Australian Grand Prix – Ahead of Round 2 in Bahrain, let’s reflect on the teammate battles from Melbourne. In Formula One, the very first person you have to beat is your teammate. So who did just that in Melbourne? Let’s go through the teams and hand out the TMB points!
Romain Grosjean may have grabbed the headlines due to his great drive in Australia, but his P6 was only possible due to the reset of the race as Esteban Gutierrez was caught up in that fearsome crash with Fernando Alonso. Grosjean had gotten the better of Gutierrez in Q1, and was leading the Mexican by 4.9 seconds at the time of the crash that put Gutierrez out.
Little to choose between the pair while both were on track, and Gutierrez appeared largely blameless for his race ending involvement in the Lap 17 wreck. Grosjean benefitted afterwards as he essentially didn’t make a pitstop and drove home to a sterling P6, highlighting his now obvious maturity and experience as he resisted the advances of Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg in the latter half of the race.
- Haas: 1 – 0 to Romain Grosjean (Total After Round 1)
Marcus Ericsson got the better of Felipe Nasr in qualifying and…well, not much else happened for the Sauber boys. Ericsson wasn’t to blame for the drive through penalty that he picked up for his car having a tyre blanket fitted after the 15 second warning before the restart after the red flag period, and presumably wasn’t to blame for the vibration that led to his retirement.
While there wasn’t much in it, there was no strategic element to play out – Ericsson had the better of Nasr up until his retirement and gets the point.
- Sauber: 1 – 0 to Marcus Ericsson (Total After Round 1)
Manor, despite their upgrade to the Mercedes power unit for 2016, started the race from their usual last row positions, with Haryanto, somewhat unexpectedly, outqualifying Wehrlein by 0.015 seconds. Starting behind the DTM Champion due to picking up a grid penalty for causing a crash in the pitlane due to a dawdling exit from his garage, Haryanto had a short race. The Indonesian driver fell ten seconds behind his teammate over the opening ten laps, while Wehrlein made a stellar getaway to vault up to P14.
The pitstops put paid to Wehrlein’s great position as he fell back down to P19, but he continued to open a gap to Haryanto before the Indonesian driver retired due to a drivetrain failure under the red flag. Wehrlein spent the second half of the race struggling with the tyres but this appears to have been car related as opposed to him. Points to Wehrlein.
- Manor Marussia: 1 – 0 to Pascal Wehrlein (Total After Round 1)
The flashy yellow Renaults lined up P14 & P15, with Palmer getting the better of Magnussen by 0.056 seconds as the Dane blamed traffic. His race went wrong almost immediately too, as he picked up a puncture leaving Turn 1 that had him trundling around at the back within seconds of the lights going out. Oddly enough, Magnussen said afterwards that he didn’t think he made contact with another car and race footage doesn’t show any obvious incident that caused his puncture.
Either way, the point goes to Jolyon Palmer. The British debutant put in a composed and combative drive, showing a steely defensive side throughout the race. A great battle with Valtteri Bottas was followed by holding off the obviously quicker Toro Rossos for as long as he could and, despite things getting very close, he didn’t lost his head at any point.
- Renault: 1 – 0 to Jolyon Palmer (Total After Round 1)
Unlike the level headed Palmer, Max Verstappen showed his petulant side in Australia. Just a tenth separated the two Toros in Rosso in Q3, with Verstappen edging Sainz out to take P4 with the Spaniard P6. Sainz pitted early due to struggling with front tyre locking, with Verstappen following a few laps later on Lap 13. After the red flag period, both cars were in strong points positions with Verstappen followed closely by Sainz.
The race got tricky for Toro Rosso as Sainz was brought in before Verstappen for their second stops, despite being behind on track. This appeared to be due to Sainz forcing the issue by radioing in to say that he was coming in on Lap 31. Verstappen’s stop on Lap 32 was delayed as “the team did not call him in” and he lost time and positions as a result. He fought back strongly to quickly catch back up to Sainz who was stuck behind Jolyon Palmer and then proceeded to have a few expletive filled rants at his team, who tersely told him to get on with it.
The Dutch driver was lucky to get away with his collision with Sainz as the race wound down, although there’s no doubt that it would have been fun to sit in with Franz Tost at the team debrief after the race. In a completely clean race, Verstappen probably would have edged the result. But part of F1 is dealing with adversity and the circumstances that arise. Verstappen failed to deal with them calmly and maturely and, instead, felt entitled to the position that Sainz had earned. Points to the Spaniard.
- Toro Rosso: 1 – 0 Carlos Sainz (Total After Round 1)
Perez edged out Hulkenberg by just a single tenth in Q2, with neither driver setting a time in Q3 to allow them the strategy call of starting on the Soft compound tyres. Hulkenberg had the better start and first lap, finishing it in P8 while Perez lost positions and fell to P11. The gap opened up to around five seconds between them by the time of the red flag, with Perez stuck behind Fernando Alonso.
Both drivers had planned on a single stop anyway, meaning the red flag slightly scuppered their plans but Hulkenberg was able to use the Medium compound to the end and finish the race in P7. Perez, like his teammate, pitted just before the red flag, but emerged further behind in P14 and stuck behind Jenson Button’s McLaren. He never really went anywhere from there and overheating brakes made life even more difficult. He finished outside the points and 17 seconds behind Hulkenberg.
- Force India: 1 – 0 to Nico Hulkenberg (Total After Round 1)
Williams aside, McLaren were the only team to start their drivers on different compounds. Alonso started the race on the SuperSoft from P11, with Button on the Soft from P12. Button held position at the start, with Alonso gaining a place and opening up a gap of three seconds before making his first stop. He took on the Soft tyre, while Button pitted on Lap 15 and took on another set of Softs. They were P13 & P18 after these stops, with Alonso some 17 seconds in front.
Unusually for Alonso, he appeared to be the man more at fault in the Gutierrez collision that ended up visibly shaking the Spaniard. He’s walked away from some terrifying crashes before but his broad smile and comments that “he knew he’d used up some of life’s luck” afterwards showed that he knew he had been very fortunate on this occasion. While Alonso appeared to have a slight edge over Button over the weekend, there was too much of the race left to play out to rule in his favour, particularly in light of the crash. Point to Button.
- McLaren: 1 – 0 to Jenson Button (Total After Round 1)
The Australian GP looked as though it had fallen straight into Vettel’s lap in the opening seconds of the race. He outqualified Raikkonen, although not by a whole lot, and pounced on the two Mercs as they hesitantly pulled away from the line. His outbraking of Rosberg at Turn 1 was confident, and to have Raikkonen sweep past the wrong footed German to take P2 must have had the former Champion grinning ear to ear when he looked in his mirrors on the straight down to Turn 3.
In the end, the race didn’t play out particularly well for either Ferrari. Raikkonen’s opening stint was arguably too long and saw the Finn fall from around three seconds behind Vettel to 18 seconds just before the red flag period. He still looked strong for a podium and, had the race gone cleanly, probably would have gotten it. Unfortunately, his turbo had other ideas and the 2007 Champion was out before half distance. Vettel, having weathered the attempted undercut from Nico Rosberg, continued to lead but Ferrari’s decision to keep the already used SuperSoft fitted after the red flag didn’t allow him enough pace to pull away from the Merc, or enough distance to stay ahead of Lewis Hamilton after another pit stop. A late race error was relatively minor, and forgivable.
If Raikkonen can keep this level up, the Ferrari battle could be cracking this year.
- Ferrari: 1 – 0 to Sebastian Vettel (Total After Round 1)
The Williams team weren’t quite as competitive as they might have hoped for in Australia. P3 & P6 in 2015 qualifying was P6 & P11 in 2016, Massa ahead of Bottas by 0.3 seconds as the Finnish driver struggled with grip in Q2.
Bottas, who picked up a 5 place grid penalty for a new gearbox, started the race on a new set of Softs, and lost a position on the opening lap, resulting in P17 at the end of Lap 1. . Massa, starting on his Q2 SuperSofts, gained one over Lewis Hamilton but couldn’t hold him off for long. The Brazilian pitted early, emerging behind Bottas but quickly catching and passing back the Finn. Bottas then got very unlucky, pitting just seconds before the Alonso/Gutierrez crash that brought out the red flags. This meant he lost positions while others gained a free, or better timed, stop. On resumption of the race, Massa was P8 with Bottas outside the points although both were now on the same Medium tyre.
Both managed to gain positions, with Bottas engaging in a great battle with Jolyon Palmer while both benefitted from the Toro Rossos falling backwards and tripping over themselves. Massa finished P5 with Bottas P8 after a good recovery drive. While Bottas did nothing wrong in particular, the point goes to Massa.
- Williams: 1 – 0 to Felipe Massa (Total After Round 1)
A Friday practice off from Ricciardo didn’t do much to improve Helmut Marko’s apparent mood on Friday but there were no errors on Saturday as he finished P8. Kvyat was the big name scalp in the early part of qualifying, with the Russian driver encountering traffic and degrading tyres in his efforts to progress. This meant a P18 start for him on his second Australian GP with Red Bull.
That’s where any meaningful comparison ends really, as Kvyat retired on the formation lap due to an electrical problem and was forced to the sidelines to watch wistfully on, dreaming about a day where he can tackle Albert Park on a racing lap.
Ricciardo pitted on Lap 12 to ditch his used SuperSofts for a new set, and was still in the points at the time of the red flag. Fitting the Soft tyre for the restart, he had plenty of pace, but not enough longevity to hold onto what looked like what might have turned into a lucky podium spot. However, a recovering Lewis Hamilton put paid to that and he finished P4. He was still overjoyed though, saying afterwards that he’d gotten on the radio a few times just to whoop his appreciation to be back racing.
- Red Bull: 1 – 0 to Daniel Ricciardo (Total After Round 1)
Hamilton looked to be back to his best throughout practice and qualifying as he comfortably saw off Nico Rosberg’s challenge to claim pole position by 0.3 seconds.
However, Rosberg’s start was the better one and, while outwitted by the Ferraris at the first turn, he emerged three positions ahead of Lewis Hamilton at the end of Lap 1. Rosberg pitted on Lap 12 to ditch his used SuperSofts, coming back out on Softs in an attempt to jump Sebastian Vettel who was just three seconds ahead on the lap Rosberg pitted. Narrowly missing out, Rosberg did clear Raikkonen in P2 and kept the pressure on Vettel for the next couple of laps.
Hamilton worked his way back to P2 as others pitted, with a later stop on Lap 17 to take on the Medium tyre. He emerged over thirty seconds behind Rosberg and on the slower tyre. The race was red flagged moments later, depriving us of what could have been another great strategic battle. Both resumed the race on a fresh set of Mediums and raced to the flag. Rosberg took the win as Ferrari made a strategic error, with Hamilton racing home to P2.
Had the red flag not happened, it would have been interesting to see if Hamilton could have recovered any ground on Rosberg. He was over thirty seconds behind but presumably didn’t need to stop again as he was on the Medium tyre. Rosberg, on the Soft, definitely did need to stop again but should have been able to at least preserve his lead before pitting again, giving himself roughly a buffer of 10-15 seconds and on a fresher set of Mediums, with track position, to get to the flag. Point goes to Nico.
- Mercedes: 1 – 0 to Nico Rosberg (Total After Round 1)
- 1 – Nico Rosberg
- 1 – Sebastian Vettel
- 1 – Daniel Ricciardo
- 1 – Felipe Massa
- 1 – Jenson Button
- 1 – Nico Hulkenberg
- 1 – Carlos Sainz
- 1 – Jolyon Palmer
- 1 – Pascal Wehrlein
- 1 – Marcus Ericsson
- 1 – Romain Grosjean
- 0 – Esteban Gutierrez
- 0 – Felipe Nasr
- 0 – Rio Haryanto
- 0 – Kevin Magnussen
- 0 – Max Verstappen
- 0 – Sergio Perez
- 0 – Fernando Alonso
- 0 – Valtteri Bottas
- 0 – Daniil Kvyat
- 0 – Kimi Raikkonen
- 0 – Lewis Hamilton