Spring is finally here (except here in Canada…) which means the F1 season is upon us!
The F1 teams worked hard over the winter break to get the cars ready for the 2018 championship and address issues that plagued their cars last season. Heading into the race, it was quite obvious that some teams went forward (Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren, Renault, Red Bull, Haas) and some others went backwards (Toro Rosso, Force India, Williams).
While some the gains and losses seemed more obvious than others (the engine swaps for McLaren and Toro Rosso being key among them), some others came out of left field.
Haas had a huge leap in performance over last year, qualifying P6-7 (before Danny’s penalty) and were running P4-5 before making their pit stops. It all went sideways from there, as both cars suffered retirements stemming from errors installing the new tires. You have to feel sorry, and I especially feel like I jinxed it. I thought before the pits “the only thing that will mess up Haas here are the pit stops”, and that’s exactly what happened.
Force India on the other hand, didn’t improve at all over the winter, and while the other teams around them improved relatively more, they fell out of the accustomed finishing positions within the top 10 for the what seems like the first time in forever.
Now for the winners:
Ferrari should have played 2nd fiddle to Mercedes this weekend, yet came away with a 1,3 result for Vettel and Raikkonen respectively. The prime reason for this being a 1-2 punch out of the Mercedes drivers.
Hamilton had the best qualifying lap I’ve seen…maybe ever and obliterated the track record by over a full second from last year. However, the unfortunate timing of the Virtual Safety Car (VSC) from Grosjean’s retirement meant Vettel could make his pit stop and stay ahead of Hamilton. This effectively gave the win to Vettel, since it’s nearly impossible to pass in Melbourne (more on that later).
Say what you will about the VSC rules, I don’t think it should be changed. This will end up being tallied as “Stuff Happens” and I don’t think Mercedes could have done anything different and Ferrari just lucked out. Vettel even said as much on the podium.
Coupled with Bottas’ crash and subsequent gearbox replacement penalty, which forced him to start the race in 15th, Ferrari ended with with a huge points advantage to start the year.
McLaren and Renault are showing more of a return to form this year. McLaren didn’t have the greatest qualifying (and neither did Renault) but managed to make the most of the mistakes from the Haas camp to score some welcomed points.
Before I sign off, I’d just like to mention that this race was again, supremely boring. These cars just aren’t meant to be behind another car, and that lends to the aero rules package with the incredibly complex front wings. F1 may have succeeded in creating cars are are insanely quick, but nobody can pass each other. I know Ross Brawn is working on creating a new rules package for ~2020 that will address this, but until then we are just going to endure with the lack of on-track passing and over reliance on strategy calls to get ahead of another car.
I’d like to see a rules package that is more heavy on ground affects and floor development and see front wings that are more akin to the ones seen in 2003-2005 (more or less single element that crosses the entire front of the car).
Well that’s it for now, I’ll be making another post recapping the PWC and Aussie Supercars weekends sometime this week.
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