The Australian Grand Prix had very little to play for between Mercedes 3-time champion Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s 4-time champion Sebastian Vettel. In fact, there was just slightly over two tenths between their qualifying laps and both drivers started on the front row. With a new starting procedure in which teams are helpless to assist drivers in finding the clutch bite points, it was a concern for all drivers heading into the start of the race on Sunday.
It was also a less than savory start for Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo who materialized his own 5-place grid penalty after suffering an unforced error crash during qualifying demanding a gearbox change. This put Daniel’s start position in the danger zone mid-pack where there is often a lot of front wing carnage at the start. That may not have ever been an issue as Ricciardo’s car stopped during the installation laps before the race even started but he was able to join the race on lap 3.
Things got worse for the Red Bull stable as the Toro rosso of Daniil Kvyat had a fire extinguisher go off while on the grid and then Ricciardo was completely out of the race on lap 29.
The first race of the season has traditionally been a lowest finishing rate for the teams due to accidents and reliability issues so scoring points for some smaller teams was always a hope. The Pirelli compounds seemed to be more durable this season and while most reckoned a one-stopper, there was some thoughts that perhaps an early stop for a slightly harder compound than the Ultra-soft tire might see the rest of the race as done.
Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel came to race in 2017 and while their car looked like the better car, they did get an assist from an early stop by Hamilton which put him behind Verstappen giving Vettel the lead on the overcut. It still leaves the door open for the question of if Ferrari are actually faster than Mercedes.
Hamilton had the better start but an early stop undercut cost him the strategy of the race and Ferrari capitalized for the win.
A big win for Ferrari who seem to have found serious pace over the winter. Not only have they possibly caught Mercedes but in the hands of Sebastian Vettel, it looked clearly as if it was simply the better car in Australia. It’s their first win in 10 years at Albert Park.
A win for Formula 1 as the regulation changes have brought an actual inter-team battle instead of just an intra-team battle. Fans often get numb to a single-team domination in F1 such as Ferrari and Red Bull and now Mercedes. Ferrari’s return in Melbourne give hope to those fans that were ready for some battles between teams instead of just between Mercedes teammates.
It’s not a complete loss for Mercedes who finished second and third and a big win for Valtteri Bottas who finished right where Mercedes needed their new driver to finish…in the points and on the tail of Lewis Hamilton. A good points haul and if this Albert Park circuit just flattered the Ferrari, then Merc has it all to play for on purpose-built circuits.
To Lewis’s credit, he did say during testing that he was slightly worried about how his tires would handle hotter temperatures and it seemed he struggled with that on Sunday.
A win for reserve driver Antonio Giovinazzi who took his Sauber to 12th sitting in for Pascal Werhlein. Also a win for rookie Esteban Ocon who finished in the points for his first race for Force India and putting a great pass on Alonso.
A win for Max Verstappen who managed to keep going in his Renault-powered car and finished 5th and a big win for both Toro Rosso drivers who brought both cars home in the points for 8th and 9th for Sainz and Kvyat respectively.
A fail for Red Bull and Daniel Ricciardo fo first, crashing on Saturday causing a gearbox change and the knock-on effect of a sensor issue and ultimately engine failure.
A fail for Mercedes, perhaps, for knowing the overcut was the way forward yet calling Lewis in for an attempted undercut on Sebastian. Lewis complained quite a bit about his tires and the team made the call.
A fail for Kimi Raikkonen who’s teammate won the race while he finished a distant fourth nearly 23s behind. In Kimi’s defense, he had struggled with the Ultra-soft tires and when they changed to softs, he did a lot better.
Haas F1, who had a great qualifying, managed to lose an engine for Romain Grosjean and then a suspension failure for Kevin Magnussen leaving both cars out of the race.
A fail for the fans who spilled onto the track before all the cars were secured in pit lane which can be very dangerous. I’m all for excitement and flooding the circuit but at least wait until the cars are back in parc ferme.
A fail for McLaren but then we were braced for that heading into the weekend. Alonso retired and Vandoorne in 13th behind a Sauber with Italian rookie, Antonio Giovinazzi.
Palmer’s weekend was a WTH. Out with a brake issue in the race and out with the trash talk on Saturday about his new car.
Sure, it’s just one track and a road track at that but where is the five seconds per lap quicker?
There was certainly a time when the strategy of undercut for Mercedes and delaying Vettel’s stop while Hamilton was stuck behind Max Verstappen. While Ferrari’s call worked out int eh end, Mercedes did not.
Where was the prolific passing? First race, for sure, but the aero increase didn’t really seem to even lend itself to DRS passes…I’m not complaining, mind you, because I’m no DRS fan but it will be interesting to see if they can pass much at all this season.
|5||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Renault||28.827s||57|
|7||Sergio Perez||Force India/Mercedes||1 Lap||56|
|8||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso/Renault||1 Lap||56|
|9||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso/Renault||1 Lap||56|
|10||Esteban Ocon||Force India/Mercedes||1 Lap||56|
|11||Nico Hulkenberg||Renault||1 Lap||56|
|12||Antonio Giovinazzi||Sauber/Ferrari||2 Laps||55|
|13||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren/Honda||2 Laps||55|
|–||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/Renault||Retirement||25|