Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne was certainly an exciting season opener after such a damp squib of a qualifying session on Saturday.
There were several winners and losers from the race day and it almost seems that the talk about qualifying has faded away post-race after some great wheel-to-wheel racing and a big shunt between Esteban Gutiérrez and Fernando Alonso.
Nico Rosberg may have taken the win in Australia in great style with another 1-2 for Mercedes, but it was debut team Haas that showed a great performance by the team and Romain Grosjean. For a brand new team coming into the sport and the challenges that faced them, they showed what was possible with a solid P6 by Grosjean in their first race.
Daniil Kvyat didn’t the most eventful weekend in the Red Bull Racing RB12 after a terrible qualifying and on race day his car ground to a halt on the warm-up lap. Incredibly this was the Russian’s second ‘Did Not Start’ in as many Australian Grands Prix.
On the other hand, his teammate Daniel Ricciardo managed to score a solid fourth place with a two-stop race, taking on the Soft-compound Pirelli tyres and then running the Super Softs in his final stint to overtake Williams’ Felipe Massa.
Ferrari may have got a podium with Sebastian Vettel, however there are many talking points to their weekend in Melbourne. The first was why the team did not switch Vettel onto the Medium-compound strategy favoured by most of the remaining runners during the red flag. Whether he would have finished higher than he did by doing so is academic given the Mercedes’ seemed to be the quicker cars.
The second point surrounding Vettel was his uncharacteristic error with two laps to go while chasing down second-placed Hamilton; this ultimately cost him a shot at snatching P2 from the defending champion.
Vettel’s teammate Kimi Räikkönen lost power in his car and shortly afterwards he crawled into the pit lane with a turbo fire. A DNF was not the start he needed to his 2016 campaign, which will be under the spotlight amid questions about his future in the sport.
Scuderia Toro Rosso finished their race with a double points finish with Carlos Sainz in P9 and Max Verstappen getting the last world championship point in tenth. But after an amazing qualifying performance – where Verstappen was fifth and his teammate two spots behind – it has to be considered a disappointment for the team. A frustrated Verstappen didn’t have the smoothest run to the flag, regularly complaining about being held up by Sainz Jr and then compounding his race with a late spin trying to overtake the Spaniard.
Jolyon Palmer had a successful Grand Prix debut in his Renault, but will be frustrated to have finished just outside the points after some great overtaking and defence in the race. For a driver who hasn’t driven in anger in over a year, it was still a solid showing.
Despite the promises shown by both Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button making it into Q2 in their McLaren Hondas, it was a poor race for the Woking squad. Alonso was eliminated in his frightening crash after hitting the back of Gutiérrez, while Button lacked true pace and finished a lap adrift and out of the points.
Image via George Hitchens Photography