Formula One returned with a bang on Sunday. Laura Leslie takes you through the best F1 stats and facts to emerge from an eye-opening first weekend.
Mercedes failed to win the season opener for the first time since 2014 as Sebastian Vettel roared home to his 43rd career victory. It was the first time since the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix that Vettel had stood atop the podium, bringing to an end the worst winless streak of his F1 career so far – 28 races.
Vettel also topped the drivers’ championship for the first time since Abu Dhabi 2013, as well as becoming the first Ferrari driver to lead the championship since Fernando Alonso after the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix, a huge 83 races ago. Vettel followed in the footsteps of hero Michael Schumacher by taking the championship lead for the first time as a Ferrari driver, after scoring his 4th win for the Scuderia.
An Omen for 2017?
The only previous occurrence of Vettel winning the opening round of the season was in 2011. Back then he went on to lead the championship from start to finish.
The German’s win allowed Ferrari to become the first non-Mercedes powered car to lead the constructors’ championship since the turbo-hybrid era began in 2014 – only Mercedes and a then Mercedes powered McLaren have led the championship in that period. Ferrari had not led the constructors’ championship since Australia 2013.
Vettel’s team-mate Kimi Raikkonen had a rather lacklustre weekend in Melbourne. His only real achievement was stealing his 44th career fastest lap on the penultimate tour of the race. He now sits second on the all-time fastest laps list behind Schumacher (77).
Not all bad for Merc
For Mercedes the weekend was still relatively successful. Lewis Hamilton took a record equalling 6th pole position for the Australian Grand Prix – Ayrton Senna also holds 6 poles in Australia. This was also Hamilton’s 5th pole in a row, a sequence dating back to last year’s US Grand Prix.
Strangely this was only the second time in three years that both Mercedes drivers finished in the podium without either driver winning. The winning driver of course was Vettel and the race was Malaysia 2015.
100 Races and 3000 Laps
Just like last year, Hamilton lost out on the win to the man who qualified in 2nd. This prevented the Brit from joining Schumacher on the list of drivers who have won five races in a row on two separate occasions in their career. He did however join Schumacher in becoming one of only two drivers who have led 100 grands prix, as well as leading 3000 laps, over the course of their careers.
Hamilton also scored his 105th career podium to bring him just one away from matching the great Alain Prost. Schumacher remains way off with 155.
Promising Debut for Bottas
Mercedes new boy Valtteri Bottas started his new chapter with a flourish. He scored his 10th career podium and became the first Mercedes driver to finish on the podium on his debut for the team since Juan Manuel Fangio and Karl Kling recorded a 1-2 in the 1954 French Grand Prix.
Best and Worst at Red Bull
For Red Bull Melbourne turned out to be a tale of two halves. Homeboy Daniel Ricciardo endured a nightmare after he crashed out of Q3, his first crash since Baku last year. To make matters worse he earned a gearbox penalty dropping him to 15th on the grid. Ricciardo’s dire day was compounded by his car failing on the way to the grid, the 3rd time this had happened to a Red Bull car in three years.
The team worked hard to get him going again, albeit two laps down, but it was to be in vain as engine failure ended the Australian’s 17 race points finishing streak. It was his first retirement in 29 races. Max Verstappen on the other hand had a quiet weekend, taking his best ever Australian Grand Prix result with 5th.
A Force to be reckoned with
Further down Force India bagged their 4th double points finish in a row. Their new signing Esteban Ocon scored his first ever F1 points with 10th place to become France’s 35th point scoring driver. It was somewhat ironic that he held off Force India’s 2016 driver, Nico Hulkenberg.
A Toro Double
It was also double points for Toro Rosso and their stunning looking STR12. Daniil Kvyat managed his first racing laps around Melbourne since 2014 – car failure had prevented him from taking the start in both 2015 and 2016. He was beat into 8th place by Carlos Sainz.
The Italian Job, done.
Last minute drama at Sauber on Saturday left Antonio Giovinazzi as Pascal Wehrlein’s replacement for qualifying and the race. The Italian become the first driver from his nation to start a grand prix since Abu Dhabi in 2011. He would finish the race in a very respectable 12th place, no doubt worrying Wehrlein for his future in the team.
A Stroll in the Park
Williams must have been thankful Felipe Massa called off his retirement earlier this year. The popular Brazilian put in a stellar driver to finish 6th behind ‘the big three’. The same couldn’t be said of his rookie team-mate Lance Stroll. Off the pace all weekend and sawing at the wheel like a man possessed, Stroll crashed on Saturday morning throwing the rest of his weekend into chaos.
The young Canadian would qualify on the last row of the grid – just like Jenson Button during his debut for the team in 2000. Thankfully for Stroll things turned out rather well for Britain’s ‘Froome Flyer’.
Increasing concern for McLaren
McLaren and Haas both had weekends to forget by Sunday evening. McLaren never showed much pace throughout any session and just like in testing reliability was a huge concern for the team. Fernando Alonso’s car didn’t make the end of the race thanks to suspension failure but, birthday boy Stoffel Vandoorne did see the checkered flag in a distant last place.
Bit of a Haas-been in Australia
Haas began their sophomore F1 season with some unexpected speed. Romain Grosjean gave the team their best ever qualifying result with 6th place. Kevin Magnussen didn’t seem to have an answer to Grosjean all weekend. Unfortunately it all came to nothing after both cars retired from the race.
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