A lot of soul-searching over the winter break, some rally car driving and a few drinking sessions helped transform Bottas approach to racing in 2019, with an immediate and profound result.
Hamilton frustrated with another Melbourne runnerup finish
The 29-year-old Finn surged from No. 2 on the grid to beat five-time world champion Hamilton to the first corner, and stayed in front of his teammate the whole way Sunday to win by 20.886 seconds. It was his fourth GP title, and first since 2017.
Bottas also picked up the bonus point for the fastest lap, which has been reintroduced to F1 for the first time in six decades, to collect 26 championship points for the weekend.
With Red Bulls third-placed Max Verstappen a menacing presence behind him, Hamilton complained on the team radio that he was worried his tyres would not last and battled handling issues late on.
Valtteri Bottas: Its definitely the best race Ive had in my life
“It was definitely my best race ever. It felt so good,” said Bottas, who finished the 58-lap race in 1 hour, 25 minutes, 27.325 seconds. “Truly enjoyed it.”
Maximum points for Mercedes was a great team result, but Hamilton was condemned to finishing runnerup for a third year in a row in Melbourne, after losing to Vettel in the last two editions.
If the question is best-ever Hamilton is close to the answer
Albert Park was previously one of Bottas least-preferred circuits — he started 10th last year and his previous best result was a third-place finish in 2017 — but now its among his favourites.
Bottas blasts to victory in dominant display at Albert Park
The fast lap was icing on the cake and a calculated risk on old tires: “Definitely, its a new rule for this year. I had really strong pace, I wanted to go for that in the end.”
Max Verstappen was closing in on Hamilton toward the end but had to settle for third, 1.634 seconds further back in his Red Bull.
One of the biggest surprises was how far back the Ferraris were, particularly after being the quickest cars in testing.
Bottas victory shows Hamilton will not have it all his own way
Two-time defending champion Sebastien Vettel started from third but was overtaken on the outside by Verstappen on the 30th lap and finished fourth, one spot ahead of teammate Charles Leclerc.
For the fourth time in as many years, Lewis Hamilton secured pole in Australia only to finish the race in second place – this time to his team mate Valtteri Bottas. And while Hamilton praised an incredible weekend for Mercedes, the five-time champ couldnt hide his disappointment at not being the driver to spearhead his teams one-two in Melbourne.
“I had to beat Seb to get onto the podium, which is not easy around here,” Verstappen said. “Happy to pull that move off — then challenging for second.
“To start the season on the podium, challenging the Mercedes in front of me, its a really good start to the season.”
Worryingly for Ferrari, four-time world champion Vettel was 35 seconds behind Verstappens Red Bull, and Leclerc had a few driver errors on his first weekend with the team.
Kevin Magnussen was sixth for Haas, Nico Hulkenberg placed seventh for Renault and 2007 world champion, the 39-year-old Kimi Raikkonen, placed eighth in first drive for Alfa Romeo Racing.
Hamilton, who won pole position for the sixth successive year and eighth time overall in Melbourne, again had to settle for second.
“It was a good weekend for Mercedes,” Hamilton said. “Valtteri drove an incredible race today. Really deserved it.”
For most of 2018, Valtteri Bottas was the 'other' guy at Mercedes as the German Formula One giant stormed to its fifth consecutive world championship. Where teammate Lewis Hamilton won 11 grands prix and annexed a fifth world title, Bottas failed to take a single race victory to add to the three he won in his first season at Mercedes in 2017, and seemed set for another campaign as Hamilton's wingman after qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park on Saturday.
To whom it may concern, f*** you: Bottas rebuke after Australia win
Three drivers failed to finish, with local hope Daniel Ricciardo getting into trouble moments after leaving the grid when he tried to overtake while charging to the first corner and losing the front wing of his new Renault.
Robert Kubica was the last of 17 drivers who finished, but was content to get his first drive back in F1 since 2010 over and done with. He missed eight seasons because of a serious right hand injury sustained in a rallying crash but is back with Williams in 2019.
The victory margin was greater than in any other grand prix last year, and with the lead Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel finishing fourth and a whopping 57 seconds adrift, it put the full stop on a season start that ripped the form book to shreds.
Bottas last season faded to finish fifth in the championship after a combination of mechanical problems and team instructions meant he didnt win a GP. He was ordered to concede to Hamilton while in good position in Russia, but hes back on level terms now.
“Were all here starting a new season,” he said. “Both me and Lewis will want to fight this season, for sure, against each other, and against everyone.”
Prost, like Senna, did plenty of his winning for McLaren, the once-great team that has fallen on hard times after – and perhaps not coincidentally – Hamilton left for Mercedes at the end of the 2012 season. That 2012 finale in Brazil, won by Hamilton's teammate and compatriot Jenson Button, was the most recent of McLaren's 182 Grand Prix victories; not since Australia 2014, where Daniel Ricciardo's disqualification opened the door for Button to join rookie teammate Kevin Magnussen on the podium, has a McLaren driver finished a single race inside the top three.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said hed noticed a change in Bottas attitude, and is expecting big things this season.
“He came back very strong from the winter … rediscovered the joy of driving,” Wolff said. “I heard … that he got drunk a few times, to forget (2018), so its a good start. I expect Valtteri to be the strongest this year, the strongest Valtteri weve seen.”
Bottas couldnt pinpoint exactly what changed in his preparation, but is harnessing the energy regardless.
Puzzled Vettel says Ferrari should be better
“Its difficult to explain, honestly, whats been going on inside my head,” he said. “Definitely something changed in terms of the way I feel about things — in life in general, and in racing.
Valtteri Bottas dominated the season-opening Australian Grand Prix after overtaking world champion team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
The Finn took the lead at the start from Hamilton, who made a slow getaway from pole position, and even took the new bonus point for the fastest lap.
Hamilton was left far behind, and had to concentrate on holding off Red Bulls Max Verstappen for second place.
Binotto ready to play the long game after qualifying disappointment
“Why are we so slow?” Vettel asked his team at two-thirds distance. “We dont know at the moment,” came the reply. It was an exchange that summed up Ferraris entire weekend.
It was a weekend which began in mourning following news of the death of F1 director Charlie Whiting – one of the most influential people in the sport.
Whiting, who was 66, was due to officiate this weekends race. He was the official race starter and oversaw all rules matters in F1.
Bottas dedicated the win to Whiting: “Thank you Charlie. This win is for Charlie and all his work in F1. He has done massive amounts, so thanks from all us drivers.”
After one lap he was a second ahead of Hamilton and it quickly became apparent that his claim that he was now mentally and physically stronger and tougher and more focussed than ever was not just idle pre-race talk.
Mercedes came to Melbourne thinking they were at best level with Ferrari on pace – and could be as much as half a second a lap behind.
But they dominated the weekend from the off, while Ferrari struggled, and were lost for answers as to why.
Mercedes discovers damage to Hamiltons floor
Bottas made a clean sweep of the race and was comfortably able to grab the extra point that has been introduced this year for the driver who sets the fastest lap, underlining his performance by fending off Hamiltons own attempt to snatch the point.
Hamilton: Attack from Verstappen was “no problem”
The Finn, who had a difficult year in 2018 failing to win a race as Hamilton took 11 victories and the title, was determined to bounce back this year and signalled his intent to take the fight to Hamilton and be a title contender this season with a masterful performance.
Hamilton: Set-up breakthrough key to Mercedes Australian Grand Prix pole position | Formula 1®
He had pulled a 3.8-second lead on Hamilton by the time Mercedes stopped the world champion on lap 15 in response to Vettels early pit stop a lap before.
Bottas carried on for another 10 laps before his stop, and by the time he rejoined he was more than 12 seconds ahead of Hamilton.
The five-time champion was already complaining about his tyres, saying he was concerned they might not last the race. They did, but he was out of the fight for the lead.
Sebastian Vettel on Ferraris qualifying performance – We should be better than this
Hamilton had Vettel within two seconds of him after Bottas stop, but the German was soon under pressure from Verstappen, who like Bottas had delayed his first stop.
Verstappen passed Vettel on the outside into Turn Three, six laps after his stop, and set after Hamilton but was unable to challenge. An off-track moment with nine laps to go ended Verstappens challenge.
Lewis Hamilton was missing chunk of floor – Mercedes
The Monegasque had made a couple of small errors early in his Ferrari debut, but thanks to a late stop he was on fresher tyres than Vettel for the second half of the race and he closed a 12-second lead in about 20 laps and was on Vettels tail in the closing laps.
Vettel had said before the weekend that they were free to race but Leclerc appeared to back off once he had closed on his team-mate.
McLarens Lando Norris had started a superb eighth for McLaren but he finished out of the points after a frustrating race.
He lost a couple of places on the first lap and then got stuck in a train of cars after his pit stop and finished 13th.
George Russell drove a lonely race in the slow Williams to take 16th place, two laps behind, although he comprehensively out-paced team-mate Robert Kubica, who damaged his front wing on the first lap.
Bahrain in two weeks time. Hot where Melbourne is warm. A rough surface where Melbourne is non-abrasive. A road course where Melbourne is a street track. Can Ferrari bounce back in the desert?
Bottas: “I dont know what just happened. I dont know what to say. The start was really good. It was definitely my best race ever.”
Wolff not expecting championship “home run” despite strong start
Hamilton: “It is a good weekend for the team. A really fantastic job from everyone. Valtteri drove an incredible race and he really enjoyed it. Lost position at the start, that was a little disappointing, but I will just train and work hard for the next one.”
Verstappen: “Happy to pull that move off and then challenge Lewis for second. Pretty pleased with that. To start the season on the podium challenging the Mercedes car ahead is a great start for us.”