What the teams said – Race day in Australia

The drivers and teams report back on all the action from an action-filled first race of the season at the Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix 2019…

Mercedes romped to victory – but it was Bottas who showed the field a clean pair of heels, winning by over 20s from his team mate after getting a better start and holding his nerve into the first corner. With a bonus point for fastest lap secured, it was the dream start to the season for the Finn, who had a rocky 2018 without a single victory to his name. Carrying some floor damage, Hamilton could do nothing except drive a mistake-free race to keep a battling Verstappen behind and secure a one-two for the team. Interestingly, every time a team has finished one-two in Melbourne, they have gone on to win the constructors’ title. But perhaps more tantalisingly, the driver finishing first has always gone on to lift the title…

Lewis Hamilton, 2nd

“It was an incredible weekend for the team, we’re leaving Melbourne with maximum points. Valtteri did an exceptional job today – congratulations to him. I had a pretty straightforward race today; I lost position at the start and my race was pretty much done and dusted after the first corner. Afterwards it was really about bringing the car home and bagging the points. I had to pit early to cover the pit stop from Ferrari, so I had a long second stint and drove super carefully to make sure I had tyres left at the end of the race. I’ll bag the eighteen points I got today, keep working and come back recharged for the next one. It was a really great weekend for the team and I’m really happy for everyone. We showed a great performance today and we need to continue to build on this – we have a long season ahead of us.”

Valtteri Bottas, 1st

“This feels so good – I don’t think I’ve ever had a race like this! We could not have asked for a better start to the season – getting maximum points for the team is a perfect result and we couldn’t be happier. It’s also an important result for me personally, I’m really pleased with how the race went. These things don’t just happen – both the team and I have worked hard for this and it seems like the hard work paid off today. The key was the start; I think Lewis may have had a bit of wheel spin, so I was able to take the lead. My race pace was really strong, I could pull away and build a gap. In the end, I managed to get the fastest lap as well, which of course means an extra point this season, so I went for it. It can be a little risky with worn tyres, but I had it all under control. I’m very, very pleased with today, but it’s only the first race and we have another 20 races to go.”

James Allison, Technical Director

“Days in motor racing do not come much sweeter than this. A 1-2 finish is a precious thing and to top it off with the cherry of the fastest lap point for the first time, makes it feel even nicer. I guess the main reason it feels so good is that it was unexpected. We came to Australia expecting a very tough fight against a car that had set the benchmark throughout winter testing. But we found ourselves in the happy position of being very competitive from the first time we turned a wheel – and almost spent our weekend waiting to wake up from that state of slight disbelief. However, we should have trusted what our numbers told us, because Sunday turned out almost exactly how an impressive Friday had promised, and it’s a fantastic feeling for all of us to achieve this result at the first race.

“That doesn’t mean we will do the same at the next race but it is a good start: it was fantastic to see Valtteri drive so flawlessly to answer some of his critics and remind everybody that he is a class act; Lewis on the other hand was punished for a poor start and had to contend with damage to the floor of his car, but nonetheless was able to drive a strong race to seal off the 1-2 finish for the team, which will see us heading to the next race with very happy spirits indeed.”

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

“That was a great day and an awesome drive for Valtteri – a perfect rebound after how last season finished. Over the winter, he recharged the batteries, reset, found his joy of driving again with the rally in Finland – then today it all came together for him. I can see again the young boy I first met over ten years ago and who dominated the junior series in 2008; it was a strong comeback and a really well earned win today. For Lewis, it was a harder afternoon – the start was not as good as Valtteri, then we had to pit him earlier than ideal to cover the risk of being undercut by Vettel. That gave him a long stint on the tyres and none of us knew if they would make it to the end, so it was hard to judge the right pace and he wasn’t happy with the car balance; my feeling is that it can be tricky to find the sweet spot with these new cars and tyres, and probably we didn’t manage that today with Lewis.

“Overall, though, a fantastic day for the team and a perfect result in the opening race – including the point for fastest lap. I know we have a very big supporter who is in Vienna now and not here with us in Melbourne – to you, Niki, we send all our best wishes and we hope you’re happy with this one. But this feeling will only last as long as we stay at the circuit; when the plane takes off for home, our eyes will turn to Bahrain. We know that Ferrari have the speed to fight back, so we won’t be jumping to any conclusions after just one race. We have a long season ahead full of twists and turns and challenges; we’re looking forward to the fight.”

Verstappen was customarily aggressive off the line, just about keeping a battling Leclerc behind. From there he ran a long first stint and came out just behind Vettel but on much fresher tyres. That battle was a foregone conclusion, but the Dutchman couldn’t quite pull the same trick on Hamilton ahead. Nonetheless, a podium is a solid opening salvo from the Dutchman and the new Red Bull-Honda partnership. Gasly was hampered by his starting slot of 17th, and did well to make headway before getting bottled up behind an obdurate Kvyat and came home just outside the points.

Max Verstappen, 3rd

“I am very happy for the Team and also for Honda to finish on the podium today. Since we started working together it has been amazing and I am really enjoying the partnership, so this is a well-deserved third place for all of us. To be able to challenge Lewis at the end of the race and overtake Seb on-track, which around here is very difficult, is very positive. We had a little advantage with the tyres but it was satisfying to pressure Lewis even though I couldn’t get quite close enough to overtake him. The car was working really well and we also look strong on the straights which is hopefully a good sign for the rest of the season. I heard this is the first podium for Honda since 2008 so I am very happy that I managed to achieve this for them today.”

Pierre Gasly, 11th

“It was a pretty difficult race. With the new bigger rear wings, I couldn’t see the lights on the grid so I had to react with the cars around me and I lost a couple of places. Then I got stuck in traffic and even with the DRS, it’s super difficult to overtake here plus I had some debris in my front wing which didn’t help. I spent the whole race five tenths from the car in front but my tyres were just sliding and I couldn’t get past. I pushed as much as I could and I tried everything but it wasn’t enough to make it into the points. In general, the pace over the weekend was really good. In qualifying, we got knocked out of Q1 but I was happy with my first lap and it was just unfortunate that we didn’t make it through. Bahrain is a race I really like and we’ve seen the car is competitive so we’ll keep our heads down, stay focused and give a big push in two weeks’ time.”

Christian Horner, Team Principal

“A fantastic start to the season with a podium finish at our first Grand Prix with our new power unit partner Honda, who haven’t finished in the top three since 2008. Max put in a remarkable performance today, and after a decent start and one of the day’s fastest pit stops, he was able to take advantage of the C3 tyre and make a great pass on Sebastian. He went on to put Lewis under pressure for the rest of the race, but didn’t get quite close enough. Pierre battled his way from P17 to finish just outside of the points, but at this track it’s notoriously hard to overtake. He drove the wheels off the car and it’s a shame that it wasn’t rewarded with a point. He raced hard and I’m sure his time will come. After a promising season opener, we now look ahead to Bahrain.”

Both Renault boys made very good starts, each heading out wide. While that worked out for Hulkenberg on the cleaner line, Ricciardo was forced to place two wheels on the grass which ripped his front wing off in spectacular style. He limped round to the pits for a new nose, before retiring midway through the face with car damage. Hulkenberg at least came home in the points in a solid showing that places the R.S.19 firmly in the midfield mix.

Nico Hulkenberg, 7th

“It’s a good start to the season with some solid points on the board. It was a tricky race – especially the final 10 laps – I was under pressure and really had to fight to hang onto seventh place. I’m pleased to pull that off. The start and the first lap made our race; it’s so crucial to have track position around here and from there it was about managing the car and the tyres. We can be pleased with today, it’s a positive result, but it also shows we have a lot of work ahead of us. We need to dig deep and continue finding performance especially to improve the car balance.”

Daniel Ricciardo, DNF

“I’m gutted, that’s for sure. I made a good start, managed to get a good run on Perez and then moved to the side. I put a wheel on the grass, which didn’t concern me, and then a massive bump caught me by surprise. It’s unlucky more than anything and, unfortunately, that was our race run there and then. It all happened very quickly and it was a shame we finished like that. Nico showed in the race that the car belongs in the top eight and we’ll be aiming for a smoother weekend in Bahrain and a strong result.”

Cyril Abiteboul, Team Principal

“We’re leaving Australia with mixed feelings and a contrast of positive and negatives. The main negative was Qualifying, where we had a number of issues that impacted our potential and starting position. That made Daniel’s first race complex and we tried to recover positions at the start but we ultimately had to retire his car due to the damage. Nico managed to turn around the situation and had a very strong race. He was very smart and drove a good race to finish seventh. We know the car has much more pace than we have shown, especially in Qualifying, and it will be the priority of the next race to extract more from the initial platform with a smoother execution across the weekend while we work on our planned upgrades.”

Haas were the big talking point last year when pit stop blunders led to a double DNF. Chasing after some redemption, with both cars starting in the top 10, it was all looking so rosy. They got off the line well, kept out of trouble and a double points finish was on the cards once more. But Grosjean had a sticky pit stop, losing places as a result before pulling over with what looked suspiciously like a loose left-front… Lightning does strike twice? At least Magnussen came home with all four wheels attached and in the points.

Romain Grosjean, DNF

“I don’t know what happened exactly yet. It just felt wrong. It’s not been a good day. Before all that I was happy and up behind Kevin (Magnussen). The new rules are great for following another car, but the tyres are still what they were last year, as you push, you slide, then you lose grip. Even though we can follow easier than in the past, overtaking is still complicated. Overall, today’s a shame as we’ve looked strong all weekend long, we were strong in the race as well.”

Kevin Magnussen, 6th

“I’m very happy about today, it was a good result. I’m obviously sad for team not to have both cars get to the finish. Surely Romain (Grosjean) would have been in a good position as well, especially after we both had such good qualifying yesterday, so I’m gutted for his side that they didn’t get anything out of today. P6 for me is very good, I’m happy with the day. I made a good start and had a really good car from there. I was able to push the whole race and look after my tyres. I’m really happy to start the year like this.”

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal

“Mixed emotions today. Deja-vu from last year on Romain’s (Grosjean) car it looks like, a pit stop gone wrong. Last year, after Australia, we went 20 races – the rest of the season, without another pit stop issue. We’re a little bit unlucky here, we’ll have to investigate what happened, it’s too early to say right now. On the other side, Kevin (Magnussen) finishing sixth is a great achievement for the team. We know the car is strong. This year we take eight points away from Melbourne, last year we were last going away from Australia. It’s better than 2018. I think with this car we can be strong in all the remaining 20 races.”

Perez lost places at the start and from there struggled to make headway through a congested midfield. Racing Point split strategies, pitting the Mexican early to cover off others which proved to be the wrong call. Fortunately they left Stroll out for a lengthy first stint and that helped propel the Canadian into the points to open the team’s account for 2019.

Sergio Perez, 13th

“I’m disappointed to come away from Melbourne missing out on points. It was quite a difficult race for me from lap one because I made a poor start and lost a couple of places before turn one. Overtaking was extremely difficult, so we tried the undercut with the strategy but it didn’t really work out for us. After my pit stop I was stuck in traffic for the rest of the race. I was able to get ahead of Albon, when he made a mistake, but apart from that it was difficult to really show our pace.”

Lance Stroll, 9th

“I am really pleased with my race today – it has been a great day at the office. It’s really nice to pick up some points on the first weekend of the season, but it wasn’t easy. It was a really challenging afternoon, chasing Hulkenberg and Raikkonen ahead of me while also keeping Kvyat and Gasly behind me for most of the race. I was under a lot of pressure and it was very tight, but I am glad we managed to pick up two points. We were always planning to go long with our strategy: we were starting out of position so we knew the key was to make a good start and gain some places in the opening stages, which we did. After that, we had good pace and managed to hold off the cars behind us on softer tyres than ours. We saw today that it’s going to be really close in the middle of the grid, but we are definitely in the fight.”

Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO

“I’m delighted to see Lance score points in his first race with us. It was a very mature drive and he thoroughly deserves this result. Scoring points is a great way to start the season after the huge effort back at base and trackside over the last few months. It’s a shame Sergio’s strategy didn’t’ work out because we had a chance to get both cars in the points today. We saw, once again, that overtaking is extremely difficult around Albert Park and getting stuck in traffic after his early stop proved very costly. We take away lots of positives from this weekend and have learned a huge amount from all the testing we did in the lead up to the race. Now we switch focus to Bahrain and a very different track. We will keep pushing, keep developing and we hope to take a step forward and get both cars in the top ten in a couple of weeks’ time.”

After a positive qualifying, Sunday was a slightly disappointing day for the Woking team. Norris lost out at the start, and then got stuck behind Giovinazzi after the first round of pit stops which cost him any chance of some first F1 points. He did at least finish, though, unlike Sainz who had to pull over with smoke billowing from the back of his MCL34.

Carlos Sainz, DNF

“It’s been a weekend to forget. I think we lost the MGU-K, which was a shame as the race was going well. I’d put yesterday behind me and I was feeling positive going into today. I’d done everything I wanted to do: I made a good start, overtaking four cars, getting in the fight for the points and starting to attack the cars in front. The car felt good, we had strong pace and I was fighting with other cars that ended up in the points today, which shows us that points could have been possible.

“This one hurts, but this is Formula 1. My season has started with a really unlucky weekend but hopefully we can start having more positive results from Bahrain onwards. I’m happy to put this one behind me and keep pushing.”

Lando Norris, 12th

“The team gave me a good car, with enough pace for me to be in the top 10 but I made a couple of mistakes which cost me any chance of scoring points, so I’m a little disappointed. But it’s cool to finish my first [F1] race and get it out of the way.

“I didn’t make the perfect start, struggled to get ahead of a slower car and then had a big lock-up so I need to work on these mistakes. I’m annoyed with myself as there was more potential. Now I focus and look forward to Bahrain.”

Gil de Ferran, Sporting Director

“Overall, I must admit that, although there were several positives to draw from this weekend in general, we come away from the Australian Grand Prix a little disappointed. Carlos had a good start, but unfortunately had to retire with an early mechanical failure. On Lando’s side, the race was going well early on, until he was held up in traffic for some laps, which sealed his result outside the points. On the positive side, I’m pleased that Lando was able to put up a fighting performance in his début grand prix and see the chequered flag.

“As predicted, it’s clear that several teams are in a tight battle, including ourselves, so any small improvements in our pace and execution can have a significant impact on our ranking. So, head down, and onwards to Bahrain.”

Raikkonen had an error-free day, driving solidly to bring home some points for his new team despite suffering minor damage in the melee at the start. Giovinazzi, starting further back, did well to avoid the off-roading Renault or Ricciardo, and played an influential part in the race by holding up Norris and Grosjean on aging tyres. But the Italian couldn’t find the pace himself to feature in the battle for the points.

Kimi Raikkonen, 8th

“Our car was pretty strong in the race, but then we got stuck behind cars and there is not much you can do. It seems that it is easier to get closer to the car in front of you but it’s still very hard to overtake. In addition, we had an issue with the temperature of the rear brakes as one of the tear-offs from the visor went in and that’s why we had to pit earlier than planned. But as I said, the car has a lot of speed and it felt good, so I’m looking forward to the race in Bahrain.”

Antonio Giovinazzi, 15th

“It was a tough race. I picked up some damage to my car on lap 1 and after that it was challenging to stay up to speed. There were some battles and I did my best to defend my position. It was only the first race of the season, so I look forward to fighting for a stronger result in Bahrain.”

Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal

“For the first race of the season, it was an ok race. We had some small issues which we could not have anticipated and both drivers put up a good fight. We are returning home with 4 points, which is a positive. To start the season with one car in the top 10 is a good achievement and we will push hard to score some more points at the next Grand Prix in Bahrain.”

Albon looked the more likely of the two drivers to challenge for points, making up two places at the start and running in P11 in the early stages. But he too fell foul of trying to cover off others by stopping early, dropping back into the pack. Kvyat ran long by contrast and came back out in the points. Despite running wide when trying to overtake Stroll, it was a markedly composed return to F1 for the Russian and he did well to hold off a charging Gasly to grab the last point on offer.

Daniil Kvyat, 10th

“It was an excellent race today! I’m happy with the way I drove and it was really enjoyable. There was a lot of positives to come from the race – it’s just a shame about yesterday’s qualifying as we had the opportunity to start a bit further ahead! We had good tyre management throughout the race and we definitely had the pace to fight for higher positions but, as we know, it’s difficult to overtake around Albert Park. I tried to catch Stroll, but I was a bit on the edge and I couldn’t make it. I had a good battle with Pierre towards the end of the race, I felt like I could fight him well and at the end it was satisfying to keep a quicker car behind almost the whole race. I know we have a good package with the car and the engine, so we need to keep developing it. I’m very optimistic for the next few races and I think it’s possible to achieve good results.”

Alex Albon, 14th

“Mixed feelings today! It was my first experience of a race weekend and I didn’t really know what to expect. The race started off very well, I dropped the clutch and thought ‘great, that was okay!’ I made up two positions straight away and at that time we were in the mix, as I was already one position away from the points. That was pretty much as good as it got for me, though. We were in a battle with Giovinazzi, I think he was struggling with his tyres and everyone on that strategy lost out. All of the guys who stayed out on the harder compound behind overcut us. That compromised our race but I’m still happy with how my weekend went. I think we could have had points so that stings a little, but it was a good experience and I came away with a clean weekend, relatively speaking!”

Jody Egginton, Deputy Technical Director

“In terms of pace, the race was very positive for Dany with the prime to base strategy, allowing him to extend his first stint. He then put some very strong times in the second stint to be able to take home one hard-earned point. Alex faced a few more challenges, having to manage brakes in traffic early on. However, he has put in a solid performance in his first F1 race and he learnt a lot, which I am sure he will put to good use in Bahrain. In summary, on one hand we leave Melbourne positive as our new car has shown some good performance. On the other hand, we have not executed the best possible qualifying or race, which is a bit frustrating as there was more on offer. We now switch our focus to final preparations for the next race in Bahrain, the plan being to build on the positive signs shown here.”

Franz Tost, Team Principal

“We’re always happy to come to Melbourne, not only because it’s the first race of the season, but It’s a special race with an extraordinary atmosphere and a lot of great fans!

“First of all, I would like to congratulate Honda for finishing on the podium with Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, which is certainly a big success for them and they deserved such a result. As for our race, we started 13th and 15th and we decided to go for a different strategy for our drivers: Alex started on the option tyre, while Daniil started on the prime. This turned out to be the right decision, because it gave us the possibility to be flexible with our strategy. Daniil drove a fantastic race, bringing home a point – we must not forget he’s been out of the cockpit for a year and a half, so to come back and fight successfully into the top 10 is a good sign for the rest of the season. Alex did a great job too, because this was his first race in F1 and it’s not an easy circuit around here. Nevertheless, he didn’t make any mistake and learned a lot throughout the weekend. After the first race weekend, we feel we have a strong package, so I’m optimistic for the next races.”

Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director

“Scuderia Toro Rosso did well this weekend, with Daniil getting the point for tenth place. It was a strong comeback from him after a year away from the sport. It’s clear the STR14 car has good potential. Overall, it was a positive start. I therefore thank all the staff who work on our F1 project in Japan and the UK, knowing they will be working hard to help us improve. In two weeks we race in Bahrain, which was a very strong weekend for the team last year.”

Kubica had contact at the start, and had to pit for a new front wing. Running with damage, he was well off the pace and trailed home at the back of the field. Russell at least kept his head high and mistakes to a minimum, but in a car that is well off the pace there were limits to what the Englishman could realistically achieve on his F1 debut.

Robert Kubica, 17th

“It definitely wasn’t an easy race and we knew that before the start. We opted to start on the hard tyre to get experience on them but, I got a good start for those tyres. In turn one, I was on the inside and on the exit of the corner one of the Red Bull’s moved right to avoid another contact and we touched, damaging my front wing so I had to come in to box. Additionally, on lap three, I lost one of my mirrors, so the blue flags weren’t easy. I was not in the best shape with some damage but, I know it sounds strange and I thought I would never say something like this, although it was very difficult I think there were some positives. I want to thank again everyone in the team.”

George Russell, 16th

“I feel happy that I brought the car home with no dramas. I physically feel fine and it was a good first race from my side but obviously it is disappointing that we are so far behind the pace. We did an additional pitstop to try all three compounds of the tyres, so that is unfortunately where we are at the moment. We have got a lot of work to do tomorrow to understand and hopefully improve from there. I am not interested in fighting Robert for last, we need to work together to make this right. Overall, I can be proud and pleased with myself because we went into this weekend knowing what to expect and I achieved pretty much all of my goals.”

Dave Robson, Senior Race Engineer

“It was a tough day as you would expect but it was an achievement to bring two cars home. Robert had an unfortunate first lap, but once we got him back out with a new front wing he was able to settle down and he drove a good race on his comeback. It was George’s Formula One debut and he has had a solid weekend all round and now has his first race under his belt. This should give both drivers some confidence moving forward. The pitstops the team carried out today were very good as always, and operationally the team did a good job with what we have at the moment.”

Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing

“All three compounds stood up well to the particular demands of Albert Park and they were all used extensively. We saw an interesting variation in strategy, with drivers using different tyres for different stint lengths, and – for those further down the grid – alternative strategies to make their way up the field. Our aim this year was to provide compounds that enabled drivers to push from start to finish of every stint. The fact that Bottas set the fastest race lap of Albert Park right at the end of the grand prix, in a close fight for the extra point with Verstappen, highlights how this objective has been achieved.”