Formula 1 is back and disappointingly, it’s more of the same, despite an extra DRS zone for 2018, overtakes were few and far between, faster cars could cruise up to the back of the car in front, then stall, seemingly, not being able to get much closer than half a second even with the aid of DRS.
After a dominant qualifying session, I was expecting Lewis Hamilton to run and hide, but that didn’t happen, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was keeping him relatively honest, or maybe Hamilton was controlling the pace, either way, the gap never got too large. Sebastian Vettel couldn’t do much about his Maranello teammate, having to settle for third going into turn 1. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was caught napping by HAAS’ Kevin Magnussen, the Dane clean drove around the outside of the Dutchman to take fourth place.
Fast forward to lap 11, Verstappen, clearly pushing super hard, despite having oversteer issues to retake fourth place from Magnussen, did a little pirouette coming out of turn 1, allowing the second HAAS of Romain Grosjean and Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo through into fifth and six places respectively.
Valtteri Bottas, despite having the same car as race leader, Hamilton, was mired in 13th place, only having made up two places since the start of the race and making no impression on the car in front of him. Bottas did eventually recover to 8th place, mainly, thanks to the virtual and physical safety cars mid-race.
HAAS, who were running in fourth and fifth places at the time, screwed up massively, costing themselves a massive haul of points by cross-threading wheelnuts on both Magnussen’s and Grosjean’s cars one lap apart, leaving both HAAS cars stranded on the side of the track, forcing a virtual safety car period.
The VSC changed the course of the race, Vettel, electing to take his pit stop under VSC conditions, coming out ahead of both teammate, Raikkonen, and Hamilton to take the race lead. From what, I understand, pitlane entry and exits are not considered part of the track, meaning Vettel could gain 11 seconds while Hamilton and Raikkonen were bound by the VSC delta lap times, gifting the German the race lead.
Hamilton was clearly faster than Vettel, but like all battles up and down the field, overtaking was difficult, even with the aid of DRS, eventually, Mercedes called off the battle to preserve their engine, knowing they have three penalty-free power units for the season. As the race came to a close, Ricciardo went on a late charge, but couldn’t get close enough to make one of his trademark lunges down the inside of Raikkonen.
McLaren had the best start to a season in four years with Alonso claiming fifth place and Stoffel Vandoorne finishing in ninth, which was, admittedly part due to HAAS’pit lane blunders and the VSC, but still a very solid drive from both drivers in the orange cars. Alonso claims that McLaren is targeting Red Bull for 2018, which might be a tad optimistic, but I’d love to see McLaren fighting for podiums.
I don’t believe this for one second, but you know the conspiracy nuts will jump on the fact that Vettel, a Ferrari driver benefitted from the pit lane blunders of a Ferrari powered, so-called ‘B’ team. I think that Ferrari saw an opportunity and took it, and that’s the end of it, but from past experiences, I will bet that some Hamilton fans will be propagating the conspiracy theories concerning this unexpected result.
So, in conclusion, it was a generally dull race, only livened up by mistakes which resulted in an unexpected result, being generous, I would give it a four out of 10. Mercedes are clearly, still the car to beat, Ferrari and Red Bull may take a few points off the silver arrows, but I expect Mercedes to win the lions share of races and take the drivers, with Hamilton and constructors titles once again in 2018.
Australian Grand Prix 2018 Results
|1. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 1:29:33.283
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +5.036
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +6.309
4. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +7.069
5. Fernando Alonso (McLaren) +27.886
|6. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +28.945
7. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) +32.671
8. Valtteri Bottas (Mercede) +34.339
9. Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren) +34.921
10. Carlos Sainz (Renault) +45.722