The F1 season kicked off this year with the first Grand Prix at the Albert Park race track in Melbourne. Right through practice and qualifying (based on the new elimination rule), Mercedes led the way with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. The race was won by Nico Rosberg, followed by Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel in third place.
Lewis Hamilton had a bad start - pushing him to 7th from pole, but ultimately finished 2nd behind his team-mate. Sebastian Vettel – who led into Turn 1 and looked very much in charge prior to the red flags – had to settle for 3rd place as a consequence of the tire strategy chosen by Ferrari. Australian Daniel Ricciardo took a popular fourth place for Red Bull, well clear of the Williams of Felipe Massa, while Romain Grosjean gave the all-new Haas team points on their debut with sixth place finish. Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg, Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, and the Toro Rosso' duo of Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen completed the top ten, with Renault’s Jolyon Palmer narrowly missing out on a point in his first ever Grand Prix.
McLaren's Alonso and Haas's Esteban Gutierrez meanwhile were thankfully able to walk away from a huge crash at Turn 3 which caused the red flags to fly on lap 19. he race arguably turned as a result of the terrifying accident involving Alonso and Esteban Gutierrez of new team Haas on lap 17. Some say hes lucky to have survived this incident, and hats off to the safety guys at FIA for keeping our drivers safe!! Here are some screen grabs of the accident. CAUTION - Images are graphic, may remind of similar incidents in the past.
Alonso was trying to pass the Mexican on the run down to Turn 3, Alonso's front right wheel tagged the right rear of the Haas and he was launched into a barrel roll, coming to rest upside down in the barriers. The two-time champion was clearly shaken but, although he limped away from his car, he was uninjured. Following the 20-minute break to clear the debris, Ferrari chose to keep Vettel on the fast but fragile super-soft tyres he had fitted at his first pit stop, while Mercedes switched Rosberg from soft to medium tyres with the aim of going to the end without another stop. From that moment on, the race was Rosberg's barring problems. He merely had to hang on to Vettel and wait for the Ferrari to stop, which he did on lap 35.
It was soon clear that Vettel was not going to open up the 24-second gap that he needed for a final stop, and when that came; Rosberg, Hamilton and a feisty Ricciardo overtook the Ferrari. Hamilton closed in on the Red Bull and overtook for second place on the 42nd lap, but couldn't challenge Rosberg's 10-second lead. The Briton's attention instead went on protecting his position as Vettel closed in. With seven laps to run the pair were split by just half a second - but try as he might Vettel could not engineer a move, with his challenge failing two laps from the end when he ran deep and onto the grass at the penultimate turn.
Like Vettel, Ricciardo also got fresh tyres - in his case the supersofts - and flew late on, the Australian setting the fastest lap and rising up to fourth, just missing out on becoming the first Australian to claim a Grand Prix podium on home soil.Massa was an uneventful fifth, while behind Grosjean sprang a sensation in sixth, giving Haas points in their debut race. Toro Rosso provided plenty of drama as Sainz and Verstappen quarrelled with each other, and with a host of other cars. It was not always a happy affair, with Verstappen angered by the team's decision to pit Sainz first, and then to not instruct him to move aside. The pair even made very light contact in Turn 15 a few laps from the end, with Verstappen spinning as a result. He caught back up to Sainz by the chequered flag, although neither was able to find a way past Bottas or Hulkenberg. Palmer's very convincing debut for Renault saw him finish 11th, ahead of team mate Kevin Magnussen who lost time with a puncture on the opening lap but made it up when the race was red flagged and restarted.
Sergio Perez was 13th for Force India, while Jenson Button looked good early on but faded to 14th for McLaren. Felipe Nasr could not repeat 2015's fifth place for Sauber and finished 15th as team mate Marcus Ericsson retired with transmission problems, while rookie Pascal Wehrlein - who made a sensational start to run 15th for a while - was the last of the classified runners in 16th. There were several retirements - besides Alonso and Gutierrez, Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat hit problems and retired even before getting to the grid, while Manor's Rio Haryanto went out with driveline problems and Raikkonen retired soon after the restart with suspected turbo failure, leading to a fire in his Ferrari
Definitely an exciting first race. Alonso's crash was unfortunate and glad he was able to walk out of it. Reminded me of the crash he had last season while testing. In that incident, Alonso apparently lost his memory and was transported back to 1995. Doctors who attended Alonso said the McLaren driver said "I am Fernando. I'm in karts and want to become a Formula 1 driver". Thank god it wasn't as bad as the last time. Nico seems to continuing the form he had at the fag end of last season. He has now won the last four races in a row, a first for him. Lewis seems more lost now than ever. The only ever team I can see beating the Mercs is Ferrari. They have a strong package this season but as was evident in Albert Park, reliability is still an issue for the Italian team. What impressed me the most was Romain Grosjean and Haas scoring points after qualifying 19th in what was Haas' debut race. Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr showed potential in their Scuderia Toro Rosso and we should definitely keep an eye out for them as they look like the only ones who can keep pace with the Mercedes and Ferrari cars. Also, the new format for qualifying has been scrapped and F1 will revert to the old format from Bahrain onwards.