MAX STARTS FOURTH AND PASSES VETTEL FOR P3 ON LAP 30
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.
“Very satisfied,” said Verstappen, when asked if he was happy with his day’s work after claiming his own first Australian Grand Prix podium. “To get by Ferrari on this track is not easy around here, because it’s not easy to follow in general but yeah, of course happy to pull that move off and then challenge Lewis for second, was a good feeling.
“Of course, I think there’s still work to do, but to start the season like this in third and also the first podium for Honda in the V6 era, it’s a great start.”
Verstappen’s boss Christian Horner was instrumental in bringing Honda over to Red Bull in place of Renault power units for 2019 – and he, too, was pleased to have been vindicated in his decision after his team claimed Honda’s first podium as an engine supplier since Rubens Barrichello’s third place at Silverstone back in 2008.
“I think we’ve over-performed,” he said after the race. “[Honda] have given us a great product over the winter. The engine’s delivering good power, it’s been reliable. Max has been able to use that to really good effect today and so to pass a Ferrari, to be racing wheel to wheel on the straight with them is really positive.
“[Then] to put Lewis under pressure – for pretty much 50 per cent of the Grand Prix it looked like we had a quicker car than him, certainly in the second half. To do that at this venue is really encouraging for us, so we’ve got a good basis to start and really develop this car.”AUSTRALIAN GP: Verstappen battles his way past Vettel
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.