What Happened Guys? -Australian GP

What Happened Guys? -Australian GP

Vettel-4
Hamilton-4

All the manufactured drama, the ugly halos, the inability of F1 to get their streaming service up and running in time for the start of the season, the threats regarding the future of F1...none of it matters.  Sure it's all good fodder for the talking heads, the haters and the fanboys and girls, but all that is meaningless.

This season is about breaking a tie.  Two drivers, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton started the the Australian Grand Prix with four F1 World Championships each.  The two most dominant drivers of the last decade are going to battle 21 times this season to determine just who is the best driver of this generation.  If we count out other challengers, and should either of them claim their 5th title, one of them will be within reach of Schumacher’s seven titles.

Mercedes still looks dominant, with proof coming in qualifying as Hamilton set a new lap record (1.21.164) at Albert Park while claiming pole.  

After qualifying 3rd, Vettel became the third man in history to lead 3,000 laps in his career, after Michael Schumacher and Hamilton. He also equalled team mate Kimi Raikkonen’s tally of wins for Ferrari, in 71 fewer races.

What Happened Guys?

The start of the race really started in the post-qualifying press conference.

Hamilton: I can assure you we don’t have a party mode. I use the same mode from Q2 to end of Q3. So there was no extra button, there was no extra mode that I engaged in.
Vettel: What were you doing before then?
Hamilton: I was waiting to put a good lap in — plus, wipe the smile off your face.”

They continued:

Vettel: I think he said it so quick the first time I didn’t get it, so now I got it, thanks for repeating it. I think what goes around comes around. At the end of the day that’s why we’re here, we want to have fun. If that’s what he enjoys, obviously on Saturdays he’s doing pretty well.
Hamilton: It was a joke.
Vettel: I know but… He’s free to have a party tonight and then hopefully Kimi and myself will have a party tomorrow.
Hamilton: Kimi parties all the time so…

Game on!
 

The deciding moment in the race occurred during a virtual safety car (VSC).  Vettel, who had not been the fastest Ferrari of the weekend, was told to stay out longer on track while other cars pitted.  After a double face palm by the Haas team that left Romain Grosjean stranded on track the VSC was called into action.  Vettel pitted, and when he emerged he was ahead of Hamilton.  The reason for this, according to Mercedes was a “timing glitch.”  According to Mercedes the computer software calculated that Vettel would only need a 15 second gap to make the jump and that the team had Hamilton stay within a 3-4 second margin to prevent such a pass after Vettel’s pitstop.  The logic (er excuse) is that had Hamilton been given the appropriate information he would have driven faster to close down the gap and not allow Vettel to pass.  All of this is to say that boy oh boy.  Formula 1 is really in trouble if the difference between winning and losing is not up to the driver, but up to software.  Whatever happened to guys with stopwatches doing manual calculations?  This glitch reveals either 1) Mercedes is full of it and got caught out on strategy and are blaming a software glitch to appease what was a very angry Hamilton, or 2) It really was a glitch and Mercedes does not have any kind of back up system, whether it be a computer or a stopwatch.  

In the post race analysis many commenters pointed out that even if Hamilton had come out first by the end of the race he would have to defend on older tires from Vettel.  If it it was lucky on the part of Ferrari so be it. They have gambled previously with strategy to come up zero.

Takeaways:

McLaren-  Alonso finished 5th after holding off Verstappen for the last 20 laps of the race.  It was his best result since rejoining the team in 2015 and was accomplished with the new Renault power unit in the back.  (Well done!)

Verstappen- He did his usual fly by the seat of his pants charge through the field. Unfortunately, it appeared that he may have run his Red Bull to exhaustion in the first stint. He has immense talent and speed but the modern era of F1 is about patience 

Bizarre-O-Hass-F1- After showing tremendous promise in pre-season testing and during qualifying, they appeared poised to make what looked to be a top ten finish for both drivers.  In a cruel twist of fate Hass' day came to an end through almost identical pit mistakes.  Cross-threaded wheel nuts are being blamed for two mistakes in the pit lane that took out both cars while running in 4th and 5 place.

Vomit Comet- Carlos Sainz spent the last part of the race on the verge of throwing up in his helmet.  His drink bottle was feeding him too much water for the first 10-15 laps.  In spite of this freakish malfunction he finished in 10th place.

Its a Long Season-  The result in Melbourne doesn't weigh much on the rest of the season.  The Albert Park circuit is one of the most difficult on which to pass another car.  We saw good lap times from Red Bull, Haas and McLaren.  Mercedes, as long as it was in front, put down great times.  Kimi was in great form with fast lap times.  Given the limits of off-season testing the Australian Grand Prix is really a big televised shakedown where teams learn where they need to improve...and every team learned that they have a lot of changes to make. 

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