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Images from the 2018 Australian Grand Prix


Mar 252018

Being one of the most successful and accomplished race teams in contemporary Formula 1 history is a great thing, but when your organization is a constant and moving target for the competition as well as a fraternity of fiercely competitive drivers, the racing life can be daunting to say the least. Welcome to the world of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport team and its brilliantly successful Formula 1 enterprise. Having earned the consecutive F1 Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, the Brackley & Brixworth, Northamptonshire, United Kingdom based team, led by four-time F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton and the all-new Mercedes-AMG F1 W09 EQ Power+, is hunting for a fifth straight F1 double play in 2018 and is throwing everything the collective effort has in its power and possession to do so.

“I think it is a privilege to be in Formula 1 and a privilege to be racing for the teams we race for,” offered Lewis Hamilton a handful of days prior to opening round of the 2018 F1 season in Melbourne, Australia. “For me and Mercedes with the heritage they have, to be part of the sport which is progressing and changing with the times and to be at the forefront of it, competing against the best drivers you can compete against, I think that is… When you come to o the end of your career you want to know you have competed against the best.”


A long way to go and a short time to get there, Hamilton, his teammate, the championship-caliber wheelman Valtteri Bottas, and the entire Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 operation made the 10,500-mile odyssey – as did the 40 tons of air freight and 23 tons of sea freight that come with the race effort – to Melbourne to begin what would be a 21-stop world tour for the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile F1 World Championship. 


Making 2018 even more interesting is the fact that for the first time in Formula 1 history, two four-time world champions, namely Hamilton and Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, would be competing at the same time, as would fellow former world champions Fernando Alonso (McLaren) and Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari).


“It is great and a great experience for me to race against Sebastian with his four world titles, the most of any driver at the time,” pointed out Hamilton of his title adversary Vettel. “I think this is an exciting year for F1, for the fans, as we have two four-time world champions battling it out.”


The battle at Melbourne started off on fine footing for Hamilton as he pinned the V6 turbocharged motivated Mercedes-AMG F1 M09 EQ Power+ Silver Arrow around the 16-turn, 3.296-mile Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit at a blistering lap that stopped the clocks at 1:21.164s. End result of the flying circuit: a smashed track record and pole for the Australian Grand Prix. 


"I'm so happy with that lap,” beamed Hamilton shortly after earning the 73rd pole position of his F1 career. “It was such a nice lap. I'm always striving for perfection and that was as close as I could get.”

Meanwhile, Silver Arrow pilot Valtteri Bottas got it all wrong in qualifying when while beginning his flying lap in Q3 the No. 77 driver went a bit wide in Turn One and upon getting back on the gas just beyond the apex of the corner, causing the F1 W09 to snap around, the car careening into the safety barriers.  The shunt measured at 27Gs, the car was heavily damaged and Bottas sent back to start the Grand Prix in a lowly P15. 


Optimistic about the 2018 race season, Lewis Hamilton, hoping to become only the third driver in F1 history to win five world titles – only Michael Schumacher and Juan Manuel Fangio have more – went to the starting grid on Sunday with his eyes on the prize.


When the five starting lights to start the Australian Grand Prix extinguished themselves and the pack of screeching cars groped for traction and looked to Turn One, it was Hamilton and his masterful work of the Mercedes Xtrac semi-automatic eight-speed gearbox which earned him and the No. 44 F1 W09 the holeshot, Hamilton leading the pack out onto the Melbourne circuit, 80,000-plus fans on their feet and waiting to see what would come next. 


Clearing off from all those behind, Hamilton powered away during the opening laps, completely in control of the race and the situation. Then, at the halfway point of the race, an odd scenario involving the Virtual Safety Car as well as the new Mercedes-AMG GT R Safety Car, sent everyone scrambling in the pits, Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel taking advantage of the situation (as any driver would) and got the better of Hamilton and the Mercedes team, improving track position and sending the German driver into the lead. From that point, Hamilton pushed the F1 W09 as hard as it would go, but with overtaking being tricky in Melbourne and his rear tires starting to melt away, Lewis was forced to settle for second place on the day.


"I did everything I could today, but it's not what anyone expected to happen,” said a dejected Hamilton of the 118th podium finish of his 12-year career. “I'm still in a little bit of disbelief as I don't really understand what happened yet. Once I get back with my engineers they'll do a debrief and obviously I'll find out why. This weekend there was so much talk about party mode or if Ferrari would be quick enough. I don't think the gap was as big as it seemed yesterday, it's just that I had a good lap and maybe Sebastian didn't have a good lap. But today they were very, very quick. I put up a bit of a fight towards the end but they were within a tenth of us today. At least in my heart I know that I gave everything this weekend. I'm sure the team is feeling pain right now but we will regroup and we'll work on it."


Still smarting from Saturday’s qualifying gaffe, the valiant Valtteri Bottas gave it everything he had on race day, powering up from his abysmal P15 starting position to place an admirable eighth upon meeting the checkered flag.


"It was a bit of a frustrating day,” grimaced Bottas upon alighting from the cockpit survival cell of his F1 W09. “I got some points, but not as many as I was hoping for, even starting 15th on the grid. We had a good car, it felt just like in qualifying, the team did a really good job on that. Unfortunately, we just couldn't make anything out of it because it is so difficult to overtake on this track. It's been a disappointing weekend and certainly not an ideal first race, but we still have 20 races to go. We need to learn from this weekend and try again in two weeks in Bahrain."


Next stop for Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and the entire Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team: The Bahrain International Circuit and the Bahrain Grand Prix which is poised to run on April 8, 2018.