Source: AP via The Telegraph
“How about that?!” Bottas’ exclamation was all you needed to get a sense of how the Fin felt after his Albert Park victory. Mercedes dominated the entirety of the weekend from hammering pole in qualifying to nailing the race win on Sunday. Though the Silver Arrows will be leaving Australia with a positive outlook on what’s ahead, few other teams have much to look forward to. Time to break down round 1 of 21 with this weeks outlook; the good, the young and the ugly.
Sport comes with winners and losers, Formula 1 is no different. Opening weekend is always welcomed with a sigh of relief for the drivers as they’re back to routine, but routine isn’t always good. Renault is probably looking to be anywhere other than where they are. After losing their engine contract with Red Bull, Renault was determined to show that it was a mistake to let them go. Unfortunately, 11 laps in Renault were the ones caught red and raging like a bull as Carlos Sainz’s Renault powered McLaren suffered a mechanical failure ultimately catching fire forcing him to be the first retirement for the 2019 season. Troubles didn’t end there for Renault after newly signed driver Daniel Ricciardo, through no fault of his own, was forced to retire from damaged sustained in a lap one incident. That’s surely not how Danny Ric was hoping to start the season with a new team, and the seemingly same old lack of luck! Haas was also unsafe in the land of DNFs seeing Romain Grosjean retire in Australia for the third year in a row. Deja vu must have been the unanimous feeling in the Haas pits after failing to secure a tire in back to back years. Williams hasn’t been able to shake the bad mojo that’s been overshadowing their team for what seems like forever now, seeing their two drivers finishing last in the lineup. Thankfully, this weekend came to a close with no serious incidents occurring.
It seems the future is now after seeing four rookie drivers line up on the grid: George Russel of Williams, Antonio Giovinazzi of Alfa Romeo, Alexander Albon of Torro Rosso, and Lando Norris of McLaren. Despite finishing second last of those who finished, Russel did manage to finish a lap ahead of teammate Robert Kubica which means the young Russel is clearly comfortable in his new machine. Finishing just one place ahead of Russel, Giovinazzi displayed some absolute brilliance in his drive. Though it won’t appear in any points or reward, the 25-year-old Italian defended his position for a handful of laps on tires that would have given even the most skilled drivers on the grid a run for their money. It’s going to be a fun season to watch as Giovinazzi gets more and more comfortable with his craft at this level. Following the trend, Albon, in his Torro Rosso, finished one place ahead of Giovinazzi. Albon was seldom noticeable, but that’s not to say that the rookie wasn’t able to hold his own. Finally, Lando Norris, who is touted highly by Mercedes, was the best of the rookies this weekend finishing in 12th place leaving Sergio Perez in his dust. Despite being the only McLaren to finish the race it appears as though they may be one of the middle field teams to watch this season.
Good would be an understatement when you breakdown the weekend for Mercedes’ performance. Hamilton managed to blister his way to a new track record of 1:20.486, on Saturday, meaning that he’d start first on the grid on Sunday. First on the grid is an ideal place to start in any race, however, recent history hasn’t boded well for the pole sitter in Australia seeing only one in the last seven drivers who’ve started there emerged victorious. Bottas decided to further that statistic to 1 in 8. Not only did Bottas emerge victorious, he also managed to snipe the fastest lap, in his penultimate trip around the track, with a blurring 1:25.580. As if that wouldn’t be enough of a statement, he also hailed supreme picking up the Sunday triple crown claiming driver of the day with 28% of the vote in tow. Finishing on the podium behind King Bottas were teammate Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Ferrari may not have had the pace that they wanted to this weekend but that didn’t stop Charles Leclerc from showing what he is capable of in the future. Troubles seemed to plague his teammate Sebastien Vettel who, for an inexplicable reason, seemed to be far off pace slowing considerably near the end. Vettel’s frustration was apparent when he bluntly inquired over the radio “Why are we so slow?” Leclerc didn’t seem to be near as affected by the team's woes finishing just over a second behind Vettel. Unfortunately, Leclerc’s potential was stunted as team orders directed him to remain behind despite evidently better pace. In a more shocking turn of events, it seemed to be Red Bull who had the biggest discrepancy between their drivers as rising star Max Verstappen managed to podium, and his right-hand man Pierre Gasly was unable to crack a position in the top 10. Credit is due to Danny Kvyat who defended P10 excellently, but it will be a question for Red Bull team principal Christian Horner if this was a one-off, or if Gasly simply wasn’t ready to make the leap up to the A team.
Hollywood could not have written a better weekend for Bottas and fans of the Silver Arrows. This weekend was truly a fairytale start to the 2019 season for Mercedes and an outright disaster for others. In a fortnights time, F1 will be in Bahrain for the second round of the 2019 season. Let’s see how the drivers fair in a more formal racing environment!