Formula 1™ Fans Association
Fans of Grand Prix Racing
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We’re back! New tyre rules, a modified qualifying session, new radio
limits, 3 rookie drivers, a rookie team and a new track make 2016 an
exciting prospect. While not every change is popular, the new
regulations do leave us with a few unknowns. Whether anyone can
match Mercedesas they hunt for a third straight double championship
victory is something nobody can tell as yet.
The Friday running in Australia was curtailed by wet weather, while
Saturday morning was marked with a lot of locked wheels and a
collision between Haryanto’s Manor and Grosjean’s Haas, which
saw the former given a 3-place grid penalty for causing the incident.
While Rio needed a new front wing, Romain’s sidepod and floor
were broken and needed replacing. Not ideal when the newest team
on the grid bought minimal spares with them to the first flyaway race.
Wehrlein was the first driver to fall, Haryanto following his Manor
teammate. The Haas boys fell next, Grosjean beating Gutierrez.
Kvyat, sitting in the pits, was the fifth driver to fall. Confusion was
reigning supreme, evidently. Nasr dropped in 17th, his teammate
16th after abandoning his final lap. Both Renault cars only just
squeaked through on their return as a works squad, but it was enough
for Q1. Haryanto dropped to 22nd behind Wehrlein due to his pit lane
crash from the morning.
Magnussen’s Renault was the first to fall in Q2, Palmer more than a
second off 13th looking likely to follow his teammate. So far, the drivers
were falling two by two aside from Kvyat. Button, still in the pits, fell 13th.
Sainz went back onto the track from a precarious 12th before Palmer was
actually timed out, let alone Button, but the time it would take for either to
get out and set a time made them both incapable of escaping their
eliminations. The slower Toro Rosso at least had a chance. Alonso, also
in the pits, fell 12th. Bottas, although on the circuit, couldn’t improve his
time and was pulled off the track in 11th. Force India took both cars
off the track when they were still in with a shout of qualifying for Q3,
but Hülkenberg was left 10th and Perez 9th.
Ricciardo was the first driver to fall in Q3, Verstappen saving himself
at the last minute. Sainz and Massa were 7th and 6th respectively,
both in the pits too late. Verstappen took 5th for the same reason.
Knowing they had two cars in the top 4, Ferrari elected to quit with 5
minutes to go. Rosberg then jumped to 2nd from 4th, leaving
Raikkonen to fall behind his teammate. Rosberg pitted 2nd and
Hamilton on pole, despite there still being more than 2 minutes on
the clock. The new qualifying format was such a resounding success,
no cars actually saw the chequered flag in either Q2 or Q3.
Bottas changed his gearbox ahead of the race, dropping the second
Williams to 16th and compounding an already difficult weekend for the
Grove squad’s protegé.
Kvyat stalled a couple of rows from the back of the grid, his Red Bull forcing
an aborted start and the first DNF of the 2016 season.
Vettel stole the lead ahead of his teammate and Rosberg. Hamilton dropped
to 6th while Verstappen took 4th.
Magnussen took a puncture on his return, the circumstances unknown at the
time after a chaotic start. Ahead of him, Wehrlein was 14th ahead of the
Gutierrez in 20th reported an engine problem, suggesting the new team
wouldn’t manage a double finish on their debut. Magnussen’s pit stop went
smoothly, leaving the Renault to give chase to the ailing Haas.
Magnussen being lapped gave Hamilton the chance he needed to take 5th
from Massa, although his next target, Verstappen, was unlikely to be as
compliant. Further back, Ricciardo took 8th, temporarily, from Hülkenberg.
Replays showed that Hamilton’s front wing was slightly damaged at the first
corner as Rosberg cut across and brushed the wing with his rear wheel.
Sainz pitted on lap 8, opening the pit window and dropping from 7th to 20th.
Bottas snuck past Ericsson for what became 14th. Ricciardo, no longer stuck
behind the Toro Rosso or Hülkenberg, jumped Massa for 6th. Further up the
road, Hamilton was telling Mercedes he couldn’t clear Verstappen’s Toro Rosso.
Nasr and Massa were in the pits in the next few laps, although not alone as
Wehrlein dropped back at his first stop.
Bottas managed to clear Palmer despite some tough defending. At the front,
Rosberg pitted for softs while Hamilton’s stint continued to grow. Hülkenberg
failed to jump the lead Mercedes. Behind the silver arrow, Alonso did a sub-3
second stop. Vettel was in a lap later from the lead, taking another set of
super-softs to try and eke out more of a lead over Rosberg. Verstappen also
pitted on lap 13, Hamilton now released into clear air. His teammate tried
to overtake Vettel, but Ferrari now seemed to match Germany’s finest despite
the colder tyres.
Hamilton in second, despite having not stopped yet, had lost an entire pit
stop’s worth of time, dropping to 3rd on the road behind both prancing horses.
Rosberg was now behind him, blocked by the reigning champion until Hamilton
followed Raikkonen into the pits on lap 16. Raikkonen took super-softs, while
Hamilton took mediums for a one-stop strategy.
The red flag was thrown on lap 18, a lap after the safety car was launched, for a
monumental crash where Alonso clipped the back of Gutierrez and
annihilated his McLaren, taking them both out of the race in some style.
Vettel led from Rosberg, Raikkonen and Ricciardo. Toro Rosso were line
astern 5th and 6th, ahead of Hamilton, Massa, Grosjean and Bottas.
Behind the lead Force India were Hülkenberg's sister car, Palmer, Perez,
Ericsson, Button, Nasr, Wehrlein, Haryanto and Magnussen.
Haryanto unfortunately retired before the restart for reasons unknown.
A few laps into the restart, Raikkonen reported that he “broke something”
before casually driving into the pits with his airbox turning itself into a dragon
in spectacular style.
Ericsson went under investigation for having his crew working on the car at
the 15 second signal prior to the restart, a sure-fire penalty. Promptly, a
drive-through penalty was handed to the lead Sauber.
Grosjean continued to hold 8th, Hülkenberg and Bottas scrapping behind
him but closing in.
Button, having been overtaken by Perez, pitted for medium tyres on lap 30.
Sainz fought bravely to hold off Hamilton, but had to pit on lap 31 to take on
medium tyres on the Toro Rosso. Verstappen was now the car ahead of
Hamilton. The second Toro Rosso was now 12th behind Perez. Verstappen
had to stop a lap later, and the team weren’t ready. Losing a few seconds
gave Hamilton the opportunity he needed, but put Sainz ahead of the sister
car. Carlos promptly put Perez between the Faenza cars, while Verstappen
protested that his pit calls were ignored in favour of the lower-placed car.
Vettel pitted on lap 35, taking the soft compound tyre. A 5.6 second stop put
Vettel ahead of Massa, thanks to a slow front tyre change.
A furious Verstappen, stuck in 11th, was trying to get Toro Rosso to clear
Sainz out of his way to take the fight to Palmer in 9th. Arguably he
deserved the chance if he had his stop stolen.
Having served his penalty a while earlier, Ericsson’s Sauber lost drive and
retired in 17th.
Ricciardo, having dropped to 4th, pitted for super-softs and lost out to Massa
before giving chase to resume his pre-stop position. Somehow Grosjean was
still the driver behind him. Ricciardo did make the move on Massa with about
12 laps to go.
Perez was warned his brakes were about to run out, which could only be good
news for Palmer ahead and Magnussen behind.
Hamilton’s tyres looked finished with 6 laps to go, Vettel sitting on his tail again
with the DRS open.
Verstappen lost the back of the car as he tried to fight back against his teammate,
Sainz locking up late in turn 15 and the younger driver not reacting fast enough.
Max at least held 10th place.
Vettel’s pursuit of 2nd was ended by dirty air and a bit of Verstappen’s front wing,
running wide at turn 15 and dropping off the tail of the reigning champion.
Rosberg won from the war of the champions, with Ricciardo leading Massa home
for 4th. Grosjean’s doubts about leaving Enstone were quashed with a
phenomenal drive to 6th, ahead of Hülkenberg and Bottas. Sainz led Verstappen
home to round out the points. Palmer took 11th ahead of Perez, Magnussen, Nasr,
Button and Wehrlein. Ericsson, Raikkonen, Haryanto, Gutierrez and Alonso retired,
while Kvyat failed to start.