Lewis Hamilton is to return to the factory to help investigate performance issues in his Mercedes at the Australian Grand Prix.
The five-time world champion lit up Saturday’s qualifying session to take his 84th career pole but his team-mate Valtteri Bottas got the better start at Albert Park and cantered to the chequered flag
It was the fourth consecutive second-placed finish in Melbourne for Hamilton, who suffered damage to the floor of his W10 on lap four leading to a loss in downforce.
But the Briton said the “glass was half full” and the team had “positive things” to take from the race.
He said: “I’ll go back to Europe straight away and I’ll be back in the factory in the week and by the time I get there – I think it’s Wednesday or Thursday – I’ll have a much better understanding of the damage that was on the car, I’ll understand about the start and understand how to try and correct that for the next one.”
Bottas claimed his first win since the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and earned the newly reintroduced bonus point for the fastest lap on a dominant weekend for Mercedes.
The Finn was able to pass Hamilton ahead of the first corner and set about making the most of the clear track, while the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc finished fourth and fifth respectively and were almost a minute behind Bottas.
Hamilton was surprised by Ferrari’s struggles but expects the Italian team to quickly step their game up.
He added: “No-one was expecting to have a gap like that when we came into the weekend.
“What I was shown and led to believe was that, from the analysis we were given, that they were ahead and obviously that wasn’t the case during this weekend.
“I don’t know what their problem was but I am sure they will come back strongly in the next races, so we have to stay on our toes.”
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took the third place on the podium after passing Vettel and went on to push Hamilton for second place until the Dutchman took a trip over the grass with nine laps left.
It was the first podium spot for a Honda-powered car in just under 11 years, the last one coming at the British Grand Prix in 2008.
And Hamilton said it would be “awesome” to see how the competition between Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull would play out in 2019.
“The Red Bulls are there with us and I think we are going to have a really, really great battle between the three of us,” he said.
The season continues in Bahrain in a fortnight’s time, and Hamilton said the preparations would start straight away.
When asked how he saw the season panning out, he said: “I’ve been here a long, long time and I’ve never known after the first race.
“Usually after the first four races you get a better idea of where we all stand. It could be like this for four races or it could be more scattered.
“I don’t have a crystal ball so I can’t tell you, but I can assure you that we are going to be pushing onwards and upwards from here.”
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.