A look back at the 2018 Australian Grand Prix

Hamilton rues his luck as Vettel takes top spot
Post On , Friday, March 30th, 2018

A look back at the Australian Grand Prix

5 things we learned in Australia

Australian Grand Prix 2018
Australian Grand Prix 2018

 

And with that, the opening race of the 2018 Formula One season comes to a close and Sebastian Vettel takes an early lead in the championship. It was not the most thrilling grand prix by any stretch, but Albert Park is known for being a difficult track to overtake on. So what exactly did we learn from the weekend?

 

Mercedes remain number one

Mercedes still ahead of the rest
Mercedes still ahead of the rest

 

Lewis Hamilton will feel like his race victory was stolen from him. His blistering qualifying time on Saturday made heads spin, putting him six-tenths ahead of the Ferraris. His form continued in the early stages of the race as he slowly etched out a commanding lead over his nearest rivals, only for an unfortunate virtual safety car to put Vettel ahead. But the British driver’s pace is there for all to see and on another day he would have strolled away with the win. Next week’s Bahrain Grand Prix is more suited to the Ferrari car than Melbourne was, but make no mistake, Mercedes are number one on the grid.

2018 cars provide little overtaking

Overtaking remains difficult
Overtaking remains difficult

 

Concerns raised at the beginning of last season, and confirmed in some of last season’s races, have sprung up again. The modern F1 car is simply not designed to follow another one. Max Verstappen was vocal about the “worthless” opening race and stated he would have “switched off” had he been watching at home. Not surprising when there were only five on-track overtakes once the opening laps were complete. The FIA added a third DRS zone in the hope it would promote more overtaking but it was in vain, and worse, it is a sign the FIA are happier to paper over cracks rather than fix the underlying structural problems.

 

While the Haas have sprung forward….

Haas pace looks promising
Haas pace looks promising

 

Like every clock in Ireland, the Haas team sprung forward over the weekend. Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean were driving solidly in fourth and fifth, easily keeping the quicker Red Bulls behind, only for two errors in the pits forcing both cars to retire with unsafe tyres. Team boss Gunther Steiner blamed human error and a lack of practise, but in Formula One those excuses are not good enough. There are causes for optimism however: they have a super quick car, have made real progression in pre-season, and may have jumped ahead of McLaren and Renault in the pecking order.

 

….Williams have fallen back

Williams struggles are set to continue this year
Williams struggles are set to continue this year

 

A weekend to forget for the former giants. Sergey Sirotkin confirmed their worst fears as he started on the back row, out-qualified by this year’s other debutant Charles Leclerc in the Sauber. He retired after only a few laps with a brake failure. The team’s inexperienced driver, 19 year old Lance Stroll did not fare much better, qualifying and finishing in 14th. Williams will struggle to score points this season, despite their Mercedes engine, unless they can bring strong upgrades to their car – as soon as possible preferably.

 

Virtual Safety Car needs an overhaul

The Virtual Safety Car need to be modified
The Virtual Safety Car need to be modified

 

The VSC was introduced as a midpoint between yellow flags and bringing out the safety car, but really it has ruined more races than it has helped. Vettel had no business jumping ahead of team-mate Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton to win. Some may argue it gave a sliver of excitement to an otherwise dull grand prix, but in reality it robbed the fastest car of victory. The problem is that by slowing all cars down, it rewards anyone stopping for new tyres as they lose significantly less time in the pits while everyone else crawls around the track. Surely there must be a way to have the VSC only apply to the part of the track where the problem is.

 

This article is brought to you by Jason Coulter & Playnbrag

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