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The Australian Grand Prix had very little to play for between Mercedes 3-time champion Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s 4-time champion Sebastian Vettel. In fact, there was just slightly over two tenths between their qualifying laps and both drivers started on the front row. With a new starting procedure in which teams are helpless to assist drivers in finding the clutch bite points, it was a concern for all drivers heading into the start of the race on Sunday.

It was also a less than savory start for Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo who materialized his own 5-place grid penalty after suffering an unforced error crash during qualifying demanding a gearbox change. This put Daniel’s start position in the danger zone mid-pack where there is often a lot of front wing carnage at the start. That may not have ever been an issue as Ricciardo’s car stopped during the installation laps before the race even started but he was able to join the race on lap 3.

Things got worse for the Red Bull stable as the Toro rosso of Daniil Kvyat had a fire extinguisher go off while on the grid and then Ricciardo was completely out of the race on lap 29.

The first race of the season has traditionally been a lowest finishing rate for the teams due to accidents and reliability issues so scoring points for some smaller teams was always a hope. The Pirelli compounds seemed to be more durable this season and while most reckoned a one-stopper, there was some thoughts that perhaps an early stop for a slightly harder compound than the Ultra-soft tire might see the rest of the race as done.

Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel came to race in 2017 and while their car looked like the better car, they did get an assist from an early stop by Hamilton which put him behind Verstappen giving Vettel the lead on the overcut. It still leaves the door open for the question of if Ferrari are actually faster than Mercedes.

Hamilton had the better start but an early stop undercut cost him the strategy of the race and Ferrari capitalized for the win.

Win

A big win for Ferrari who seem to have found serious pace over the winter. Not only have they possibly caught Mercedes but in the hands of Sebastian Vettel, it looked clearly as if it was simply the better car in Australia. It’s their first win in 10 years at Albert Park.

A win for Formula 1 as the regulation changes have brought an actual inter-team battle instead of just an intra-team battle. Fans often get numb to a single-team domination in F1 such as Ferrari and Red Bull and now Mercedes. Ferrari’s return in Melbourne give hope to those fans that were ready for some battles between teams instead of just between Mercedes teammates.

It’s not a complete loss for Mercedes who finished second and third and a big win for Valtteri Bottas who finished right where Mercedes needed their new driver to finish…in the points and on the tail of Lewis Hamilton. A good points haul and if this Albert Park circuit just flattered the Ferrari, then Merc has it all to play for on purpose-built circuits.

To Lewis’s credit, he did say during testing that he was slightly worried about how his tires would handle hotter temperatures and it seemed he struggled with that on Sunday.

A win for reserve driver Antonio Giovinazzi who took his Sauber to 12th sitting in for Pascal Werhlein. Also a win for rookie Esteban Ocon who finished in the points for his first race for Force India and putting a great pass on Alonso.

A win for Max Verstappen who managed to keep going in his Renault-powered car and finished 5th and a big win for both Toro Rosso drivers who brought both cars home in the points for 8th and 9th for Sainz and Kvyat respectively.

Fail

A fail for Red Bull and Daniel Ricciardo fo first, crashing on Saturday causing a gearbox change and the knock-on effect of a sensor issue and ultimately engine failure.

A fail for Mercedes, perhaps, for knowing the overcut was the way forward yet calling Lewis in for an attempted undercut on Sebastian. Lewis complained quite a bit about his tires and the team made the call.

A fail for Kimi Raikkonen who’s teammate won the race while he finished a distant fourth nearly 23s behind. In Kimi’s defense, he had struggled with the Ultra-soft tires and when they changed to softs, he did a lot better.

Haas F1, who had a great qualifying, managed to lose an engine for Romain Grosjean and then a suspension failure for Kevin Magnussen leaving both cars out of the race.

A fail for the fans who spilled onto the track before all the cars were secured in pit lane which can be very dangerous. I’m all for excitement and flooding the circuit but at least wait until the cars are back in parc ferme.

A fail for McLaren but then we were braced for that heading into the weekend. Alonso retired and Vandoorne in 13th behind a Sauber with Italian rookie, Antonio Giovinazzi.

WTH?

Palmer’s weekend was a WTH. Out with a brake issue in the race and out with the trash talk on Saturday about his new car.

Sure, it’s just one track and a road track at that but where is the five seconds per lap quicker?

There was certainly a time when the strategy of undercut for Mercedes and delaying Vettel’s stop while Hamilton was stuck behind Max Verstappen. While Ferrari’s call worked out int eh end, Mercedes did not.

Where was the prolific passing? First race, for sure, but the aero increase didn’t really seem to even lend itself to DRS passes…I’m not complaining, mind you, because I’m no DRS fan but it will be interesting to see if they can pass much at all this season.

Results:

POS DRIVER CAR GAP LAPS
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1h24m11.672s 57
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 9.975s 57
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 11.250s 57
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 22.393s 57
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault 28.827s 57
6 Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes 1m23.386s 57
7 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1 Lap 56
8 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso/Renault 1 Lap 56
9 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso/Renault 1 Lap 56
10 Esteban Ocon Force India/Mercedes 1 Lap 56
11 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1 Lap 56
12 Antonio Giovinazzi Sauber/Ferrari 2 Laps 55
13 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren/Honda 2 Laps 55
Fernando Alonso McLaren/Honda Retirement 50
Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari Retirement 46
Lance Stroll Williams/Mercedes Brakes 40
Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault Retirement 25
Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari Retirement 21
Jolyon Palmer Renault Retirement 15
Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari Engine 13
Pascal Wehrlein Sauber/Ferrari Withdrawn 0
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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry focusing on technology integration, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • jcn115

    I was watching the Sky feed and Martin Brundle said that he was told that Mercedes told Bottas to hold station and stay 3rd. If that is true, I think another thumbs down would be Mercedes team orders to keep Bottas behind Lewis.

    • Agreed…if they told him to hold pace and station, that’s very unfortunate.

      • Salvu Borg

        On tyres 8 laps newer than those of number 44 Bottas quickly closed on his team mate, it was than that made the call, Mercedes pit-wall did not told Bottas to hold station, Mercedes pit-wall told Bottas/informed Bottas that they have just instructed his team mate to “turn-down” his engine. and no playing with the PIZU HERE, THAT IS CLEAR “CALL OF YOUR ATTACK”.

    • Samouri

      It would make no sense for Mercedes to carry on any discussion so sensitive with Brundle on that order. If true, would have already caused major meltdowns and crashes on F1 websites world-wide. I asked a website which have many Sky viewers, and not one would confirm your doubtful allegation.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0BeIsf3-9E

      • jcn115

        doubtful allegation? I guess your sources were not paying attention, because I think it was one of the producers that told Brundle that there was an offline radio to Bottas telling him to hold station. Even during the Sky after race show, Brundle asked Lauda if the pit wall told Bottas to hold station, in which Lauda of course said no.

      • jcn115

        Since you like videos so much, here is the proof of Brundle asking Niki about telling Bottas to hold station
        https://youtu.be/HQlWKr1fPCU?t=1h10m10s

  • jakobusvdl

    Good morning Todd, hope you’re not too shattered. These few daytime races in my timezone are such a delight, seeing the race live without pulling an all nighter, or recording and spending the day avoiding news and internet is so enjoyable.
    That was an interesting race, but, apart from the ‘overcut’, the double over take of Alonso, and wondering how the new format will race, not very exciting.
    I’m delighted to see Vettel take the win, and very sad that Riciardo’s race day turned out so poorly.
    It’s a worry that Raikonnen couldn’t run the two Mercedes closer, and he was lucky to hold 4th against a hard charging Verstappen. Where’s his testing and FP pace gone?
    Lots of room for conspiracy theories over the Mercedes tactics, Bottas catching Hamilton like a train, then suddenly holding station, hummm. I was looking forward to the ‘Bottas is faster than you call’.
    A few contenders for ‘drive of the race’, I’m plugging for Alonso, holding P10 for 50 laps in a very sluggish McLaren.
    But Vettel, Verstappen, Kyvat, Sainz, Ocon and Gioviassi all impressed and deserve consideration.
    I’m also happy to see Massa running a steady 6th in the Williams, but only just avoiding being lapped indicates the pace difference between the top two teams and the next tier.
    The apparent difficulties of these new format cars following at less than 1.5sec gap is disconcerting, but some cars seemed less affected than the Mercedes, so there might be some spin involved in that story.
    All in all, great first weekend to the new season, lots for us F1 fans to pick over, and a different winner!

    • Salvu Borg

      I am still unable too but still trying to discover what was the problem with Kimi’s car, there for sure must have been a problem with his car. anybody that believes it was just down to the driver is a total fool.

      • jakobusvdl

        You’ll think me at least a partial fool then, but I feel that Raikonnen is an inconsistent talent, often brilliant, other times (like today) he just goes missing. Maybe we’ll find out that it’s a car issue, but it’s not uncommon that he just has a mediocre race. Ferrari need both drivers in the top three, consistently, if they are going to take the WCC off Mercedes.

        • Salvu Borg

          well, it will not be the first time that I will be proven wrong re my opinion/’s, although not often.
          one thing that I am convinced of is that if the team confirms to the new FERRARI boss that there was nothing wrong with the car this time/this season driver contracts or that of anybody’s contract in the team for that matter will mean zlig to him. as you said, FERRARI needs both drivers in the top three.
          JAKO, I see no way that number 7 FERRARI driver would be left behind by Bottas in such a way he was, driving the 2017 FERRARI CAR.

      • MIE

        Raikkonen was complaining about understeer on the ultra soft tyres he started the race on. After moving to the soft tyres at the pit stop the balance was restored.

        • Salvu Borg

          what I got so far about Kimi’s problem is he saying that the car on ultra softs (first stint) was sliding about a lot and that the team have a fix for that, but could not implement it because of the car being under park frame. but I got nothing from the team as yet.

        • jakobusvdl

          Dave and Salvu, from what I can recall, Raikonnen’s relative position didn’t improve after his pitstop, he continued to lose time to Bottas, and couldn’t respond to hold off Verstappen in a RBR that was a second slower in qualifying.
          Maybe these new cars are really sensitive to set up and tyres, or Kimi was ice cream deprived.

          • MIE

            Bottas was pulling away from Raikkonen in the second stint until he caught Hamilton, then the Ferrari was able to maintain that pace or gain slightly.

          • Salvu Borg

            Yes Bottas was pulling away from Kimi in the second stint until he caught number 44, that was when his pit wall informed him that his team mate (number 44) had been instructed to turn down his engine, which meant “call off your attack”. which in turn he promptly did as a good boy will.

    • Zachary Noepe

      Agreed the first race is always interesting for lots of reasons, dnfs usually one, but I wouldn’t let the excitement of the dawning season carry me away to 4 1/2 stars, nor give a win to F1 for the regs. I think it’s a stretch Todd to say Ferrari’s resurgence is down
      to the crafting of the new regs, mightn’t they have just had a
      productive season of development?

      Regarding the regs I don’t think there was one single pass of a car which was not in the act of dying, which bodes very poorly for the rest of the season. You heard it straight from Hamilton’s mouth when he was behind Ver – end of the day right here. We’re back to a pit stop timing contest with cars going around as a side note.

      The Autosport season preview was very informative, where several current F1 minds made it very clear they have known what every fan on the couch could see immediately – these regs are going the wrong direction. They also made it clear why – Bernie just spat them out in a fit of threatened virility when he didn’t like it a teenager could drive the cars. That horrid man is finally gone but his cold tiny shadow is still sucking the life out of F1 and we’ll be dealing with it all year.

    • Zachary Noepe

      Slight disagreement about McLaren, though I do see there was a little bit of power at times, still the smorgasbord of weaknesses this weekend – Alonso underpowered (but not terrible) when he’s running, then his car breaks. VanDoorne with no electronics and can’t idle the car in the pits. Is the steering wheel Honda’s fault too? It’s just that they’re covering all the bases – lack of power, lack of reliability from the motor, from the electronics, and apparently from the structure of the car. I mean that’s a lot to fix. I feel like they’re benefitting from the mother of all low expectations when we say this isn’t too bad.

      • Salvu Borg

        That is the exact situation, couldn’t have said it any better myself.

      • jakobusvdl

        I know Zachery, I’m just scratching for any reasons for optimism when it comes to McLaren.

    • Possibly but I think there was a lot that could go wrong with these regulations and we haven’t seen their full impact yet. This race was a 4.5 for me because it is the first time in three years that a team have been able to run with Mercedes. That’s big for F1. They needed that.

      I’m still not 100% convinced Ferrari is a better car, it’s early days and possibly track specific here in Oz. Ferrari usually do well here. Lewis lost on strategy so let’s give it a couple of races and then I’ll have a better feel for Ferrari’s ultimate pace.

      • jakobusvdl

        4.5 FBC stars it is then :-)
        You’re a Ferrari fan so this has been a 5 star race for you, minus 0.5 star for Kimi’s 4th.

      • Salvu Borg

        about Negative Camber rating the race at 4.5, I don’t even rate the race that high.
        But, if you are not 100% convinced that the FERRARI is the better car (so far), which is the car that you are convinced is the better?

  • jakobusvdl

    As regards Ricciardo’s self inflicted off, there was one nugget of information from the Skysport pre-race show. Pat Symonds explaining why he thinks the cars are unrecoverable once their angle of oversteer exceeds a small angle.
    Todd will be happy to hear, its the sharkfin!
    As a car starts to slide, the direction of the car starts to deviate from the direction of the airflow.
    Initially that adds air pressure on the side of the sharkfin which is into the air, helping to straighten the car.
    But, if the angle of travel of the car to the air flow becomes too large, the air on the downsteam side of the sharkfin starts to form a vortex, which stops the airflow over that side of the rear wing. This dramatically cuts rear downforce, and the car spins.
    He illustrated this against the spins by Palmer and Ricciardo, and a plan view on a static RBR, but not the Stroll wall tap, that I think could have been the same issue.
    If he’s correct, that’s going to be a problem for anyone if the tail of their car steps out, and also in a cross wind. The fin-haters might get their wish, they could be banned quite soon.

    • Salvu Borg

      shark fins and T-wings will stay the season unless safety reasons are claimed by the FIA. THAT ONE TEAM PUSHING AGAINST THEM has already screwed-up overtaking by pushing for the present level of downforce because they believed it would give the an advantage.

      • jakobusvdl

        I think that if they’re shown to be leading to uncontrollable spins, the FIA won’t be slow to act

        • Salvu Borg

          all drivers can have an (uncontrollable spin) but the facts are not all does even when going faster than those that do.

          • jakobusvdl

            It’s the amount of yaw that leads to the sudden loss of downforce, and consequent loss of control.
            A slide at higher speed probably means the car is under more downforce, more grip and a better chance to recover, or if the angle gets too wide, a much bigger accident!

    • Zachary Noepe

      Super interesting thanks. They should make it turn with the steering wheel like a Tucker middle headlight! (there’s a reminiscence for all the V12 fans out there :))

      • jakobusvdl

        Aerosteering! I love it. We just have to write that no movable aero surfaces out of the regs, and set sail!

        And the anology is to the swiveling headlights of a 1970’s Citroën DS for the eurocentric V12 fans :-)

  • Salvu Borg

    Vettel’s number 5 FERRARI won the race because it was the best car and the quickest on the grid over the race distance.
    The undercut came about because the number 5 FERRARI was able to follow the car in front without losing downforce and so was able to make its tyres last longer. if number 5 FERRARI wasn’t following the car in front, it would have pitted much more later.
    Number 44 Mercedes was pitted 6 or 7 laps before the number 5 FERRARI because that was how long it’s tyres lasted. if it wasn’t the case, they at Mercedes wouldn’t have done so, in fact it’s driver was asking pit wall to pit for new tyres much before they pitted him.

    • jakobusvdl

      Hi Salvu, a happy day for you, you’ve been telling us that the 2017 is the best car since the first week of testing. A great drive from Vettel, and a convincing Ferrari win.

      • Salvu Borg

        JAKO, GINA got the biggest boobs of them all. as I said elsewhere, my interest now is to discover what the problem was with number 7 FERRARI, there is no why that it was only down to the driver, the car is that good.
        Also be assured that if number 5 FERRARI had managed to get in front at the start “the how good the car is factor” would have been much more properly displayed.

    • Zachary Noepe

      And don’t forget – a little pressure on Hamilton and he starts to crack. (is my floor broken? this is a bad set of tires!)

  • Tom Firth

    Really rather enjoyed the race first thing this morning. A lot of complaining as ever about one thing or another from Twitter, but I found it to have enough to hold my interest. On track overtaking was at a premium but that was entirely expected.

    The strategy aspects of the race were interesting and I’ve got a lot of hope for the season ahead. We’ll see how well the Ferrari Vs Mercedes battle lasts as Melbourne can be an anomaly but yeah, positive.

    • Darth Rust

      Is there anything other than the “newness” of the cars and season that makes Melbourne an anomaly? I assign a lot of uncertainty this early in the season as just about everyone is still learning about their cars, and in some cases their team. But is there some combination of, say, air temperature and track surface that make it different? The temporary nature of the track? Something less obvious?

      • The track itself is a bit unique in its layout and being a road course on public streets.

  • charlie white

    I’m on record for not favoring the new regs but I had said that I will give it 4 races before I make a “take it or leave it” decision on the season. I watched the race up to a few laps after Vettel’s pit before falling asleep. It was exciting for the short time when Vettel was chasing Lewis in the opening laps but Vettel dropped back. The cars were strung out with considerable gaps between them. One stop pit stops and tire strategy doesn’t give much confidence for better racing. I hope it gets better at a real race-track like Shanghai.

    • Zachary Noepe

      Agreed bigger straights, who knows. And maybe some passes in big fast sweepers. There’s still hope to cling to.

    • Salvu Borg

      regarding the new increased aero rules regardless of how faster the cars are and regardless of the results of this first race, I am still of the opinion that F1 needed less aero and not more of it.

  • MIE

    Hamilton losing the race by being stuck behind the Red Bull after his pit stop may encourage the team to concentrate on being able to pass other cars rather than optimise them to work in clean air.
    Now imagine if lapped cars didn’t have to leap out of the way, and the car that is better in traffic will have a significant advantage. This is how to solve the overtaking issue, change the sporting regulations which would encourage teams to develop the cars in the right way.

    • Salvu Borg

      Mercedes number 44 running in clean air on the same tyre compound as that of the number 5 FERRARI behind it had the shortest ultra soft tyre life and could not open a gap to the car behind it.
      And the number 5 FERRARI car running in clean air on the same tyre compound as the number 44 Mercedes in the second stint was able to open out a gap which the number 44 Mercedes could not do when running in clean air.

      • MIE

        I agree that the Ferrari is currently the faster car on race pace, but the Mercedes is faster over a single lap, so we could have some interesting races in the first part of the year. Vettel still couldn’t pass Hamilton in the first stint of the race, and resorted to dropping back into cleaner air (to help preserve the tyres no doubt) before closing again as the stops approached. After the stop, Hamilton was initially faster on the new Soft tyres than Vettel was on the old Ultra Softs, it was only because he caught Verstappen and couldn’t pass that Vettel managed to come out from his stop in front.
        I have never been a fan of drivers passing one another through pit stops, I would much rather the passing took place on track. Which is why I would like to see the blue flag rule changed as at the moment there are very few occasions where teams are penalised by not being able to overtake much slower cars. If they can’t overtake cars they are lapping, what hope do they have when racing one that is almost as fast as they are?

    • Salvu Borg

      pit stop cut-off and being stuck behind a red bull and all that, the end result was that when number 5 FERRARI was running in clean air on the same tyre compound as number 44 it was able to open and end the race with something like a ten second advantage. on the other hand, on the first stint, again on the same tyre compound, it was number 5 FERRARI which was managing the gap to the front car, and not the front car managing to opening any gap.

      • Salvu Borg

        MIE, Having said all that (the above) and also having said right at the winter test that the FERRARI is the best car (so far), and that is just my personal opinion. I must admit that it is hard for me to visualize either a FERRARI or a Mercedes overtaking each other during a race on track all things being normal.

  • bclautz

    Enjoyable race. Great to see someone finally take the fight to Mercedes. Giovinazzi was impressive.

  • Salvu Borg

    latest information from down under says that neither Haas nor RBR lost an engine.
    Grosjean had a water leak (steaming water).
    Ricky had a fuel problem.

  • Samouri

    Good and well deserved win for Ferrari, and Sebastian today. Sorry to be off topic, but that broadcast from NBCSN today at Australia, was the worst coverage that I had seen of any F! race in the states, and I go all the way back to ESPN2. I have no complaints, and rather enjoy the coverage of their on air personalities like Diffey, Hobbs, Matchett, and Will. but the amount of those commercial interruptions have now become to be unbearable to watch. All the joy of watching that race was taken away from me, because of the amount and length of their commercial interruptions. . .

    • Zachary Noepe

      Agreed and while i like those guys too theyre getting pretty far removed. I think of what pat symonds and mark webber could be telling us instead of just leigh diffeys exclamations. I guess i’m not as sentimental as some fans but seeing steve matchett all heavy and grizzled in those velour slippers he had on, i love them to pieces but am ready for an update.

  • Schmorbraten

    Yaaaaay!! Overtaking without DRS has become near impossible again! Great progress these new cars! A train almost only broken by mandatory pitstops!

    Ross Brawn must be fuming that he inherited this hare-brained rule change move just when becoming responsible for F1 avoiding exactly this idiocy.

  • Hrach Gabrielyan

    Does Ferrari posses enough pace to beat Mercedes again or will they have to rely on strategy and/or luck every time in order to win a race? I doubt Ferrari can bribe Verstappen to block Hamilton every race.

  • Are Buntz

    Drivers comments after the race pretty brutal over ability to follow closely and pass. Until they come to grip (regulation/design) with the wings, especially the front wings… not going to be that kind of racing. Still looking for a big move toward ground effects and away from wings. Perhaps the F1 powers will come together and test a couple of previous spec cars without wings but open spec floors and see if that really is the path to pursue… perhaps a billionaire F1 fan looking for something to do for a year or so. Technology in design and materials has come so far since the 80s, worth another look. Going fast in corners does not seem to be the issue it was then.

  • Profpalm

    You folks see this press conference? Loved It all but Lewis talking about wanting Alonso in the top at 4:20 is awesome
    https://youtu.be/izDbevriy6Q