The first Qualifying session of the season threw up a couple of unexpected situations, with GIO (Antonio Giovinazzi, who is standing in for WEH) almost making it in to Q2 in the Sauber, what looked like it might have been MAS blocking PER towards the end of Q2, and RIC going off into the tyre wall in Q3.
The provisional grid was: HAM, VET, BOT, RAI, VER, GRO, MAS, SAI, KVY, RIC, PER, HUL, ALO, OCO, ERI, GIO, MAG, VAN, PAL, STR*
*STR has a 5 place penalty added after qualifying P19
As I anticipated in my Quali notes, RIC has been given a 5 grid spot penalty for a gearbox change following his Q3 incident – that drops him to P15.
So here’s the updated grid: HAM, VET, BOT, RAI, VER, GRO, MAS, SAI, KVY, PER, HUL, ALO, OCO, ERI, RIC, GIO, MAG, VAN, PAL, STR
With 30 minutes until the start of the race, the pit lane opens – that means the drivers can do a practice start at the end of the pit lane, then either head round to the grid or back into the pits for another practice start.
The chatter in the pit lane suggests it’ll be a single pit stop, given the more resilient tyre compounds, but there’s also a strong possibility of a safety car given the number of incidents here in past years.
It looks like RIC has stopped on track! Replay shows he’s stuck in 6th gear before he stops. He’s obviously being talked through resetting everything in the hope of getting moving again. Unfortunately he’s now out of the car and it’ll be recovered back to the pits, but that’s the end of RIC’s weekend.
An extinguisher has gone off on KVY’s Toro Rosso, which could be him out too. Seems like a small fire near the exhaust.
Lots of activity in the Red Bull garage – if they’ve cleared the problem, then RIC might yet be able to start from the pit lane.
Teams clear the grid as the lights count down. Engine notes rise as the clock strikes 4pm in Melbourne.
HAM leads away on the formation lap.
RIC is in his car as the mechanics continue to work to fix the problem with his Red Bull.
HAM slows and backs everyone up as they head back to the main straight and find their grid slots.
MAG needs to remember to leave an empty slot ahead of him for RIC
Aborted start – they’ll do another formation lap, which gives Red Bull a few extra seconds to try to get RIC prepared
Replay shows it’s HUL that was in the wrong slot! How did he manage to be on the wrong side of the track? [Post-race explanation from Charlie Whiting]
Radio from HAM complaining that the grip feels poor on the grid
They slow as they approach the grid – hopefully everyone gets it right this time
01/57: Lights go out
Clean start by HAM
Looks like everyone got off the grid cleanly
No timing telemetry on screen 🙁
MAG and ERI off into the gravel
PER makes a nice move on KVY
Radio for MAG checking for damage – he has a puncture
02: HAM, VET, BOT, RAI, VER
MAG still limping back to the pits
VET still right on HAM’s tail
03: RIC finally leaves his garage
Radio from VAN – down shift not working
04: VET 0.6sec behind HAM
VET fastest lap 1:29.043
Incident involving MAG and ERI under investigation
05/57: HAM, VET, BOT, RAI, VER, MAS, GRO, SAI, PER, KVY
Replay of the MAG/ERI incident – looks like MAG ran into the side of ERI
07: RIC starting to unlap himself – passes VAN but he’s still a couple of laps down
08: HAM slowly opening a gap over VET
Radio from HAM saying 28.0 isn’t possible (his last lap was 1:28.7)
09: Christian Horner says RIC’s problem was a sensor issue on the gearbox
10/57: HAM, VET, BOT, RAI, VER
VET f/lap 1:28.234
STR takes P18 from ERI
VAN pits but it looks like he stalled it
Radio for VAN suggests he had to power cycle (turn everything off and on again) to reset something
11: Radio from HAM complaining his tyres are overheating
12: Radio from PAL saying there’s a problem with the brakes – sounds like they’re stuck on
STR closing on GIO
14: STR still behind GIO, unable to get close enough to attack
Radio from PAL – same problem (brakes)
15/57: GRO enters the pit lane with smoke billowing from the engine; team get him out of the car quickly
16: GIO pits, releasing STR
17: PAL’s brakes lock up again; team encourage him to keep going
18: HAM pits; soft tyres
19: Radio for VET telling him tyres look healthy
20/57: VET, BOT, RAI, VER, HAM, MAS, KVY, SAI … timing info is unreliable
HAM f/lap 1:27.5
21: PER makes a pushy move on SAI – cuts across SAI, maybe damaging the front wing
22: Radio for HAM telling him it’s critical to pass VER; “how do you expect me to do that?”
23: Radio from HAM – “there’s no way I can pass this guy”
Radio from VER – losing grip
24: VET pits; soft tyres; rejoins just ahead of VER
VER touches the grass as he tries to find a way past VET – can’t do it
Yellow flags as ERI has pulled off the track to retire
25/57: Radio from HAM complaining there’s nothing left in the tyres
26: BOT pits from P1; softs
VER pits too; super-soft tyres
27: RAI pits; softs
Radio for HAM – thinking Plan B now (are they going to 2-stop?)
28: BOT f/lap 1:27.052
VAN runs wide, kicks up some dust
RIC has stopped off at Turn 3; team confirm “car’s done”
Replay sounds like an engine failure
30/57: VET, HAM, BOT, RAI, VER, KVY, MAS, PER, SAI, ALO, OCO, HUL, STR, GIO, VAN, MAG; retirements: RIC, ERI, PAL, GRO
35: BOT closing a little on HAM as they make their way through lapped cars
36: Radio for HAM – tyres look like they’re holding up, so sticking with Plan A
37: VET leads HAM by 7.secs, with BOT 3.4s behind his teammate
38: BOT now under 3sec behind HAM
40/57: VET, HAM, BOT, RAI, VER, MAS, PER
42: HAM-BOT gap down to 2.5sec
Will Mercedes tell BOT to ease off or will they let him attack HAM?
43: VER f/lap 1:27.045
STR locks up and runs down the escape road; finds his way back to the track
44: VER closing on RAI
STR in the pits; team having a close look; he’s wheeled into the garage
45: Radio from HAM – power is dropping in and out
46: VER continues to close on RAI
OCO on the tail of ALO
47: KVY closing on PER, but VET will be lapping them soon
50/57: VET, HAM, BOT, RAI, VER, MAS, PER, KVY, SAI, ALO, OCO, HUL, GIO, VAN, MAG; retirements: STR, RIC, ERI, PAL, GRO
MAG pulls off track to retire the other Haas
51: KVY pits; long stop as they refill something – hydraulics?
52: OCO attacks ALO but ALO defends
OCO attacks into Turn 1, and HUL makes it 3-abreast
OCO comes out ahead, with HUL also passing ALO
53: Radio from ALO – car is pulling to the left; suspension problem?
KVY f/lap 1:26.711
54: ALO pits; he’s out of the car
VET f/lap 1:26.338
55/57: Radio from KVY asking if he’s got fastest lap; team tell him to focus on getting the car to the end
56: SAI closing on PER
Radio from VER asking about fastest lap too; he’s told it’s too fast
57 = final lap: BOT f/lap, then VET f/lap
VET takes the chequered flag – his 43rd victory
HAM closely followed by BOT
Provisional result: VET, HAM, BOT, RAI, VER, MAS, PER, SAI, KVY, OCO; HUL, GIO, VAN
DNF: ALO, MAG, STR, RIC, ERI, PAL, GRO
Fans on the track but there are still cars returning to the pits – that’s dangerous!
There’s not room for all 3 cars to stop in the usual spot 🙂