Opinion: How season opener of Formula 1 panned out for teams?
Non race weekends can feel dull. Here is a small recap of the season opener of Formula 1 2019.
112 days after the chequered flag at Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi, Formula 1 returned yet again to the beautiful streets of Melbourne for a new season with some crucial regulation changes and what seemed to be the youngest driver grid in Modern formula racing. The comparatively last minute addition of bonus point for fastest lap was expected to bring an extra layer of excitement to the sport and boy, did it live upto that expectation with Bottas and Max going at it in the closing laps!
Here is my team-wise take on the GP#998 - Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix 2019.
#1 Mercedes AMG Petronas motorsports
With a front row lockout in Saturday qualifying, Mercedes looked very strong for the season opener. Everything except history seemed to be on their side as only 1 out of last 7 pole sitters have ever climbed the top step of the podium on Sunday along with Lewis not being able to convert those poles in last 4 instances. And the curse continued for Lewis after he conceded the position to his Fin teammate at corner 1 and since disappearing under the shadow of Career best performance by Valtteri Bottas.
To be 20+ seconds in lead during the closing stages and commanding the fastest lap speaks volumes of the day the Fin enjoyed in the cockpit. It was later revealed that Lewis had some floor damage on his car which potentially could have slowed him down but given the form Valtteri was in, it hardly would have mattered.
With maximum, maximum point scored and blistering pace along with zero reliability issues, an Ideal start of the season for Mercedes.
#2 Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow
Unarguably Ferrari seemed to be the fastest team during Barcelona pre season testing. However you could tell that straight away they failed to carry that speed to the first race weekend. Though they qualified P3 and P5, you could tell they didn’t have the weapon to attack Mercedes’ pace.
Vettel seemed to be struggling during the race with Max pulling of an overtaking move on the German driver. Post race Vettel blamed the lack of pace whereas Charles attributed the same to his mistakes. Takes courage for a young driver to admit that in the first race with a major team.
With Charles being the second placed youngest driver in the race, not all was bad for Ferrari. However, they have a herculean task of reading those numbers and figuring out what went wrong before the next lights out in Bahrain.
#3 Aston Martin Red Bull Racing
With a new engine in the back, it was a mixed race for the bulls with Verstappen showing pace late in the race and challenging Bottas for the fastest lap point whereas Gasly missing out on points to midfield teams.
Gasly was pitted rather late in the race and was overtaken by former teammate straight out of the pits. After which he seemed to struggle to overtake the Russian even with newer tyres and a comparatively faster chariot. Also raises the question whether all the changes in the rule has actually facilitated overtakes or Gasly just did not have what it took to overtake?
Questions also need to be asked as to why Gasly was called so late to the pits especially when his pace was visibly declining a few laps earlier? Apart from this, a great start for the Redbull-Honda marriage with the former giving Honda their first podium in a decade or so.
#4 Rich Energy Haas F1 Team
Haas Racing, I believe, did the perfect sandbagging until Q2 to keep the midfield guessing about their pace and on Saturday morning unleashed the pace to at least my surprise. After the last season’s performance, was expecting Haas to have strong pace among midfield and definitely was not let down.
With strong qualifying results at P6 and P7, it was all looking good for Steiner and his team until in a horrible Deja vu turn of events, Romain’s pit looked to have some issue with front left not going on at once, however a couple of overtakes after the pit made it look like they had conquered their demons.
Though Haas’s bad luck caught on to them when after running 12+ laps on fresh set of boots, Grosjean was seen pulling to the side and replay revealing the worst. Will this streak of bad luck ever end for Romain?
However, with Magnussen finishing P6, Haas has managed to place itself at 4th in constructors ahead of their rivals. If all goes well, Haas definitely should be at a strong position to be the best of the rest in the later half of the season.
#5 Renault F1 Team
The team with the headline grabbing move of 2019 surely opened the weekend with very high expectations and support thanks to Daniel. Both Daniel and Renault had a lot to prove and expectations to live upto with the former showing a lot of faith in the French car maker at a crucial point in his career and the later to prove a point to their discontinued 12-year-old buyers.
An unusual start of the race for Aussie losing the front wing straight out of the grid box while trying to use the service road to gain an advantage. Surprisingly tall grass in Melbourne I tell you. After that nothing seemed to be going right for the Aussie with his 3rd non finish in home GP.
However, his counterpart Hulkenberg managed to get his Renault inside the points with overtakes right off the box and finishing with a P7. That little tussle between Hulkenberg and Magnussen was exciting to watch.
#6 Alfa Romeo Racing
I felt it was a classic case of a Number 1 and Number 2 driver. Giovinazzi was pitted very late to defend Kimi's position up the road. By the time Giovinazzi was called in he was sliding around the track like it had been lubricated.
Some may say that their played out well, as Kimi managed to finish in points with a P8. But you have to question the strategy given the fact that Giovinazzi was able to defend the position for 10 odd miles with that bad a grip. It will be interesting to see how the strategy plays out later in the season.
#7 SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team
Pardon me for saying this, but this looks like a team with 2 drivers for more economic reasons than for anything else. That being said a decent start of the season. Though they would have like to see both the cars in scoring positions, the rookie from McLaren did well to prevent that for Perez. Impressive performance from Stroll in keeping the car off the wall and bringing it home at P9.
#8 Redbull Toro Rosso Honda
With the last scoring position in his comeback race after one and a half years, Daniil was heard exclaiming on the radio about it being a tough job and him being happy on being able to get something out of the race. Albon nearly avoided the wall when being overtaken by Perez. A lot of work for Toro Rosso on strategical front if they have any plans of becoming the best of the rest.
#9 Mclaren F1 Team
Given the last few seasons' performances, a race with one DQ and a non point finish still seems like an improvement. Carlos Sainz became the first victim of non finish after dense white smoke was seen pouring out the back of his car.
Lando Norris comparatively put in a good qualifying and race in his first time around the streets of Melbourne. If not blocked by Alfa of Giovinazzi, Norris would definitely have had the chance of challenging the points position at the end of the race. All in all a positive movement for Zak and team. If they can put the blinders on and concentrate on the task in hand, should be able to surprise towards the closing half of the season.
#10 Rokit Williams Racing
Despair. The only word to describe what went down in Australia for the Williams. At least 3 seconds off the leading pace and last position finish seem to aggravate the performance issues for the team. The only positive that could be taken out from the race for Williams was that they did not have to retire the car mid race owing to reliability issue.
(The views expressed in this article are personal and do not reflect Sportskeeda's position on the same.)
Thanks to my fried Devika Menon, a non Formula 1 enthusiast, for helping me frame this article.
Please leave your review of the race or any particular incidents from the race in the comments below.