“We were a little bit lucky today,” said Sebastian Vettel after having grabbed victory in the opening round of the 2018 Formula 1 season. Buying a lottery ticket on the way home might not be the best option for him – lightning doesn’t strike twice.
When Romain Grosjean’s Haas crawled to a stop on the exit of Turn 2, Vettel suddenly stole a race defining advantage. As the only front-runner yet to make his pitstop, Vettel dived into the pitlane under the subsequent virtual safety car conditions.
Long-time race-leader Hamilton, who had stopped during the green flag running, could do nothing at that moment to stop Vettel emerging from the pits ahead and in the lead of the race. With Albert Park being the second hardest track on the F1 calendar at which to overtake, it was game, set and match to Ferrari in that race-defining moment.
Had it not been for the deployment of the VSC, Vettel would have finished second at best. Luck played a key role but was not the only factor propelling Vettel to victory.
Rosberg capitalises on Ferrari’s strategic mistake
The 2016 F1 season is underway and some things never change. Mercedes achieved their second consecutive Australian Grand Prix one-two finish, while Sebastian Vettel occupied the final step of the podium for Ferrari. However, read only the final result at your peril, as this year’s season opener was a thriller. With Ferrari matching their pre-season performance and challenging Mercedes down to the wire, it is game on in 2016.
F1 is adept at shooting itself in the foot. Following a 2015 season admittedly lacking in intrigue, the winter has been filled by discussions regarding how to improve the sport. The F1 Commission unanimously voted for a new elimination qualifying format three weeks before the start of the season in an attempt to spice up the action on a Sunday.
With today’s qualifying session being the debut for this new idea, it is evident that a rethink is required. Missing a crescendo, void of surprises and short of laps, calling it a shambles would not be too far from the truth.
Just weeks into a new season, talk of the next campaign has already begun in earnest – such is the pace of life in the fast lane. While provisional calenders in recent years have been largely a story of continuity as oppose to redesign, 2016 is a very different affair. With the Australian Grand Prix organisers confirming an April 3rd curtain-raiser, the season is set to be “compressed” and will feature several back-to-back rounds. However, not since 1988 has the season launched in April and many analysts are harboring concerns as to whether the anticipated 21-race schedule will be as stacked come confirmation in December.
Lewis Hamilton has succeeded in carrying his momentum forward from 2014, taking victory in Melbourne from teammate Nico Rosberg. While last year’s Australian Grand Prix winner was a threat to Lewis for the duration, the Brit managed the gap at around two seconds, as such, keeping his counterpart at arms length. Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel claimed a podium in his first outing with the scarlet red chassis. However, the race itself was certainly not vintage and criticisms are already being made of the current level of competition in the sport. To all those lamenting the current state of affairs, I remind you that this is race 1 of 19 – the season is still young.
During the winter, we all like to speculate in regards to the pecking order, yet ultimately, it is not until qualifying in Melbourne that the true picture is revealed. Fortunately, today was the day when sandbagging came to an end and team’s showed their hands. On queue, Mercedes lit up the timing screens, with Lewis Hamilton comfortably taking pole position, to the tune of six tenths of a second, from title rival Nico Rosberg. The German had an uncharacteristically luke-warm Saturday, but such is the Mercedes advantage, P2 was his reward.
Albert Park may be a serene tourist location for the majority of the year but today, the picturesque venue was alive with the sound of V6 Hybrids, as F1 cars took the track for the first time this season. Ultimately, FP1 was a slow-burner, (and I doubt that is simply the fatigue talking,) however, FP2 provided fans with additional insight into what the pecking order could look like. With Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton topping both timesheet’s by a sizeable margin, it does not take an Adrian Newey level of intellect to work out that Mercedes are the team to beat in 2015.