Its one of the great Formula One mysteries as to why over the years certain circuits suit certain teams and their cars. The question for Mercedes is Albert Park one of their favoured outliers?
Of course Lewis Hamilton was second fair and square but is this a new dawn for Mercedes and its unloved W14 or will next time out in Emilia-Romagne have Lewis and Co. hanging their heads in despair.
Melbourne suits Mercedes F1 cars
Since the dawn of the ground effect cars last year, Mercedes have performed well in Australia and surely only a mechanical failure for George Russell prevented the silver arrows having both drivers finish on the podium this year.
Last year Mercedes were 3rd and 4rth both less than 10 seconds behind Sergio Pérez in P2 and then it was Verstappen who failed to make the chequered flag.
The changeable weather over the weekend in Melbourne meant the long runs in practice were meaningless and despite the 4 DRS zones the F1 cars generally found it difficult to pass without an offset on tyre degradation.
Albert Park difficult to overtake
Taking into account of the DNF’s, the top 7 drivers finished in the order they started with the exception of Lando Norris.
Of course Mercedes qualified well, though Hamilton was merely hundredths of a second ahead of Alonso, something which made all the difference to the outcome of the race.
Fernando hounded Hamilton all race but because of the early red flag, the lead drivers all made their one mandatory change of tyres together and so any opportunity for the over or under cut was lost.
Imola disaster for Merc in 2022
Next up last year after Australia was the Emilia-Romagne GPst year where qualifying for Mercedes proved to be a living nightmare.
Neither Mercedes made it out of Q2 and despite there being a Sprint on the Saturday, neither Mercedes made the top 10 on the grid for the Grand Prix on Sunday.
This year Australia is followed by Baku which was another disastrous outing for the Mercedes duo last year.
Baku beasted Hamilton
Russell qualified almost 1.4 seconds slower than the pole sitter with Hamilton a further 2 tenths back. While the porpoising affected Lewi Hamilton significantly during the race, it was considered unlikely to have contributed much to the poor qualifying result.
A bonfire of the Ferrari’s allowed the Mercedes pair to finish in P3 and P4 with Russell 45 seconds behind the winner and Hamilton almost lapped.
Mercedes first big upgrade package is not due until round 6 this year in Italy, while Aston Martin will bring new aero to reduce the drag of their AMR23.
RB19 mighty in Azerbaijan
The pace of the RB19 around the high speed street circuit in Baku could eclipse the gap to Mercedes its predecessor delivered last year.
Toto Wolff agrees the Red Bull is mighty.
“They have a straight-line speed advantage with the DRS open that is just mind-boggling,” said the Mercedes boss.
“But this is the meritocracy of the sport and if you have a car that’s that quick on the straight because you’re doing the right things, then it’s up to us to sort this out and find the tools to improve the straight-line performance.”
Albert Park flattered Mercedes
While Lewis couldn’t hold off Verstappen in Australia he did secure the team’s first podium of the year, however Toto conceded the layout of Albert Park most likely flattered the W14.
“I think definitely an advantage for us,” he said of the Melbourne track.
“Our car lacks a little bit of performance [stability] in the rear end and the track definitely helped us so I think that made us look a little bit better than we should be.
“But we know where the weaknesses are and we just need to sort them out.”
Mercedes better start than expected
Despite the wailing and gnashing of teeth emanating from Brackley, Mercedes have again acquitted themselves well over the first three races of the year.
The team is in third place in the constructors’ championship with more than double the points to Ferrari’s name.
Lewis is fourth in the drivers’ title race ahead of his team mate and both Ferrari drivers.
— Formula 1 (@F1) April 3, 2023