MELBOURNE, Australia – Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas kicked off the Formula One season in dominant fashion Sunday, cruising to victory in the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park.

Bottas rocketed off the starting line to pull ahead of teammate and polesitter Lewis Hamilton. That turned out to be the pass for the victory, as Bottas went unchallenged for the remainder of the race as Hamilton found himself trying to fend off Red Bull’s Max Verstappen for second.

Bottas scored the maximum number of points, which included a bonus point for setting the fastest lap of the race.

Valtteri Bottas (77) leads Lewis Hamilton during Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix. (Steve Etherington Photo)

“This feels so good – I don’t think I’ve ever had a race like this,” said Bottas after his fourth Formula One victory. “We could not have asked for a better start to the season – getting maximum points for the team is a perfect result and we couldn’t be happier. It’s also an important result for me personally, I’m really pleased with how the race went.

“These things don’t just happen – both the team and I have worked hard for this and it seems like the hard work paid off today. The key was the start; I think Lewis may have had a bit of wheel spin, so I was able to take the lead. My race pace was really strong, I could pull away and build a gap. In the end, I managed to get the fastest lap as well, which of course means an extra point this season, so I went for it. It can be a little risky with worn tyres, but I had it all under control. I’m very, very pleased with today, but it’s only the first race and we have another 20 races to go.”

Hamilton managed to hold off Verstappen to finish second, thanks in large part to Verstappen running off course in turn one as he gave chase. Verstappen settled for third and the last step on the podium.

The Ferrari duo of Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc struggled for pace in Australia, with the duo finishing more than 50 seconds behind Bottas in fourth and fifth, respectively.

 

Kevin Magnussen finished sixth for the Haas F1 Team, followed by Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg in seventh. Kimi Raikkonen ended up eighth in his Alfa Romeo debut, followed by Racing Point’s Lance Stroll and Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat.