Team-Mate Battles

Team Mate Battles – Australian GP

In Formula One, the very first person you have to beat is your team-mate. So who did just that in Melbourne? Let’s go through the teams and hand out the TMB points!

Click here to read the rules to which the drivers are being judged.

Points system:

1 point is awarded to the driver who sets the faster lap.

3 points are awarded to the driver who performs best in qualifying.

5 points are awarded to the driver who performs best on raceday.

Sauber:

A nightmare off the track, but an absolute dream weekend on it. I’m not going to address the off track issues at all, as I’ve written enough about the whole situation in various articles recently, so let’s focus on the fact that the Sauber C34 looked like a genuine beast out there on Sunday.

Both drivers put in excellent races, but Nasr’s 0.9 second advantage in Q1 coupled with a brave and unyielding Turn 1 meant that the second Felipe found himself leading a train consisting of a Daniel Ricciardo & a Kimi Raikkonen in the early .Sp5rl!47rs of the race, having despatched a struggling Carlos Sainz after the safety car. He handled the pressure brilliantly, making no mistakes and holding on to legitimately take 5th place, with the only ‘inheritance’ being the retirement of Kimi Raikkonen after the Ferrari got ahead.

Marcus, having admitted to struggling in qualifying, opted to start on the medium tyre and then discarded them under the Lap 1 safety car in order to go on an aggressive strategy using three stints on the soft tyres. He picked his way back through the field, and pulled off a great pass on Carlos Sainz with three laps to go to show that maybe Caterham weren’t joking about the Swede not settling with the CT05 last year.

Even if Lotus had survived Lap 1 on Sunday, Sauber would have scored points regardless and potentially could still have beaten them. It will take several races to get a better picture of the midfield, but Sauber have already achieved 14 points more than they managed in the entirety of 2014.

Fastest Lap: Marcus Ericsson (1-0 to Marcus Ericsson) (after Round 1)
Qualifying: Felipe Nasr (3-0 to Felipe Nasr) (after Round 1)
Race: Felipe Nasr (5-0 to Felipe Nasr) (after Round 1)

Sauber: 8 – 1 to Felipe Nasr (Total After Round 1)

 

Manor Marussia:

Lots of cloak and dagger rumours surround Manor after a weekend where they never looked likely to actually take to the track. Did they show up just to keep the entry alive for the purpose of 2014 prize money? Does it really actually matter? The fact is that a viable financial and management structure has been put in place, debts are being sorted, and suppliers who were previously burnt (think Ferrari in particular) are willing to supply them.

Bernie’s decision to make Manor pay for their own freight costs seems unfair, and more of a punishment for a perceived transgression as opposed to an actual one. Lowdon, Booth and co. all obeyed the rules that all teams must, and the Australian race stewards explicitly said the team ‘used all reasonable endeavours to ensure that its cars were able to compete.’ 

Of course, Manor’s season is unlikely to improve much. Even if the cars had fired up, 107% was pretty much guaranteed to be out of reach. It could be the European season before we see Manor actually start a race, and if FOM decide to make Manor pay their freight costs for every race until then, the team might yet end up back in a financial hole. Shipping 30 tonnes of cargo around Asia and the Middle East isn’t complete chump change.

Neither turned a wheel, and while I dabbled with the idea of awarding race points to Stevens for having a hairstyle he’ll be battling his helmet for control of all season, it’s split points for Merhi & Will.

Fastest lap: Split points (0.5 each) (after Round 1)
Qualifying: Split points (1.5 each) (after Round 1)
Race: Split points (2.5 each) (after Round 1)

Manor Marussia: 4.5 to each (Total After Round 1)

 

Lotus:

To those of you who put money on Pastor Maldonado being the first man to crash in a race in 2015, congratulations on whatever your house-sized bets have earned you. However, it’s a bit unfair on poor old Pastor. I’ve watched the crash a few times now from different angles, but Daniel Ricciardo’s onboard start probably gives the clearest picture: the incident could have gone so differently. If Pastor had swooped back in to the left just a milli-second later, he would have been past Raikkonen & Nasr in an audacious move that would have made him look a hero.

Instead, Pastor opted not to loiter on the outside and hand back the advantage of momentum he’d built up, cut across Nasr, and wiped himself out as a result of the contact. On such small details are heroes erased, and no-one would have given the spin more than a second look if it hadn’t been F1’s equivalent of the Velociraptor Incident behind the wheel. (Check it out here: http://hasmaldonadocrashedtoday.com/)

Grosjean lost power during the formation lap, and spiralled down the order when the lights went out. He was forced to retire at the end of Lap 1. He gets the race points for being completely blameless in his own demise, unlike Pastor.

Fastest Lap: Split points (0.5 to each) (after Round 1)
Qualifying: Romain Grosjean (3–0 to Romain Grosjean) (after Round 1)
Race: Romain Grosjean (5-0 to Romain Grosjean) (after Round 1)

Lotus: 8.5 – 0.5 to Romain Grosjean (Total After Round 1)

 

Toro Rosso:

What an impressive showing from both of the Toro Rosso rookies. Slightly unexpectedly, given the hype surrounding young Max, it was Carlos Sainz who really shone when the pressure ramped up in qualifying. While Max had lost some track time on Friday with a battery sensor issue, he made small mistakes during qualifying that allowed Carlos to put some space between them. Sainz went into Q3, and took an excellent 9th place, while Max took 12th, a space in front of Daniil Kvyat’s Red Bull.

At the start, Sainz got away well, and made the most of the Turn 1 confusion to jump up to 5th while Max climbed to 9th with both Lotus’ falling by the wayside. Sainz fell backwards quite quickly after the safety car withdrew, thanks to an incorrect software setting which was quickly rectified. By Lap 7, Carlos was back down in P8, 6 seconds ahead of Max who had started on the medium tyre. They remained at that distance apart until Carlos made the pitstop that ended up costing him an extra twenty seconds relative to his rivals. Max continued on the medium tyres until Lap 31, pitting then from P6 and re-emerging in 8th, some 25 seconds clear of Carlos with neither due to stop again.

Max retired almost immediately on rejoining the race, his Renault power unit crying enough at just over 10% of its required lifespan to the obvious frustration of Jos Verstappen, who stormed out of the Toro Rosso garage. Carlos was slowed again in the closing .Sp5rl!47rs by an incorrect software setting, allowing Ericsson to get the jump on him with just over two laps to go. Phil Charles from Toro Rosso was annoyed post-race, saying ‘we’ve given away what could have been a positive day’, implying that all the problems encountered were outside the drivers control. For the moment at least, Toro Rosso look the equal of Red Bull.

Fastest Lap: Carlos Sainz (1 – 0 to Carlos Sainz) (after Round 1)
Qualifying: Carlos Sainz (3 – 0 to Carlos Sainz) (after Round 1)
Race: Max Verstappen (5 – 0 to Max Verstappen) (after Round 1)

Toro Rosso: 5 – 4 to Max Verstappen (Total After Round 1)

 

Force India:

Force India really have to be congratulated for turning things around so competently and efficiently following a winter of upheaval and delays. From the moment the VJM08 hit the track with just 2.5 days of testing remaining in Barcelona, it has looked stable, pliant to setup change, and most importantly, reliable. Such reliability has allowed the team to plough through a daunting amount of testing, and no distractions over the course of the Australian weekend.

Granted, the car still isn’t quite there speed-wise, with both drivers going straight to the soft tyre in Q1 to get through to Q2, which they did. That’s as far as they got though, 14th and 15th being their lot with Nico ahead by just 0.001 seconds, demonstrating that both drivers got what the car was capable of out of it. Their respective fortunes changed instantly at the start of the race though.

The pair opted for split strategies, Nico going for the soft tyres from the start and Sergio for the mediums. Hulkenberg had a race that can best be described as the perfect epitome of a Nico Hulkenberg race, taking the car as high as its potential allowed and keeping it there. Nico employed a two stop strategy and ditched his mid-race mediums for a short stint on a set of used softs to get to the flag, warding off a possible threat from Marcus Ericsson.

Sergio had climbed to 11th to be one position behind Nico at the safety car restart, but had to hand back position to Marcus Ericsson, whom the Mexican had passed before reaching the start/finish line when the safety car withdrew. This meant dropping back behind Jenson Button as well, and Sergio had to stare at the back of his former team-mate’s car for far more of the race than he probably initially envisaged, not shaking clear of Jenson until Lap 42 when the stops had played out. The reason for Sergio’s problems was that the McLaren was running the soft tyre, and with the MP4/30 chassis proving nimble, Perez rarely managed to get a look in by the end of the straights. Coupled with a spin on Lap 14 while battling Jenson, Sergio’s race proved to be a trying one, but he managed to bring it home for a point.

Fastest Lap: Sergio Perez (1 – 0 to Sergio Perez) (after Round 1)
Qualifying: Nico Hulkenberg (3 – 0 to Nico Hulkenberg) (after Round 1)
Race: Nico Hulkenberg (5 – 0 to Nico Hulkenberg) (after Round 1)

Force India: 8 – 1 to Nico Hulkenberg (Total After Round 1)

Daimler Media / Hoch Zwei
Daimler Media / Hoch Zwei

McLaren:

I have to admit, the sadistic side of me would have loved to have seen Fernando Alonso drive the MP4/30 Kevin got in Melbourne. While Fernando has a lot of characteristics that make him the scarily impressive competitor that he is, one of his flaws is that he does tend to get hot and bothered about things. Flying the whole way to Australia, qualifying pretty much at the very back and then breaking down within thirty seconds of peeling onto the track on Sunday….well, that would have guaranteed at least a spicy radio message. Seeing the car that he just jumped out of finish on the podium would have just added all the more to Fernando’s incandescence.

The jokes about Fernando maybe ringing Ron to complain of new maladies before Malaysia were very amusing, but back up an argument I made towards the end of last season. Right now, what exactly is Fernando needed for? Lotus won’t eliminate themselves in every race. Kimi Raikkonen’s wheel won’t make a bid for freedom at every race, and Daniil Kvyat’s Red Bull won’t rattle itself into oblivion at every race. Presented with a huge open goal in Melbourne, McLaren still managed to miss. Having a star driver like Fernando in the car while the team are way off even mid-field mediocrity is little more than an exercise in vanity, and is putting the cart before the horse. Jenson has spent a few years enduring the ups and very very downs of Honda power, and looks somewhat content to patiently and diligently work towards bringing McLaren back, something we all could reasonably expect of Kevin Magnussen too. Can the same really be said of Fernando Alonso? Can the fiery Spaniard really keep up a cheerful facade for a season of fighting for Q3, while Vettel battles Mercedes and Williams?

It’s been revealed that Alonso is now down to three engines as Kevin’s blow-up was serious, meaning that there will be penalties down the line for Fernando, adding to his woe.

Fastest Lap: Split points (0.5 to each) (after Round 1)
Qualifying: Jenson Button (3 – 0 to Jenson Button) (after Round 1)
Race: Split points (2.5 to each) (after Round 1)

McLaren: 6 – 3 to Jenson Button (Total After Round 1)

 

Ferrari:

Friends they may be off the track, but if there were any questions over how Vettel & Raikkonen would treat each other on track, the very first corner of 2015 gave us our answer. Vettel had gotten the better of Kimi in qualifying, with the Finn admitting to making errors. Just 0.033 seconds separated them, with Seb taking 4th and Kimi in 5th.

Launching off the line, Kimi hooked up his getaway better and arrived at Turn 1 in front. Vettel had stuck to the inside and braked later, forcing his way to be alongside Kimi at the apex. We all saw how it played out, but Seb’s forcing of the issue and Kimi’s response was an acknowledgement from both that friendship counts for nothing when they are racing. Kimi didn’t cut Sebastian off, although there was only a fraction of a moment where he could have done so approaching the corner, but Vettel dived anyway. Doing this, he knew that he would be compromising Kimi’s exit, but knew the resulting loss of momentum would also hamper the likes of Nasr & Ricciardo from getting past himself, as he too would have lost some momentum from taking the tighter line. Of course, Seb hitting the kerb and setting off the sequence of events that lead to Pastor’s crash was unforeseen by the 4 time Champ, but by then, he’d already gotten his message across.

Of course, Kimi could have been more aggressive with Seb, but chose not to be. Raikkonen is too experienced to throw a race away at the first corner, and this occasional timidity in wheel to wheel battle is now being preyed upon by the less cautious. However, the rest of the race proved that 2015 Kimi is very different to the pale imitation vintage of 2014. While Raikkonen lost out in the first corner melee and fell to 8th, he quickly despatched Carlos Sainz and then went for the undercut to pass Ricciardo & Nasr, something that worked perfectly despite his delayed first stop. Staying on the soft tyres, Raikkonen’s pace was equal to or better than that of the leader’s between Laps 28 & 38, and was just under 8 seconds behind Vettel when he pitted again for the pitstop that eliminated him. Without delay, Raikkonen would have re-emerged some 30+ seconds behind Massa & Vettel with 18 laps to go, but with tyres 16-20 laps newer. Unlikely then, that Kimi would have gone better than 5th.

Seb had a much more straightforward race. After despatching Kimi, Vettel stalked Massa throughout the first stint, and when the Williams pitted, put in three laps in the 1.32s having been stuck in the 33s behind Felipe. Combined with Massa losing time behind Daniel Ricciardo after emerging behind the Red Bull, Seb managed to get ahead of the Williams, and didn’t look back again for the rest of the race.

Fastest Lap: Kimi Raikkonen (1 – 0 to Kimi Raikkonen) (after Round 1)
Qualifying: Sebastian Vettel (3 – 0 to Sebastian Vettel) (after Round 1)
Race: Sebastian Vettel (5 – 0 to Sebastian Vettel) (after Round 1)

Ferrari: 8 – 1 to Sebastian Vettel (Total After Round 1)

 

Williams:

Obviously leaving the race non-participation of Bottas aside, it’s pretty difficult (and unfair) to gauge the difference in performance in qualifying too. Certainly, Bottas looked better through Q1 & Q2, having made it through Q1 on the medium tyre, while Felipe was 0.4 seconds faster having used the soft tyre. Valtteri was faster in Q2, albeit by just 0.099 seconds, and that’s where any reasonable comparison for the weekend has to end.

In the interests of fairness, rather than make assumptions about Valtteri’s Q3 deficit being injury-related, it’s just going to be split points across the board. It didn’t look like much would have split the pair regardless, with Bottas looking as though he would have joined in on the Vettel/Massa/Raikkonen scrap had he raced. Massa performed well, but lost his third place to Vettel by getting baulked by a stubborn Ricciardo during the undercut phase. Had the roles been reversed, would Valtteri have brought home the podium finish?

There’s little reason to think Bottas won’t be back in the cockpit in Malaysia, which means the possibility of needing a stand-in isn’t particularly high, but what would Williams have done if Valtteri had hurt his back during FP3 rather than qualifying? Based on Pat Symonds hastily distancing Susie Wolff from the drive in Malaysia, the team have no desire to actually race her. With Susie being present in Melbourne, the options were either to reach a hasty agreement with someone else’s reserve (maybe Jolyon Palmer?) and ignore Susie, or don’t run the car (and ignore Susie). Williams came dangerously close to having to admit their PR stunt.

Fastest Lap: Split points (0.5 to each) (after Round 1)
Qualifying: Split points (1.5 to each) (after Round 1)
Race: Split points (2.5 to each) (after Round 1)

Williams: 4.5 to each (Total After Round 1)

 

Red Bull:

Daniel Ricciardo is entering 2015 under a whole new set of pressures, pressures that didn’t apply to him in 2014. While in 2014 the team were still being led by Vettel, with Daniel along for the ride, this year it’s Daniel who has to guide Red Bull through their most uncompetitive start to a season since 2008. With Kvyat having only just found his feet in F1, Ricciardo has had to assume the mantle of a departed 4 time World Champion. While no doubt unpopular to say so, Daniel has yet to show that level of pedigree. Red Bull’s driver line-up has just three race wins between them, with one yet to ever finish on the podium. Compare this to the huge experience and success enjoyed by the line-ups at Ferrari, McLaren & Mercedes, and you can see why I have my reservations about whether Red Bull have gone for the right line-up.

Of course, the drivers don’t engineer the cars or engines, merely guide the engineers, and the first guideline that Danny Ric & Danny Kvyat have surely issued to Renault is ‘Make sure engine lasts longer than 50 kilometres’. Red Bull have been critical of Renault for years now, with a horsepower deficit during the V8 years masked by Adrian Newey’s brilliance. With the Renault powerplant now appearing to be even worse than last year’s comparatively poor offering, and with a seeming lack of direction having crept in at both Red Bull & Renault, the drivers deserve better than one RB11 rattling its own gearbox apart due to engine vibration, and the other having an engine that should have theoretically lasted until the end of the Spanish GP detonate during practice for Melbourne.

Poor drivability did nothing to hamper Ricciardo in qualifying, taking a 7th place that the Red Bull isn’t quite good enough for just yet. In the race, the RB11’s shortcomings were shown up by the Sauber of Felipe Nasr, the big shortcoming being the Renault power unit in the back holding Daniel to a 6th place finish. Kvyat didn’t get to start, and while it seems unfair to penalise Daniel’s strong race performance due to this, it would be more unfair to treat Red Bull any differently to the other single car races from McLaren & Williams.

Fastest Lap: Split points (0.5 to each) (after Round 1)
Qualifying: Daniel Ricciardo (3-0 to Daniel Ricciardo) (after Round 1)
Race: Split points (2.5 to each) (after Round 1)

Red Bull: 6-3 to Daniel Ricciardo (Total After Round 1)

 

Mercedes:

Lewis continued to show Nico that he is capable of hitting higher echelons of performance than he is, no matter what breathing techniques Rosberg seems to think will help to beat him. Nico had the upper hand throughout Friday, but Lewis stepped it up a gear on Saturday and never looked back. In 2014, Lewis hadn’t won a title since 2008, and still showed signs of self-doubt and occasional errors. Winning the title will have gone a long way to easing those doubts, but for Nico, he has yet to overcome them.

While the two drivers are generally inseparable in terms of raw pace, the battle of the Mercedes drivers is not a like for like comparison. Hamilton is a two time World Champion, the other a man who handed Lewis the title on a silver platter at the start of the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Nico still has those internal question marks, those niggly doubts, the ones that cause you to brake that little bit too late and run wide and put you on the back foot.

There is very little to compare between the two drivers on Sunday, as quite simply, Rosberg got crunched underfoot. While Nico’s fuel usage deficit to Lewis appears considerably smaller than last year, the closest Nico ever got to Lewis was 1.5 seconds on Lap 36. If Nico ever looked a little bit too threatening in those mirrors, Hamilton just eased it back out again. From 1.5 on Lap 36, it was back to 2.5 by Lap 39. This is a head game, and unless Nico pulls it out of the bag soon, Lewis is going to find this season a whole lot easier than last year.

Fastest Lap: Lewis Hamilton (1 – 0 to Lewis Hamilton) (after Round 1)
Qualifying: Lewis Hamilton (3 – 0 to Lewis Hamilton) (after Round 1)
Race: Lewis Hamilton (5 – 0 to Lewis Hamilton) (after Round 1)

Mercedes: 9 – 0 to Lewis Hamilton (Total After Round 1)

 

Totals:*

  • Lewis Hamilton – 9 points
  • Romain Grosjean – 8.5 points
  • Sebastian Vettel – 8 points
  • Felipe Nasr – 8 points
  • Nico Hulkenberg – 8 points
  • Daniel Ricciardo – 6 points
  • Felipe Massa – 4.5 points
  • Jenson Button – 6 points
  • Max Verstappen – 5 points
  • Valtteri Bottas –  4.5 points
  • Carlos Sainz – 4 points
  • Kevin Magnussen – 3 points
  • Daniil Kvyat – 3 points
  • Marcus Ericsson – 1 point
  • Sergio Perez – 1 point
  • Kimi Raikkonen – 1 point
  • Pastor Maldonado – 0.5 point
  • Nico Rosberg – 0 points

*Manor excluded until true average emerges.

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Thomas Maher

Co-owner, Chief Editor and a journalist for FormulaSpy.com - Ireland's only accredited F1 & Formula E website. Also working in the Irish radio broadcasting industry. Donations: PayPal - paypal.me/thomasmaheronf1 ETH/ERC20 - 0x9d0b8071180AAcB0bD5f0c1d43281768C73e8763

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