What did we learn from the Australian Grand Prix? Well, we learned that this year Mercedes is not unbeatable and Ferrari is resurgent. We also saw that Hamilton (Mercedes) can make some incorrect decisions and his team mate Bottas can certainly rattle Hamilton’s cage.
From Vettel’s (Ferrari) point of view, it was a straight forward race. When the lights went out, he moved into a very comfortable second place and shadowed Hamilton, forcing the British driver to come in early for fresh tyres, hoping he could shake off Vettel. He didn’t, but rather the opposite, coming out from the pits and then getting stuck behind Verstappen (Red Bull), known to be a tenacious driver, but the Red Bull was at least a second a lap slower than the Mercedes.
Ferrari President Sergio Marchionne said, “It was about time. I am delighted for the team and for our Tifosi who stood by us throughout this whole period. We’ve been waiting for this victory for almost a year and a half. Hearing the Italian national anthem again was very moving.”
Second Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas finished in third, behind Hamilton, and there were many who felt that he was following team orders after he had closed up and to then mysteriously drop back from Hamilton, who was getting progressively slower.
The second Ferrari driver, Kimi Raikkonen, had a lonely race to fourth and appeared to be having one of his ‘off’ days.
Consternation in the Red Bull pits as local hero Daniel Ricciardo stopped on the warm-up lap, with the gearbox jammed in 6th gear. Frantic work got him out again, but two laps down. With no hope of getting on to the podium, his car stopped again on lap 17.
His team mate Verstappen came in a solid fifth after pitting for new tyres, and was comfortably able to stay ahead of Hamilton at the early stage of the race.
You never saw him on the telecast, but the old war-horse Felipe Massa (Williams) stroked it through to sixth with no drama. The same could not be said of his team mate the young Lance Stroll who has spent just too much time parked in the walls. He undoubtedly has talent, but is not ready for F1. The similarity to Maldonado is obvious.
The Force India’s and Toro Rosso’s kept each other honest, with the last points scorer being Ocon’s Force India. A good race for the rookie.
Mention must be made of Alonso’s sterling drive in the underpowered McLaren, getting as high as tenth before more engine maladies, and Giovinazzi, the Sauber reserve driver finishing 12th in his maiden race.
It was an entertaining Grand Prix and showed that Ferrari has caught up with the Mercedes development during the off season. No contentious stewards decisions ensued, getting back to the days where the stewards were the judges of fact in disputes, rather than the heavy handed arbiters of rules as they were last year.