Formula One, the highest class of single-seater auto racing, has kick-started a brand new season at Melbourne's beautiful Albert Park circuit on Sunday (March 25). The 2018 Australian Grand Prix saw defending champion Lewis Hamilton triumphing during the free practices and qualifying Friday and Saturday, but losing the race Sunday.
The perfect season start dream of the Mercedes-AMG F1 team was further dented by the dismal performance of Valtteri Bottas, who crashed his car during qualifying. In the end, the Finn managed to finish the race in P8, behind Renault Sport F1's Nico Hulkenberg.
While it was not a weekend for Mercedes-AMG F1 to cherish, Scuderia Ferrari got a morale-boosting start with a double podium in the season opener. Some teams had the perfect outing over the weekend while some struggled. We have compiled a list of the top five talking points about the 2018 Australian Grand Prix.
Ferrari in fighting spirit
After the qualifying race, where Lewis Hamilton stormed to pole position, Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) said in the press conference he (Hamilton) could have the party Saturday and "we (Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari drivers) will celebrate it Sunday." That's exactly what happened.
Though Hamilton got a flawless start and pulled away from the rest of the cars in the initial laps, rotten luck struck his victory dreams in the form of safety-car intervention. Vettel took advantage of a pit stop during the safety car and re-joined the race just ahead of Hamilton. He retained the lead till the end of the race despite a fierce threat from Hamilton.
Raikkonen, who started from P2, finished P3, giving Ferrari a double podium. What an incredible result for Ferrari to start the season!
Alonso + McLaren + Renault engine, yes it works
The first race of Fernando Alonso switching from a Honda engine to a Renault engine showed the Spaniard's obvious talent in racing. After he struggled with sub-par cars for three seasons, the Renault powered McLaren car aided Alonso to secure the fifth position.
His teammate, Stoffel Vandoorne finished the race in P9, adding valuable points to the team total.
The MCL33 performed exceptionally well around Albert Park. If the British outfit showed its true potential in the first race of the season, it indicates they will gain some good points and even a few podiums in the new season.
Miserable Honda saga continues
What was McLaren's gain has become Toro Rosso's loss. The junior team of Red Bull Racing was forced to switch to Honda engines for 2018. Honda, which was struggling to provide a competitive engine for McLaren in the past three seasons, failed with the new partnership as well.
Brendon Hartley finished the race in 15th place as the last driver, while his teammate Pierre Gasly had to retire mid-way.
"After Turn 12 the engine just switched off, it came back on again but I was really slow and I couldn't upshift. I tried to return to the pits and then I was told to stop," Gasly was quoted as saying post-race by Planet F1.
The Haas fiasco
American Formula 1 team Haas was one of the surprises in Australia. The team had a dream run in the race with Kevin Magnussen performing brilliantly in the fourth position after passing both Red Bulls on the start.
His teammate Romain Grosjean was in the fifth position and it seemed Haas would register its best-ever result in Australia.
Then the disaster struck as pit-stop mistakes saw both cars retiring within minutes of each other with cross-threaded wheels nuts. Haas could have been the dark horses of the race, but the twin DNFs mean they have to do more homework.
What happened to Force India?
Even though Force India F1 does not have the flamboyance of Ferrari and Mercedes, the Silverstone-based outfit was consistent in the past couple of years. However, the season opener didn't bring a healthy start for it.
Sergio Perez and teammate Esteban Ocon qualified in only the 13th and 15th spots, respectively, for the race. The duo bettered the result with 11th and 12th-place finishes while they failed to procure some valuable points to the table. The result indicates the new VJM11 cars need a lot of improvements.
"It's definitely behind where we expected to be," said Perez.
"We thought we were going to be a bit closer to the fight, but we simply were not. It's a shame, but the season is long, and hopefully we can recover the pace of the car," the Mexican driver was quoted by Motorsport.com as saying.