Valtteri Bottas dominated the Formula 1 2019 season-opener, to win by 21 seconds ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Bottas, who called the race his “best ever,” seized the lead at the start, beating polesitter Hamilton away from the line and controlling first place throughout the first stint.
With Hamilton pitting early to cover off the undercut threat posed by Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari, Bottas was able to stay out and extend his first stint.
Emerging from his one and only pitstop in the lead and with seven lap fresher tyres than Hamilton, Bottas continued to comfortably build the gap to claim a dominant victory and his first since the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Bottas also clinched the new bonus point for fastest lap on the penultimate lap, wrestling the honour from Verstappen who had previously grabbed it with a late surge to challenge Hamilton’s second place.
Like Bottas, Verstappen extended his first stint to emerge from the pits in fourth but with considerably younger tyres compared to both Vettel and Hamilton.
Quickly closing up to Vettel, Verstappen set up a move on the Ferrari with a better run through Turns 1 and 2, allowing him to breeze passed with DRS on the following straight.
While chasing Hamilton later on, Verstappen locked up into the first corner and drove across the grass. Losing several seconds, he was able to close to within a second in the final few laps, but did not threaten to overtake the Mercedes.
Pre-season favourites Ferrari ended up a distant fourth and fifth. Vettel, who struggled for pace throughout the second half of the race, slipped to nearly a minute behind Bottas at the chequered flag.
Vettel was caught by team-mate Charles Leclerc in the closing stages, despite the Monegasque driver having been 12 seconds adrift after an earlier excursion at Turn 1.
Kevin Magnussen was best of the rest for Haas, ahead of Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg. The two duelled at Turn 3 after the pitstops, with Magnussen cutting off an ambitious move around the outside from Hulkenberg.
In a close midfield tussle, Hulkenberg in seventh down to Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly in 11th were covered by less than three seconds at the end of the race.
Kimi Raikkonen was eighth, ahead of Lance Stroll and Daniil Kvyat. Both the Racing Point and Toro Rosso drivers overcut McLaren’s Lando Norris during the pitstop cycle, after the rookie lost time stuck behind Antonio Giovinazzi’s Alfa Romeo who pitted later than most.
Kvyat attempted an ambitious move on Stroll at Turn 3, diving to the inside but running deep into the corner and into the gravel trap. He was nearly jumped by a late stopping Gasly as a result.
Norris ended up 12th, ahead of Sergio Perez who was also compromised by Giovinazzi after pitting.
Romain Grosjean was briefly stuck behind Giovinazzi, after a slow stop from Haas dropped him down the order. However, he later retired when his left-front wheel detached.
Home hero Daniel Ricciardo also retired from the race. He lost his front wing within the first meters after edging onto the grass on the inside and hitting a gully.
McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr retired with a suspected MGU-K failure in his first race with McLaren.