MELBOURNE, Australia, CMC – Lewis Hamilton had to settle for the runner-up spot, after reigning World champion Sebastien Vettel opened the Formula 1 season with a resounding victory yesterday.
Hamilton closed to within two seconds, when Vettel made his first pit stop, after leading taking an early lead at the Albert Park road circuit.
The British race car driver, whose family ties him to the Spice Isle of Grenada, was hampered in the second half of the race by a problem with the floor of the McLaren-Mercedes, and could not mount a serious challenge to Vettel. The German controlled the race with a stunning performance made all the more impressive, following Christian Horner’s post-race admission that Red Bull had not run KERS all weekend.
At times, Hamilton was able to match Vettel’s pace, and he did a better job controlling his tyres in the first part, as both ran two-stop strategies in a race in which all the gloomy predictions about Pirelli’s tyres proved completely unfounded.
“I am so happy that I brought the car home with a really great result,” said Hamilton. “The guys back home in the factory can really take a big chunk off those 18 points I’ve achieved.
“The car felt great, it was really nice to drive, and I was able to look after my tyres throughout the whole race.”
He added: “Being able to race with Vettel after only 1 ½ weeks with this upgrade makes me very proud, and I am looking forward to seeing what they can bring in the next couple of weeks.
“I am sure they’ll keep on pushing, and I hope at the next race, we will be out there to challenge the Red Bulls even more.”
Behind Vettel and Hamilton, Australian Mark Webber in the other Red Bull originally ran third ahead of fast-starting Vitaly Petrov in the Renault.
As Webber faded after being the first to change tyres, Petrov moved into the third place he maintained throughout, as he became the first Russian ever to stand on an F1 podium.