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Notebook – Australian Grand Prix – Review

Valtteri Bottas has got his 2019 season off to a great start, with a dominating race win in Melbourne. The whole weekend was a story of surprise as we believed that Ferrari were going to be ahead of Mercedes this weekend.

 

Bottas stronger than ever?

Valtteri Bottas has really recovered from that disappointing 2018 season, we have seen throughout the weekend when it mattered he came out to fight hard. I wonder if Toto Wolff telling him to “disappear” over the winter has acted as a reset for his career.

Looking at Bottas and the way he has talked not only this weekend but in Barcelona, that he wanted to be bullish and self-centred to try and beat Hamilton. We rightly saw no team orders and seen Bottas beat his teammate fair and square.

After his victory, Bottas issued a curt riposte to his critics over the radio and elaborated by saying that he felt much of it had been underserved. “In sport there are always ups and downs, so you can really see the true support easily.”

“During the difficult times it’s the other part which is a lot more negative and that is their weakness. I can’t say criticism is unfair because everyone can say what they want but ‘to whom it may concern’, maybe they should look in the mirror and think why they do that.”

He rightly called it one of his best races, I can’t think of a win better than this one reminded me of Sochi in 2017. He has now beat Hamilton on track, however, we need to hope that his season doesn’t unravel like last year.

 

Ferrari had  “way less grip”

Sebastian Vettel says that his Ferrari had “way less grip” in the race than it did during pre-season testing in Barcelona. His team entered this weekend as the favourites given the teams performance and single and long run pace during the eight days of testing.

But throughout this race weekend, Ferrari have been outpaced by Mercedes, with Lewis Hamilton beating him by seven-tenths to take pole with Bottas in between. In the race,  the two Mercedes managed to pull out a fifty-seven second lead over Charles Leclerc.

when asked what was different about the Melbourne weekend compared to testing, Vettel said “If you want to be fair, then way less grip. In Barcelona we were very happy with the car right from day one. The balance was right, the car was responding to what I was asking it to do. I had a lot of confidence.”

“All weekend, summing up, I didn’t get that confidence that I had in Barcelona so I didn’t have the car underneath to play around. It wasn’t doing what I was asking. There were glimpses here and there that were really strong, and I think our performance in some corners was really good.”

Asked if he stopped too early, he said he thought so but believed that I was the right call because he didn’t have the trust in the car and he really struggled.

 

Ferrari use team orders

Ferrari used team orders in the race to help its lead driver Sebastian Vettel, I’m not surprised by this. But the biggest talking point I feel from this weekend is the lack of pace given their performance in Barcelona where they set the pace.

Ferrari had the option to switch their two drivers in the closing stages as Leclerc caught Vettel. “Should I stay behind Sebastian? Yes or no?” asked Leclerc. The response on team radio: “Yes, and back off to have some margin.”

This is race one, Ferrari wouldn’t have gained any points or championship position and there was no way given the twenty-second gap to Hamilton that Vettel could catch him in ten laps. However,  honestly, I’m not really surprised.

Team boss Mattia Binotto “When Seb pitted to put the medium tyres he didn’t find the grip he was expecting and was attacked by Max Verstappen. So we decided to take the car home, he was managing the tyres to the end. 10 laps to the end as a team we decided not to take any risks, hold positions and to bring the cars home scoring points.”

Leclerc was on the harder tyre and had done a much shorter stint and had quickly closed down what had been a 12-second deficit to the lead Ferrari.

We know Binotto was honest about Ferrari’s plan to give Vettel  “priority” during the early stages of the year.

Vettel was asked about that prospect before the race in Melbourne, but said it was “pointless to start pointing out certain scenarios”. Leclerc added to reporters: “To be completely honest it’s 50-50 situations and when the time will come I will probably be let know in the car.

 

Verstappen impresses with Honda

Max Verstappen scored Honda’s first podium since Silverstone in 2008 and he says that he felt that “at least have a go” at his rivals at top speed. I think that him being able to catch and pass Vettel and try to pressurise Hamilton has shown the progress in the Honda power unit.

The Dutchman caught and passed Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari during the race and pressure Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes in the closing stages as well. Asked by Motorsport.com how encouraging that race-long performance was, Verstappen said: “In general I’m just very pleased.

“I could at least have a go at it in terms of top speed. It’s good progress, there’s a lot of positive things coming as well. Valtteri [Bottas, race winner] was very far ahead, still. It was a good result today but we still have to work hard to improve.”

The third place was the first official podium in Melbourne since Sebastian Vettel’s win in 2013, although they finished second the following year Daniel Ricciardo was disqualified for a technical infringement.

Verstappen insisted it was “a very good step forward compared to last year” after beating the Ferraris by more than half a minute.

He added “If I just compared top speeds against the other two teams. I’m very pleased with that. Also, I think in general the engine has been performing very well without any issues. I guess time will tell if we can fight for top spot.”

 

Haause of nut horrors II

It was a case of deja vu for Haas because a wheelnut problem and a slow pit stop led to Romain Grosjean’s retirement for the second year in a row.

Twelve months on from last years wheel nut failure the Frenchman came in from seventh and the team had two attempts to try and fit the nut. He did rejoin the race in the midfield, and he retired 14 laps later when the wheel became loose.

Team principal Gunther Steiner said the “deja vu” retirement was the result of the wheel nut having been damaged during the troubled stop.

Steiner told reporters “On the pitstop, you could see that there was an issue, He lost seven seconds and the race was gone there – even if he got to the end there wouldn’t have been points. They got the wheel back on, so we didn’t lose the wheel like last year. But after 15 laps it mechanically broke”

Asked if memories of last year had made Haas practice pitstops too much this season and make the process more tense, Steiner replied: “No, no, no, it’s difficult to define if you over-practice. We know not practicing doesn’t work!

“I think we did very good preparation this year. I’m not a big believer in being unlucky, you make your own luck.”

 

Kubica’s grid panic

Robert Kubica says that a pre-race panic that he could not see the start lights, plus a mirror falling off his car early in the Australian Grand Prix, added to the dramas of his Formula 1 return.

The Polish driver was taking part in his first race since 2010, but any hopes of a brilliant come back were dashed in a first corner collision with Pierre Gasly broke his front wing.

But that was not the only incident that the Williams driver had to battle through, as he eventually came home 17th and last. Speaking about his afternoon, Kubica said the first worry came when he formed up on the grid and realised that his view of the start lights was obscured.

He said “I had a bit of panic because when I stopped I couldn’t see the lights. The rear wing of the McLaren [of Carlos Sainz] was hiding it. I could see the first block and not the rest. So I had to move to the left and it was a bit of a panic moment.”

He said that things were tricky on the way down to turn one and he took it safe, but from what he saw Gasly moved quite a lot to the right and there was contact with Sainz and Gasly damaged my front wing.

 

Conclusions from round one

Mercedes go away from Melbourne with victory, but how they found that pace over the last two weeks is the biggest question. Valtteri Bottas leads this championship and we can’t fault his weekend; he has shown his true performance and what he can do.

Ferrari are a surprise when we got here we thought that they would be strongest but they have been beaten on pure speed and performance by both Red Bull have shown this is a three horse race. The challenge in Bahrain and Shanghai are very different to Melbourne.

The expectation from Red Bull has been exceeded, they scored a podium and beat Ferrari on track. This is a great result given how poor the Honda has been, but we need to remember what happened last year after Bahrain they fail

 

Social Media

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, P1 “Yess!! 🏆A winning start to the season 2019 🇦🇺 Feels so good. And very proud of us @MercedesAMGF1 🙏🏼 Thank you #VB77 #F1 #AUSGP”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, P2 “Fantastic effort from the team this weekend to start with a 1-2. Super proud of everyone back home for their hard work over winter to provide us with a car that we can fight with. Great drive from Valtteri, well deserved. Let’s keep this up team @MercedesAMGF1 📷 @MSI_Images”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, P3 “very happy to start the 2019 season on the podium 💪 We had a great car, so a big thank you to @redbullracing and congrats to @HondaRacingF1 for the their 1st podium in the V6 era 🙌 #KeepPushing 🇦🇺 #AusGP”

Honda “A good start! This was the first race of the season and our first with Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, so it was encouraging to finish third. It is the first time Honda has been on the podium since 2008 and the first time in this hybrid power era.”

Sergio Perez, Racing Point, P13 “It was Not the day we expected, we underestimate the grip on the ripped and we went wrong. A great year Is Coming! Looking forward to the arrival of Bahrain soon. #AusGP #Checo11”

Alex Albon, Toro Rosso, P14 “First F1 Weekend over with! Happy with how it went, a bit disappointed with the final result but lots of positives to take away! 😄 #ToroRosso #HondaRacingF1 #RedBull #AA23”

Championship standings

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Jack Fielding
Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.

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