The 2015 Formula One World Championship season has kicked off in Melbourne Australia.
Drama engulfed the weekend from the get go, with a legal dispute between Giedo Van Der Garde and the Sauber F1 team which saw threats of impounding cars and the imprisonment of a team principal. As the weekend wore on and focus returned to the track it was clear that the Manor Marussia cars were not going to make it onto the track, however this is not due to a lack of effort from the team who have been frantically trying to write software and re-create their whole electrical systems on their cars from scratch,
With the absence of Manor the grid would already be reduced to just 18 cars, but then after qualifying it was clear that Valtteri Bottas was in pain with his back. On Sunday morning it was announced that he too would not be taking part in the Grand Prix.
On the way to the grid we had car failures for Kevin Magnussen and Danil Kvyat leaving us with just 15 cars lining up for the first race of this new season.
The Mercedes duo locked out the front row on Saturday and were in a class of their own again on Sunday, Streaking off at the start and keeping a status quo straight through to the end. Lewis Hamilton had the edge on his German team mate Nico Rosberg all through Saturday and Sunday, realistically Nico didn't get anywhere close enough to mount a challenge to the World Champion.
Lewis Hamilton had this to say afterwards:
"It's quite unbelievable, really, what this team has done. It's a great feeling to start off the season the way we finished the last and the car is just incredible, so thank you to the team. It was still a tough race, though, as Nico was very quick throughout. It was about managing fuel and also the tyres - trying to see how long we could push them. Once I'd built a two second gap it was about maintaining it. But when Nico turned up the heat it was tough. He drove really well and it's a great result for the team to start the season with a 1-2. It's good to see Ferrari back up here on the podium. I think they have taken a big step, so I anticipate a good fight with them this year at some point and we can't back off. In fact, the podium was pretty awesome. I don't often get star struck but I can't believe I was up there with the Terminator! Anyway, we've learned a lot this weekend and there will be a lot of analysis to do before Malaysia. Hopefully we'll keep finding ways to improve. Just because we had that gap today it doesn't mean we'll be cruising. There's still a long way to go. "
Nico Rosberg said:
"What a start for us. It's great to have the quickest car again and what an amazing job by everybody involved. A big thank you to the guys back in the factories for all their work. Okay, so now it's 1:0 to Lewis. He did a perfect job this weekend with no mistakes and improved a lot from Friday to Sunday. Yesterday after Qualifying I was already on the back foot and that's difficult to change in a race against Lewis. I need to have a better Saturday, which I was able to do last year. But it's still a long season with lots of races to go. I want to strike back in Malaysia, so that's the focus. Thanks to everyone in Europe for waking up so early and for crossing their fingers for us - we've had fantastic support and it's really great to see. "
Ferrari had clearly achieved a lot over the winter as their pace was vastly improved. Vettel had a solid race starting 4th and finishing 3rd whilst Raikkonen took a knock on the first lap and went on to have trouble with his rear wheel at the pit stop which led to his retirement.
Williams had just the one car after Bottas's withdrawal and the team was out-witted by Ferrari in the strategy stakes so that Vettel could leap frog Massa onto the podium however a solid 4th place was a fair result and the pending duel between the Williams and Ferrari teams looks set to be an exciting part of the coming season.
Felipe Massa had this to say:
"The aim of today was start the season with a solid points haul and demonstrate that we have a competitive car. We have managed to achieve much of what we wanted so this has been a positive start. The only disappointing part of the race was that I was jumped at the first pitstop by Vettel after losing a second and a half behind Ricciardo on my out-lap which was enough to lose the position. I have faith in the team and the car and we head to Malaysia knowing we are very much in the fight."
"I have done a lot of work since the issue with my back came in qualifying to get myself ready, starting treatment immediately, so the news that I couldn't race today was obviously disappointing but I respect the decision. I now have two weeks until the next race to receive further treatment to ensure I will be back to full fitness and even stronger in Malaysia. I’m very eager to get back in the car and race because the FW37 is looking competitive and I’m confident we can fight for podiums."
Sauber had a very eventful weekend but their testing pace was no error, they really are quite quick, yes they benefitted from others not taking part and failures, however both drivers finished in the points today which is a stark contrast to their completely pointless 2014 season. Felipe Nasr was involved in a slight knock with Kimi Raikkonen in the first corner however this didn't affect his race and he scored a very solid 5th place whilst his team mate had a spirited and battling performance to claim 8th place.
"I am very happy with fifth position in my first ever Formula One race. It is such a big relief for the team and myself that we are able to score points, and I am very pleased about this achievement. It was a tough race. Right after the start it was quite messy in turn 1, as another driver hit my wheel. I thought the car was damaged a bit, but after a few laps I noticed everything was fine. After that, the race went according to plan. There was pressure from behind during the whole race, which was not easy. That was an emotional race for me and everyone in the team"
"First of all, the team has done a great job over the winter. It is amazing for everyone in the team here in Melbourne and also back home in the factory to get this result in the first race weekend of the 2015 season. We have seen good progress during pre-season testing, and with this achievement I am really happy for everyone. For me as a driver, I have scored my first points in Formula One, which is a big goal achieved. Now, we can build on this for the next race"
Next up was Daniel Ricciardo who Started 7th but finished in 6th. It was a tough day for the Red Bull team with the Renault power unit clearly lacking in power and driveability.
"It wasn’t the most exciting race. After the start I was able to stay with Nasr, but I wasn’t able to get close enough to make the move. We finished the race and got some points which was positive, and there are things we can learn; I think on paper sixth was the best for us today. It was a shame for Dany, I feel for him I hope we have a smoother weekend in Malaysia. In terms of where we need to improve, the main issue is the drivability and the power, there are pretty big chunks that we know we need to find there. Beyond that it’s hard, as with the chassis itself I don’t think we’ve really been able to test it to its limits yet due to the other issues we’ve had. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we have got a lot of information from this weekend which will help us ahead of Malaysia"
Force India were very late with their car only appearing at the final test for the last couple of days, however the car was extremely reliable straight out of the box and both drivers finished the race, hulkenberg in 7th and Perez in 10th.
Toro Rosso endured a day very similar to the big team with only one car finishing, This was Carlos Sainz Jnr in 9th place whilst Max verstappen retired with a gearbox failure.
The final finisher in 11th place was Jenson Button in the Mclaren Honda, which may read like a disaster but in face this is a massive victory for the Woking team who's troubled start to the year has seen the car not drive for more than 12 laps at a time during testing. So to complete 58 laps and hold off Perez for a lot of the afternoon was a very good afternoon.
Jenson finished the day with these comments:
"Today has been a good day.
"We're still a long way off, but this is a good starting point – and I enjoyed the race. I even had a good little battle with Checo [Perez]. Today also really helps in terms of development: if we'd done three laps, we'd have learned nothing, so we've learned a massive amount by completing a race distance.
"It was also a good opportunity for me to get used to the car and to play around with it, making adjustments in the cockpit. There's a lot of work still needed – on power, driveability, downforce and set-up – but we can make big strides. And, by improving one area, it tends to snowball; more and more areas start to improve, too.
"There were more positives: we're as quick as the Force Indias in the corners, and we look similar in speed through the corners to the Red Bulls and Saubers, too.
"It's been a tough winter – our longest run in testing was just 12 laps, so today's 58-lap run was a good step forward – but we know we've got a lot of work to do. But, with all of today's learning, there are many areas we can improve for the next race."
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1h31m54.067s
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1.360s
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 34.523s
4 Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes 38.196s
5 Felipe Nasr Sauber/Ferrari 1m35.149s
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 1 Lap
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India/Mercedes 1 Lap
8 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 1 Lap
9 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso/Renault 1 Lap
10 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1 Lap
11 Jenson Button McLaren/Honda 2 Laps
- Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Wheel
- Max Verstappen Toro Rosso/Renault Power Unit
- Kevin Magnussen McLaren/Honda Not started
- Valtteri Bottas Williams/Mercedes Withdrawn
- Daniil Kvyat Red Bull/Renault Not started
- Romain Grosjean Lotus/Mercedes Power Unit
- Pastor Maldonado Lotus/Mercedes Collision
- Will Stevens Marussia/Ferrari Withdrawn
- Roberto Merhi Marussia/Ferrari Withdrawn