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Australian GP 2016

Ferrari Ruin Vettel’s Chances of Victory

The 2016 Formula 1 season kicked off at the traditional curtain raiser in Australia, and saw Nico Rosberg continue where he left off in 2015 securing his fourth consecutive win. Team mate Lewis Hamilton finished in 2nd with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finishing 3rd. But how different the story could have been… After the farce that was qualifying on Saturday, the race certainly made up for it as there was action throughout up and down the grid. From the lights going out there was action. The Mercedes pair were sluggish off the line, which allowed Vettel, who made a superb start, to breeze past them like they were not there. His team mate, Kimi Raikkonen also got past both silver arrows. By turn three, Rosberg was 3rd and Hamilton was 6th, behind the Williams of Felipe Massa. Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz occupied 4th and 5th as the race settled down. Hamilton made ground but struggled against the two stubborn Toro Rosso drivers who held their own brilliantly. Vettel was comfortable out front, until a turning point in the race occurred on lap 17.

At turn 3, Esteban Gutierrez moved slightly left on Fernando Alonso, which saw the double World Champion plough into the back of the Haas driver, which caused the car to flip and fly through the air. The car was a total wreck but Alonso got out and thankfully walked away unharmed. The incident was so huge the red flag had to be brought out and the race was suspended while the marshals cleaned up the track. Just prior to this accident, pit stops were being made, or just about to be made. Hamilton switched to the medium tyre, whereas most others stayed on the super-softs or the softs. During the red flag, teams are allowed to work on the car, change tyres, whatever they please. Many teams decided to change to the medium tyre here, which would allow them to go to the end of the race. Ferrari opted not to put Vettel on these tyres, instead keeping him on the super-softs. When the race restarted, it was clear almost immediately that the two Mercedes would have the advantage. Rosberg would keep pace with Vettel whilst Hamilton, once in clear air, would hunt down his team mate. Vettel pitted and came out behind the Mercedes pair but was left with too much to do and could only finish third. What started out as a fantastic race ended in disappointment for the German. Had they mirrored the Mercedes pair, I am positive that Vettel would have went on to win comfortably.

Behind all of this, home favourite Daniel Ricciardo finished a brilliant 4th for Red Bull with Felipe Massa finishing 5th. Story of the day though was Romain Grosjean scoring points on the Haas team’s debut with a brilliant drive to 6th. He held off Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India and Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, who finished 7th and 8th, ahead of the Toro Rosso pair of Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen who were 9th and 10th. Jolyon Palmer had a solid debut for Renault on their return as a constructor to finish 11th, with team mate Kevin Magnusson behind him in 12th. Sergio Perez, Jenson Button, Felipe Nasr and Pascal Wehrlein rounded off the classified drivers.


Toys Out of the Pram at Toro Rosso

Toro Rosso were considered dark horses coming into the Australian GP after having an impressive pre-season in Barcelona. This pace was seen throughout the weekend, despite the team running a 2015 Ferrari spec engine. Verstappen qualified 5th with Sainz 7th, showing how impressive that new car really is. From the off, both drivers showed their talent and the potential of the car with Verstappen running 4th and Sainz keeping Hamilton behind him for a long period of time. After the red flag, both drivers found themselves outside the points due to pitting before the flag came out. The result of this was toys out of the pram from Verstappen. Verstappen was stuck behind his team mate and behind Palmers Renault, which angered the young Dutchman. Sainz’s inability to move saw Verstappen use some colourful language over the radio to vent his anger. For me this was unnecessary and showed Verstappen’s inexperience. We saw last season how good Verstappen was with regards to overtaking and he showed have applied this during the race. I believe this is an area that the team need to work on with Max to help his development so this incident is not repeated, although I can see repeated incidents occurring in the future.

Haas with a Cracking Debut

It was a debut to remember for the new Haas F1 team as Romain Grosjean scored a brilliant 6th place. His team mate Esteban Gutierrez was not as fortunate as his tangle with Alonso saw him retire, but Grosjean stood out with his points finish. During testing the team looked like it had a decent outfit but technical issues were scuppering them. Qualifying did not look promising either, as both drivers qualified way back in 19th and 20th. However Grosjean showed exactly why he was brought in by Gene Haas as he put in a confident drive to score points on the team’s debut. He was maybe helped by the red flag in which he chose to put on the medium tyres and went until the end. Grosjean took everything in his stride and showed just how good of a driver he is. Haas’s result was the best by a new constructor since Brawn in 2009 and the best by a brand new team since Toyota in 2002.

Qualifying Shambles

Formula 1’s new elimination style qualifying system was nothing more than a total failure. It was an intriguing concept and one that seemed would work on paper, but when put into practise, it was an absolute shambles. The teams gave off the impression that they didn’t understand how the system worked, with a lot of drivers not even having enough time to complete a lap when on the brink of elimination. The cameras would also only focus on the driver that was on the brink of elimination, so the fans were deprived of seeing stunning laps from Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. What was also frustrating for the fans, was the lack of graphics indicating the time left before elimination occurred, although this was rectified during the session. On top of this, we saw drivers exiting cars when the they still involved in the session, but were timed out due to errors by the teams. To top this shambolic start to the season, we had the top eight shoot out finish with four minutes or so remaining! Both Ferraris only ran once and then got their drivers out the car, not posing any more threat to the Mercedes pair, who ran twice and then left the car. Fans were left with no action for the final four minutes of qualifying, which is simply shocking. This new system was meant to shake up a Saturday, to add a bit of spice ready for Sunday. All it has given is an already dwindling audience yet another reason to dwindle. It produced nothing along the lines of excitement, and it was seemingly just like the grid fans and pundits would have predicted before the start of the weekend. Thankfully discussions took place before the race on Sunday and it seems the unanimous decision is that the teams will revert to the old system for Bahrain.

Report courtesy of Simon Gray

Read more on Simon's blog here

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