A slightly delayed catch up on the heroes and zeros from the 2016 F1 Australian Grand Prix in our ‘hot and not’ list.
The race performance by the British rookie was a brilliant advert for the single-seater ladder system to F1. Palmer demonstrated race craft that many of the recent crop of fast-tracked-to-F1 rookies have severely lacked. Learning his trade craft through the ladder and on to GP3 and GP2 was very evident as he mixed it with experienced drivers throughout the race. The two hallmarks of his performance at the Australian Grand Prix: strong but clean. A great debut that promises much for the future.
Romain Grosjean & Haas F1
Whilst Esteban Gutierrez was getting it all wrong at the other end of the field, Grosjean was calmly nailing points for Haas F1 on their debut. Despite what Haas will say, this is the closest F1 can currently get to customer cars – something I’m fully in favour of – and the result on Sunday demonstrated the potency of the concept.
Credit where credit is due, there was still huge amounts of work to be done by the whole Haas crew to get to the point of finishing 6th in their maiden race. If Grosjean keeps up this kind of performance – and Haas can continue to deliver a solid and reliable car – he could be lining himself up for Ferrari and Haas F1 could be establishing themselves solidly in the midfield in year one.
Recovered well from mistakes in practice and being soundly beaten by Hamilton on Saturday to take his fourth win on the bounce. He makes the ‘hot’ list for not crumbling after qualifying, nailing his start better than Hamilton and taking full advantage of Mercedes’ extensive testing on the medium compound pre-season.
He will need to step it up a notch in subsequent races as he will not be able to rely on Hamilton messing up his start and Ferrari tying themselves in knots on strategy (see the ‘not’ list).
Mercedes qualifying pace
We all suspected it but just did not want to believe it – Mercedes were sandbagging on outright pace during winter testing. It is really disheartening for those wanting a tight championship battle but Mercedes have worked hard and done their homework.
Barring tyre issues/mistakes/mechanical gremlins/weather we can expect Mercedes to rule the pole position table for the majority of 2016.
Carlos Sainz Jnr
His actually quite strong rookie season was overshadowed by his wonder-kid teammate in 2015. Sainz seemed overawed by Verstappen’s reputation at times but Melbourne was a statement of intent that was both timely and bodes well for the neutral fan.
Sainz stubbornly refused to be intimidated or yield to his teammate in a way that was lacking last season. Thankfully it seems that the Spaniard has learned from his teammate that you have to beat the driver in the identical car first to progress in F1.
The Aussie pit Marshall
Whilst Kimi Raikkonen’s car burned in the pit lane, the Ferrari pit crew fiddled with their radios and pointed fingers at each other. Step forward the marshall that promptly extinguished the flames spitting out from the airbox above Kimi’s head. Kudos.
F1 is not short of embarrassing moments but this one has to be the greatest since the Indianapolis/Michelin debacle. Despite almost everyone saying it wouldn’t work we rolled in to Melbourne and watched a complete shambles courtesy of Bernie Ecclestone.
To have the top 4 cars parked and drivers almost or already out of their vehicles with 3 minutes of qualifying left was laughable. It was also disrespectful to the fans paying to watch. The silver lining is a return to the old system for round two in Bahrain.
Lack of running on the medium tyre during testing caught them out big time at the Australian Grand Prix. The fear of the unknown performance characteristics of Pirelli’s medium compound compromised what was a genuine shot at victory.
Worryingly for the Scuderia, this could become a regular issue throughout the 2016 F1 season. Depending upon the Pirelli tyre compound allocations, Ferrari will need time to build up knowledge during race weekends on the medium compound. That is data that Mercedes already possess. That in itself could be more decisive in the championship battle than Mercedes scoring a 1-2 in Melbourne.
The long middle stint for Raikkonen was nonsensical. It was of course down to their lack of testing coming in to play again but also the panicked, indecision that has plagued them since 2009.
The mechanical failure on Raikkonen’s Ferrari spared their blushes as we will never know how badly compromised his race really was. At any rate it was a reminder that Ferrari have not completely ironed out the strategic errors and misfires that resulted in Fernando Alonso abandoning the team at the end of 2014.
Young. Talented. Petulant. Forgetful. All verbs you could used to sum up Max Verstappen after the 2016 Australian Grand Prix. Demonstrating a frighteningly short memory for such a young man, Verstappen conveniently forgot about refusing to move over for faster teammate Sainz in 2015 whilst he moaned about being let through mid-race in Melbourne. Uncool.