Bottas beats Hamilton to season-opening win in Australia

Valtteri Bottas beat Mercedes team-mate and reigning Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton to victory in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Sunday.

Hamilton qualified on pole in Melbourne for the sixth straight year but was overtaken into turn one and was unable to keep up with Bottas, who ended a wait for a win that stretched back to the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen put pressure on Hamilton in the closing stages but had to settle for third after passing Sebastian Vettel on lap 31.

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Mercedes' Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas celebrates on the podium after winning the Formula One Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 17, 2019. (Photo by Asanka Brendon RATNAYAKE / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo credit should read ASANKA BRENDON RATNAYAKE/AFP/Getty Images)
Mercedes' Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas celebrates on the podium after winning the Formula One Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 17, 2019. (Photo by Asanka Brendon RATNAYAKE / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo credit should read ASANKA BRENDON RATNAYAKE/AFP/Getty Images)
Mercedes' Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas celebrates on the podium after winning the Formula One Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 17, 2019. (Photo by WILLIAM WEST / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo credit should read WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF90 on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit on March 17, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Antonio Giovinazzi of Italy driving the (99) Alfa Romeo Racing C38 Ferrari on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit on March 17, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Kimi Raikkonen of Finland driving the (7) Alfa Romeo Racing C38 Ferrari on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit on March 17, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Mercedes' Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas (L) passes Toro Rosso's Russian driver Daniil Kvyat (R) during the Formula One Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 17, 2019 (Photo by WILLIAM WEST / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo credit should read WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF90 on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit on March 17, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: George Russell of Great Britain driving the (63) Rokit Williams Racing FW42 Mercedes on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit on March 17, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Kimi Raikkonen of Finland driving the (7) Alfa Romeo Racing C38 Ferrari on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit on March 17, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Racing Point RP19 Mercedes on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit on March 17, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Second-placed Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton celebrates on the podium after the Formula One Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 17, 2019. (Photo by Asanka Brendon RATNAYAKE / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo credit should read ASANKA BRENDON RATNAYAKE/AFP/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Renault Sport F1 reacts after retiring from the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit on March 17, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner looks on from the pitwall during the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit on March 17, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Alexander Albon of Thailand driving the (23) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR14 Honda on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit on March 17, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Race winner Valtteri Bottas of Finland and Mercedes GP second placed Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP and third placed Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing celebrate on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit on March 17, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Race winner Valtteri Bottas of Finland and Mercedes GP celebrates on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit on March 17, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton drives during the Formula One Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 17, 2019. (Photo by PETER PARKS / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Nico Hulkenberg of Germany and Renault during the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit on March 17, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Peter J Fox/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Pierre Gasly of Red Bull Racing and France during the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit on March 17, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Peter J Fox/Getty Images)
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton drives during the Formula One Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 17, 2019. (Photo by PETER PARKS / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)
Mercedes' Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas (L) congratulates his team in the pits after winning the Formula One Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 17, 2019. (Photo by PETER PARKS / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)
Ferrari's Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc runs off the track during the Formula One Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 17, 2019. (Photo by WILLIAM WEST / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo credit should read WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)
Mercedes' Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas (C) congratulates his team in the pits after winning the Formula One Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 17, 2019. (Photo by PETER PARKS / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17:Charles Leclerc of Ferrari and France during the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit on March 17, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Peter J Fox/Getty Images)
Ferrari's Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc runs off the track during the Formula One Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 17, 2019. (Photo by WILLIAM WEST / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo credit should read WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)
Third-placed Red Bull Racing's Dutch driver Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium after the Formula One Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 17, 2019. (Photo by Asanka Brendon RATNAYAKE / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo credit should read ASANKA BRENDON RATNAYAKE/AFP/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Start during the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit on March 17, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Peter J Fox/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17:Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Red Bull Racing during the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit on March 17, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Peter J Fox/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Charles Leclerc of Ferrari and France during the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit on March 17, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Peter J Fox/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Third placed Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB15 pulls into parc ferme during the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit on March 17, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Pierre Gasly of France driving the (10) Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB15 on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit on March 17, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
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The Mercedes duo expressed their surprise after locking out the front row in comfortable fashion on Saturday and it was unlikely either of them expected Bottas to run away with the win.

The Finn made full use of the open road in front of him following the first corner and he somehow continued to outpace Hamilton and Vettel after they pitted for fresh tyres.

Hamilton complained he was struggling to manage the medium compound around the midway point and Bottas, who took the bonus point for posting fastest lap, continued to eke time out of his team-mate.

While Hamilton became preoccupied with Verstappen, whose attempts to steal second were hindered by going off track, Bottas was able to take the chequered flag six years to the day since his F1 debut.

EARLY BOOST FOR BOTTAS

Mercedes chief Toto Wolff outline that Bottas had to perform at a higher level in 2019 in order to retain his seat for another season and the 29-year-old set about doing that as quickly as possible.

Finishing over 20 seconds ahead of Hamilton showed he means business this year, but the challenge now will be for him to maintain it across the next 20 races.

VETTEL LEFT PERPLEXED

Ferrari were thought to be leading the way after pre-season testing in Barcelona, but Vettel admitted the car was struggling in corners during qualifying.

After Verstappen overtook him for the final step on the podium and team-mate Charles Leclerc started to close in, Vettel said over team radio: "Why are we so slow?"

It is a question the four-time world champion will be hoping Ferrari find the answer to it quickly.

NIGHTMARE START FOR RICCIARDO

Daniel Ricciardo had not even reached the first corner of his home grand prix on his Renault debut when he was squeezed off the track and ended up losing his front wing.

The Australian managed to guide his car back to the pits but returned at the back of the field and had to retire after being lapped by Bottas before the halfway mark.

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