Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Mattpt55

Ambient 23° Track 36° Humidity 42% Wind 4.1 m/s

Hammering sun, grid penalties and a morning after regrets characterised the build up to the first GP of 2016. In addition to Ryo Haryanto’s award for remarkable entertainment in a pitlane, it turns out that Valtteri Bottas too got in on the action by replacing a gearbox and garnering the remarkable inefficiency award as the gearbox was meant to last for 6 events and failed to last even 1. Also on offer was the reversion of the “no strategy on radio” rule and a complete reversal on the qualifying format. Having lacked the foresight to anticipate the difficulties of the new format, the Strategy Group elected for full on retreat, apparently lacking both the spine, stomach and various other bodily parts to sort out the optical difficulties. This despite the fact that the format largely achieved its stated goal of shaking up the grid, though more through team error than driver error. No tear offs allowed on track has been ditched and the debut of the single clutch start round out the top pre race news.

A Mercedes 1-2 finish sounds just as horrible as yesterday’s now defunct qualifying format yet the first Grand Prix of the year was anything but. In short order, Safety Car, Red Flag, Ferrari in the lead and cars on fire. Action throughout and not until Vettel went wide 2 laps from the end was the podium decided. Kudos to Rosberg for the win, Grosjean and Team Haas for P6 and potentially drive of the day as Romain defended that spot for more than 20 laps. Shout out to Jolyon Palmer and Renault as well for a strong debut, though late race saw them unable to keep up. And condolences to Kvyat who, for the second year running, failed to make the start, forcing a second formation lap.

Lights out saw the single clutch immediately take a bite (sorry) as Hamilton got off to a sorry ass start whilst the Ferraris blitzed up the middle to P1 and P2 whilst Rosberg brutally but fairly took Lewis off into T1 and made light incidental contact. As Rosberg took P3 Lewis got mugged by traffic and by the time it shook out he was P6.

A sweet pass several laps later saw him slide past Massa, and then fetch up behind Verstappen, where he would be stuck for many a lap as the front end gradually rolled away from him. As the laps built up it became increasingly clear that not only was Hamilton not going to get past Verstappen, but Rosberg was not making any headway on Räikkönen to boot. Given their brutal dominance of quali the day before, it is a worrisome sign for the battle at the sharp end that there was not a single overtake in the top 4 positions (on the same stints), though Albert Park is renowned as a particularly difficult circuit for overtaking.

Rosberg came in to pit Lap 13 but Mercedes decided to extend Hamilton’s stint, such was the dire nature of his situation. Fortunately for the Mercedes man Verstappen came in the next lap and he was released to chase back some of his lost time. Further back the Haas teammates had rocked up to P13-14 and P8-11 was covered by nary 2s, with the midfield action looking to dominate, as Ferrari chose to leave Räikkönen out to cover off Hamilton’s change of strategy.

By lap 16, Vettel had made his pit stop up and came roaring past Hamilton and not far behind, Rosberg was being chased by Lewis, signalling the end of his first stint the following lap. As Räikkönen emerged on the supers, Hamilton rocked out on a pair of mediums, clearly going for one stop until the following lap when Alonso decided to do his best Martin Brundle impersonation.

After starting up the inside heading toward T3 Fernando switched to the outside and clipped the left rear of Gutiérrez, who braked earlier than usual, possibly expecting Alonso to continue up the inside. The impact sent Alonso hurtling into the air and deep into the T3 gravel, his shattered car coming to rest up against the wall as Gutiérrez spun into the gravel behind him. The Safety Car was dispatched immediately followed rapidly by the red flag, effectively ruining Ferrari’s race. On the other hand, it absolutely made Grosjean’s race, since the Frenchman had yet to pit when the race was red flagged, in effect gifting him a free pit stop. With a fresh set of mediums he would rock on to P6 and an excellent debut finish for Haas. Hamilton, too, benefited from the red flag as it erased his deficit to the leaders, though it also stuck him behind not one, but two Toro Rossos.

In a fascinating development, Mercedes elected to keep Lewis on the medium tyre whilst Ferrari went for supers. At the race restart it looked to be advantage Ferrari as they began to pull away, but it was insubstantial, as Vettel was unable to pull a large enough gap to manage the extra pit stop. Compounding the savage turn of luck for the Scuderia, Räikkönen suddenly radioed in something was broken on his car and rolled into the pitlane with smoke pouring from his PU. By the time he climbed out of the cockpit, there was a full on flambé happening behind him with the air inlet breathing fire.

Meanwhile, the Toro Rossos on the softs were making it impossible for Lewis to get by on his mediums, though there was no lack of trying on Hamilton’s part. Finally, on lap 32 Sainz bailed for fresh tyres, releasing Hamilton and the ire of Verstappen, who felt that Sainz stole his pit stop. Coming in the following lap, the Dutchman would go on to moan bitterly that he should be allowed through as he was faster than his teammate once Sainz became stuck behind the queue forming up behind the Haas of Grosjean, now running in P6 thanks to the Toro Rosso’s pitting. But before they got to the Frenchman, Sainz would first have to clear the excellent driving Jolyon Palmer, who mounted a magnificent defense. This thoroughly enraged Verstappen, who felt that Sainz should make way for him so Max could have a go at the Briton, and he expressed himself in the most colourful language when he was encouraged to pass anyone he could, but without the assistance of the team management.

As the race progressed, Verstappen became increasingly unhinged, finally punting into Sainz and losing some bits of bodywork followed by a spin into the penultimate corner, thus putting an end to the increasingly fraught teammate battle.

At the front Lewis continued working his way up to Ricciardo and managed after a bit of effort to get by him just before the Aussie made a stop to ditch his dying softs. But even as Hamilton got by, Vettel was making even greater progress and by lap 50 he was within 2.5s, a gap which Lewis singlehandedly erased with a mistake on lap 52, allowing Vettel within DRS range. The battle between the two champions continued all the way up to lap 56 when Vettel went wide and on the grass in the penultimate corner, and ended the drama.

Rosberg sailed home with nary a care, having run a long controlled race, followed by Hamilton and Vettel. Ricciardo and Massa rounded out the top 5. Congratulations to Haas currently P5 in the WCC but the real winner might be the new tyre regulations that allow the extra tyre option. Having that extra choice added a new dimension to the racing and it looks to be even more promising as the season progresses.


34 responses to “#F1 Race Review: 2016 FORMULA 1 ROLEX AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX

  1. Thanks Matt. Life is back at the judge’s. 😂 great opener of the season. Would’ve been happier with a vettel win but hey can’t have it all

  2. Well didnt Lewis just have his ass handed to him, not once but twice!!! By Vettel at the start and by Rosberg at the end. Vettel should have won it but for the poor Ferrari pitstop. Good race despite the shambles of qualy. Great to see Alonso escape that almighty shunt.

    • Unfortunately, that will probably be one of the best races of the year. The Merc’s engine dominance will lead to another completely boring season. On a positive note, Goodwood is streaming racing today and it is exciting!

  3. Super job by Grosjean/Haas!! Wonderful for F1 to have a Murican team do well.Great day!!
    Manor took a step up, good for them.
    Otherwise it could have been 2015, no matter what happens Merc 1-2 with Nico just tipping it along (wouldn’t say backing into victory, but the measured drive of someone who knows he doesn’t need to try too hard to beat the other teams), Lewis dropping places thanks to a friendly nudge in turn 1, still hard to overtake in these damn cars. Kimi still paying for his trip through the valley of 1000 open ladders, McHonda still nowhere, young Max refusing team orders and passing everyone on track (ok scratch the last one). I still loved it!!!

    • “Lewis dropping places thanks to a friendly nudge in turn 1”

      ??? You mean the near carbon copy of Ros vs Ham @ Spa…. just minus a puncture this time! To be fair I don’t think Hamilton meant it, nor NR for the record. Lewis knows how damn fast his car is, no risks required vs anyone bar his team mate.

      • Hi Paul, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t see anything wrong with the ‘nudge’ going in to the first corner, just that it looked familiar, so fit the deja vu theme of my comment 😁 without Nico and Lewis causing trouble for each other while wrestling for position into the first corner we would be in for a very boring season indeed i fear. I’m sure Lewis and Nico will be pointing at each other off the grid quite a lot this year.

  4. Today even those that “are closer to the action and are much more experienced then any of us” such as the combined “sparking plus” and the [mod] were not mentioning the sure advantage of Mercedes pace over FERRARI, instead they had to admit that “Nico win after FERRARI strategy error handed the race victory to Mercedes”.

    • Anyone who says Ferrari’s pace is threatening to Mercedes in race trim, must have been watching a different race. Seb on new SS could only build a lead of about 4 seconds over ROS on the harder medium tires.

      • Nothing has changed from last year.

        The result was pretty clear very early in, for mine, short of random failures or rushes of sh!t to the head.

        Give MB the WCC. Raffle the WDC between LH & NR.

        Then tell that mob to get lost and let the rest of them race.

      • if you think that Ferrari’s pace is not threatening to Mercedes it is you who must have been watching a different race.

        • Yes I do and it was very evident. Despite being in clean air and with ROS stuck behind Kimi, Seb could only build a 3+ seconds lead.

          At the first round of stops, Seb came within a tenth of being jumped by ROS on the softs.

          Everyone knows Seb is the type of driver that likes to build a big lead and then control the race from there. He couldn’t do that today, even when he had clear air and the tire advantage. When Lewis cleared the Torro Rosso’s he was miles faster than Seb and he was on medium tires.

          Had the Merc’s got a clean start, we would all be here lamenting how boring the race was.

          So yes I’ll say it again, I don’t think the Ferrari’s race pace is anywhere close to the Mercedes as many might think.

          • I agree with Fortis. The only instance in which Ferrari would have won the race today is one where the red flag doesn’t happen, even then there is a good chance Rosberg still wins and Vettel follows him home. Vettels MO is without question to build a lead as Fortis points out. That didn’t happen even with tyres that are meant to be considerably faster, granted Mercs car is obviously optimised for the medium tyre though.

            I think Ferrari are at least 0.6s a lap of Mercedes when push comes to shove and both are trying hard, probably more. That’s such a gap in performance that even when you do have a driver of Vettels calibre, the likes of Rosberg can still beat him.

            Alonso, lucky boy today.

            Max needs to learn to overtake his team mate rather than crying on the radio all race long.

      • Lauds, Vettel and Kimi were watching something else than. All comment about Ferrari being closer, and that quali didn’t give the correct information. But what do they know or understand. I would specially note that a basic negative Kimi says that they’re are closer than the Saturday times show and should improve when getting to warmer races.

        No, not expecting them to be equal; but there’s better hope for having less merc cruising to 1-2 wins. In other words there’s hope this year.

      • I haven’t seen the lap charts, but I gather that Vettel took about 4 seconds out of Rosberg in 4 laps on his new super softs – and then the tyres went off.
        Could he have done better switching to the more resilient softs on his first stop ?

  5. And I forgot saying that somebody heard that Toro Rosso boss intends buying some baby’s dummies for one of his drivers this year .

    • Isnt that the truth!!! For goodness sake someone give Max a biscuit and tell him to calm down in a corner somewhere!! Geez what a sook! Pass your team mate you muppet!!

  6. For a new team to hit a 6th place is pretty damn amazing. Yes,I know they have had help from Ferrari but I have no doubt that anyone running the Italian teams power train would be in the same boat,Honda must be wondering where their millions have been spent,maybe it was in Alonso’s chassis as that thing really held up well,a few yrs ago he would not have been walking out of that one but i ramble on…well done Hass and damn you Ferrari. It’s not fair at 5.30am to pump up my blood pressure,my team screwed that win up…again!

    • The fact that GRO hadn’t stopped he’d when red flag happened had a massive impact…. He was then able to get a free pit stop bolting on mediums and running to the end…. Still kudos to haas sometimes it’s the good with the bad really and today they were on the right end of the stick

  7. I liked it.
    Can’t wait for the DOTW, so I can vote for Max 😉
    I hoped he had more restraint but it seems he Has the Hothead Gene from papa.

    Kudos to Grosjean and the safety standards of F1.

    My son can read now. He kept asking why they didn’t just put a ‘k’ behind HUL.

    Nice that Rosberg won. The Mercedes battle is at it’s best when Hamilton is loosing…:-)

    Kimi was on fire!

  8. USA USA. Bought phucking time we got a team on the grid… geez, 1986 was the last US team IIRC. Points on debut? Hasn’t happened since Toyota in 2002 (again IIRC). As much as I used to hate RoGro, he was right; this was a win for HAAS F1.

  9. If any of the overseas fans would like to know the engines sounds louder and better than last year in the flesh.

  10. Nice one, Matt. +1

    Attended the Grand Prix in Melbourne with my five year old son. It was a brilliant weekend. Was at the track for all days and saw a lot of racing. I highly recommend to any Aussie that hasn’t been to an Australian GP to go at least once. Great event. It’s well run and has that ‘season opener’ feel. There’s massive positive energy and excitement, over and above a normal Australian sporting event, which are already quite good across the board.

    TV doesn’t capture F1 well.

    A few (random) observations that some might, or might not, appreciate:

    1: PU noise didn’t initially seem louder to my ear early on. But once there were more cars running in anger in dry sessions, you could notice that indeed the cars did sound louder, but not by much. Had I not been told cars would be louder, I wouldn’t have noticed it. Given I had my son there, it was nice to be able to chat with him. I’m still a fan of what to me was THE F1 sound being the naturally aspirated, 18,000rpm+ scream of the 1990’s/2000’s and a bit beyond. Be that as it may, that noise is dead and my son thought it was damn loud and super cool.

    2: The Renault looks great in real life as opposed to images/TV. The goldish, deep yellow, kinda-matte-finish, is striking. It’s nicer than the Jordan used to be. And remaining on Renault for a bit, I was impressed that they presented a decent car and a well-oiled team for the opener after the 2015 Lotus shenanigans. So credit where credit’s due. I don’t think the “Manor will trouble Renault early on” theory has legs, and I didn’t at the time of it’s postulation either. Time would tell, and indeed time did tell. Renault is serious. Last bit on Renault… Palmer was a steady set of hands all weekend. I think he debuted well. I rate Magnussen.

    3: Toro Rosso has pace and they showed good pace all weekend. They will make 2016 interesting, particularly with Sainz and Verstappen in the cars. Both drivers are quite impressive, but Verstappen caught my eye over the weekend in greasy conditions. He really rings the shit out of the car. Shame he’s a whinger… because I can’t cop whingers. I know he’s young, but that’s how it is for me. Get into it, mate, don’t sook.

    4: I know this is obvious, but Hamilton and Vettel are really, really quick over a lap. At the track, over many sessions, particularly dry ones, they just have more to give than their team-mates over a lap. They’re more comfortable and the cars have a different attitude in flip floppy sections. Out of control, but not, sort of thing. I won’t go on here given it’s obvious, but the TV doesn’t capture it. Being forthright, Rosberg was quite unimpressive up until race day. His T1-tussle was quite racy and won him the day.

    5: Haas over the past 6 months has talked the talk, and on Sunday walked the walk. They delivered. Massive effort to debut that well, luck or not. I noted a while back that they seemed pragmatic and had a decent attitude. Racy but realistic. Nice start to a team that I hope will be around for a while.

    6: Raikkonen must’ve been a mass-murderer in a past life.

    7: Danny Ric nicked 4th, which was great for Aussies. As a knowledgeable F1 country, like UK, Germany or Italy as an example, expectations were appropriate and the result was lauded as a good one.

    8: F1 safety gets a dick up the arse sometimes, but it was showcased well after the Alonso smash-up and him simply walking away. Progressing safety is important, but not in a knee-jerk way. With respect to safety, slow and steady wins the day, which brings me to Halo. I am really wondering about it’s validity, purpose and rushed execution. Face-saving exercises are all good and well, but safety should perhaps be a little more scientifically rigorous. X-treme, total safety is not something that is reasonable to even hope for in motorsport. Perhaps I’m just too old to care about safety beyond a certain point. Ultimately, my point is, +1 to safety vis-à-vis Alfonzo Samuronzo…

    9: A Hamilton pole to win is, as the data shows, the flip of a coin. About 50% now. Hamilton was muscled by Rosberg at T1 after the start, which was reminiscent of Austin last year. The late 2015 feisty Rosberg 2.0 seems to have kept that racing aggro, and critically it’s at the start of the season. Seems like that T1 tussle may’ve won Rosberg the race in the end given Mercedes was always 1-2’ing if they didn’t DNF, no matter how far Hamilton dropped back at the start. Good stuff by Rosberg given he wasn’t really ‘on it’ most of the weekend. That’s quite Hamiltonian, in a way, where Rosberg would sneak a pole, show striking one-lap pace, but Hamilton would simply barge through and win on Sunday. Good stuff.

    10: …and that brings me to this point about Ferrari. They’ve slightly closed the one-lap raw pace gap, and may cause more trouble from a regular second row slot with slightly improved race pace, but half a second per lap is still out of the realms of what a great driver could make up under normal conditions. Relying on Mercedes mistakes is fun, but not fruitful enough to challenge for titles. Ferrari need a couple of more relative tenths to be able to at least make Mercedes pay a price for mistakes. That Lewis could have a pretty average start, get muscled by his team-mate, drop back to 7th and finish 2nd regardless is testament to the fact that while TECHNICALLY Ferrari have closed the gap, it’s not in a meaningful way as yet. Australia tends to be an odd sort of a race, so we’ll see what’s what over the next few normal races.

    Thanks for reading. If you don’t like any points, feel free to express yourself as Madonna might’ve done in her youth.



    • I see your Madonna and raise you an NWA…

      I’m here to express with my full capability
      Those Renaults looked dope, there’s no undenyability

      …awkward silence…

      Anyways, I wholeheartedly agree – bright sunshine on that super yellow (#FFFF00?) carcass was a fantastic sight to see. Just the right amount of black for contrast. Choice, bru’

      Oh… and, I’m thinking that young Max is deserving of a new sobriquet – “Chip” – in homage to the oversized thing he’s carrying on his shoulders.

    • Nice wrap-up, WTF. Great to see some first-hand accounts. Couple of points:

      – Renault looks good on the screens, too. The only team to choose colour (over lack of it) without accepting the premise “we’re ugly, and we don’t care” (think Sauber)

      – Palmer was indeed impressive vs Magnussen. Unexpected, but good stuff.

      – With Verstappen it’s obvious that the sense of entitlement is strong with this one. The young padawan is already showing all the signs of becoming a Vettel look-alike, with strong hints of multi-21 and Turkey 2010 and colorful (read: shitty) language. At least those concerned with too many drivers being corporate drones will be happy this is isn’t the case here.

      – Haas might have delivered, but it really begs the question how much assistance they received from Ferrari and how legal this all was. Clearly Haas has had the most impressive debuts from the recent inflow of new teams from 2010 onwards. The one thing that was obviously done differently by them was to have an unhealthy close association with an existing top-team, Ferrari, and using their wind tunnel (when apparently their own facilities in NC are top-notch) to the point where serious questions were being asked over Ferrari cheating their way around wind-tunnel use regulations to close the gap to Merc and, in my mind, Haas cheating their way to building a chassis with another constructor’s assistance, above and beyond the listed parts permissions… It’s hard to explain their swinging performance otherwise.

      “I am really wondering about it’s validity, purpose and rushed execution. Face-saving exercises[…]”

      It was funny to see what Charlie really thinks about safety this week: “But I don’t think we will delay it if we felt there was a better one coming.” So come what may, we really want to be showing we are doing something, even if there were something with a more optimal safety tradeoff available.

      Lastly, I suspect the strategy blunder by Ferrari and Vettel wouldn’t have gone well with Sergio Marchionne back at home. From pre-season pronouncements the general feeling was that if there is no Ferrari title this year, heads would fly off. (And lord knows Sergio is capable when it comes to this; ask LDM, Fred and Domenicali!) Since Kimi is a walking dead man for several seasons now, he’s pretty much irrelevant by now. So first in the line would be either Marlboro Man or Seb, especially if they combine lack of title with silly blunders. So all in all, a bad start from the duo, with poor strategy calls and self-inflicted trips in the grass…

  11. I miss hearing Matt on a podcast. If only you could go to his twitter feed @mattpt55 and see what he’s up to Podcastwise..

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