In recent years, we’ve come to expect that the first race of the season in Melbourne, is a right-off. With each of the manufacturers having only 2.5 months over the winter break to plan, build and test the new cars, it’s highly likely that there will be ‘teething’ issues. This usually means multiple retirements, cautious drivers and very little overtaking action, however, the 2018 Australian Grand Prix was different! Whilst we still had catastrophic reliability issues and overtaking was few and far between, the fight, on the surface, appeared to be much closer.
Are Formula 1 actually starting to listen to their fans? 2018 could be the season to prove it.
So who were the real winners and losers?
The podium was a Ferrari sandwich, Vettel, Hamilton & Raikkonen respectively, but despite winning, Ferrari are still concerned about their pace. A well timed and ‘lucky’ safety car, meant that Vettel had an essentially free pit stop, which he used to his advantage to stay out in front of Hamilton. Without misfortune for Haas, it’s highly likely that Hamilton would have come out strongest at Albert Park. Mercedes have subsequently announced that a glitch in their software, used to determine the position of all the cars on the field, meant they miscalculated the gap between Hamilton and Vettel. Looks like the championship feud we grew to love between the Brit and the German is back again this year.
Whilst we were all impressed by the strength that Haas brought to both qualifying and the initial 20 laps of the race, no one could quite believe what happened when it came to the pit stops that put Magnussen and Grosjean out of contention. A cross-threaded wheel nut, due to misalignment of the tyre during the change, happened not just once, but twice, losing the team what was potentially 22 points for fourth and fifth. Despite a double DNF, Haas should be extremely pleased with the performance of the car they’ve created for 2018. Continuing with that pace, they could put a real pressure on Red Bull and will definitely make for an exciting midfield.
A strong weekend for McLaren
After a messy and expensive divorce from Honda, McLaren had a lot resting on the first race of the season. Was it worth the $100mil? We think so. Firstly, both cars finished the race. Between the two drivers last year, the team suffered 17 DNFs and scored a measly 30 points for the entire season. Their finishes in Melbourne of 5th for Alonso and 9th for Vandoorne, is almost half the points they earned last year in one race. Whilst Alonso seemed a little off the pace of the leaders, he still managed to keep Verstappen, Hulkenburg and Bottas behind him, something we would never have seen in the old Honda arrangement. With both drivers reporting positive things from the paddock, we have high hopes for the British team!
As always, it’s exciting to have Formula 1 back again, and we’re looking forward what the next 20 races will bring. It’s a shame to still see that overtaking is still so difficult though. Hopefully with the large engine changes set for 2021, to regulate the amount of standard parts and remove some of the unfair advantages, we’ll see overtaking on the track again – rather than the pit lane.
The next race will take place in Bahrain on 8th April.
*photo credit: www.grandprixevents.com