The 2016 Formula One season has just started and it’s already proving to be an exciting year. New qualifying rules, engine modifications, tire compounds and a rookie F1 team scoring points on its debut had made a cracking first round!
With the Mercedes-AMG-Petronas F1 team leading the way to the Australian F1 Grand Prix finish, you might be forgiven to think it’s going to be the same season as that of the past two years. But don’t be misled by the final results because it was Nico Rosberg that came out on top, even though Lewis Hamilton led the new, crazy qualifying format the day before.
Enforcing my spectacular preview was the resurgent Ferrari team of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikonnen. Both drivers overtook the Mercedes pair to lead the race right at the start. Vettel made the best start of all when he led everyone into the first turn, coming from third place. Kimi’s great start though came to naught when he had a mechanical defect and flames were coming out of his engine cover when he pitted on lap 24.
Adding to the excitement was a race collision on the 18th lap between two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso in his McLaren-Honda with the new US based Haas-Ferrari team of rookie Esteban Gutierrez. It was a horrific accident that ranks up there with the worst that ever happened in Australia or anywhere for that matter. The race even had to be red flagged to assist in the recovery of the drivers and the cars.
Alonso’s car climbed over the back wheels of Gutierrez trying to overtake him in a corner and barrel rolled before landing almost upside down. Alonso was pronounced fit after his medical check up but the car was a total wreck! Alonso was very lucky to be joking after with the press even saying that he had to get out ASAP because his mother was watching the race on TV. With the pace of McLaren and their Honda engines still improving, I hope he can find the same motivation to do well in the next race after that big mishap.
The Haas team was never expected to do well especially after the qualifying results only got it as high as 19th for Romain Grosjean and 20th for Gutierrez. When the accident occurred, Grosjean was already up the field and had decided to stretch his tires to the finish to finish a splendid sixth overall. This high-point scoring finish is quite an achievement and was only done back in 2002 when first-time entrant Toyota, piloted by Mika Salo, did the same feat.
In the end, the great strategies of Mercedes and Ferrari all came together and gave us a good fight between Hamilton and Vettel for second place. Lewis won it over Sebastian by only 1.5 seconds. The top three was also separated by less than 11 seconds when the checkered flag dropped. Nico’s win also emulated his dad’s, Keke, 31 years after he also won in Australia.
One record that was set in Australia was Max Verstappen’s 10th place finish. This made him the youngest driver to score F1 points at only 18 years old! He eclipsed the record of Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat who was 19 when he took ninth place in 2014. Another record was Hamilton’s pole position equaled that of Michael Schumacher’s and Ayrton Senna’s record of getting 50 or more pole positions in F1.
There are still a lot of things that we hope F1 will change in the near future. One is the confusing qualifying format in which a lot of people were caught by surprise on why cars could not go out even though there was still time. The worse was during the final four minutes of the last qualifying session, no one even went out to improve their times. Some say that the old format was good, so why change it? I agree and hope they revert to it ASAP.
Another suggestion is the engine control that was put in place at the start of the turbocharged, V6 generation in 2014. This should be revamped so that the other engine manufacturers could catch up with the dominant Mercedes engine. It almost stopped the participation of world champion Red Bull and its sister team, Toro Rosso, because they could not get competitive engines for their chassis. There was some leeway given during the off season but it is still not enough for the others to redesign their hybrid drivetrain.
One of the major complaints of the F1 drivers is that they have to conserve fuel and tires for the whole race. During the 1970’s when F1 turbos were doing battle, they didn’t have to worry about how much fuel they used so they went flat out with the tires sliding all the way. This was quite a spectacle and a lot of unforgettable battles were made at the time. Hope that F1 will let drivers be and let them race all out up to the end.
Since we are talking about F1, I hope I can still be alive to see a Filipino racing in the pinnacle of all race series. Indonesia’s Rio Haryanto is now competing under Manor Racing and I know we have capable drivers who can be there running against him.
If you want to experience a truly good time watching the F1 races, join MP Turbo’s F1 Club where we do live viewing of races. The next round will be this Sunday, April 3, for the Bahrain F1 Grand Prix and we will have it in Tonchaya Restaurant at the Fort Strip in BGC, Taguig City. Follow us also at Facebook with the F1 Club Philippines and my own Mike Potenciano page. Godspeed!