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‘My critics need to look in the mirror’ – Bottas hits out after Australian GP win

The Guardian logo The Guardian 17/03/2019 Giles Richards at Albert Park
a person wearing a costume: Valtteri Bottas celebrates beating his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton. © REX/Shutterstock Valtteri Bottas celebrates beating his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton.

Valtteri Bottas hit out at his detractors and claimed he has entered the new season with a fresh approach after an emphatic win at the Australian Grand Prix.

The Finn won the opening race of the 2019 campaign ahead of his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who acknowledged he had been outraced by Bottas but, in finishing second, said he had been struggling with the balance of his car due to damage.

Related: Valtteri Bottas dominates Australian Grand Prix to win Formula One opener

Ferrari finished with Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc in fourth and fifth, with the Scuderia using team orders, instructing Leclerc not to attack Vettel in the closing stages. They have accepted they did not extract the best from their car but believe it is fundamentally strong.

After his victory, Bottas issued a curt riposte to his critics over the radio and elaborated by saying that he felt much of it had been undeserved. “In sport there are always ups and downs, so you can really see the true support easily,” he said. “During the difficult times it’s the other part which is a lot more negative and that is their weakness. I can’t say criticism is unfair because everyone can say what they want but ‘to whom it may concern’, maybe they should look in the mirror and think why they do that.”

a person that is standing in the grass: Valtteri Bottas celebrates after his win. Photograph: Pixathlon/Rex/Shutterstock © Rex/Shutterstock Valtteri Bottas celebrates after his win. Photograph: Pixathlon/Rex/Shutterstock

Bottas went winless last season but said this victory was a definitive performance. “It was definitely the best race I’ve had in my life,” he said. “It’s quite difficult to explain what’s been going on here last winter inside of my head and definitely something changed in terms of the way I feel about things in life in general and in racing, but that’s all in my thoughts. I felt good in the car today and yesterday. That’s all that matters.”

Hamilton revealed after the race he had suffered damage to the left-rear floor on lap four. He had not gone off track so the most likely cause is debris. He had been beaten off the start by Bottas and with overtaking so hard, accepted he had to settle for second place. “Valtteri got a better start. Once we got to the first corner, we held position, we had the front row still,” he said. “Valtteri did an exceptional job throughout the race, so congratulations to him and after that it was just about bringing the car home. I wasn’t entirely happy with the balance I had but it wasn’t the end of the world. It wasn’t a problem for me to finish second.”

a close up of electronics © Getty Images Europe

Ferrari had looked exceptionally strong in winter testing at Barcelona but were comprehensively beaten here by both Mercedes and the Red Bull of Max Verstappen. The new team principal, Mattia Binotto, was honest in his assessment that the team had not found their best in Australia.

“Conditions are different to Barcelona, more bumpy, windy, different temperature,” he said. “So there are extenuating factors to the performance but we didn’t find the right window or the right balance. It is not fully understood yet but we are certain that it is not the real potential of our car and that is certainly bigger but we have not been able to exploit it.”

Vettel agreed that the team still expected to unlock better performance. “Clearly we are missing something,” he said. “Right now we do not have an answer but I am sure we will find something because we know the car is better than what we have seen.”

Leclerc, in his first season with Ferrari and only his second in F1, accepted the decision to tell him to hold station. “I had the pace to get past Seb, but the team decided to freeze the positions via team radio. In the end there was nothing to win. I understand.”

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