Drafting the Circuits
Formula 1 Report
Australian Grand Prix
By Steve Aibel
Lewis Hamilton continued his dominant streak of victories with a win over Nico Rosberg in the opening Australian Grand Prix. Mercedes held dominant form taking pole position, leading every lap, and occupying the top steps on the podium. Hamilton has victories in every Formula 1 race since Italy in September, 2014 bar one (Brazil).
With another 1-2 victory for Mercedes AMG Petronas, Hamilton finished 1.3 seconds ahead of teammate Nico Rosberg in what previewed a season long battle between Mercedes title contenders.
Sebastian Vettel took third place with a podium finish in his Ferrari debut, signaling the return of the Scuderia. Vettel easily matched the pace of Felipe Massa’s Williams who took fourth place. Teammate Valtteri Bottas was sidelined by an injury to his back in qualifying, which limited Williams to only one car.
Kimi Raikkonen was positioned to score well for Ferrari until an issue with a cross-threaded wheel nut caused him to retire. Raikkonen also suffered damage to the floor of his Ferrari in the first corner of the race when Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr. hit him setting off the accident that ultimately led to Pastor Maldonado’s crash and the retirement of the Lotus. Romain Grosjean also retired in the opening lap resulting in a very disappointing weekend for Lotus.
In contrast, Sauber had a strong finish in what was a very strange weekend for the team. A lawsuit filed by 2014 reserve driver Giedo van der Garde undermined who would actually drive the car. Seems that Sauber has three valid driver contracts for only 2 race seats.
That’s a problem right?
Although the Victoria Supreme Court sided with van der Garde, late night discussions between the parties settled on Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson piloting the cars in Australia. There will be more coming here but hopefully the drama will not play out during a race weekend.
Both drivers scored points for the Sauber with Nasr taking 5th position and Ericsson placing 8th. For a team that scored 0 points during the entire 2014 campaign, this was a refreshing start to the season and reinforces the improvements that engine supplier Ferrari have made.
Both Nasr and Ericsson secured their first ever F1 points and launched Sauber into third position in the constructors’ championship.
A great start, however, the situation with van der Garde still needs to be sorted through and finalized. In truth, the position of team principal Monisa Kaltenborn should be discussed. If she can quickly and quietly sort through VanderGate, and Sauber regularly scores points, Kaltenborn will have dodged a bullet.
Red Bull racing is still struggling, primarily with the Renault engine package. Daniil Kvyat suffered a gearbox failure on the installation lap and Daniel Ricciardo could only manage a 6th place finish. Discussions on Kvyat’s issue have centered on an engine vibration, which shows that Renault is still struggling with reliability and performance issues. Ricciardo is already down one ICE from an engine failure in Friday practice.
Australia showcased that all of the teams are still struggling with reliability. Only 15 cars started this Grand Prix and two of them, the Lotus’, were out on the first lap. This was a strange situation for an opening Grand Prix and one that needs to change by the time the teams get to the race in Malaysia on March 29th.
By then, hopefully, Bottas and Alonso will be sufficiently recovered to participate, Manor racing will have cars ready to hit the track, and we will see a full grid. Still, it was great seeing Sauber and the mid pack teams steal points from stalwarts such as Williams and McLaren. Expect this all season, as most of the racing will be for the third podium position and points scoring slots in the top ten. The tile will still run through the Mercedes home of Brackley.
- Lewis Hamilton 25
- Nico Rosberg 18
- Sebastian Vettel 15
- Felipe Massa 12
- Felipe Nasr 10
- Daniel Ricciardo 8
- Nico Hulkenberg 6
- Marcus Ericsson 4
- Carlos Sainz Jr. 2
- Sergio Perez 1
- Mercedes 43
- Ferrari 15
- Sauber 14
- Williams 12
- Red Bull 8
- Force India 7
- Toro Rosso 2