F1 In Review: "Here Comes F1, and I say it's alright"
MANAGING SPORTS EDITOR
As the last vestiges of snow leave our glorious campus and I break out my shorts, it means one thing is finally beginning—the 2015 Formula One World Championship. I’ve been waiting a long time for it, and as Beatle (and F1 fan) George Harrison sang, “It feels like years since it’s been here.”
Though it’s been only two months since the season finale in Abu Dhabi ended, it’s been a wild one. Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel left the familiar pastures of Infiniti Red Bull Racing to drive for the most hallowed team in Formula One, Scuderia Ferrari, which has seen a downturn in fortunes. Usually when this happens, the “Prancing Horse” brings in a Teutonic influence to be the head driver—Niki Lauda arrived 40 years ago to bring success, and nearly 20 years ago, Michael Schumacher joined the team, bringing them seven world championships in 11 years.
Former Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso joined McLaren, who secured Honda engines for the first time in 23 years, and seemed to be happy with the car in testing. That was until he suffered a huge crash which gave him amnesia and an undisclosed head injury. The world wonders what actually happened, but McLaren test driver Kevin Magnussen, whom Alonso replaced, is in the new car in Melbourne.
Could Magnussen repeat his third-place finish last year and join “super-substitutes” like Patrick Tambay (who replaced the late Gilles Villeneuve at Ferrari in 1982), winning two races—or would he be flustered? Well, he didn’t get far in his return, as his transmission went on his warm-up lap to the grid on Sunday.
Meanwhile, 14 cars made the start on Sunday, as Williams’ Valtteri Bottas injured his back in qualifying and didn’t feel well enough to drive, while the embattled Manor team arrived in Melbourne with no computer files with which to start their engines. Imagine showing up to your car having forgot your keys and it’s the exact same thing.
One team that did make the start was Sauber, who earlier in the week was about to have its cars and equipment seized and its boss thrown in jail for contempt after Giedo van der Garde, one of its drivers, was refused a seat and was planning to sue. Luckily, he came to his senses and dropped his suit for the moment.
As the race began, both Lotus-Mercedes cars were out within the first lap, while Jenson Button started his long slog in the remaining McLaren-Honda. Button would finish 11th out of 11 cars remaining, just outside the points. Ever the optimist, Button said he learned a lot from the race and continued learning about the car.
Meanwhile, the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg streaked out into a lead they wouldn’t give up, but it was the story of three rookies—Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz Jr. and Felipe Nasr—that truly made the race exciting.
Verstappen, 17, is the youngest driver ever to start a Formula One race (the kid doesn’t even have a driver’s license), drove a fantastic race for the first 34 laps or so, battling with Kimi Raikkonen for fifth place until his car developed smoke in the cockpit and he had to retire from the race.
Meanwhile, his teammate Sainz Jr. battled back to eighth place after a disastrous 10.8 second tire change (most are 2.5 to 4.0 seconds), and had been laying fifth for most of the day before the stop.
But let’s not forget Nasr, who nearly didn’t get to race by being a part of Sauber, for the young Brazilian finished fifth on his debut for the Swiss team. Nasr drove a clean race throughout, and looks to be a star in the making provided he can keep his seat.
While 15 cars doesn’t make for a healthy grid, it did certainly make for a good race. While some are concerned with the state of the sport, I say, keep it coming. One down, 19 to go, and if Melbourne was an indication of how the sport is running this year, it’s not great, but it’s not worrisome to me.
Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park Circuit, Melbourne, Australia, March 15, 2015
Race Distance: 58 laps X 3.295 miles= 191.11 miles
Lewis Hamilton (GB) Mercedes 58 laps in 1h 31m 54.067s
Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes 1.360s
Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari 34.523s
Felipe Massa (BRA) Williams 38.196s
Felipe Nasr (BRA) Sauber 1:35.149
Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull 1 lap
Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Force India 1 lap
Marcus Ericsson (SWE) Sauber 1 lap
Carlos Sainz Jr. (ESP) Toro Rosso 1 lap
Sergio Perez (MEX) Force India 1 lap
Jenson Button (GB) McLaren 2 laps
Retired from race
Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari
Max Verstappen (NED) Toro Rosso
Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus
Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Lotus
Did Not Start
Daniil Kvyat (RUS) Red Bull
Kevin Magnussen (DEN) McLaren
Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Williams
Roberto Merhi (ESP) Manor
Will Stevens (GB) Manor
Drivers’ Championship Points
Sainz Jr. 2
Constructors’ Championship Points
Red Bull 8
Force India 7
Toro Rosso 2