F1 – Australia – Race Recap

I Hate That Song…

I have to confess something.  I hate the German National Anthem.  I really do.  I’m a younger guy, so many of my formal memories of Formula 1 have to do with Michael Schumacher taking the top step of the podium and hearing that damn national anthem played.  The German National Anthem then then that songs partner in crime, the Italian National Anthem.

That’s why, at least for me, Sunday’s race result was a mixed bag.  It was great to see someone else besides Mercedes take a win, it was great to think we may have a title race on our hands, it was great to think how beautiful the new cars our, but dammit, I had to listen to those two stupid national anthems again. *Shakes fists angrily*

Regardless, Sebastian Vettel drove an incredible race and, as I’ve already talked about, Ferrari performed a master stroke of strategy by keeping Vettel out long enough to let Hamilton be bogged down behind Verstappen.  But could the Maranello based squad run outright, without the help of the young Dutchman’s slower car?  Yes, I think they may have been able to.  Hamilton spent half his race complaining about tire wear issues.  It was the same issues that brought him into the pits so early, and subsequently dropped him behind Vettel after the German had cycled through.  That caused him to back off and be far less aggressive than he normally is.  Ferrari and Vettel, on the other hand, had so such problem and were able to push straight through the race, giving the advantage to the boys in red.

So, if Ferrari’s performance is real, will they be able to run away with the rest of the season, forcing me to listen to that damn national anthem again and again?  Probably not.  Ferrari still appears slightly down on outright power.  With China and Bahrain both coming up, we may see the momentum swing back to Mercedes.  But all Ferrari needs to do is make sure they get one driver on the podium in those two races.  Come the European season, they should be able to take the momentum back from Mercedes, providing Merc doesn’t drop a massive power unit upgrade and blitzes them all.

No. 2 Drivers

While there can be no question that both Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen are supremely talented drivers, over the course of the race, each of them looked like nothing more than a well paid driver No. 2 for the top teams.  Kimi has done what he has done in years past and simply gone along with his race.  I hate to say it, because I do think Kimi is a great driver, he just doesn’t have it any more.  There is no fire in him.  He doesn’t appear to have the drive to go all out and push the car within an inch of its limits anymore.  He just seems content, a quality that is very rarely present in a world champion calibre driver.

Bottas, on the other hand, seems to be pushing the car at nearly every turn.  Hardly a lap went by when I didn’t see the young Finn having to quickly correct as he rear end stepped out around a corner.  This is neither a bad thing, nor entirely unexpected.  He was placed into the Mercedes last minute and hasn’t had the breadth of experience in the cockpit to be fully comfortable in the car.  The car wasn’t designed with his driving style in mind, so there will be growing pains.  And, let’s be clear, the guy has a lot to prove, so it make sense he would push his ass off.  He is sitting on a one year contract with the clear understanding that if he does not pull his weight, he will be booted at the end of the season.  That’s enough to make anybody want to push the car hard.  But that’s not always how you win championships.  He looks like he’s racing to prove to the team how good he is, but the problem is that the numbers aren’t matching up.

Old Dogs Same Tricks

Felipe Massa pushed his Williams through the midfield to earn himself the coveted ‘best of the rest’ spot.  I was very impressed with Felipe.  As I posted before I did not expect him to do this well, but he defied those expectations.  He drove a solid, mistake free race, that netted points, exactly what you want out of your veteran driver.  His teammate, Lance Stroll, for the most part managed to do the same.  Despite a massive lockup going into the first corner on lap one, Stroll kept his nose clean and would have been on for a potential points finish had he not run into car troubles.  Perhaps I was a bit too rash to judge him, but there is still plenty of time left in the season for him to disappoint me.

May the Force Be With You, Ocon

You don’t really have to say much else.  Ocon.  Damn, Ocon.  His pass on Fernando Alonso in the closing laps was really and truly breathtaking, the kind of overtaking that Formula 1 keeps trying to promote year in and year out.  It would have been impressive enough, but with Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg added to the mix, the pass was spectacular.

Across the entire weekend, the Force India chassis impressed and proved to be an incredibly well rounded car, netting 7 points via both drivers finishing in the points.  While the car may not have the outright pace as say the Ferrari or McLaren, it appears that the car may be one of the cars better suited to overtaking.  Sergio Perez was diving late into braking zones quite often early on, even though he did calm down a bit later on the race and seemed to be better able to follow closely behind other drivers.  I have to technical proof to back this up (as of yet), but I’ll be interested to see if, going forward, their chassis is able to run better in dirty air than the others.

About the Formula

The cars looks spectacular, there’s no question about that.  Lower wings, more bodywork to look at and digest, wider tires, the cars just look better.  They’re faster too, which is great and something that always excites.  But have these changes helped the sport in more areas than just aesthetics?

I’ll admit, and this is the biggest cop out answer in the world, I don’t know quite yet.  Yes, there were significantly fewer passes made in Australia than in years past, but, as I’ve stated before, Australia is never a good barometer for overtaking.  It’s just not a track you can easily overtake on.  But even so, the passes that we did see taking place, I’ll argue, were far more spectacular than what we’ve seen in years previous.  Simple DRS passes were not as common, we were able to see drivers like Perez, Ocon, and Hulkenberg going wheel to wheel through the corners, multiple corners, to make a move stick.

There are many out there who are complaining about the new Formula and the inability to follow, but just give it time.  If we see more passes like the ones we saw in Australia, but just more of them, we could be on for on hell of a season.

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