Belfast Telegraph

Bottas wins and silences his critics in fine fashion

Number one: Valtteri Bottas dominated the season-opening Australian Grand Prix
Number one: Valtteri Bottas dominated the season-opening Australian Grand Prix

By Alexander Britton

Porridge-powered Valtteri Bottas hailed his "best race ever" after leading Mercedes to a one-two in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

The Finn was out-qualified by Lewis Hamilton in Melbourne but was quicker into turn one and rounded off a stellar weekend by taking the bonus point for fastest lap.

And after taking the chequered flag, he served up a four-letter riposte to those who had criticised him in the past.

When asked who the message was addressed to, Bottas said: "I think it would be quite a long list. I just wanted to send my best regards.

"There are people around me supporting me. In sport, there's always ups and downs and you can really see the true support... through the difficult times, you can see the other part which a lot more negative. That's their weakness."

Red Bull's Max Verstappen pushed the five-time world champion hard for the second step on the podium, while Ferrari were left to regroup after Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc finished fourth and fifth, nearly a minute back.

When asked "What the hell did you have for breakfast?" after taking his first win since 2017, Bottas replied: "I had some porridge."

He added: "Obviously, the key thing for me was the race start, to get to the lead and then being at the front I could show strong pace and I could pull a gap. Just the car was feeling so good today, it was truly enjoyable."

Hamilton said wheelspin may have been to blame as he failed to capitalise on his pole position but Bottas deservedly took the 25 points for the win, putting the hammer down with a string of fastest laps on tyres that had carried him nearly 20 times around the 3.295-mile circuit after those around him had made their stop.

As the contest reached half distance it was a one-horse race with Verstappen making a late bid for the fastest lap which was surpassed on the penultimate circuit by Bottas with a one minute 25.580 second-

For the Briton, it was his fourth consecutive pole position around Albert Park and his fourth consecutive second-place finish.

Hamilton said: "It (losing first place into the first corner) doesn't really matter, Valtteri got a better start. Once we got to the first corner, we held position, we had the front row still.

"And Valtteri did an exceptional job throughout the race, so congratulations to him and after that it was just about bringing the car home."

For Ferrari, their weekend could possibly be summed up in one radio exchange when Vettel asked "Why are we so slow?" two thirds into the race and hopes of a podium fading fast after Verstappen went clear.

"We don't know at the moment," came the reply from the pit wall.

Leclerc appeared to be closing in on Vettel towards the latter part of the race as he made the most of his fresher tyres, but he appeared to back off from Vettel in the closing stages - despite suggestions earlier in the weekend that the pair were free to race.

Team principal Mattia Binotto said: "It's not what we were expecting. Since Friday in P1, we never found the right balance."

Binotto, who replaced Maurizio Arrivabene in the close-season, said the team "decided not to take any risk with positions and... have both the cars scoring points."

Haas' Kevin Magnussen was the best of the rest, while Renault's Nico Hulkenberg, Kimi Raikkonen for Alfa Romeo, Racing Point's Lance Stroll and Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat also scored points.

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