Max gets new era off to a flyer- Red Bull Racing
Max got the Team’s partnership with Honda off to a champagne-drenched start in Melbourne, with the Dutch driver claiming third place at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
Max held his starting position of fourth at the race start and over a long first stint steadily edged his way towards Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. The German made his sole stop for tyres on lap 15 but Max held on until lap 25 and when he emerged he used the greater pace at his disposal to make a textbook move on Vettel around the outside into Turn 3 on lap 30 to claim third place.
After 58 laps the position was made official and Max handed the team its first podium of 2019 and gave Honda its first F1 trophy since the 2008 British Grand Prix when Rubens Barrichello finished third.
Meanwhile, Pierre Gasly’s team debut ended in P11. Starting from P17, the Frenchman put in a hugely long first stint on medium tyres. He emerged in P11 behind Dany Kvyat, but despite pressing hard in the closing laps, Pierre could find no way past the wily Russian.
At the start, Valtteri Bottas got off the line well and managed to sneak past pole position man Lewis Hamilton to take the lead. Max held fourth place behind Vettel as the field streamed through the opening sector.
Vettel was the first of the leaders to pit on lap 14, taking on medium tyres. He was followed on the next lap by Hamilton who made the same compound choice. Bottas, Max and Leclerc continued to circulate, however, and by lap 21 the Finnish Mercedes driver had a 14s advantage over Max who was 10.3s clear of Leclerc.
Bottas eventually made his stop for medium tyres on lap 22. That handed the lead to Max, with the Mercedes driver rejoining seven seconds behind the Red Bull and three seconds ahead of Leclerc.
Max was next in, on lap 25, and a good stop of 2.3s saw him take on mediums and rejoin in P5 behind Vettel. Leclerc, though, still needed to make his stop for new tyres.
After the Monegasque driver finally stopped for hard tyres on lap 28, the order returned to its pre-window shape to leave Bottas leading Hamilton by 15s with Vettel third ahead of Max. It wouldn’t last long, however, and after the stops, Max found himself just half a second behind Vettel. On lap 30 he attacked.
Max couldn’t make the move stick into Turn 1 but he then pulled alongside the German on the next straight and rounded the Ferrari through Turn 3 to slot into a podium position.
Max then began to chip away at the deficit to Hamilton, but the Briton was able to respond and with Bottas in control at the front and with Hamilton managing the gap to Max the order at the front settled.
Further back, Pierre made his sole stop, for soft tyres, on lap 37. He emerged in P10 but on cold tyres and was quickly passed by Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat. The pair then battled hard to claim the final points position for the remaining 20 laps but with Kvyat gaining a DRS-effect from ninth-placed Lance Stroll of Racing Point, Pierre couldn’t manufacture an opportunity on the tight track and was forced to settle for P11.
At the front, the order remained static, though there was a tussle for the point on offer for fastest lap. Bottas held the purple time for a long period of the race but with a few laps remaining Max punched in a good lap to potentially steal the award. Bottas was not to be denied, however, and on lap 57 the Finn posted a 1:25.580 to take the bonus point.
With Hamilton second and Max third, fourth place went to Vettel and team-mate Leclerc was fifth. Kevin Magnussen took sixth place for Haas ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Räikkönen and Stroll held onto ninth ahead of the final points scorer, Kvyat.
OUR RACE IN NUMBERS:
23 – Career podium finishes for Max.
162 – Podium finishes for the Team.
11 – Years since Honda’s last podium finish. Rubens Barrichello finished third for the Japanese manufacturer at the 2008 British GP.
Top 10 – Australian Grand Prix
- Valtteri Bottas
- Lewis Hamilton
- MAX VERSTAPPEN
- Sebastian Vettel
- Charles Leclerc
- Kevin Magnussen
- Nico Hulkenberg
- Kimi Raikkonen
- Lance Stroll
- Dany Kvyat
- PIERRE GASLY