Rate the race & Driver of the weekend – Round 1, Albert Park, Australia by TJ13 contributor @F1TheaJ
Mean Reader Score: 5.60
Scoring only 5.60, this year’s season opener didn’t score anywhere near last year’s score of 7.26: thankfully we didn’t have any spectacular crashes to keep us gasping for breath as we had last year with Alonso.
In 2016 we had Rosberg (who would go on to claim the WDC crown) continuing where he left off in at the end of 2015 by winning the first race. BUT it was a (predictable) Mercedes 1,2, with Ferrari in third place.
This year we still had two Mercedes and a Ferrari on the podium, but this time we had Vettel claiming the top spot. So why, if the Mercedes dominance of the last three years appears to have been broken (or challenged, at least) did this race score so badly?
Possibly because apart from Vettel emerging from the pits a few centimeters ahead of Verstappen and Hamilton on Lap 22, and a really rather good overtake by Ocon and Hulkenberg on Alonso on Lap 52, nothing much happened the entire race. There was a bit of a hullabaloo at the beginning when Ricciardo’s car got stuck in 6th gear and it was touch and go whether he’d start the race (from the pit lane): Kyvat’s fire extinguisher released its contents and the drivers ended up in the wrong positions on the starting grid, resulting in a second formation lap reducing the actual race to 57 laps. There were half a dozen or so retirements, but most of the excitement came from the RESULT rather than the race itself. Which takes absolutely nothing away from the excellent drive from our driver of the weekend.
Driver of the Weekend: Sebastian Vettel, 51.52% of reader vote
Ferrari looked strong in pre season testing and Vettel had set a new lap record in FP3, so the question was, is Ferrari’s pace real or are Mercedes (and to some degree, Red Bull) sandbagging? However, come qualifying, the Mercedes drivers dominated Q1 and Q2 and Hamilton took pole, with Vettel splitting the two Mercedes in Q3.
Ahead of the second formation lap on race day, Hamilton complained about lack of grip on the starting line, attempting to lull Vettel into a false sense of security (lets face it Hamilton’s starts were pretty bad last year) and it seemed to have worked, because Hamilton was off like a rocket, leaving Vettel to fend off Bottas for second place (which he did rather well.) However, the Ferrari stuck to the back of the Mercedes like glue. To pit or not to pit, that is the question, or to put it another way, undercut/overcut which way is best to take the lead from Mercedes? Ferrari went for the overcut and it worked beautifully, giving Vettel the lead from Lap 22 to the end of the race. Vettel controlled the race like the four times world champion he is, giving the Tifosi something to cheer about with their first win of the season.
What is surprising is that the Max Verstappen fan club didn’t manage to highjack the poll this time out and the Tifosi ousted the ‘Verfosi’
Are we going to have a real scrap for the WDC and constructors’ titles this season? Is this finally the clash between Vettel and Hamilton we’ve been waiting for? Will this championship go to the wire? (and not just between the Mercedes drivers.) Let’s hope so. At the moment its 4/3 in WDCs for Vettel V Hamilton . Will the season end 4 all or 5/3 to Vettel? China can’t come soon enough.