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REPORT: Battle Begins Down Under

REPORT: Battle Begins Down Under

Formula One back with a bang, as Silver Arrows score double podium in Melbourne

Doppel-Podium in Melbourne

Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport celebrated a double podium finish in Melbourne, as a brand new Formula One season started with a bang.

Lewis Hamilton led the opening stint of the race from pole but ultimately had to concede the race to Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.

Valtteri Bottas came home third – just a second adrift of Lewis – to score a podium finish on his debut for the Silver Arrows.

“A big congratulations to Sebastian and Ferrari,” said Lewis. “I know this win has been a long time coming for them.

“This shows we've got a real race on our hands this season and it's a challenge we will relish. It's going to be great for the fans.”

Lewis came home in P2 at the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit to claim his 105th Formula One podium finish

Lewis sits P2 in the Drivers' Championship

Lewis: It was unfortunate but that's motor racing

Despite losing valuable time bottled up behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen after his pit stop, Lewis conceded that Sebastian and Ferrari were simply too quick on the day.

“We had a really good start which is fantastic,” he added. “But I was struggling with grip from the get-go. Sebastian was able to always answer me in terms of lap time and just go quicker.

“Towards the end of the first stint I caught some traffic and that overheated the tyres. I struggled for grip to the point where I needed to come in, plus the gap was closing up and I was sliding around a lot.

“We made the call to pit, because otherwise I think Sebastian would have come past me anyway. After my stop I got caught in some traffic which was unfortunate but that's motor racing.”

Valtteri: Ferrari were quicker today

Valtteri bounced back from a tricky first stint to end the race in Lewis’ mirrors, well clear of compatriot Kimi Räikkönen in the second of the Ferraris.

“There are always things that could have gone better on the day but it's a good starting point for my journey driving for Mercedes,” he said.

“As a team I think we did a really good job with the car we had. But Ferrari were quicker today, there's no doubt about that. They've obviously done a great job over the winter.

“From my side the main issue was the first stint. I felt like I was always sliding around on the UltraSoft tyre - missing front and rear grip - especially after 10 laps. That wasn't easy. But once we stuck on the Softs I had a great feeling with the car. It was behaving really nicely and it felt really nice to drive. It's a shame it was just a bit too late.

Valtteri completed a double podium for the Silver Arrows in P3

Valtteri took his career tally of top three finishes into double figures

Valtteri: There's a long season ahead

His first Silver Arrows podium in the bag, Valtteri is already looking ahead to round two of the Championship in Shanghai.

“Overall this race wasn't a disaster,” said the Finn. “It's good to start with a podium with a new team and every position is important for the Championship.

“There's a long season ahead. I have my points and I'll do better next time. I'm looking forward to China.

Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Toto Wolff defended the team’s strategy, congratulating our rivals in red as well-deserved winners.

“Some races you win, some races you lose, and when the days come where another team has done a better job, you need to accept that with humility and recognise their performance,” he said. “From the early stages of the race, it was clear that Sebastian was very quick because Lewis wasn't able to pull away.

Toto: We were between a rock and a hard place, really, and we went for it

“Sebastian came into the window where the undercut was possible and we had the feeling at that point that the tyres were not lasting. It was the team's impression on the pit wall looking at the data and Lewis' in the car, too. So that was when, with all the clear risks of coming out in traffic, we took the decision to come in. We were between a rock and a hard place, really, and we went for it.

“But Ferrari played it very well - and they had the quicker car today. After that, we seemed to pick up in performance on the Soft tyres.”

“Lewis managed everything perfectly and I must compliment Valtteri, too - he showed really good pace, made no mistakes through the whole weekend and got his first podium with the team in his first race.

“Now, the job for us is to learn the lessons from this race, understand why we didn't perform to our maximum today and keep working hard to improve the car in every area.”

Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport trail Ferrari by four points in the Constructors' Championship

Silver Arrows score double podium in Melbourne

James: We won't panic, though

Technical Director James Allison praised his former team after Sebastian beat Lewis to the flag.

“If it wasn't already clear after qualifying, then it's certainly clear now that this is going to be a season of very small margins,” he said. “We got a good getaway from the flag. But credit to Ferrari today, they had a very quick car and we just weren't quite good enough to stick with them.

“We won't panic, though. It's race one of a long season and we scored some very good points with both cars today. We'll be determined to come back stronger in China and make sure those small margins go our way next time.”

The Silver Arrows will return to the track on 7th April as the 2017 Formula One season continues at China’s Shanghai International Circuit

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