Australian Grand Prix 2017
The weather is just perfect for the first Grand Prix of the season at Albert Park, Melbourne. From the qualifying rounds of Saturday, Mercedes has topped the qualifying rounds with Hamilton securing his 62nd pole with Bottas at 3rd. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel secured the 2nd position while his team mate Raikkonen took the 4th slot on the grid to complete Mercedes and Ferrari domination in the qualifying. Max Verstappen, Romain Gorsjean, Felipe Massa, Daniel Ricciardo and Fernando Alanso completed the grid positions.
Many in the stands would have expected a run-away victory for the world champions Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton to sweep the title at Albert Park. But Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel had other plans. With a much superior car, which was flying in pre-testing, and a race defining pit stop strategy, allowed Vettel to literally pull the carpet from under Hamilton feet to record the first win for the Prancing Horse since the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix, 28 races ago, and Vettel’s first win in 18 months.
It was the German’s 43rd career victory, but the way he dominated from the word go, told a lot on his attitude and the current state of his car. He relentlessly applied pressure on Lewis, forcing the Briton to make an early pit stop. Lewis regretted the decision immediately, as he ended up in a traffic behind Max Verstappen. And Vettel returned from his own pit stop in front and never looked backed after that, surging to victory by almost 10 seconds. There was little to separate between the two supremely talented racers and the battle between Vettel and Hamilton, who have won six of the past seven championships between them, has been drawn. The Ferrari’s proved beyond doubt that they are the ones to break the Mercedes stranglehold on this sport.
The local poster boy, Daniel Ricciardo, had a nightmarish weekend, as he pulled out of the race at lap 29 due to engine failure, leaving a strong 100 thousand Australian fans disappointed. Fernando Alonso had his share of misfortune too as he failed to finish the race. He had vehemently criticised his own Honda powered engines and swore that it would be an achievement if the McLaren car would even finish the race. But the Spaniard defined all expectation by lasting almost the full distance at 10th place, before a suspension failure forced his withdrawal.
Valtteri Bottas, the man who replaced the big shoes of Nico Rosberg, had an outstanding week, and finished third in his first race for Mercedes. Whether he would give Hamilton a run for his money in the races to come, only time can tell.
In the move of the day, at lap 52, Force India’s Esteban Ocon swept past Fernando Alonso with exquisite timing, bringing the crowd to their feet and lauding the young Frenchman, who is tipped to be a future Formula One champion.
But it was a bad weekend for Team Haas, as both their drivers, Romain Grosjean, who qualified in a surprising fifth, and Kevin Magnussen, failed to finish the race for the sole American team.
As the curtains comes down on the first Formula One race, all eyes now shift to Shanghai in China in a fortnight time. FI’s new CEO Chase Carey and his team at Liberty Media would like to sustain the momentum now as they leave the legacy of Bernie Ecclestone behind.