Valtteri Bottas got his season off to a flying start when he roared to an imperious victory at the Australian Grand Prix.
The 29-year-old dominated from start to finish, save for a spell during the mid-race pit-stops, as he registered a maiden win in Melbourne.
Here, we look at the key talking points from the season-opener.
The Finn produced a sizzling display to record his first victory since Abu Dhabi in November 2017.
He produced a lightning start to outpace Hamilton and maintained his lead until the end of the race.
Out of contract in December, the 29-year-old has nothing to lose. He just needs to go out and push hard in every race, getting the best out of his vast potential.
With development driver Esteban Ocon in the paddock and probably set to replace him at the season’s end, a few wins and a consistent run of podiums is still not going to guarantee him an extension for another two seasons.
Looks to have rediscovered his love of driving though based on this display.
HAMILTON HAS WORK TO DO
Starting on pole for a record sixth-successive time, Hamilton didn’t look a patch on his Mercedes team-mate despite a tenth of a second separating them for most of the weekend.
The Briton was expected to romp to victory in the season opener but a combination of lack of pace and issues with the tyres saw him finish a staggering 21 seconds behind Bottas in second.
But as much as second may disappoint the 34-year-old, it’s still a positive start to the season, especially with Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc finishing outside the podium places and looking low on pace.
FERRARI STRUGGLE FOR PACE
After a blistering pre-season full of optimism, Ferrari struggled for speed with Vettel and Leclerc crossing the line in fourth and fifth respectively.
Vettel was overtaken by Verstappen when sitting in third, and Leclerc responded well to challenge Vettel for fourth after suffering an early error.
The Monaco man went over the grass on lap nine, mistakes you can’t afford to make in a front-running team.
The 20-year-old, who is only in his second season in F1, will take time to get comfortable in his new surroundings and being a key figure in one of the marquee teams in the sport.
He’ll learn his craft gradually, probably get the upperhand in a few races on Vettel but his confidence and general nerves are normal in the new car.
Still, a lot of work to do for Ferrari to challenge Mercedes.
VERSTAPPEN SHOWS PACE
The one driver everyone fears on the long runs.
The Dutchman produced a solid drive to finish third, holding off Vettel with a delicious overtake on lap 31 and looking like a genuine menace around the sweeping street circuit in Melbourne.
To underline the Red Bull pace, he was hot on the heels of Hamilton for the last 15 laps, and if he had another two or three laps, could have squeezed past the four-time world champion and secured second.
Verstappen wants to race at the front and Red Bull have made significant strides with the new Honda engine during the off-season.
Overall, the package appears tasty and Sunday’s podium will only add to Red Bull’s prospects to compete on both drivers and constructors championship fronts for the rest of the season.
RICCIARDO ON HOME SOIL
A disappointing afternoon for the Perth man. Racing in front of his home fans, Ricciardo struggled on his Renault debut and was forced to retire on lap 31.
From the first straight when he drifted on to the grass as he attempted to make a move on Sergio Perez, he looked low on confidence and failed to make any impact on the race.
In contrast, his team-mate Nico Hulkenberg continued where he left off last season to finish a stunning seventh.
The German is no doubt licking his lips at the opportunity to tackle a driver with Ricciardo’s reputation.
Expect this to be a close battle for the rest of the season.
Lewis Hamilton set a new track record – and then beat it again – as he took pole position for the Australian Grand Prix.
The reigning world champion clocked a one minute 21.014-second lap in Q2 and went more than half a second faster to claim his 84th career pole and sixth consecutive at Albert Park.
He will start alongside team-mate Valtteri Bottas who went faster than Hamilton with his first flying lap in Q3 but was pipped by 0.112 seconds to complete a Mercedes lockout of the front row.
Hamilton had been top of every practice session going into Saturday’s qualification under blue skies in Melbourne and set a new track record with a tidy lap in the second qualifying session, surpassing it in the top 10 shootout.
Vettel’s team-mate Charles Leclerc starts fifth ahead of Haas drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, while British rookie Lando Norris clocked a lap of one minute 22.304 seconds and will start eighth.
There was to be no home luck for Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo who failed to make it out of Q2 by 0.038 seconds, while Verstappen’s team-mate Pierre Gasly was a shock exit in the first qualifying session and will start Sunday’s race in 18th, ahead of the Williams duo of George Russell and Robert Kubica.
Lewis Hamilton set out his intent with a practice double ahead of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
The reigning world champion had said his team had “work to do” after Ferrari proved faster in pre-season testing in Barcelona. But no-one could match the Silver Arrows under blue skies at Melbourne’s Albert Park in second practice on Friday afternoon.
First Valtteri Bottas went around in one minute 22.648 seconds to lead the pack halfway through the 90-minute session with his first lap on soft tyres – half a second quicker than his pace on mediums.
Then Hamilton went purple in his first sector and laid down a marker ahead of Saturday’s qualifying session with a time of 1min 22.600secs.
The Mercedes team, who have won the constructors championship for the last five seasons, look in imperious form with the remaining pack at least 0.8 seconds behind the 34-year-old Briton.
Such was the dominance of Mercedes that Hamilton’s quickest time on the slower medium compound – one minute 23.148 seconds – would have been good enough for second place.
Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc for Ferrari, under new management this season, managed to get within hundredths of a second in first practice but were left with food for thought.
The German, a four-time winner of the world championship, recorded a fastest lap of one minute 23.473 – an improvement of 0.164 seconds compared to FP1 and only good enough for fifth place.
His teammate Leclerc fared even worse, spinning out at turn five late in the session and finishing ninth in the classification, 1.154 seconds behind Hamilton.
Red Bull took third and fourth, with Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly separated by 0.042 seconds, while Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and Australian Daniel Ricciardo found the pace they missed in the first session to come in seventh and eighth respectively.
Kimi Raikkonen, preparing for his 17th Australian Grand Prix, was a tenth of a second behind Vettel in his Alfa Romeo for sixth, with Haas driver Romain Grosjean rounding out the top ten 1.214 seconds off the pace of Hamilton.
Just as was the case in first practice, two of the British newcomers finished in the bottom three in second practice.
Lando Norris was more than two seconds behind the lead with a best lap of one minute 24.733 seconds in his McLaren – 0.6 seconds behind teammate Carlos Sainz – while the Williams duo of George Russell and Robert Kubica were at the back of the pack with a deficit of 3.853 and 4.055 seconds respectively.
Hamilton had bagged early bragging rights over rival Vettel after clocking the fastest time in opening practice. Ferrari may have had the edge after pre-season testing, but it was the Mercedes driver who set the pace with a lap of one minute 23.599 seconds on soft tyres.
In response to the reigning champion, Leclerc gave an indication of what the Ferrari was capable of, recording a lap of one minute 23.673 seconds, before Vettel went four-hundredths of a second quicker for second place with one minute 23.637 seconds.
Verstappen recorded a time of one minute 23.792 seconds, good enough for fourth place and was followed by Hamilton’s team-mate Bottas on one minute 23.866 seconds.
The midfield was a packed affair – with 0.682 seconds separating Raikkonen in sixth and Sergio Perez in 16th.
Daniil Kvyat in his Toro Rosso was 0.1 seconds quicker than Red Bull’s Gasly, with Haas driver Kevin Magnussen and Hulkenberg rounding out the top 10.
There was late drama in the session, with rookie Toro Rosso driver Alex Albon losing his front wing after a spin at turn two, leading to a red flag, while Bottas braked on the grass and nearly put his Mercedes in the wall at the penultimate corner.
Renault struggled, an electrical problem consigning Hulkenberg to the pits for the majority of the session and Ricciardo struggling to find pace on his home track with a deficit of two seconds behind Hamilton.
Albon is one of three rookies who will be making their F1 debut in Australia, with Britons Norris and Russell occupying two of the bottom three spots.
Norris was clearly keen to get his eye in at Albert Park, completing 31 laps with a fastest time of one minute 25.966 seconds for 18th place, while Russell was five seconds off the pace in 20th with a time of one minute 28.740 seconds.