It’s the first race of the 2019 F1 season…. and where better to kick it off than in Melbourne, Australia! I apologise in advance that this is possibly a very incoherent post but it’s been typed as a live reaction post.
Rather disastrous qualifying session for Red Bull and McLaren with Gasly and Sainz dropping out in Q1. No surprise both the Williams’s out in Q1. Good news for McLaren with rookie Brit Lando Norris going through to Q2. Leclerc top of the pack in Q1. Honourable mention to Giovinazzi for being 4th in Q1.
Leclerc out qualifies Vettel! Shame that homeboy Danny Ric is out. Giovinazzi’s shine didn’t last into Q2 and is out. Lando Norris working miracles with a McLaren and into Q3! At this point, my rookie prediction is going South!
Ah time for the top teams to reveal their cards. No surprises with the Mercedes in front row. Verstappen splits the Ferraris with Vettel ahead and Leclerc behind. Lando Norris starts the grid in 8th place. Not bad at all for the McLaren.
Sadly there’s no Charlie Whiting to start the race (god rest his soul). A minute silence (followed by a round of applause) was held for him and the victims of the terrorist attack in New Zealand. One thing that can be said about Formula 1, it’s such a respectful sport.
It’s lights out and away we go! Bottas gets a good start and ahead of Hamilton.
Shocking start for Ricciardo who lost his front wing before even passing the pit straight! No contact with anyone else he hit the service road kerb. Pure bad luck.
Kubica lost his front wing after coming into contact with Gasly.
Leclerc is squeezed at turn 1 by his teammate Vettel. As per Brundle and Crofty, quick reaction from Leclerc to not make contact with Vettel.
Laps 3 Onwards
By lap 3 our rookie to watch, Albon, has gained 2 places.
Bottas punching out fastest laps – NEW RULE drivers and constructors get an extra point for fastest laps this year.
Lap 8 Leclerc makes a mistake into a turn and cuts across the grass losing 3s. Never a good idea to turn your Ferrari into a grass cutter (as Crofty said!). This move possibly turns into a disaster as he falls from 5th place to last place in the following lap. Oh hang on, that was a tracker problem! Rest easy, STILL IN 5th.
McLaren Problems Continue
Sainz’s car catches fire in lap 11 causing the McLaren to be the first retirement of the race. Seeing a driver walk down the pit lane mid race is really sad. I feel for you Carlos! Thankfully he was close to the pit entrance and the fire marshalls put the fire out quickly.
Lando Norris running in the top 10 until lap 15 where he pits. He finishes in 12th place – not bad for a rookie in a McLaren.
Lap 15 Pit Stop Central
Raikkonnen’s pit stop in lap 14 kicks off pit stops for most of the field.
Mercedes pits Hamilton before Bottas – 2.6s pitstop AMAZING!
On the other hand, Haas pit stop problems sees Grosjean fall 3 places and gives us a little battle between him and Albon.
New fastest lap from Vettel on lap 17 – fresh tyres gives him the edge. Bottas still out on his first set of tyres at this point. His pace still quicker than Hamilton who’s on new tyres.
Side note – Ricciardo WHY did you defect to Renault????
Nice little battle between Magnussen and Giovinazzi. NO! Giovinazzi goes wide and Magnussen passes him. Inevitable anyway as he hasn’t pitted in any case.
Hold up! Bottas punches in another fastest lap in lap 19/20! And on old tyres nonetheless!
Oops almost Lando! Giovinazzi and Lando Norris almost comes to blow in lap 21.
Lap 23 – Bottas pits! He should be clear if Leclerc and Hamilton. Lost out to Verstappen who hasn’t pitted. Looks like he’s on for the win is Bottas!
Lap 26 – Bottas is back in the lead and punching out fastest laps again.
As Crofty says, Giovinazzi is defending well until lap 26 when Lando Norris finally passes him. Lap 26 not a good lap for Giovinazzi as he loses out to Grosjean and Perez!
Giovinazzi pits but has a horrid stop with an 8.2s pitstop.
Laps 30 – 49
Lap 30 – Verstappen is close to Vettel. He’s within the DRS range and gaining. He tries to pass in turn 1 and by turn 2 he makes it stick!
Lap 31 – Ricciardo retires in his home Grand Prix. Third retirement in Australia for the homeboy. Shame. I’m not sure if that includes his post or race disqualification from 2nd place a few years back.
Another retirement! Grosjean is out! His tyre not attached properly!
Lap 34 – gap between Bottas and Hamilton (1st/2nd respectively) is 19s – and Verstappen is only 1.2s behind Hamilton.
Lap 38 – Gasly running in 6th until his pit stop. Unfortunately Kvyat passes him on his out lap and he ends up in lap 11. Interestingly the Torro Rosso a sub team of Red Bull so will there be an inter team order be played here?
Lap 40 – a 21s gap between race leader Bottas and his teammate in 2nd place. Unless there’s a major disaster for Bottas, surely he has this one in the bag?! Bottas continuing with those purple laps and the gap is increasing.
Lap 44 – hang on Leclerc is catching up with Vettel with the gap reducing.
Lap 46 – Mercedes pitwall agrees with me – only way they can lose this race is have no rubber or a safety car. As Brundle confirms, that’s effectively code for “slow down”. Maybe Bottas might stop the purple laps now.
Lap 49 – slight mistake by Verstappen giving Vettel another chance to catch him? Can Vettel make it in 8-9 laps?
Lap 51 – the tv coverage is showing the battle between the midfield. But Leclerc is within DRS range of Vettel. That’s the battle I want to see!
Lap 52 – Bottas is running in the back markers but his team tells him not to take any chances. As he says, he wants the 26 points so fingers crossed than nothing goes wrong.
Lap 53 – the gap between Vettel and Leclerc is increasing. What do we reckon, team orders? I don’t believe in team orders this early in the season. And anyway, Vettel never paid attention to team orders – MULTI-21 ANYONE?
Lap 55/56/57 – oh no! Verstappen has punched in the fastest lap! Not good news for Bottas who wants the fastest lap. It’s going to be a hard job for Bottas to get that point back as he’s in backmarker traffic. Also Verstappen is charging after the Mercedes of Hamilton. Hamilton now going for the fastest lap. BOTTAS PUNCHES IN THE FASTEST LAP!
FINAL LAP – no surprises on the final lap and Bottas comes home to win the Australian Grand Prix 21s ahead of his teammate! In the words of Bottas “how about that!”
1st – Valterri Bottas (Mercedes)
2nd – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
3rd – Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
Better yet – Mark Webber did the podium interview
Embed from Getty Images
You could argue that the race itself wasn’t terribly interesting however the season opener is always a good watch as teams show their true colours. Pre-season testing gives us an idea but in real race conditions, nothing can be hidden.
Good result for the Mercedes (boo!) but I’m happy because at least it was Bottas and not Hamilton. I’m not a Hamilton hater – I always love supporting the underdog. If stats are to be believed, race winner will go on to win the championship.
Sky F1 viewers voted Bottas as Driver of the Day. However I’m not sure if that’s deserved. Yes it was a fantastic result for him but when you’re out ahead like that then it’s not a challenge is it. What about Hulkenberg? He gained 4 mid field places in that race.
Thought of the day – the fastest lap point rule has made for some interesting running.
Anyway, ON TO THE NEXT! Bahrain in two weeks time.