The inaugural race winner Sebastian Vettel has admitted that Max Verstappen’s placement in front of Lewis Hamilton helped him secure the win.
Without detracting from the absolutely fantastic driving that he put forward during the Australian GP, Sebastian Vettel has sounded out Red Bull’s Max Verstappen as a critical part of his success in Melbourne. The young Red Bull driver’s back end gave Lewis Hamilton a warm welcome as the Mercedes Silver Arrow came out of the pit on lap 17, eager to chase down the running Vettel.
Hamilton, however, found it more difficult than anticipated to overtake the young Dutchman as Verstappen held off his advances, a possible indication that the Mercedes car, which is so used to leading, might have lost its edge over the years in the dirty air-running department. Verstappen’s intrusion obscured Hamilton’s chances to make the dash to Vettel that he needed, allowing Vettel a hefty 6-8s gap between 1st and 2nd that the Brit could not manage to close. At the same time, the Briton displayed pessimism as soon as he emerged from the pits behind the Dutchman, saying that “there’s no way I’m passing this guy.”
“[On Verstappen’s placement] That was obviously crucial for our race, I tried to push for as hard as I could for the one or two Max was still out to open a bit of a gap and control the race.
We got a bit lucky with him facing some traffic but equally we pushed him to the pits, he had a big lead, to stay out and control the race. We did a very good race, very happy.”
– Sebastian Vettel
The victorious Vettel went on to give his opinion of the status of the 2017 car and how it handles out on the track during a Grand Prix:
“It was very pleasant. A different race to last year, where you had to manage a lot. Now I think it was a bit more raw, especially the beginning. Even if it wasn’t a wheel-to-wheel fight I could see Lewis was pushing really hard.
It was nice that we could just push and race to the first stop.” – Sebastian Vettel
Ferrari’s victory has given a fresh breath of air to the sport, giving cause to some to herald the start of the season as the return of Mercedes’ true competitor. A reality that Mercedes will not be so quick to give over to.