Sebastian Vettel concedes luck was key to his victory in the Australian Grand Prix after beating Lewis Hamilton in the first race of the new Formula 1 season.
Hamilton took a dominant pole position on Saturday and was leading Kimi Raikkonen throughout the first part of the race when Ferrari opted to pit the Finn early, causing Hamilton to follow suit. Vettel was then left out on his first set of tires and was losing time to the cars behind when a Virtual Safety Car for Romain Grosjean’s stricken Haas slowed the field and allowed him to lose less time in the pits, thereby retaining the lead.
“Obviously needless to say that we got a bit lucky with the timing of the safety car, but equally I think we had some races in particular last year where it went the other way so, it worked for us this time and obviously it was our key to win,” Vettel said. “No doubt. I think Lewis was fast in the first stint and he was fast in the second stint.
“I think for myself, I struggled a bit in the first part, where I had to let both of them go a little bit. That wasn’t planned! The second part on the soft I felt happier with the car and able to control. It was obviously… Lewis was doing the most to keep the pressure on but never really got close enough to try and do something so it’s not the easiest track to pass, I’ve been again on the other side also in other years but this time obviously it worked in our favor.
“Very happy for the team. We’re not yet where we want to be, it gives us a good start and a good team result as well. Good points, and for everyone back at home I think there are motivations to press on.”
Vettel says he was never overly concerned by Hamilton’s pace once he took the lead, even though the Mercedes was the quicker car in clear air.
“I knew it was difficult to pass here,” he said. “I knew that … in the laps he had in free air once he had a mistake, I think he locked up in turn nine, he was pushing hard and I think he was two, three or four tenths faster which to be fair is the gap that we had in the first stint. A little bit more from me, because Kimi was faster and because of the gap also in qualifying.
“So, you need a little bit more to put the car ahead into a position to be able to pass. Of course it wasn’t easy, I was pushing, but I knew that we have a little bit fresher tires and we were in a good position to stay there until the end.”