I know what you’re thinking. The result of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix looks terribly familiar. Two Mercedes then Sebastian Vettel. And that this followed on from an excruciating qualifying session the day before.
But it shows the importance of getting the full picture. The race was a magnificent one, and one that took us rather on a roller-coaster ride to reach its eventual standard-looking destination. Equally suddenly no one’s talking about F1 in crisis or of qualifying systems. Heck, the sport’s even had an outbreak of sanity to go back to the previous system for the next meeting in Bahrain. F1 isn’t all bad.
And in a variation from expectation it was the Merc that appeared this weekend to be behind, Nico Rosberg’s, that won out. This one shouldn’t seem all that unlikely, after all it’s his 4th win on the bounce. But somehow it still does.
We love on the basis of practice and qualifying to predict confidently how the race will go. But we about as readily forget that in F1 we have a thing called a standing start, and from that matters suddenly can appear very different. And they did. Reminiscent of the Hungary race last year Vettel got the jump on the Merc pair, then after the 2 in silver had compromised each other at turn 1, Kimi Raikkonen had passed too. Indeed Lewis was shuffled down to 6th place. Also just like at the Hungaroring Ferrari and particularly Vettel looked comfortable out front.
But unlike Hungary last year, Mercedes retrieved the situation, and unlike then it got a big helping hand. Fernando Alonso barrel-rolled after hitting the back of Esteban Gutierrez’s Haas. Fortunately both walked away but the extent of debris meant the race was stopped.
The Day Turns Against Ferrari
In F1 these days the race is effectively zeroed at this point, and this is where Ferrari got it wrong. In Vettel’s case it stuck with the same supersoft tyres it was on before for the re-start, while as is allowed under the new rules the Mercs went two steps removed and bolted on medium tyres, seeking to run non-stop to the end. When everyone got going again Rosberg – by now 2nd – was able to just about cling to Vettel and the outcome then looked inevitable. That when Seb pitted Nico would lead and look hard to stop. And that’s what happened.
Vettel after his pit halt slipped to 3rd behind a recovering Hamilton too, for whom the red flag wasn’t convenient and had at that point dropped him back to 7th. Seb stalked Lewis near the end, but passing looked difficult and the suspense ended early when Seb ran off the track briefly with just over 2 laps remaining.
Yet all 3 podium finishers could take hope from the day. Rosberg got his win and 25 points; Hamilton was fastest for most of the weekend and salvaged a healthy points haul after his tough start; Vettel can be content that the Mercs didn’t run away from him. A day previously it looked far away, but all of a sudden in F1 there is a sense of glad confident morning.
That’s something that definitely will not feel familiar.