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Hamilton hails Bottas after win in Australia GP

CELEBRATION: Hamilton and Bottas

IT’S THE first race of the season, so Lewis Hamilton wasn’t going to be totally happy with a second place finish having secured his 84th career pole ein emphatic fashion. But ever the team player, the 2018 champion hailed his teammate and eventual winner for an “incredible race.”

THREAT

Hamilton, 34, will be acutely aware that the threat for the title this year comes from within his own team as well as any driver on the grid. Valtteri Bottas has been vocal about his change of mentality following a 2018 season devoid of any victories for the Finnish driver and his positive start to this season should surprise no one.

If omens are to reflect anything, Bottas can take stock from the fact that every time a team has finished one-two in Melbourne, the winning driver has claimed the championship and the team has won the constructors’.

And that’s not happened once or twice, it’s happened a full seven times. Bottas’ last race win came in the final race of 2017. Hamilton has now failed to win in Australia for the last six years, despite having consecutive pole positions – establishing a new, and unwanted, record.

Following his shift at Albert Park, Hamilton said: “Ultimately, I didn’t do a good enough job.”

He added: “Once we got through the first corner, it was pretty much done and dusted, so it was about bringing the car home and bagging the points, really.

HAPPY

“Naturally I had to pit a lot earlier, so I had a long, long stint, so I just drove super, super under par to try and make sure I had tyres left at the end of the race.”

Hailing Bottas, Hamilton said: “It’s been a good weekend for the team, so I have to be happy for everyone. Valtteri drove an incredible race today, so he truly deserved it. We’ve just got some work to do. Still, it’s a great, great start to the year, more than we could have hoped for as a team.”

As far as season openers go, Hamilton wasn’t the only spectacle worth keeping an eye on.

Determined to let everyone know that despite no longer being the new kid on the block, he was still very much the man to watch, Max Verstappen secured his first-ever podium in Australia and it was the first time a non-Mercedes or Ferrari driver has appeared in the top three since 2015.

It was also the first time Vettel, and Ferrari, have failed to be on the Melbourne podium since 2015. Attempting to explain his lack of performance on the day, Vettel said: “We were just slow. [I had] way less grip. In Barcelona, we were very happy with tyre life from day one.

“The balance was right, the car was responding to what I was asking it to do and I had a lot of confidence. All weekend, summing up, I didn’t get the con dence I had in Barcelona, I didn’t have the car underneath to play around, it wasn’t doing what I was asking.”

Bottas rounded the weekend off by securing the bonus point for the fastest lap, which means he leaves Australia with a maximum 26 points.

“It’s a new rule for this year,” he enthused. “As I had really strong pace I wanted to go for that in the end and it’s always a bit risky with worn tyres, but it was worth it. I can’t wait for the next race.”

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