Evolution over revolution has been the theme emanating from F1’s factories this winter and with the technical regulations remaining static, this has hardly been surprising. However, as they look to overthrow the sport’s current front-runners Mercedes, Ferrari have unveiled a 2016 challenger which looks decidedly different to it’s predecessor from both a technical and aesthetic standpoint.
F1’s headlines have been dominated by weeks of speculation regarding what the sport’s notoriously fickle driver market could look like in the event that Ferrari called time on their relationship with the 2007 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen. Today, the debate surrounding who will partner Sebastian Vettel at the Scuderia in 2016 has been drawn to a rather abrupt close, as the team have announced the retention of the Iceman for another season. The status quo at Maranello could cause a shockwave of continuity effecting their competitors.
As far as disappointing weekend’s go, Kimi Raikkonen’s trip to Spielberg was an excellent definition. On a short circuit, where Mercedes had demonstrated potential vulnerability last season, Ferrari targeted a strong result with both cars at the Red Bull Ring. Sebastian Vettel may have secured 12 points for the Scuderia, but Kimi Raikkonen left pointless, following a nasty accident with Fernando Alonso on the opening lap. Albeit unfortunate circumstances, but the Iceman’s weekend unraveled on a Saturday once again, and had it not been for a confusing qualifying session which saw him ejected from contention at the Q1 stage, it all could have been very different come Sunday evening.
After finishing at the bottom of the pile in FP3, Lewis Hamilton reversed his fortunes in fine style this afternoon, claiming his 44th career pole and his 4th in Montreal. The Briton took the spoils by a substantial margin of three tenths over teammate Nico Rosberg, who, despite looking strong throughout the day, grappled with a lack of rear grip in the final segment and was unable to challenge his teammate’s supremacy. Some of the leading stories of the day, however, played out in the opening eighteen minutes of qualifying, as power problems for Felipe Massa and Sebastian Vettel saw them both fall at the Q1 stage.
Hamilton Imperious Again
Lewis Hamilton is in a class of one at the moment, as the Brit followed up his fourth pole position of the season with his third race victory in 2015. Ultimately, Ferrari’s potential was perhaps a tad overstated, as neither Sebastian Vettel nor Kimi Raikkonen threatened on raw pace alone during the race. However, Kimi Raikkonen’s drive to second place was a sublime mix of an excellent strategy coupled with consistently good lap times from the Iceman, who did give Mercedes a scare in the closing stages. The Finn managed to pick off one ailing Mercedes, but the second was just out of reach.
As track temperatures lingered around 30 degrees, most people expected to see Mercedes reassert their dominance over their rivals this weekend and FP1 had the hallmarks of an impending whitewash. However, Ferrari seem unaffected by the low surface temperatures, as the SF15-T has once again caused the Brackley squad concerns heading into the rest of the weekend. In terms of short run performance, Mercedes seem comfortable, but both Raikkonen and Vettel have stated their claim to a tilt for victory on Sunday.
Friday in Malaysia threw up more story-lines than Sunday in Australia – but then, that isn’t really much of a feat. It was an exciting day on and off the track. Lewis Hamilton may have claimed top spot on the timesheet, but issues in FP1 exacerbated by a lack of telemetry meant that his programme was heavily truncated. Balance problems affected the performance on both W06’s, while Ferrari appear to pose a genuine threat to the Silver Arrows this weekend. Kimi Raikkonen was particularly impressive today, heading Nico Rosberg on the FP2 standings and throwing down a long run which eclipsed even the front-runners’ pace.