Hamilton looked to be in contention for a potential podium finish in Melbourne but finished fourth behind Mercedes teammate George Russell after losing out due to unfortunate timing of the Safety Car. 

The seven-time world champion had just made his sole pit stop before the Safety Car was deployed when Sebastian Vettel crashed out on Lap 24, while Russell was able to make what was effectively a free stop by coming in when the race was neutralised. 

As a result, Russell was able to jump ahead of Hamilton, who bemoaned over team radio: “I keep getting unlucky with Safety Cars”, in what was a reference to Jeddah last time out and the controversial 2021 season finale in Abu Dhabi

Hamilton closed up to the back of his teammate in the final few laps but backed off at the end after complaining that Mercedes had “put me in a difficult position”. 

Asked to explain his frustrated radio message and whether it had related to him being behind Russell, Hamilton replied: “Basically, I couldn’t race for position because the car was overheating, so I had to back off.”

Hamilton made a blistering start to get the jump on Lando Norris’ McLaren and Sergio Perez going into Turn 1 to move up to third. He managed to keep the Red Bull driver behind for 10 laps before Perez surged back past. 

Mercedes went into the race expecting a “best case” scenario of fifth and sixth given its pace deficit to rivals Ferrari and Red Bull, but both drivers demonstrated encouraging pace and benefitted from Max Verstappen’s latest retirement. 

“It’s an amazing result for us as a team,” Hamilton said. “It’s such a positive. 

“We were over one second off on Friday and it wasn’t looking spectacular at that point. We did some great work overnight to qualify on the third row and then a great start. 

“I was up in third and it felt great to be fighting, or to feel like we’re fighting for a podium in that moment. But obviously we couldn’t hold with the pace of the Red Bulls. 

“Whilst we haven’t necessarily improved the car over these three races, I think we’ve really extracted the most we could points-wise. 

“From my side, I let the team down in the last race and didn’t get the points but to come away with this result, is great.” §

Russell grabs first Mercedes podium 

Russell highlighted the importance of having strong reliability after claiming his first podium since joining Mercedes, a result which has lifted him to a surprise second in the championship. 

"I think it's a credit to everyone back at Brackley and Brixworth because it doesn't matter how fast your car is, if you don't make it to the end, then you're not there to pick up the pieces,” Russell said. 

“This weekend, we were probably the fifth-fastest team, behind McLaren, behind Alpine and here we are standing P3. I only just realised somebody told me that I am P2 in the championship which is just crazy to think. 

“We've got to be really proud of the job we've done so far with the performance we have and we believe we can get there but it's not going to happen overnight and it's going to be a number of races before we start closing the gap.” 

The Briton admitted he would have probably dropped behind Hamilton had he not followed Mercedes’ instruction to prioritise looking after his tyres, rather than fighting Perez for position. 

“I don't want to manage tyres, I am a racing driver, I want to fight for my position,” Russell explained. 

“The place I needed to manage the tyres around the last corner which obviously leads onto the straight, so if I manage the tyre I was just a sitting duck and that's not what I wanted to do. 

“But I am the driver and they're the experts on that front and they know they've got the data in front of them. I mean I can see it on my steering wheel, my tyre temperatures were really on the limit and if I pushed harder I probably would have finished behind Lewis as well. 

“I put up a fight at one point but they're too quick for us.”