Formula One Management’s technical boss, Ross Brawn, said there was one key element missing from the Australian Grand Prix—passing. He’s right…or is he? According to Mercedes boss, Toto Wolff, F1 is right where it should be.
His driver, Valtteri Bottas, had to start from 15th due to a pre-race grid penalty and struggled to make it back to finish 8th for Sunday’s first grand prix of the season. Wolff said:
“I think this is the reality now,” said Wolff.
“He overtook more people than anybody else. He overtook Stroll, he overtook Ocon and he overtook Vandoorne, so made it three times, and then was lucky with the safety car.
“His timing was spot on and he wouldn’t have made it into the top 10 without that, but I think the whole field is much more bunched up and there is no such situation of one car cruising through the fields like we have seen before.
“Welcome to the new world.”
Toto isn’t disagreeing with the lack of passing, to be fair, so much as he is making a case for a more competitive field in 2018 and that’s a calculated comment from the German team’s boss. The owners of F1—Liberty Media—are set to release their proposed changes for 2021 at the next race in Bahrain. Many believe it is a new engine regulation and chassis regulation to bring the entire field closer together and improve the racing as well as prompt Liberty Media’s “on any given Sunday” quest for random wins. The very notion has divided the teams resulting in threats to leave the series.
Wolff believes the field is bunched up and more competitive as evidenced by Bottas’s inability to cruise back up to a podium finish in a far superior car. Some would argue it may have been different in the hands of his teammate, Lewis Hamilton, but for the sake of argument, is Toto right?
Sunday showed the Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull all had very good pace and that the time gap between may not be as drastic as it has been in the past.
“I expect these three teams to be able to win races and go for the championship and you can see behind the group – there is McLaren, Renault and Haas – they are right up there, and for Max and for Valtteri it was not possible to overtake these cars.”
This line of thinking or at least public proclamation might lead one to think, yes, what are Liberty Media complaining about? The teams are getting really close now. Toto believes this, anyway.
“Yeah, definitely,” he said. “All the teams are closer so that makes it difficult.
“This year the cars have more downforce, so it’s more difficult to follow than last year.
“The engine difference is not massive anymore. We still have a bit of an advantage over Renault, but it’s not massive, and those cars they are not too bad in the corners.
“I couldn’t get any closer really.”
So what’s all the hubbub about anyway, Liberty? Well, this is one race and one track and not a track that flatters passing attempts. I think it may be a little early to suggest that the disparity between the top teams and the mid-field has effectively vaporized. Yet. Toto believes this is the new world in F1. We will have to wait for Bahrain and see.
Hat Tip: Autosport
Liberty are playing with fire at their own risk. and those who goes playing with fire will in most cases end-up with burned fingers.
I think what Australia shows us is the the Merc still doesn’t work too well in dirty air.
Yeah … “the whole field is much more bunched up” …. behind Mercedes that is! And like you suggested NC – Bottas trying to make it through the field isn’t like Lewis doing so! I agree, let’s see after the next few races …. and “party modes”!
Mario Andretti already laid down the whole issue with the 2018 F1 cars and why it’s harder to overtake, there’s an article on it at Motorsport. People blame too much on the circuit, but it’s the FIA/manufacturers that took the wrong approach with regulation. Now they want to add more gimmicks to fix it, which will only make the racing worse.
How much of this is down to those at the front following Fangio’s advice and winning at the slowest possible speed?
The restrictions on power units this year are forcing drivers to drive to the speed of the car behind, so they can preserve the power unit for as many races as possible. All the cars could go faster in clean air (look at Ricciardo’s fastest lap) but are being held back by the disturbed air from the car in front, while the leader is controlling the pace.
Hi Dave, I think that is a very good point. The times in qualifying indicate that the gaps between the top 3 and the front of the mid pack haven’t changed much.
Toto is being very hasty to make those suggestions after one GP, at an unrepresentative circuit, its almost like he has an agenda ;-)
The point Dave raised is not only a very good point but it has been a “must” ever since the introduction of the number of engines and gearboxes a driver is allowed during the season and the lower the numbers get the more the “must” will be.
In my opinion the gaps between the top three are certainly smaller this year than they were last year in Melbourne.