Vettel cruises to Australian GP win

Sports Network

, Last Updated: 2:24 PM ET

Melbourne, Australia – Sebastian Vettel from Red Bull Racing began his Formula One title defense with an impressive win in Sunday's season- opening Australian Grand Prix.

Vettel, who became the youngest-ever F1 world champion last year at age 23, started on the pole and only relinquished the lead during his first pit stop in the 58-lap race at the 3.295-mile (5.303-kilometer) Albert Park course.

The young German won three of the last four grand prix last season, allowing him to clinch the title by just four points over Fernando Alonso from Ferrari.

Vettel finished 22.2 seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton.

"I obviously think it was a good race," said Vettel, who claimed his 11th career F1 win. "Things calmed down a bit at the end. Lewis didn't push as hard anymore, so we tried to control the last part of the race. I don't think it was an easy race. The start was crucial, and I had a very good getaway."

Prior to his win, Vettel had a series of unfortunate events in Australia, finishing no better than 13th in his first three starts here. Last year, Vettel started on the pole and led the first 25 laps before experiencing brake issues that led to a 17th-place finish.

Hamilton and his McLaren team were surprised with their second-place finish. On lap 33, Hamilton ran off course and suffered damage to the undertray of his car.

"I think we can definitely take this and be very proud of ourselves," Hamilton said. "The [team] did a great job this weekend. A week or two ago, we were not expecting to be anywhere near the top-five."

During pre-season testing in Spain, Hamilton and his teammate, Jenson Button, the winner of the last two Australian GPs, struggled to find speed in their McLaren cars.

Russian Vitaly Petrov collected his first podium finish with a third-place run in his Lotus Renault car. Petrov is in his second year of F1 competition.

"Our weekend was pretty good for us," Vitaly said. "I think the team did everything perfectly today. We're very proud."

Alonso finished fourth, while Vettel's teammate, Mark Webber, took the fifth spot in front of his home crowd.

Button overcame an early-race penalty to finish sixth. On lap 11, Button ran off track while passing Ferrari's Felipe Massa for position. Race stewards slapped him with a drive-through pit lane penalty shortly after.

Sergio Perez, in his first F1 start, and his Sauber teammate, Kamui Kobayashi, originally finished seventh and eighth, respectively. However, both drivers were disqualified shortly after the conclusion of the event for technical infringements on their cars.

During post-race inspections, stewards determined that both Sauber cars violated F1's rules regarding the rear wings. Stewards discovered the wing's local concave radius of curvature did not meet specifications.

Sauber plans to appeal the decision in front of F1's governing body, the FIA.

"This is a very surprising and disappointing result," Sauber's technical director James Key said. "It appears that there is a question over the top surface of the uppermost rear wing element. This area is not the working surface of the component and therefore relatively unimportant to its function."

Therefore, Felipe Massa from Ferrari was credited with seventh place, followed by Toro Rosso's Sebastien Buemi. Force India drivers Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta completed the top-10. Di Resta's 10th-place run gave him one point in his first F1 start.

Mercedes GP had a miserable season-opener, with drivers Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg retiring just before the midway point.

Schumacher, the seven-time F1 champion, made contact with another car in the opening laps, which led to a punctured tire. He retired on lap 22, after the flat tire had created damage to his car. He wound up finishing 21st in the 22- car field.

"It's not been a satisfying weekend for any of us," Schumacher said.

Rosberg made contact with Rubens Barrichello while the two were battling for position. Rosberg's car had a plume of smoke coming from the rear of the car one lap after the incident. He finished 19th.

Stewards later penalized Barrichello for causing the accident. The Williams driver retired just before the finish with an 18th-place result.

The Australian GP featured a lot of overtaking due to the Drag Reduction System, which is also known as the moveable rear wing. The DRS is part of the new technical revisions for the cars this season.

Teams also had a favorable opinion of the new Pirelli tire after the first grand prix of the season.

"I think we have to compliment Pirelli," Vettel said. "After the [pre-season] tests, we were all a bit scared. Coming here, we didn't see as many stops as expected."

Most teams were limited to just two stops for tires.


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