Hamilton defends title with victory in Australia

With only 11 cars finishing today’s race the Australian Grand Prix displayed more than the usual hiccups at the beginning of a new Formula 1 season.

Littered with rusty pit stops and collisions the whole 58 laps offered a spectacle of talented drivers suffering from poor reliability and unfortunate circumstances, three of the drivers not even making it onto the grid.

Mercedes On Top

The ever dominant Mercedes kept up their walls at the beginning of this season with Lewis Hamilton sitting in pole position and Nico Rosberg not far behind him starting in second.

Their quick pit stops and efficient strategy kept the pair ahead of the pack, a position they’re more than comfortable with after last season.

The two drivers remained in the same engine mode, keeping a tame approach to the race. They managed to kick off the season with a 2-1 victory as Hamilton claimed the first step on the podium, a position secured by a clean start and an efficient getaway from the first safety car. 

“[I] couldn’t quite beat him,” said Rosberg post-race. “I was trying every single lap all the way to the maximum and I will do all year. I’ll give him a big run for his money.”

Disappointments from Qualifying

Qualifying triggered Williams’ Valtteri Bottas to miss out on today’s race despite qualifying sixth, the Finn had complained of issues with his back causing the FIA to rule him out of racing due to soft tissue damage. 

However his team-mate Felipe Massa finished fourth after a valiant effort to catch up with now Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel, a task he couldn’t quite pull off due to a questionable pit stop strategy from Williams.

McLaren started from the back of the grid due to a poor qualifying. The bad luck continued as Kevin Magnussen, filling in for Fernando Alonso, failed to make it to the grid before the race.

“If we can get to the finish I think it’ll be a massive achievement,” McLaren driver Jenson Button told Sky F1 before the race. But despite doing so, the Brit was the only driver to finish without scoring points. 

Teething Problems

As expected the first race of the season saw reliability issues and unfortunate circumstances throughout, one being the safety car’s appearance on the first lap after the Sauber of Felipe Nasr clipped the back of Pastor Maldonado, a result of being sandwiched between the Venezualan’s Lotus and a Ferrari.

The other Lotus of Romain Grosjean also failed to make it past the first few laps, retiring to the pits shortly after the race began.

The hiccups continued as Daniil Kvyat also failed to make it to the grid due to a suspected gearbox issue. This threw a spanner in the works for the young Russian on his Red Bull debut.

Similarly car trouble caused his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo to use a second engine in the very first race, something that will likely cause problems later in the season due to FIA regulations. 

Highs, Lows and Pit Stop Woes

Despite his scuffle in the opening lap, Nasr put the brand new blue-coated Sauber through it’s paces from the very beginning. Making a surprising F1 debut and finishing 10th, the newcomer gave Sauber one of their best finishes in a long time.

Force India disappeared into the background with Nico Hulkenberg finishing in 7th and Perez in 10th. Perez struggled to regain pace when overtaking issues under the safety car forced him to give up two places. After trying to overtake Button on lap 14, the two collided after Button’s late breaking took the Mexican by surprise, causing him to spin.

The rusty pit stops during the race saw Raikkonen suffer from an 8.7 second pit stop, a potential issue arising from new wheel structures. Toro Rosso also suffered a shockingly long pit stop a few laps later with problems on the same wheel, leaving rookie Carlos Sainz behind by 36 seconds.

Retirements saw the 15 grid starters reduced to 11. In the second half of the race, youngest on the grid Max Verstappen saw smoke in the cockpit, forcing him to retire. The rookie remained his calm unfazed self. By Lap 41 Ferrari’s Raikkonen retired, stopping halfway through a lap and turning the engine off. 

A Mercedes 1-2 victory gave fans an unsurprising outcome but a pleasant surprise came in the form of Vettel earning the third step on the podium, this time in the red overalls of Ferrari.

The next race will be held in Malaysia on 29 March. We can only hope that between now and then most of the issues from today’s race will be ironed out and more drivers will see the chequered flag.