Anything can happen in Formula One, and it usually does.Murray Walker
It was a traumatic beginning to the opening weekend of the Formula One season.
Obviously the entire world heard the news about the events in Christchurch on Friday morning, but on Thursday morning, long term Race Director Charlie Whiting, who had been in the sport since his days as a mechanic for Hesketh (Who once had James Hunt and Alan Jones driving for them), died suddenly of a pulmonary embolism, just hours after he walked the track with Sebastian Vettel.
Whiting was known to F1 fans around the world… and he never drove in a Grand Prix.
On to the main story, Duncraig’s very own Daniel Ricciardo isn’t afraid to “Lick the stamp and send it” on the track, but last year he made his riskiest move yet, switching from Red Bull (Who were moving to Honda) to the cheese eating surrender monkeys at Renault, the team who are essentially the ‘best of the rest’ outside of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.
The move had the Aussies flocking to Albert Park in the hopes of finally seeing an Australian driver (legitimately) standing on the podium, and an estimated 324,000 crowd over 4-days was the highest since 2005 (Mark Webber’s first race for Williams).
Some fans, like young Louis, were there to see his brother, Daniel Avocado!
But Daniel is a realist, and he did state that challenging for a podium in Melbourne wasn’t likely, and by Saturday, the challenge that lies ahead for himself and his French allies became very apparent in Qualifying, when Ricciardo missed out on reaching the Top 10 by 8 milliseconds, and was pipped by teammate Nico Hulkenberg, who started in 11th, with Ricciardo in 12th.
As is the norm in Melbourne, Lewis Hamilton qualified on pole (For the 8th time) and smashed the lap record… that was held by Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas for all of a few seconds, with the Ferrari of Vettel blown away in 3rd and left struggling for answers.
As Bottas pulled the rug out from under Hamilton at the start, any hopes Daniel had of scoring points went down the toilet after fewer than 30 metres, when he positioned himself on the extreme inside of Sergio Perez, forcing himself onto the grass and hitting the edge between the turf and a path, dislodging his front wing in spectacular fashion and destroying the front-end downforce in the car.
Yet again, piss poor job by the City of Port Phillip, I hope someone lodges a complaint.
After getting his front wing replaced, Duncraig Dan cited damage to his right sidepod and didn’t make much progress (At one point Bottas sent him down a lap), before the team retired his car on lap 28 as a precaution, starting the biggest exodus of yellow and black from the grandstands since the 2018 Preliminary Final.
As for the result, I wasn’t surprised to see a Mercedes win the race by 21 seconds, nor was it surprising to see them finish 1-2… though it turned out to be Valtteri “Wingman” Bottas, who ate his porridge in the morning (His direct quote on the podium) and released a year’s worth of pent-up rage to demolish Hamilton, and in for 3rd was Max Verstappen in his Red Bull, scoring the first podium for a Honda-engined car since Rubens Barrichello finished 3rd in the 2008 British Grand Prix in a factory Honda.
There’s going to be plenty of soul searching at Maranello, after Ferrari were comprehensively beaten (Yet again) by their German rivals, but to add insult to injury, they were smashed on race pace by a Honda engine that had been mocked and ridiculed for the past 4 seasons for being nothing other than completely crap- It was so dour for Vettel that it took some team orders to stop a fast-charging Charles LeClerc from mowing him down for 4th.
Meanwhile, ‘Hulk’ did ensure Renault scored some decent points, and seeing that just makes me believe that Dan’s misfortune cost the Enstone team a double points finish.
Another interesting feature of the Grand Prix (Which will feature this season) was the return of a bonus point for recording the fastest lap, last used in 1959- Bottas nabbed the bonus point on the penultimate lap after briefly losing it to Verstappen.
Even when the race was a foregone conclusion, seeing Bottas trying to break his own mark time and again reminded me (In a good way) of a Gold Medalist at the Olympics trying to beat the world record, just to top off their excellent performance. It’s here to stay.
Also in my parting words, I’d like to say that the winner’s trophy takes a dump on a lot of the McTrophies you get in the world championship- It’s a replica of the steering wheel from Sir Jack Brabham’s Cooper-Climax in which he won the 1959 World Championship (The first of his three titles), and it is a beauty.
Another stinker at Albert Park for Duncraig Dan…. on to the desert lights of Bahrain in a fortnight!