Ferrari draws first blood in Australia

Talking points from the Australian Grand Prix

After all the hype surrounding the new season, the fans finally got a taste of the live action in the form of the Australian Grand Prix. While the first race of the season is always special, this year’s pre-season noise was at another decibel level due to a turn of events that took place in last few months:


  1. Rosberg announced shock retirement just 5 days after being crowned the world champion
  2. Formula 1 found new parents in the form of Liberty Media
  3. Bernie Ecclestone was shown the door after being ruling the F1 kingdom for four decades
  4. Ross Brawn returned to Formula 1

And we haven’t even mentioned the monumental changes that took place in technical regulations. With so many things happening in the pre-season, all eyes were on the first race at Melbourne’s Albert Park Circuit.


After the pre-season testing, everyone expected Ferrari to give Mercedes a tough fight and that’s exactly what they did. Breaking Mercedes’ winning streak, Sebastian Vettel cruised to victory ahead of the two Mercedes with a comfortable 8 second margin. Elsewhere, Haas F1 and McLaren had a fairly forgettable race with their drivers failing to reach the chequered flag. Toro Rosso and Force India had a lot to celebrate since both the mid-field teams scored double points finish.


Here are few important talking points from the first race of the season:


  1. It’s not going to be a one-horse race for Mercedes
Image credit: Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team

At the starting grid, the order was: Mercedes (Hamilton) – Ferrari (Vettel) – Mercedes (Bottas) – Ferrari (Raikkonen)


But at the chequered flag, this changed to: Ferrari (Vettel) – Mercedes (Hamilton) – Mercedes (Bottas) – Ferrari (Raikkonnen)


During the ‘Schumi era’, Ferrari was known for their foxy race strategies; they could outsmart any team on any given day. At the Australian GP, we saw flashes of that same ‘ol Ferrari of early 2000s. Maurizio Arrivabene’s team was spot on with respect to the pit stop timing and outclassed Hamilton (with a little help from Verstappen who wasted a chunk of Lewis’ time while the Brit was stuck behind him in P4 after the pitstop) to take the win.


Also, there were instances when Hamilton radioed the team complaining as always about some or the other issue with his car. But the same can’t be said about the Ferrari drivers. In short, what Ferrari marginally lacks in speed, it more than makes up for it in reliability and strategy.


Going forward, it will be interesting to see how the Ferrari v. Mercedes battle heats up.


  1. Painting your car pink doesn’t make it go any slower
Image credit: Sahara Force India F1 Team

Let’s face it, no one likes a pink car unless you’re Paris Hilton; at least, not a pink F1 car. But given the new commercial partnership, that’s exactly what Force India fans will have to endure. And their performance over the last few days leading up to the race was lukewarm at best, once again giving an excuse to the fans to point at the paint job for non-performance. The only time a Force India finished in top 10 over the race weekend till Sunday was during FP1 when Perez secured a P10. But as they say, you don’t score points on Fridays and Saturdays. Force India turned up the heat on the race day and secured a doubt points finish making sure that their car gets another coat of bubblegum pink.


  1. McLaren and Red Bull Racing should be allowed to use their road cars
Image credit: Red Bull Content Pool

McLaren’s troubles are going from bad to worse. Fernando Alonso ran in a respectable P10 for most of the race before getting overtaken by Ocon and Hulkenberg is hair raising three-way overtaking move at the end of the start finish straight. As if that wasn’t enough, the Spaniard had to retire with just 3 laps remaining. Vandoorne finished last in P13.


At Red Bull Racing, while Verstappen finished in a strong fifth position, his teammate was plagued with troubles right from the beginning when he had to start the race from the pits TWO LAPS DOWN.


In my humble opinion, Ross Brawn should give allow both these teams to use their road cars McLaren P1 and AM-RB 001.


  1. Liberty media is taking a bit too much liberty


Ever since Liberty Media took over Formula 1 for $4.4 billion pocket change, they’ve talked about making a number of changes to the sport; one of which is bringing the fans much closer to the action. But no one knew the extent of proximity of fans to the action till Vettel took the chequered flag. A bunch of fans had strayed on to the track clicking photos of the Ferrari driver’s victory lap. While, I’m not really sure if this is entirely safe, I really want to be friends with the bloke who tried to click a selfie on the track with a moving F1 car.


In fact, F1 should start selling VVVVVIP passes where not only do you get paddock access but you can also stand at the side of the start-finish straight and click selfies as the cars cross the finish line. I’ll pay $10,000 for it.


  1. Nico Rosberg misses Formula 1


It seems like the reigning F1 champion might already be regretting his decision of leaving Formula 1. Time zone differences are such that European fans need to be up early to watch the Australian GP and that’s exactly what Nico did. The ex-F1 driver was wide awake live tweeting through the race like any F1 enthusiast would. Though he has mentioned in several interviews that he thought the time was right for him to retire, I’d say, let a few races go by – let him watch all the action on the TV and then we’ll ask him whether he misses F1 or not. Don’t be surprised if in a few months’ time you come to know about Toto Wolff and Nico Rosberg’s secret meetings.


Whether Rosberg returns to F1 or he continues live tweeting for the rest of his life, one thing’s for sure, the shots are fired and the next race in China is going to be an equally exciting affair if not more