Verstappen starts Honda era with podium finish

Courtesy of Red Bull Media Service Team

Dutchman takes third in Melbourne, while Gasly just misses out on points.

Max Verstappen got the new Formula One season off to a hugely positive start, improving on his fourth-place grid position by passing Sebastian Vettel on the outside of Turn 3 of lap 30 to finish third for Aston Martin Red Bull Racing. The result also hands Honda their first F1 podium since the British Grand Prix in 2008.

The race was dominated by Mercedes, who saw Valtteri Bottas pass Lewis Hamilton off the start line and never really look back. Bottas, who didn’t win a race in 2018, finished over 20 seconds clear of his team-mate. He also claimed the new point for setting the fastest lap, despite a late effort from Verstappen.

Pierre Gasly put in a fine drive on his team debut, making up six places from his grid position of 17th to finish in P11, one place outside the points. Gasly employed a long first-stop strategy, but was unable to find a way past 10th-placed Daniil Kvyat after emerging from the pits.

Kvyat himself enjoyed a successful drive for Scuderia Toro Rosso, coming from 15th on the grid to grab a point. His team-mate Alex Albon finished in a creditable 14th place in his debut race.

Red Bull Racing

Max Verstappen
Finish position: 3rd, Start position: 4th 

“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
Finish position: 11th, Start position: 17th 

“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 10ths 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.”

Scuderia Toro Rosso

Daniil Kvyat
Finish position: 10th, Start position: 15th

“It was an excellent race today! I’m happy with the way I drove and it was really enjoyable. There were 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.”

Alexander Albon
Finish position: 14th, Start position: 13th

“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 OK!’ 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!”

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 mistakes 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.”

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