F1 returns to a changed Albert Park after the forced Covid hiatus and didn’t once fail to deliver on the drama front. Ferrari Dominance, Redbull attrition and a slowly-developing Mercedes team are all outliers as the F1 travelling circus return to Australia, the land of Daniel Riccardo and some of the most poisonous reptiles on earth.
First, though, are new rule changes providing the good racing we wanted?
A proper six-ship train towards the end of the race between Stroll, Gasly, Bottas, Alonso, Schumacher and Zhou validated a ‘Hard Yes’ to that question. If this isn’t a clear sign that things are getting better, we need to clean our glasses. It also tells me that as the drivers get more of a handle on the machines, these battles will become more prevalent with more cars joining and even closer racing. Greater excitement is on the horizon it seems.
Mistakes were made…but trust me, it’s a good thing…
Kevin Magnussen… Sebastian Vettel… Carlos Sainz… All seasoned veterans with heaps of experience prove that these new cars are still a big challenge and that is a good thing for the sport… Despite F1 drivers being at the peak of physical performance, the new regs are showcasing the very human part of the sport that was lacking when cars were too clinically forgiving. Part of a racecar driver’s tool of the trade is making the least amount of mistakes as they push the limits. The cutting grass, the lock-ups, offs and spins. It’s all a part of it. Let’s not forget that.
To finish first you first need to finish…
We’ve heard that old racing adage and Mercedes are fully embodying it… George Russell is proving his worth with his first podium and finishing ahead of Lewis but it’s the construction points consistency that is promising. There’s something happening in the Mercedes garage as they slowly start making progress from the otherwise shaky start to the season. Expect the constructors battle between the Redbull, Ferrari and Mercedes to generate the heat it should be delivering, soon.
Teamwork makes the dream work… well, sort of… the internal dilemma of Ferrari unfolding.
Carlos Sainz – we all know the Spaniard is trying hard to dethrone the golden boy, LeClerc as P1 driver but could he be trying too hard? After spinning out in the opening stages around Turn 9 and 10, after falling prey to the red flag in Qualifying, together with a nightmare start going from P9 to P20 suffering from no grip at the start, he needed to get into a hurry and carve his way through the field early on, overcooking it. It was always going to be risky business and one has to feel for him. Perhaps it’s time to release some of that self-inflicted pressure, dial it back and race his own race. Easier said but it’s food for thought and with the championship-winning car the Ferrari is, I don’t expect that to be the case.
Ferrari may have left the chat room
Ferrari may have left the “best of the rest” chat room with McLaren having no one to talk to. Then again, McLaren has had a poor start to the season. Albert Park could prove significant in the turnaround of Zak Brown and his orange team as they claw back with both Norris and Ricciardo finishing strong. A taste of things to come, or a flash in the pan? We’ll have to wait and see come the next race but it’s great to see the cream rising and with both drivers in the points which will surely inject positivity into the team. It’s great to see some positive results which will surely help with motivation. Perhaps even a ‘Shoey’ at Imola?
Some hope for Williams F1…partly.
Alex Albon and Williams showed exceptional tyre management, scoring some points for Williams… Albon’s performance also shines a light on Nicolas Latifi’s performance which, at this point, is proving to not quite be of the standard required at this level. It’s not exactly Lady Luck playing any significant part for F1’s French-Canadian drivers after the Latifi-Stroll incident during Qualifying, causing a red flag.
Your top three then are Charles LeClerc, Sergio Perez and then George Russell. LeClerc edging 34 points clear in the Championship battle. While it’s still too early to talk, it’s difficult at this point to see Ferrari letting its eyes off the prize and would require more than an own goal from the Italians. F1 now shifts off to Imola on 24 April. Expect the Fezza’s to get somewhat a warm welcome. Saluti!
Words: Brent van der Schyff
Images: Ferrari / Mercedes-AMG