Valtteri Bottas storms to Australian GP victory and other talking points from Melbourne

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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.

BRILLIANT BOTTAS

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.

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