The first round of qualifying has come and gone. Hamilton is on pole with Vettel starting along side him. But what we did learn in the three sessions around Albert Park?
- Bottas may not be 100% comfortable in the car – It looks like I may have to retract my previous statements about Valtteri Bottas being able to pip Hamilton to pole. The new Mercedes driver did not look completely comfortable in the car as qualifying began. He had a massive wobble in Q3 that surely cost him a chance at starting on the front row of the grid.
- Grosjean and Haas look impressive – Outside of Hamilton’s impressive pace, two tenths above the rest of the field, the most eye opening performance was that of the Frenchman behind the wheel of the American car. He secured ‘best of the rest’ with a sixth place position. Haas was never too terribly shabby in qualifying last year, especially near the end of the season, but once again, reliability concerns will linger over the state of the team’s brakes. Grosjean may have to drive conservatively to keep them under control, but even if he does that, it appears the Haas package is enough to get him a solid points finish, especially if there is some sort of coming together in the front of the field.
- Toro Rosso may have the best overall package in the midfield – The only midfield team to put both cars squarely in Q3 was Toro Rosso. It appears they have built upon their success from last year and are ready to put up a real challenge in the midfield. Kvyat being in the top ten was certainly a surprise, but he was within a tenth of his teammate, so it is very well possible that he has taken the off season to refocus himself. I think Sainz may still beat him tomorrow, but unless Kvyat makes a mistake, look for both Toro Rosso’s to walk away with solid points and perhaps end up as the 4th placed midfield team in the constructors championship.
- These cars are a physically challenging to drive – We saw two major causalities as a result of the new formula introduced this year. Pascal Wherlein chose not to participate in the weekend, citing health concerns. He may have felt well enough to participate in testing, but he didn’t feel up to participating in the race, citing the increased g-force placed upon the drivers. We were told the cars would require a lot more physicality to drive, but this is the most conclusive proof that the cars are taking their toll on the drivers. The second casualty of the new cars was hometown hero Daniel Ricciardo. Ricciardo crashed shortly in to Q3, ending Red Bull’s slim chances at success. Now, Ricciardo is one of the best drivers on the grid and it was a massive surprise to see him lose control the way he did. But that just goes to show that these cars are truly ferocious beasts and cannot be underestimated.