting "a lot of traffic on that lap".
The Red Bull had been described as "supreme" in the corners, however continued to lack straight line speed. Although Verstappen was matching the pace of the Mercedes, Ricciardo in contrast appeared to be struggling to which he noted he was "still disconnected" from the car through the corners. At the end of the session, Ricciardo had dropped behind the Ferrari's of Räikkönen and Vettel whom neither had run the ultra soft tyre.
Like the previous year, Vettel had been the first car to enter the track for the new season, however throughout the session the 2017 runners-up ran conservatively in which Ferrari ran only the soft and super soft compounds. Despite their conservative tyre choice, Vettel could be seen pushing hard, having a wild moment into Stewart, barely keeping the car on-track. Räikkönen likewise was pushing hard, locking his tyres at Clark before ending the session faster than his teammate. Although they didn't run the ultra softs their pace on the slower tyres demonstrated they were well in the running among the Mercedes and Red Bull.
The midfield battle was as tight as predicted with only a second covering the times between seventh and sixteenth. Gasly noting over the radio, "the times are going nuts". Grosjean's Haas led the midfield, the team were expected to be in strong contention despite Magnussen lagging down in seventeenth. Magnussen ran wide deep onto the grass at Senna, however Grosjean whom took seventh wasn't without issue running wide at the exit of Waite and tearing off some body work during his trip through the gravel .
McLaren were expected to be at the top of this battle, however their exhaust problems from pre-season testing continued to trouble them into the first practice session. Both Alonso and Vandoorne had their running delayed in the session, however the team were able to repair the problem, albeit significantly later for Alonso. Vandoorne entered the track first, however reported "poor driveability" albeit on the soft tyres, Vandoorne advanced to tenth on the standings. After an hour of being grounded in the pits, the final half hour saw Alonso's super soft run quickly advance into eighth position.
Renault unusually had unusually publically announced their practice program ahead of the session. Hülkenberg was set to practice with an aero rake, testing a new front wing ahead of the new season. Sainz, meanwhile was confirmed to be testing rear brake drum seals. Until Grosjean and Alonso went faster late in the session, Sainz predominantly led the midfield times throughout the session.
The Toro Rosso's had a relatively clean session, given the past history of the Honda engine, however Gasly managed to pick up a €600 fine for speeding in the pit-lane. Hartley notably expressed frustration in the session, having been baulked by a Haas early in the session and then late in the session complained of losing "seven tenths" after making a mistake on a flying lap.
The Williams cars were the first to set lap-times in the session, Sirotkin leading Stroll since the beginning of the session. Sirotkin, would however demonstrate his inexperience when he carried too much speed into the entry of the pitlane and touched the wall.
The Force India's had an unremarkable session in which Ocon and Pérez finished the session at the back of the midfield battle. Nonetheless, they remained quicker than Magnussen, Hartley and the two Sauber's of Ericsson and Leclerc.
|1||44||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||27||US, US, US, US||1:24.026||-|
|2||77||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||29||S, US, US, US||1:24.577||+0.551|
|3||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull-TAG Heuer||26||US, US, SS, SS||1:24.771||+0.745|
|4||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Ferrari||23||S, S, S, S, S||1:24.875||+0.849|
|5||5||Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||22||S, S, S, SS, SS||1:24.995||+0.969|
|6||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull-TAG Heuer||25||US, US, SS, SS, SS||1:25.063||+1.037|
|7||8||Romain Grosjean||Haas-Ferrari||24||SS, SS, US, US||1:25.730||+1.704|
|8||14||Fernando Alonso||McLaren-Renault||16||US, US, SS, SS||1:25.896||+1.870|
|9||55||Carlos Sainz, Jr.||Renault||23||SS, SS, SS, SS, SS||1:25.922||+1.896|
|10||2||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren-Renault||15||US, US, S, S||1:26.482||+2.456|
|11||10||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso-Honda||25||SS, SS, SS, SS, SS||1:26.494||+2.468|
|12||35||Sergey Sirotkin||Williams-Mercedes||25||SS, US, US, US||1:26.536||+2.510|
|13||27||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault||25||S, S, S, SS, SS||1:26.583||+2.557|
|14||31||Esteban Ocon||Force India-Mercedes||30||US, US, SS, SS||1:26.605||+2.579|
|15||18||Lance Stroll||Williams-Mercedes||30||S, US, US, US, US||1:26.636||+2.610|
|16||11||Sergio Pérez||Force India-Mercedes||26||US, US, SS, SS||1:26.767||+2.741|
|17||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas-Ferrari||13||SS, SS, US, US||1:27.035||+3.009|
|18||28||Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso-Honda||16||S, S, S, SS, SS||1:27.745||+3.719|
|19||9||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber-Ferrari||28||SS, SS, SS, US, US||1:27.964||+3.938|
|20||16||Charles Leclerc||Sauber-Ferrari||28||SS, SS, SS, US, US||1:28.853||+4.827|
The first practice session demonstrated that Red Bull were able to match the pace of both Mercedes and Ferrari. However the leading question heading into FP2 was whether Red Bull had the capability to match the two leading teams on the longer stints that would take place in the more reliable and indicative session. Nonetheless, Hamilton and Mercedes continued to hold the sway with the world champion leading his teammate by over half a second.
Fitting the soft compound tyre, Magnussen became the first car to venture out on track, followed a minute later by teammate, Grosjean, on the super softs. In the Red Bull garage, the mechanics worked frantically to repair a minor problem that was afflicting Verstappen's car.
Nonetheless, the problem was easily remedied and Verstappen quickly took to the track to challenge the early pace set by the Ferrari's. Vettel had ventured onto the track with the softs and set a time that was three tenths faster than Grosjean on the softs. Räikkönen continued to prove capable of matching his teammate and went six tenths faster than his teammate on his first attempt.
However Räikkönen's time at the top was short lived as he was subsequently surpassed by Verstappen and then Bottas and Hamilton. However Räikkönen's response on his next lap saw him move into third where only the two Mercedes ahead of him as well as Ricciardo's Red Bull saw them became the first group of the first cars to get into the 1:24's bracket.
The late afternoon session with its looming trackside trees and longdrawn shadows were providing difficulty in visibility for the drivers. This was confirmed when Hamilton noted over the radio, "visibility is really hard around this track." At much the same, Alonso also noted over the radio, "Maybe because of the halo, people are forgetting to look in their mirrors."
Alonso had just recovered from a minor run into the grass at Senna, having been caught out by an unaware Ocon. Ocon himself had just had an off in which he ran deep into the gravel at Sports Centre. Thereafter another similar incident when Bottas was forced to take evasive action in avoiding fellow Finn, Räikkönen whom was not paying attention in the approach to the corner.
Räikkönen had eventually attempted to move out the way, however his action only saw him swerve into Bottas's path, forcing the Mercedes to head to the gravel. Luckily, although running deep into the gravel, Bottas managed to avoid a collision with the barriers.
His teammate, Hamilton continued to maintain the pace at the head of the field, however he did not rule the pace unchecked, Verstappen continued to charge and closed to within 0.016 seconds of Hamilton's best. Ricciardo was also running well, he had moved into fourth position and was 0.002 seconds behind Bottas's best.
Thereafter after 25 minutes the first stint of the session was completed, Pérez, running out of synch with the rest of the field became the last person to venture onto the track. His former teammate, Hülkenberg as he headed for the pits complained that "the drink system is pouring all over me".
Thereafter the qualifying stints would begin with Vettel becoming the first driver of the session to fit the ultra softs. It would also be the first time Ferrari would run the softest compound during the grand prix weekend. It proved to be a difficult run as Vettel's first flying lap saw him only go third behind Hamilton and Verstappen, his second lap saw no improvement before heading to the pits.
His teammate, Räikkönen, however continued to prove quicker to adapt to the Australian circuit and took the fastest of the session. However, the Mercedes cars quickly returned to the top two positions with their own running of the ultra soft tyre. Hamilton's best going three tenths quicker than Räikkönen. Bottas looked like he could match his teammate, however lost time when he nearly lost control of the back of the Mercedes through the right hander of the Waite complex.
Both Bottas and Räikkönen continued to attempt second flying laps, however like Vettel before them they could find no improvement on their second run. Vettel thereafter having completed a qualifying run fitted the soft compound tyre.
Red Bull became the final of the leading teams to head for their qualifying simulations. Verstappen immediately proved quick where he continued to prove that Red Bull were a match for Mercedes and Ferrari. Nonetheless, he remained 0.127 seconds behind Hamilton's best time.
Ricciardo meanwhile had his run cut short when the red flag was brought out due to a loose wire sticking out at the start-finish line of the Walker Straight. This provided frustrations for those, like Ricciardo, whom had yet to complete their qualifying run and suffered a wasted lap. This was demonstrated by Stroll's outburst over the radio of "Nooo red flag!".
At the time of the red flag, the midfield battle continued to be tense with Grosjean's Haas only two tenths shy of Vettel's Ferrari. Alonso's was also in the running whilst Sainz was eighth although his run was spoiled by a trip through the gravel at Ascari, shortly before the red flag. Rounding out the top ten was his teammate, Hülkenberg as well as the Honda engined Toro Rosso of Hartley. Only a second covered between Alonso in seventh and Sirotkin in eighteenth. The Sauber's of Ericsson and Leclerc were the laggards whom were nearly a second behind Sirotkin's time.
The halted session lasted only five minutes as Australian race officials cut away the loose wiring allowing a quick resumption of the session. The race stewards had also taken the time to announce that Bottas and Räikkönen had a received a summoning following their earlier incident.
As the session resumed, a number of drivers, led by Stroll, whom had yet to complete their qualifying runs immediately returned to the track. These runs saw Magnussen and Vandoorne whom had yet to make their qualifying runs put their cars into the top ten. Ricciardo, however notably remained in the pits.
At this time all the drivers on track were circulating with the ultra soft tyre, putting the softest compound to the test in the longer runs. Hamilton's longer runs were looking ominous, the Mercedes was consistently running in the 1:28's to which none of the other drivers could achieve.
His teammate, Bottas whom was second car on the long runs continued to have a bumpy session when he ran wide onto the grass through Jones and Brabham. Bottas, however improved his pace to match Hamilton's long run times as the lead Mercedes began to fall into the 1:29's. There was relief among Mercedes competitors as Verstappen and the two Ferrari's also proved capable of running in the 1:28's.
For the final twenty minutes, heavy traffic afflicted the circuit which provoked Bottas, Verstappen, Vettel and Räikkönen to pit for a slower compound tyre. Bottas and Verstappen reemerged with the soft compound whilst Räikkönen returned with the super softs. Vettel opted to conclude his session.
Although now on heavily worn ultra softs, Hamilton continued to lap consistently in the 1:28's. He was only matched by Ricciardo whom had made a late return to the track and was on much newer ultra softs than his Mercedes rival. Verstappen although now running soft tyres continued to push aggressively, forcing his way past Bottas and Gasly in a manner that nearly put himself on the grass.
The Toro Rosso's of Hartley and Gasly were quietly achieving with their consistency, their Honda engined car had provided the most laps of the session out of any teams on the field. Although, Gasly expressed concern over the radio that the long runs had worn the brakes.
At the conclusion of the session, the top three of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull seemed firmly in contention with one another. However, the big surprise of the session was that Haas was considered to be 1.682 seconds faster than it was in Australia 2017.Whilst distanced from the top three, Grosjean demonstrated they had a clear advantage over the very tightly bunched midfield.
|1||44||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||35||SS, US, US, SS||1:23.931||-|
|2||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull-TAG Heuer||34||S, US, US||1:24.058||+0.127|
|3||77||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||34||S, US, US, US, S||1:24.159||+0.228|
|4||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Ferrari||39||SS, US, US, US, US||1:24.214||+0.283|
|5||5||Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||38||S, US, US, US, US, US||1:24.451||+0.520|
|6||8||Romain Grosjean||Haas-Ferrari||34||SS, US, SS||1:24.648||+0.717|
|7||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull-TAG Heuer||28||S, US, US||1:24.721||+0.790|
|8||14||Fernando Alonso||McLaren-Renault||28||S, US, US, S, S||1:25.200||+1.269|
|9||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas-Ferrari||30||S, US, US||1:25.246||+1.315|
|10||2||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren-Renault||34||SS, SS, US, US, US||1:25.285||+1.354|
|11||55||Carlos Sainz, Jr.||Renault||35||S, US, US, US||1:25.390||+1.459|
|12||11||Sergio Pérez||Force India-Mercedes||30||S, US, US, US||1:25.413||+1.482|
|13||27||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault||35||SS, US, US||1:25.390||+1.459|
|14||18||Lance Stroll||Williams-Mercedes||32||US, US, US, US, US||1:25.543||+1.612|
|15||31||Esteban Ocon||Force India-Mercedes||33||S, S, US, US, US||1:25.888||+1.957|
|16||28||Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso-Honda||41||SS, US, US, US, SS||1:25.925||+1.994|
|17||10||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso-Honda||39||S, US, US, US||1:25.945||+2.014|
|18||35||Sergey Sirotkin||Williams-Mercedes||37||US, US, US, US||1:25.974||+2.043|
|19||9||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber-Ferrari||31||SS, US, SS||1:26.814||+2.883|
|20||16||Charles Leclerc||Sauber-Ferrari||35||S, US, S||1:26.815||+2.884|
Although Mercedes continued to hold the lead advantage, it was evident that the gap to their rivals was not as significant as it was believed prior to Friday's practice. In fact, Bottas admitted that his car suffered from "suspension and fuel system problems" which limited his running. The Mercedes not being as impervious to reliability problems as believed prior to the weekend. Nonetheless, reigning champion, Hamilton felt "excited" by the prospect of a closer battle in 2018.
There was already friction between Mercedes and Ferrari on the track with Bottas being forced to take evasive action in avoiding Räikkönen's car at Sports Centre. The incident meant that both drivers' were summoned to the stewards as Räikkönen had according to the stewards, "clearly impeded" Bottas.
However the incident was deemed "not unnecessary impeding" and Räikkönen avoided punishment. Commenting on the incident, Räikkönen noted "I didn't see him. I kind of knew there was someone but I couldn't see him at all. I saw the smoke and I knew there was someone, but I didn't see him at all. For sure not ideal for him but there's nothing that I could see."
Although Räikkönen's antics on-track were questionable, he demonstrated pace that was seeing him match and surpass teammate Vettel. Vettel had concluded Friday practice disappointed with an expectation of more to come from the car. Vettel had to "change the balance a bit, because I didn't comfortable", however asserted that there was "more to come from the car."
With Vettel's troubles, the Red Bull cars were largely Mercedes main challengers throughout the Friday running. However although they believed they could match Mercedes pace on the long-runs, they were not comfortable in matching the pace of the Mercedes in qualifying.
However if the predicted wet weather was to prevail throughout qualifying and the race, then both Verstappen and Ricciardo felt they were capable of matching the Mercedes. Verstappen noting that their performance deficit was down to the Red Bull being "engine dependent" on the slower TAG Heuer badged Renault.
However Red Bull were to take a hitch in their weekend when the Australian home talent, Daniel Ricciardo was summoned to the stewards for failing to stay above the "minimum time set" in the final sector during the red flag period. Although Ricciardo had slowed by 175 km/hr, he had "misread his dash" and was driving below the required speed. This meant that Ricciardo was awarded with a three place grid penalty and two penalty points on his license.
The stewards noted that they had lessened the severity of the penalty as he had slowed his car and was not creating a dangerous situation.
The biggest performance gain from 2017 was clearly the improvements made by the Haas team. The pace set by Grosjean had meant the team were only slightly adrift of the Ferrari's and had some breathing space to the rest of the midfield. However Alonso sneered that the car is a "Ferrari replica". However fellow Spaniard, Sainz Jr was more diplomatic in noting "unfortunately they look to be half a step in front of the rest of the midfield, but hopefully we can recover soon."
Throughout the Saturday morning heavy rain afflicted the circuit which began to create suggestions that the likelihood of qualifying and the race being held in wet conditions. However shortly before the 2pm start time for Free Practice 3, the rain had abated. Nonetheless, until the very beginning of the session, the marshals worked extensively to brush away the water that was drenching the racing line.
As the session began, it was Grosjean, a driver whom had often been criticized for his distate of the wet conditions whom dared to venture onto the track first. He was shortly thereafter followed by Hülkenberg, Vandoorne, Bottas, Gasly and Hartley. All the drivers were fitted with the full wets.
Although Grosjean's charge had scared off a flock of seagulls whom were nestling in the puddles along the track, the conditions were such that the track would quickly be cleared of its drenching. Nonetheless, Vandoorne warned that the track was "greasy" and still posed a significant threat to the drivers.
After a couple of reconnaissance laps, the first six drivers had all returned to the pits. Hartley reported "There's not any big standing water. Grip is better than expected". Thereafter a second wave of cars hit the track led by Ocon, Magnussen, Alonso and Pérez. Alonso became the first driver to dare head to the track with the intermediate compound.
However Alonso appeared to be alone in his tyre choice as Sainz Jr, Räikkönen, Ericsson and Leclerc all headed to the track on the full wets. Like the first wave of drivers, the current group of eight drivers complete a brief reconnaissance lap before returning to the pits.
Hülkenberg's return to the track saw him become the second driver after Alonso to fit the intermediate compound. He became the first driver to set a flying lap, completing two fulls before returning to the pits. He was joined on track by Hartley whom despite reporting better grip than expected, remained on the full wet tyre. He continued to report the track situation in which he noted "Now there's not really any standing water". Nonetheless, the intermediates still appeared to be a risky option as Hülkenberg could be seen just avoiding the barrier at Fittipaldi .
With Hülkenberg putting in a number of laps, Vandoorne, Verstappen, Ricciardo and Sainz headed to the track on intermediates. Hartley meanwhile returned to the pits. After four flying laps to which Hülkenberg steadily improved, his best time was surpassed by Verstappen on his first flying lap by 1.063 seconds. Verstappen reported the "white lines" appeared to be the only real danger point on the slippery circuit.
Alonso then bumped Hülkenberg down to third when he set a time within 0.586 seconds of Verstappen. Vettel had also ventured out onto the track where he was putting a conservative effort at Ferrari. There were more gremlins at Mercedes when Hamilton noted over the radio "Something's wrong, I can't pull away". The Mercedes mechanics putting the tyre warmers back on whilst the engineers moved to solve the issue.
Ricciardo's first flying lap saw him move into second, however Verstappen's second flying lap saw him pull clear of his teammate by 2.359 seconds. Vettel reduced the gap down to 1.974 seconds, and then Alonso further reduced the gap down to 1.902 seconds. Ricciardo could only reduce his teammates gap down to 1.045 seconds on his second lap, however his third lap saw him close the gap down to 0.406 seconds.
With Verstappen heading for the pits, the rest of the field began to put up a challenge for his leading time. Gasly notably set purple times through the first two sectors, however a slower final sector saw him only manage to achieve the fourth fastest time.
Verstappen's time thereafter fell by the wayside with Ricciardo and Bottas moving ahead of him. Ricciardo was leading Bottas by three tenths before Alonso went 0.967 seconds faster than Ricciardo. He also reported on the radio that the drivers were reaching "the track is drying out quite quickly, I think this is the last run on inters". Bottas also confirming "that lap was better just because of the track improvement".
Due to his mechanical gremlins, Hamilton became the last driver with the exception of the stricken Stroll to enter the track. Hamilton needing a new steering wheel to take to the track. With Hamilton taking to the track, only Grosjean, Stroll and the two Force India's hadn't set a lap time. The Force India's opting to save the car until qualifying.
Ricciardo had meanwhile improved his time, however remained 0.409 seconds off Alonso's leading time. Bottas whom had been slow to find pace in the Mercedes suddenly moved into the top spot with Hamilton slotting into second only 0.051 seconds behind him. The Toro Rosso's were running well in the mixed conditions with Gasly and Hartley fifth and sixth.
Stroll meanwhile had finally had his gearbox issue repaired allowing him to enter the track. The team able to repair his gearbox allowing them to avoid a grid penalty in having to change the parts. The track thereafter began to empty as only the two Williams cars and Vandoorne were seen to be circulating. Vandoorne putting in a time to go from thirteenth fastest to third fastest.
With Vandoorne making a rapid improvement, Alonso also returned to the track although despite his earlier suggestion that he wouldn't run the intermediates again, he returned to the track still on the intermediate tyre. However it was suggested in race conditions, the drivers would be running on slicks. According to Mercedes though the conditions still had the potential to be slippery with the team warning Bottas to be wary of a river through the Waite complex.
McLaren alerted Alonso to prepare for a "live pit-stop" and to pit for dry tyres. The call interrupted a flying lap by Alonso that looked set to top Bottas's leading time. Bottas however was also set to beat his own benchmark when he too was called in for slick tyres.
Sainz meanwhile goes from seventeenth to the fastest time, however he remains on intermediates. There appears to be a preparation for some short dry weather running in the final few minutes.
At Williams, Stroll had improved his time to move ahead of teammate Sirotkin, however after Sirotkin reported rising temperatures on his rear tyres, the team advised Stroll to cool off the tyres. Despite the preparation for dry running from other teams, Stroll wasn't convinced because of a few puddles still on the circuit. The two Red Bull's continue to circulate on intermediates, Verstappen whom set the fastest intermediate time is advised that there should be "no heroics" from him in the final minutes, whilst Ricciardo is told "it doesn't change what we're doing" when some of their rivals entered the track on slicks.
Vettel, Bottas, Ericsson, Räikkönen and Hartley all take the final opportunity to operate on the ultra softs for a single flying lap. McLaren meanwhile send Alonso back out on track with intermediates to which he angrily retorts "what a disaster... I don't know what we are doing."
Vettel meanwhile predictably takes the top time by going 5.613 seconds faster than Verstappen's leading intermediate time. Thereafter Ericsson takes the opportunity to go second fastest, before being pushed down to third by Räikkönen. With the Ferrari's demonstrating pace, Bottas opts to abandon his flying lap. Hartley meanwhile failed to make it to the timing line to begin his lap before the chequered flag. His team apologising "okay Brendon, sorry we didn't get the timed lap but it was important to get the info on the car".
|3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull-TAG Heuer||1:25.063||6||1:24.721||7||1:34.043||6|
|10||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso-Honda||1:26.494||11||1:25.945||17||1:34.990||11|
|11||Sergio Pérez||Force India-Mercedes||1:26.767||16||1:25.413||12||No Time||20|
|28||Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso-Honda||1:27.745||18||1:25.925||16||1:35.438||12|
|31||Esteban Ocon||Force India-Mercedes||1:26.605||14||1:25.888||15||No Time||19|
|33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull-TAG Heuer||1:24.771||3||1:24.058||2||1:31.680||4|
|55||Carlos Sainz, Jr.||Renault||1:25.922||9||1:25.390||11||1:33.172||5|
|4||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull-TAG Heuer||4||1:23.483||4||1:22.416||4||1:21.879||4|
|5||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull-TAG Heuer||5||1:23.494||6||1:22.897||5||1:22.152||8*|
|9||55||Carlos Sainz, Jr.||Renault||6||1:23.529||7||1:23.061||9||1:23.577||9|
|10||77||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||9||1:23.686||3||1:22.089||10||no time||15†|
|13||11||Sergio Pérez||Force India-Mercedes||13||1:24.344||13||1:24.005||12|
|15||31||Esteban Ocon||Force India-Mercedes||15||1:24.503||15||1:24.786||14|
|16||28||Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso-Honda||16||1:24.532||16|
|20||10||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso-Honda||20||1:25.295||20|
|107% time: 1:28.621|
|Carlos Sainz, Jr.||10|
- * Ricciardo was given a three-place grid penalty for not slowing down under red flag conditions during FP2.
- † Bottas was given a five-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change.
|1||5||Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||58||1h 29m 33.283s||3||25|
|2||44||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||58||+ 5.036s||1||18|
|3||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Ferrari||58||+ 6.309s||2||15|
|4||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull-TAG Heuer||58||+ 7.069s||8||12|
|5||14||Fernando Alonso||McLaren-Renault||58||+ 27.886s||10||10|
|6||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull-TAG Heuer||58||+ 28.945s||4||8|
|7||27||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault||58||+ 32.671s||7||6|
|8||77||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||58||+ 34.339s||15||4|
|9||2||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren-Renault||58||+ 34.921s||11||2|
|10||55||Carlos Sainz, Jr.||Renault||58||+ 45.722s||9||1|
|11||11||Sergio Pérez||Force India-Mercedes||58||+ 46.817s||12|
|12||31||Esteban Ocon||Force India-Mercedes||58||+ 60.278s||14|
|13||16||Charles Leclerc||Sauber-Ferrari||58||+ 75.759s||18|
|14||18||Lance Stroll||Williams-Mercedes||58||+ 78.288s||13|
|15||28||Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso-Honda||57||+ 1 Lap||16|
|Ret||10||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso-Honda||13||Oil leak||20|
|Ret||9||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber-Ferrari||5||Fuel pressure||17|
|Ret||35||Sergey Sirotkin||Williams-Mercedes||4||Oil pressure||19|
- Charles Leclerc and Sergey Sirotkin's first races.
- McLaren's first race with Renault engines.
- Toro Rosso's first race with Honda engines.
- Sebastian Vettel's 200th entry (199th start).
- Vettel's 100th podium finish.
Victory at the season opening race ensured that it was Sebastian Vettel who led the Championship hunt leaving Australia, the German seven clear of arch-rival Lewis Hamilton. Kimi Räikkönen ended the afternoon in third ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, while Fernando Alonso completed the top five. Max Verstappen led the rest of the early scorers, with Nico Hülkenberg, Valtteri Bottas, Stoffel Vandoorne and Carlos Sainz, Jr. all on the board.
Ferrari, meanwhile, would head the Constructors' Championship after their double podium finish, heading to Bahrain with 40 points to their name. Mercedes led their counter charge with 22 points, two ahead of Red Bull-TAG Heuer, while McLaren started their new partnership with Renault in fourth. The French firm themselves found themselves in fifth as the only other team to score in Melbourne.
Only point scoring drivers and constructors are shown.
- "Formula 1 2018 Rolex Australian Grand Prix". formula1.com. Formula One Administration. https://www.formula1.com/en/championship/races/2018/Australia.html. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
- FORMULA 1. (2018). AUSTRALIA PREVIEW - The stats and info you need to know. Retrieved on 28-03-2018.
- Mercedes AMG F1. (2018). INSIGHT: What we've learned from pre-season testing. Retrieved on 28-03-2018.
- FORMULA 1. (21st March 2018). Ricciardo predicts 0.5s gap between top three teams. Retrieved on 28-03-2018.
- FORMULA 1. (22nd March 2018). Hamilton warns Ricciardo against alienating Red Bull amid F1 future talks. Retrieved on 28-03-2018.
- "Halo impact becoming clearer to F1 teams". Speedcafe. 21 December 2017. https://www.speedcafe.com/2017/12/21/halo-impact-becoming-clearer-f1-teams/. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
- Cooper, Adam (22 March 2018). "FIA alters Melbourne start lights to address F1 halo concerns". Autosport (Motorsport Network). https://www.autosport.com/f1/news/134951/fia-alters-start-lights-to-address-halo-concerns. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
- Cooper, Adam (21 March 2018). "Australian GP: Melbourne gets third DRS zone for 2018 F1 opener". Autosport (Motorsport Network). https://www.autosport.com/f1/news/134931/australian-gp-track-gets-third-drs-zone. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
- Howard, Tom (21 March 2018). "New DRS zone added to Albert Park F1 circuit". Speedcafe. https://www.speedcafe.com/2018/03/21/new-drs-zone-added-albert-park-f1-circuit/. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
- Howard, Tom (14 March 2018). "Pirelli reveals tyre selections for Australian Grand Prix". Speedcafe. https://www.speedcafe.com/2018/03/14/pirelli-reveals-tyre-selections-australian-grand-prix/. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
- "2018 Australian Grand Prix – Practice 1 results". Formula1.com (Formula One Administration). 23 March 2018. https://www.formula1.com/en/results.html/2018/races/979/australia/practice-1.html. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
- "2018 Australian Grand Prix – Practice 2 results". Formula1.com (Formula One Administration). 23 March 2018. https://www.formula1.com/en/results.html/2018/races/979/australia/practice-2.html. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
- "2018 Australian Grand Prix – Practice 3 results". Formula1.com (Formula One Administration). 24 March 2018. https://www.formula1.com/en/results.html/2018/races/979/australia/practice-3.html. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
- "2018 Australian Grand Prix – Qualifying results". Formula1.com (Formula One Administration). 24 March 2018. https://www.formula1.com/en/results.html/2018/races/979/australia/qualifying.html. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
- Howard, Tom (23 March 2018). "Stewards issue grid penalty to Ricciardo". Speedcafe. https://www.speedcafe.com/2018/03/23/stewards-issue-grid-penalty-ricciardo2/. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
- Galloway, James; Green, Jonathan (24 March 2018). "Australian GP grid: Valtteri Bottas to join Daniel Ricciardo with penalty". Sky Sports. http://www.skysports.com/f1/news/12433/11302329/australian-gp-grid-valtteri-bottas-to-join-daniel-ricciardo-with-penalty. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
- "Australia Grand Prix 2018 Race Results". formula1.com (Formula One Administration). 25 March 2018. https://www.formula1.com/en/results.html/2018/races/979/australia/race-result.html. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
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