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Australian Grand Prix, Formula One highlights: Sebastian Vettel wins season's first race ahead of Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton set a blistering time in his final lap of qualifying to take pole position at the season-opening Australian GP for a record seventh time
Battle for P5
Fernando Alonso, Max Verstappen, Nico Hulkenberg and Valtteri Bottas promise a tight finish as only a couple of seconds separate the four cars
Both Haas cars retire from race
Both Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen retire from the race after technical difficulties
Lewis Hamilton follows Kimi Raikkonen into the pits for change of tyres
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel now leads the race
Hamilton to start from pole for record 7th time in Australia
On Saturday, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton set a blistering time in his final lap of qualifying to take pole position at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix for a record seventh time, outpacing his nearest rival by a sizable 0.664 seconds.
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Here's a wrap of the Australian Grand Prix:
Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel captured the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday, holding off his hard-charging Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton in a dramatic start to the new Formula One season.
It was the 100th podium of Vettel's career and it came in his 200th Formula One race. The German becomes the fourth driver to claim 100 podium finishes, joining Hamilton, Michael Schumacher and Alain Prost.
Vettel finished the race a full five seconds ahead of Hamilton, who had made several late attempts to catch the Ferrari, but fell just short for the victory.
Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen finished third, denying Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo a chance to become the first Australian driver to stand on the podium at the Australian GP.
McLaren's Fernando Alonso made a surprisingly strong run to finish in fifth place, holding off a spirited challenge by Red Bull's Max Verstappen, who was sixth.
Tight season ahead for the midfield
The chequered flag waves for the #AusGP. P5 and P9 for Fernando and Stoffel as they bring home a double points finish for the first race of the season. Nicely done, boys. 👏 pic.twitter.com/aBsg8uBJWF— McLaren (@McLarenF1) March 25, 2018
As Vettel concedes Ferrari was lucky, Hamilton congratulates the race winner
"Congrats to Seb and Ferrari, they did the better job today. I had great pace, and I was able to apply some pressure at the end... it's an awesome circuit but it's so hard to pass," Lewis Hamilton said.
Kimi Raikkonen says he is happy with the car
RAI: "I think I had decent speed all day, but it's hard to overtake... I'll take third place. I'm happy with the car" #AusGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/THcuFSWsbr— Formula 1 (@F1) March 25, 2018
Crucial timing for the Safety Car to enter
VET: "We got a bit lucky with the Safety Car" #AusGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/2KV5FC0HXQ— Formula 1 (@F1) March 25, 2018
A mostly red podium on Sunday
Y-E-S! #Seb5 #Kimi7 #AusGP #ForzaFerrari pic.twitter.com/Ke1P9DDzGY— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) March 25, 2018
We’ll get him next time, says the Mercedes team
👏👏👏 @LewisHamilton— Mercedes-AMG F1 (@MercedesAMGF1) March 25, 2018
We’ll get him next time! 🤜🤛#DrivenByEachOther #AusGP 🇦🇺 pic.twitter.com/hKl2HKjBqd
P11 and P11 for Force India in Melbourne
Force India score nought. The team have acknowledged that 2018 would be their toughest season in #F1 yet. Let's see where they go from here. #AustralianGP— Kunal Shah (@kunalashah) March 25, 2018
INITIAL CLASSIFICATION - LAP 58/58— Formula 1 (@F1) March 25, 2018
Sebastian Vettel takes his third win in Australia
And with it takes his 💯th career podium!#AusGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/OekaE51XBO
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton set a blistering time in his final lap of qualifying to take pole position at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Saturday for a record seventh time, outpacing his nearest rival by a sizable 0.664 seconds.
The defending Formula One champion set a time of 1 minute, 21.164 seconds at Albert Park circuit, breaking a tie with Ayrton Senna for most poles at the Australian GP. It's the 73rd pole of Hamilton's career.
"I'm so happy with that lap. It was such a nice lap," Hamilton said. "And, you know, I'm always striving for perfection and that was as close as I could get."
Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen finished second with a lap of 1:21.828, with teammate Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull's Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo rounding out the top five. Ricciardo will start the race in eighth position after a penalty for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday's practice.
The gap between four-time world champion Hamilton and the rest of the field took many drivers by surprise, with Ricciardo likening it to "throwing a pie in everyone's face." Mercedes has been dominant in Formula One in recent years, but both Ferrari and Red Bull made strides last year and are hoping to challenge for the championship this season.
"I think everyone else wants to see them get challenged a bit more," said Ricciardo. "That was a little bit of a punch in the stomach to everyone. I know obviously they're loving it, they're in a good position. But everyone else is hating it."
It wasn't all good news for Mercedes, however, as Hamilton's teammate, Valtteri Bottas, crashed at the start of the final qualifying session and finished in 10th place. He will start in 15th after a grid penalty for needing another gearbox.
Bottas briefly veered off the track going into Turn 2 and then lost his traction, sliding into a wall at high speed. The crash did serious damage to the right side of the car, tearing off both tires and scattering the track with debris. Bottas walked away without any injuries.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said the team was lucky the damage wasn't too extensive and that Bottas would be able to compete on Sunday. But the crash was a blow for the Finnish driver, who had finished last season strongly and was looking to push Hamilton at the start of this year.
"This is a moment where you could start to question yourself," Wolff said. "And this in Race 1 is not good for the psychology of the driver, so we're trying to give him all the support we can."
Ferrari looked capable of matching Mercedes' speed early in Saturday's qualifying, as both Raikkonen and Vettel went out fast with their ultra-soft tires.
"It was a real surprise to see how quick the Ferraris were, the speeds they already had on the straights," Hamilton said. "They've obviously made an improvement to their power mode."
And though Hamilton maintained his dominance in qualifying, Vettel believes Ferrari may have the advantage in Sunday's race with Bottas being forced to play catch-up. Vettel also outdueled the pole-sitting Hamilton here a year ago to win the race.
"Obviously, the gap is bigger than we want it to be," Vettel said. "But we've seen many times now — 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 — that usually on Sunday things get a little bit closer.
"He's free to have the party tonight, and hopefully Kimi and myself will have the party tomorrow."
Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean of Haas took sixth and seventh places, respectively, followed by Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz of Renault in eighth and ninth. Magnussen, Grosjean and Hulkenberg will each move up a space on the grid due to Ricciardo's penalty.
Ricciardo believes Mercedes is still beatable, despite the speed Hamilton displayed in qualifying.
"I think Lewis is very good. I don't think he's too good," he said. "The buffer they had was a little bit disheartening, but we've got to try and figure it out."
Wolff, too, is waiting to see whether Hamilton's pole-setting lap was an "outlier" or simply Mercedes getting even faster thanks to off-season engine improvements.
"If you take the majority of timed laps in qualifying, the Ferraris, Red Bulls and Mercedes were always very close to each other," Wolff said. "Within tenths (of a second) on some of the laps."
Both McLaren drivers, Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne, failed to qualify for the final qualifying session and, following Bottas' grid penalty, will start in 10th and 11th positions, respectively.
It's not the best start for McLaren's new partnership with Renault after ditching the Honda-made engines which the team had been using for the past three years.
With inputs from AP
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