In a new feature for the 2016 season, we look at the intra-team rivalries on the grid and decide after each grand prix just who came out on top.
Remember; the first person you must beat in Formula One is the guy in exactly the same car as you.
Lewis Hamilton 0 – 1 Nico Rosberg
Race: Nico Rosberg
The battle we’ll all be watching this season boiled down to two key moments over the course of the opening weekend. The margins have always been small between Lewis and Nico, but have always lent in favour of the Brit, but this time Rosberg’s the one who has flexed his muscles first.
The first moment was late on in Q3, when the German moved from 4th to 2nd after his second run. Up until that point it had been a scrappy weekend; while Lewis looked assured and built his pace, Nico slid into the wall and couldn’t get his car to work at all. In one lap he put himself ahead of the Ferraris and back in contention.
Then came the first few corners. Beaten off the line by Vettel, then Raikkonen, he had to stay as the lead Mercedes – not only in terms of track position, but also in terms of pride – and he did just that. It was tight, it was close, and there was the slightest of contact, but Nico stayed in 3rd, while Lewis dropped to 6th. He’d turned the tables and out-muscled his teammate.
After the red flag is was all about tyre management and putting the fast laps in where necessary, and, yes, Ferrari’s strategy call was poor and gave him an edge, but you can’t discount the performance put in for the victory. Not taking anything away from Lewis’ recovery drive back to 2nd place, of course, but Nico had to – no, needed to – deliver this result, and he promptly did.
Sebastian Vettel 1 – 0 Kimi Raikkonen
Race: Sebastian Vettel
It’s hard for a driver to smile after having a sure thing of a victory taken from them thanks to a strategy call, but if anyone can do so it would be Sebastian. Up until the red flag he was firmly in control of the race, thanks to a lightning start and enough speed to hold off Rosberg’s challenge of the undercut. Then came that tyre choice.
Was it complacency from Ferrari? Was it arrogance? Maybe. It was certainly affected by the fact that they were faster than they expected to be, certainly after pre-season. Why not bolt on the faster tyre to build a safe gap for a stint on fresh mediums? Made sense at the time.
It didn’t work out, but it’s given hope. Hope to the team, to both their drivers, and to the fans who desperately want two teams gunning for the title. Sebastian has the hardware to take it to Mercedes, but can the team learn from this mistake?
Daniel Ricciardo 1 – 0 Daniil Kvyat
Race: Daniel Ricciardo
This one was only really going one way thanks to Daniil’s TAG Heuer power unit not being fully wound up on the grid. That’s now two consecutive Australian Grand Prix for the Russian where he’s failed to see the red lights go out, let alone race in anger. It might not even be worth the flight next season.
And with a team-mate like Daniel Ricciardo can you really blame him? Even when the Russian was toiling around on supersofts at the end of Q1, Ricciardo had already set a time a whole second faster with time to spare.
That sort of pace translated well in the race too; 8th on the grid to 4th at the finish – and fastest lap – was a great drive on home soil in a car that’s powered by, as mentioned by some still, an inferior product. The wait for an (official) Australian on the Albert Park podium continues however, but we were oh-so-close this time.
Valterri Bottas 0 – 1 Felipe Massa
Race: Felipe Massa
There’s a real danger that Williams could end up being a silent partner on the grid this season. There’s no doubt that the team had race pace in Australia, more than enough to be at the sharp end of the midfield, but not enough to hassle the Ferraris.
Massa managed to split the Toro Rossos on Saturday, and then drove to a solid 5th – the best result any midfield team can hope for right now – after a quiet afternoon. Bottas, on the other hand, was uncharacteristically slower than the Brazilian; he qualified the lowest of the Mercedes family bar Manor, and scrapped with Palmer’s Renault and shadowed Hulkenberg to the flag.
Romain Grosjean 1 – 0 Esteban Gutierrez
Race: Romain Grosjean
Want to make a debut in Formula 1? Just watch the first ever race for Haas – it pretty much had everything.
Either of the exploits of their drivers would have been enough to generate headlines for the team’s first race, so to both score points on your debut thanks to clever strategy and be involved in a scary, but thankfully safe, accident is more than enough drama for one race.
That aforementioned strategy, coupled with Grosjean’s mature, level-headed drive put those points on the board. He’s come a long way from careering into cars and hoarding mistakes like their Pokemon, and is now the perfect team leader for a fledgling outfit.
Most thought that qualifying displayed the true pace of the car, but once those mediums went on and the task was to get to the end, ot more than held it’s own against the likes of Force India and Williams.
Nico Hulkenberg 1 – 0 Sergio Perez
Race: Nico Hulkenberg
These two are the right at the opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to drivers; Hulkenberg’s consistency brings him steady points and performances, while Perez is largely anonymous for three-quarters of the season and then appears like a bright, white light and burns his way to podium.
The pre-season pace was there, but pitting just before the Alonso accident cost them dear, and in doing so Australia was the epitome of this relationship; Nico got the car home in 7th, despite being within a second of Grosjean for pretty much the second half of the race, while Sergio shone bright on Saturday to get in front, but faded later on in the race thanks to overheating brakes.
Max Verstappen 0 – 1 Carlos Sainz
Race: Carlos Sainz
Are we witnessing the tantrum we knew was coming? Verstappen showed the immaturity every pundit worth their salt spent the first half of last season predicting, but never came. Now it’s taken one race and he’s been more vocal and petulant than the previous 19 put together.
The anger led to rashness in trying to pass his team-mate Sainz, and even led to a late race spin. It was silly, to be blank. Contrast this to Carlos, who was only a tenth slower in qualifying and kept his disappointment on strategy – he started 6th and dropped to 9th by the end – to a terse sentence or two after the race. No expletives, no complaints, no monkey business. Max take note.
Jolyon Palmer 1 – 0 Kevin Magnussen
Race: Jolyon Palmer
OK, hands up; who though Palmer would be the one to impress this weekend? Put them down. You’re all fibbers.
While Magnussen was unlucky with the first lap puncture, the safety car and red flag got him out of trouble and back into lower midfield contention, but by that time young Jolyon had diced with Bottas and became the toy that led to the infighting for the Toro Rosso kids. He eventually lost out to all three, but his racecraft and defending took the spotlight from Magnussen’s return and planted it firmly on him and his future.
Jenson Button 0 – 1 Fernando Alonso
Race: Fernando Alonso
There was loads of promise from McLaren in Melbourne after the calamitous 2015, but the fact remains that there were no points scored when the dust settled. And after that accident from Alonso, there was plenty of dust to settle.
Fernando looked like the tenacious fighter more now he’s got a bit more confidence in the car – he was on the edge of the top 10 when he collided with Gutierrez, and knew he was on the better strategy after McLaren split their drivers. It’ll come with Jenson too, but he knew there were points on offer, and was uncharacteristically vocal about the mistakes made in strategy by the team.
Felipe Nasr 0 – 1 Marcus Ericsson
Race: Marcus Ericsson
While Ericsson takes the victory here, mainly due to the gap he pulled out over Nasr in qualifying, but it’s going to be a long, hard season for Sauber with the progress every other team has made around them. Compare them to Manor, who have a brand new car and a Mercedes unit, Sauber look like their best bet of an upgrade is a good polish.
Nasr and Ericsson will be fighting over scraps unless some serious investment ends up with the team. What a difference a year makes.
Pascal Wehrlein 1 – 0 Rio Harayanto
Race: Pascal Wehrlein
This little scrap was considered to be a one-sided affair, but Rio actually out-paced his much fancied team-mate in qualifying by the tiniest of margins, despite having a rookie moment in the pitlane and colliding with Grosjean in FP3.
Pascal’s superior racecraft then took over come race day. Seven places were taken on the first lap to run 14th – a stellar effort – before suffering brake problems and tyre degredation.