Sometimes in F1 things aren’t quite what they appear to the naked eye.
On the face of it the Australian Grand Prix featured a tight battle for the win, but in reality it was nothing of the sort.
Lewis Hamilton Victory
Lewis Hamilton’s victory was not in doubt from the first turn. After a single lap of green flag racing he established a 2.6 second lead over his Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg, and things weren’t much different at the end. In between times Nico, on many occasions, gamely trimmed the gap over a succession of laps. But as soon as it got to around the second-and-a-half level it was like an alert popped up on Lewis’ dashboard. He immediately found additional urge and before you knew it his advantage was back roughly to what it had been. Indeed watching the timing was rather like watching something on a loop. Lewis was toying with Nico, as you imagine he might with one of his pet bulldogs. The matter of P1 was a race of one.
In reality there weren’t many surprises on show compared with the expectations based on testing. Much of the midfield indeed looks a more credible proposition. Ferrari it seems has especially leapt forth from where it had been. But even with all of this Mercedes remains ahead and by at least as much as it was in its imperious 2014 campaign.
Ferrari’s step-up; Sebastian Vettel
Perhaps underlining this among the excitement about Ferrari’s step-up, Sebastian Vettel in third finished 35 seconds adrift of the leading Merc, which by the driver’s admission had plenty in hand. And here last year the gap between the winning Merc and Fernando Alonso’s red car was…35 seconds. But the Scuderia can content itself that on the basis of this race it’s jumped up to being best of the rest. Williams was next up – Felipe Massa finished fourth – and both he and Pat Symonds admitted they couldn’t live with the Ferrari pace, which was impressive at several points of the race.
Something that didn’t go with expectations was that Red Bull disappointed. Danill Kyvat didn’t even make the grid while Daniel Ricciardo could only finish a lapped sixth. He couldn’t even blame traffic as Felipe Nasr’s Sauber ahead rather left him. Nasr indeed like all three debutants on show today showed that the sport’s future on driving talent is assured.
As was the case last year the Renault power unit is the culprit and the Milton Keynes team isn’t shy of saying so publically. After the race Christian Horner accused it of a “retrograde step” and that the engine was “quite undriveable”; the French concern meanwhile called it “not an easy fix”. This in a weekend too wherein Ted Kravitz for one speculated if the once swaggering team has “lost its sparkle”.
Not that such a thing can be said of Mercedes right now. And, on the evidence of this season-opener, we might not be able to say it much of Lewis either.