“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.
Ferrari’s scintillating pace, Grosjean’s excellent sixth and Ricciardo’s heartbreak were all big stories in the opening qualifying session of the new era. It was a Saturday with plot points aplenty, yet one of the most fascinating and awe-inspiring tales came in the battle to progress from Q1. Unusual, but stick with me on this one.
Unusual, but stick with me on this one.
2016 GP2 Series runner-up Antonio Giovinazzi has been parachuted into the Sauber seat vacated by Pascal Wehrlein, who following his accident at January’s Race of Champions and subsequent truncation of his winter training programme, is not sufficiently fit to complete a race distance.
Finding out that you are to make your Grand Prix debut on the morning of Qualifying day is hardly ideal. No one told Gio that though.
So Mercedes may look to have the edge on the field once again, and while I hear you neutrals – or fans of any team bar Mercedes for that matter – bemoaning another season of dull continuity, it might still be too early to call.
Hamilton may have been half a second clear of the field today, but with the Englishman surely desperate to unsettle the newbee on the other side of the garage early on, and with Vettel indicating that Ferrari have plenty more performance up their sleeve, I’m not ready to declare Hamilton the 2017 World Champion just yet.
Things change quickly in the world’s fastest sport. Be it the height of rear wings following a regulation change or a driver’s form, it doesn’t take long for F1’s tectonic plates to shift. Four years ago today, Kimi Raikkonen secured his 20th career race win and second on his return to the sport.
Winning the first race of the season is historically an indication of imminent championship glory. In the previous ten curtain raisers, ten of the victors went on to lift the Drivers’ crown come season’s end.
Despite other podium appearances, his Australian Grand Prix triumph was the highlight of Raikkonen’s 2013 campaign. You could even go as far as saying that the Finn has failed to secure any headline results since.
Daniel Ricciardo certainly capitalised on home advantage last weekend, as he took his Red Bull RB12 to fourth position. However, being in Australia had no bearing on the power output of the TAG Heuer branded Renault powertrain, as Ricciardo was seemingly able to compete on the straights – something the team have been unable to do in this era of the sport.
Having finished just 24 seconds off the lead despite being on a decidedly compromised strategy, Red Bull seem set for a stronger 2016 campaign.
Haas have made an early impression on the paddock. The American based squad converted their excellent pre-season into a strong debut weekend, as Romain Grosjean took full advantage of a timely red flag to secure sixth place. Eight points already on the board for F1’s youngest team and their lightening start has certainly put pressure on Sauber and Manor as the teams who stand the most to lose should Haas continue to shine.
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.