Two-time Formula 1 world champion Mika Hakkinen believes Mercedes cannot be blamed for the error that led to Lewis Hamilton losing out on victory to Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in Melbourne

Hamilton stormed to pole position by 0.7s and looked favourite to win the season-opening Australian Grand Prix after pulling out a comfortable buffer to the Ferrari pair of Kimi Raikkonen and Vettel during the early stages at Albert Park. 

But the Briton’s hopes of making the perfect start to his F1 title defence were all-but ended when Ferrari made the most of a fortunately-timed Virtual Safety Car period to pit Vettel, following an extended opening stint. 

The German returned to the track ahead of Hamilton and despite appearing to have a pace deficit to the Mercedes driver, held off his rival to claim his second consecutive victory in Australia. 

Mercedes initially blamed a software glitch for the timing effor that led to Hamilton being leapfrogged, but later revealed a “bug” in an offline tool used for its VSC calculations as the true cause of the issue. 

“After the pre-season tests I was personally very confident that the Mercedes team would dominate Formula 1 again, but even I was amazed to see the incredible performance that Lewis Hamilton and the team produced in qualifying,” Hakkinen reflected in a post-race column for Unibet. “[He was on] a different level to everybody.

“The race, however, was a different story because it was not at all straightforward for Mercedes. Sebastian Vettel’s win came down to Ferrari being able to react very well to what happened during the Virtual Safety Car period, and their strategy worked perfectly for him even if it was not so good for Kimi Raikkonen. 

“Personally I did not see this race result as a failure on Mercedes’ side. When you are leading a race you often find yourself first into any situation, and that actually gives the guys behind you a little more time to work out what to do.

“Ferrari made the most of the VSC period, and I would not say it was Mercedes’ fault that this situation worked against them.”

And Hakkinen - who sealed back-to-back titles with McLaren in 1998 and 1999 - is backing fellow Finn Valtteri Bottas to recover quickly from his disappointing start to the season, having finished a low-key eighth following his Q3 crash that left him 15th on the grid in Melbourne. 

“Valtteri [Bottas] will recover from the mistake which caused his qualifying accident and meant he started further back on the grid. 

“The accident happened at a corner where you are right on the limit, with a wall waiting for you on the outside, so you need good grip and a perfect exit in order to prepare for a period of long acceleration. 

“Valtteri was off line, enough to lose all the rear grip, but he will come back strongly. He had a good pre-season test, is mentally strong, and knows what he has to do.”

 

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