SAVOURS WIN

Fer­rari driver strikes first blow in sea­son-open­ing race

New Straits Times - - Sport - AUS­TRALIAN Grand Prix at 5.303-km Al­bert Park (58 laps): Not Clas­si­fied: Fastest Lap: Driv­ers’ Stand­ings:1. Con­struc­tors’ Cham­pi­onship:

MEL­BOURNE

SE­BAS­TIAN Vet­tel has lived through a num­ber of false dawns at Fer­rari but bright sun­shine bathed the team’s garage after the Ger­man’s Aus­tralian Grand Prix vic­tory yes­ter­day.

The four-times world cham­pion cruised to his sec­ond win at Al­bert Park and 43rd over­all with a nearly 10-sec­ond gap over Mercedes run­ner-up Lewis Hamil­ton, prov­ing the Fer­rari cars’ en­cour­ag­ing win­ter test­ing was not just a mi­rage.

A gloom has hov­ered over Maranello for a num­ber of sea­sons and it seemed at its most thick last year as Vet­tel and Raikko­nen failed to win a race amid re­ports of dishar­mony in the team garage.

But it was all bear-hugs and back-slap­ping at Al­bert Park on Sun­day as Vet­tel crossed for the team’s first win since his last vic­tory at the Sin­ga­pore Grand Prix in 2015.

“We say this all the time, what this team has done in the last six months has been re­ally tough, rough as well,” a beam­ing Vet­tel told re­porters.

“(It’s) not (been) easy to man­age the whole team, but I think the new car in gen­eral ob­vi­ously is fan­tas­tic and this is a great re­ward, a big re­lief for ev­ery­one.

“There’s been a lot of ups and downs, left and rights in the last 12 months. The big dif­fer­ence was be­ing able to de­liver a re­ally good car.

“I saw the guys (in the garage), they were smil­ing and singing, I’m sure we’ll see some more of that.

“But... it’s just the be­gin­ning. Mo­ti­va­tion has been re­ally high but ob­vi­ously it helps to wave from the podium.”

Vet­tel started sec­ond on the grid and had a poor start to give Hamil­ton clear air but the Mercedes driver pit­ted early to change tyres after com­plain­ing of poor grip.

Luck played a part in Vet­tel’s fourth win with the ‘scud­e­ria’ as Hamil­ton re-joined the race be­hind Red Bull’s bel­liger­ent teenage racer Max Ver­stap­pen who was not about to let the Bri­ton pass.

After his own tyre-change, Vet­tel re-en­tered the race with per­fect tim­ing, sneak­ing in front of Ver­stap­pen and Hamil­ton be­fore forg­ing ahead to close out a dom­i­nant win.

His team­mate Raikko­nen fin­ished fourth be­hind third-placed Valt­teri Bot­tas, who made his Mercedes de­but after cross­ing from Wil­liams.

Jock Clear, Fer­rari’s head of rac­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, said he was un­cer­tain whether their cars were quicker than Mercedes in “ab­so­lute terms.”

Vet­tel was also far from get­ting car­ried away about his prospects of win­ning a fifth ti­tle.

“It’s not the time to look at the ta­ble. Step by step,” he said. “(There are) new rules, reg­u­la­tions and gen­er­a­tions of cars.

“(Mercedes) made good steps for­ward and we are the ones that need to catch up.

“What­ever hap­pens this year, the race to­day doesn’t hurt.” Reuters

1. Se­bas­tian Vet­tel (Ger) Fer­rari 1:24:11.672s, 2 Lewis Hamil­ton (Bri) Mercedes +00:09.975, 3 Valt­teri Bot­tas (Fin) Mercedes +00:11.250, 4 Kimi Raikko­nen (Fin) Fer­rari +00:22.393, 5 Max Ver­stap­pen (Ned) Red Bull +00:28.827, 6 Felipe Massa (Bra) Wil­liams +01:23.386, 7 Ser­gio Perez (Mex) Force In­dia 1 lap, 8 Car­los Sainz Jr (Spa) Toro Rosso 1 lap, 9 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Toro Rosso 1 lap, 10 Este­ban Ocon (Fra) Force In­dia 1 lap, 11 Nico Huelken­berg (Ger) Re­nault 1 lap, 12 An­to­nio Giov­inazzi (Ita) Sauber 2 laps, 13 Stof­fel Van­doorne (Bel) McLaren 2 laps

Fer­nando Alonso (Spa) McLaren, Kevin Mag­nussen (Den) Haas, Lance Stroll (Can) Wil­liams, Daniel Ric­cia­rdo (Aus) Red Bull, Marcus Eric­s­son (Swe) Sauber, Jolyon Palmer (Bri) Re­nault, Ro­main Gros­jean (Fra) Haas.

Kimi Raikko­nen (Fin) Fer­rari1:26.538 (lap 56)

Se­bas­tian Vet­tel (Ger) Fer­rari 25pts, 2 Lewis Hamil­ton (Bri) Mercedes 18, 3 Valt­teri Bot­tas (Fin) Mercedes 15, 4 Kimi Raikko­nen (Fin) Fer­rari 12, 5 Max Ver­stap­pen (Ned) Red Bull 10, 6 Felipe Massa (Bra) Wil­liams 8, 7 Ser­gio Perez (Mex) Force In­dia 6, 8 Car­los Sainz Jr (Spa) Toro Rosso 4, 9 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Toro Rosso 2, 10 Este­ban Ocon (Fra) Force In­dia 1, 11 Nico Huelken­berg (Ger) Re­nault 0, 12 An­to­nio Giov­inazzi (Ita) Sauber 0, 13 Stof­fel Van­doorne (Bel) McLaren 0, 14 Fer­nando Alonso (Spa) McLaren 0.

1 Fer­rari 37pts, 2 Mercedes 33, 3 Red Bull 10, 4 Wil­liams 8, 5 Force In­dia 7, 6 Toro Rosso 6, 7 Re­nault 0, 8 Sauber 0, 9 McLaren 0, 10 Haas.

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