Vettel wins in Australia

26/03/2017
NEWS STORY

It was the Spanish philosopher George Santayana who said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

A year ago, Ferrari came away from pre-season testing as pace-setters, even though reliability was somewhat iffy.

Though the Mercedes duo filled the front row of the grid the Ferraris got the better of them at the start. For a few short laps it seemed not so much that the Silver Arrows reign was over but that at least they faced a credible challenge.

As the afternoon progressed, Kimi Raikkonen suffered an airbox fire and Sebastian Vettel suffered a monumental strategic failure which cost him the win. By season end, having never once stood on the top step of the podium, the Italian team had been surpassed by Red Bull.

Has Ferrari learned from history?

We never expected Mercedes to have lost its edge, or Lewis Hamilton for that matter, and therefore the Briton and the Silver Arrows remain hot favourites. Already some are jumping on Valtteri Bottas' back, waiting for every little sign, but the fact is we know the Finn is fast. However, has he got that extra little thing that is the stuff of champions.

While Red Bull might well surpass Ferrari by season end should the Maranello outfit not learn from its past, there is little chance of that happening today. Other than Daniel Ricciardo starting 15th, a combination of his Q3 crash and a subsequent new gearbox penalty, the local hero has it all to do. Max Verstappen, though starting from fifth, is clearly unhappy with the car and a result is likely to be frustrated by both poor reliability and over enthusiasm and frustration.

Next up come two of the best performances from qualifying, Romain Grosjean and Felipe Massa. While we are sure to hear the usual moaning over the radio from the Frenchman we can be sure that he will give it all he can, while watching Felipe Massa yesterday it was hard to believe the sport had been willing to let him go last year.

In both cases, the veterans showed their teammates how it should be done, though we refuse to get caught up in the Stroll-bashing. Give him time.

Great performances from the Toro Rosso also, the STR12 proving - like the Mercedes - that a car can be effective as well as pretty. However, like Red Bull and Renault, there remain fears over the reliability of the French manufacturer's power unit, no matter what badge it might be sporting.

Early days, but Force India has been disappointing thus far, sadly the only way the VJM10 has managed to attract attention thus far being the Lady Penelope paint job.

That said, whatever happens out front - today and for the remainder of the season - we can expect a titanic battle throughout the midfield with the Silverstone-based outfit in the thick of it.

A mixed day for Renault, and while Nico Hulkenberg seems to fit in perfectly, Jolyon Palmer has had a nightmare weekend thus far, and his open criticism of the car will not endear him to the French outfit.

As ever, Fernando Alonso gave it 100%, his drive to thirteenth a monumental effort. However, other than a lack of power there remains the question of the Honda's reliability, the Spaniard and his Belgian teammate facing a tough afternoon.

What with the numerous issues facing the team, what a superb effort by the Sauber drivers, and in particular Antonio Giovinazzi who stepped into Pascal Wehrlein's seat at the eleventh hour. The Italian has admitted that when he got the call telling him he was driving he thought it was an early April Fool.

Along with Massa and Grosjean, Giovinazzi was one of the true stars yesterday.

Other than George Santayana's claim that those who fail to learn from history.... Another great quote is that of Abraham Lincoln, who said 'you can fool some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all of the time'.

We often think of that when writing, because whatever you write is bound to annoy some of the people. Therefore, when we say that the sport needs to see someone other than Mercedes winning we are not expressing bias, merely that we want to see the silver cars challenged.

That said, it has to be done fair and square and not by means of gimmicks, certainly the success ballast Ross Brawn is seriously thinking about.

At a time of great uncertainty, especially when one looks at some of the changes its new owners have planned - you will not believe where the next new addition to the calendar is located - let's hope that today we get a show that will whet the appetites of all of us for the season ahead.

Even if the silver cars are first and second, let's hope they are put under pressure from lights to flag. Let us also hope that there are no post-race protests.

For what it's worth, for some time we have had the impression that Ferrari is going about things differently this year; gone are the predictions, gone are the promises. Indeed, for the most part the Maranello outfit has maintained radio silence.

Let us hope, if only for the good of 'the show' that the Italian team now intends doing its talking on track... and that in time, Red Bull can join in the fun.

And in terms of that midfield battle, let's just enjoy the show.

The pitlane opens and one by one the drivers head out, the two main combatants, Hamilton and Vettel, among the first.

After two days of mostly overcast conditions, it is bright and sunny today. Air temperature is 23 degrees C, while the track temperature is 38 degrees.

"I can't see very much," complains Verstappen, "I've got a flat spotted tyre."

Meanwhile, after two years of Daniil Kvyat not making it to the grid, this time around it looks as though Ricciardo might be the non-starter, the Australian has stopped out on track. "I'm stuck in gear," he reveals as he grinds to a halt.

Problems for Grosjean also who claims his clutch is not fully engaging.

On the grid, Ricciardo's crew are already packing their kit away and heading back to the pitlane. On the other side of the track, Ricciardo is out of his car, his race over before it began.

There's late drama on the grid as the extinguisher appears to have gone off in Kvyat's car. However, the team claim it is a small fire and nothing to worry about. Nothing to worry about? A small fire?

"Daniel stops on track with an electrical issue," tweets Red Bull. "Car back and Team pushing to get the RB13 fixed to start from the pit lane." Indeed, the camera catches the Australian climbing into his car.

All are on ultrasofts, bar Ricciardo and Stroll who are on supersofts and Giovinazzi, Magnussen and Palmer who are on softs.

The head off on the parade lap, all getting away.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Melbourne, here.

They're away... or rather they're not. The start is aborted and there will be another formation lap. Somebody appeared to have been in the wrong grid slot having taken Ricciardo's place.

Hamilton complains of "poor grip" on his second formation lap.

They're away (again). Good starts from Hamilton and Vettel, the Briton maintaining his lead into the first corner, while the German covers Bottas. Strong starts rom Verstappen and Sainz also.

All get away with no issues, Verstappen and Raikkonen side by side through the first complex of corners. Further back there appears to be an incident involving Vandoorne while at T3 Magnussen and Ericsson are off and in the gravel.

Replay shows a poor start from Vandoorne while Stroll made a great getaway and also did well to avoid the feuding Saubers at the first corner. Further on Ericsson appears to be the innocent victim of Magnussen's overenthusiasm.

Hamilton leads Vettel, Bottas, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Massa, Grosjean and Sainz. Ricciardo is still in the pits.

Magnussen has a puncture and is making his way back to the pits.

On lap 2, Vettel is right on the tail of Hamilton, as Magnussen is back on track after pitting.

Ricciardo finally emerges from the pits but two laps down. However, it isn't long before he's getting blue flags.

After just 5 laps Hamilton is complaining about grip, or lack of it. Nonetheless, he posts a fastest lap (28.919).

Stroll pits as teammate Massa continues in sixth. The Canadian switches to ultras.

The stewards are investigating the Magnussen/Ericsson incident.

Vandoorne is told not to tangle with Ricciardo who is a lap down. Moments later the Australian sweeps by and sets off after Palmer.

After 7 laps it remains as it was: Hamilton, Vettel, Bottas, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Massa, Grosjean, Sainz, Perez and Kvyat. Vettel maintains a 1.6s gap to the leader.

Asked to maintain his pace, Hamilton replies "1:28s is not possible". Nonetheless, he is told he is doing "OK".

Vandoorne pits at the end of lap 9, but appears to have an issue re-starting the car. The youngster is guided through the process of starting the car manually.

"Tyre are overheating," warns Hamilton as Vettel closes to within 1.8s, the German looking very confident and biding his time.

Out come the yellows as Palmer is crawling back to the pits, the Briton warning of his brakes locking-up.

A new fastest lap from Vettel (28.221).

The on-screen graphics have been poor all weekend, but now we have no graphics at all.

The stewards decide that no further action is required in terms of Ericsson/Magnussen incident.

Still on track, Palmer, down in 17, complains that his problem continues.

At the end of lap 14 Grosjean drives into the pits, smoke billowing from the back of the car. His race is over, the first retirement of the season.

Next time around, Ocon and Giovinazzi both pit as Palmer appears to spin after as his brake issues continue. "Argh, same again," he wails. "Let's keep going," he is told.

At the end of lap 16 Alonso and Hulkenberg pit, as Vettel closes on Hamilton who pits.

The Briton switches to softs, rejoining in 5th, 21s down on Vettel, as Palmer retires.
After 18 laps Vettel leads Bottas by 9.5s with Raikkonen a further 6.5s down on the Mercedes. In his pursuit of Verstappen, Hamilton is quickest in S3.

As Hamilton posts a new fastest lap (27.551) Vettel is told that it's "looking good, your tyres are looking healthy, keep going".

Hamilton now complaining about understeer as he closes on Verstappen.

Great stuff from Perez who puts a superb move on Sainz in T3, the Spaniard has to lock-up in order to avoid a clash. Elsewhere, Massa pits.

"This is race critical, we need to pass Verstappen," Hamilton is told. The gap to Vettel now 22.190s.

As Hamilton continues to lose time behind Verstappen, Ferrari opts not to pit Vettel who appears to be losing time behind (13th placed) Stroll. Could this be poor strategy from Ferrari... again!

"I'm starting to struggle," warns Verstappen.

At the end of lap 22, Vettel pits. He rejoins just ahead of Verstappen... and Hamilton. The Red Bull driver tries a move on the Ferrari but the German will have none of it.

As Ericsson stops at T13, Vettel has already built a 3.54s advantage over Verstappen.

Bottas leads Raikkonen by 5.6s after 24 laps, with Vettel third. However, the leading Mercedes pits, as does Verstappen. The rejoin in 4th (Bottas) and 5th (Verstappen). The Red Bull on supers the Mercedes on softs.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Melbourne, here.

Next time around, at the end of lap 26, Raikkonen pits. The Finn rejoins in 4th on softs.

"We're thinking Plan B," Hamilton is told as a replay shows Toto Wolff slamming his first after Vettel's pit stop which put him back on track ahead of the Mercedes.

Schadenfreude being a German word, it understandable that Nico Rosberg tweets: "Wow crazy Sebastian got Lewis! Didn't see that coming!"

Ricciardo has stopped on track (T3), his race finally at an end. He site in the car for some time, his frustration obvious, as is that of the partisan crowd.

"Ok Daniel, P zero, sorry mate, the car's done," is the call from his engineer.

After 29 laps, it's: Vettel, Hamilton, Bottas, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Kvyat, Massa, Perez, Sainz and Alonso. The Russian is the only driver yet to stop.

Stroll pits for the second time at the end of lap 31, as does Hulkenberg.

Vettel now leads Hamilton by 6.3s with Bottas 5s down on the Briton.

As he makes his way past the back-markers Vettel looks supreme, further back, Hamilton not so. Indeed, the three-time champ is given a gee-up. "We need to close the gap," he is told. "Let us know what you can do."

As Kvyat finally pits, at the end of lap 34, Hamilton goes quickest in S1. The Russian rejoins in 9th.

Cameras cut to Ricciardo arriving back in the paddock. Helmet still in place, this time to hide his frustration rather than embarrassment.

"Tyres look like they're holding up, so we don't think people with struggle at the end," Hamilton is told. "We're sticking to Plan A." The Briton is currently 8s down on Vettel.

Meanwhile, Bottas, who is 3s down on Hamilton, goes quickest in S2.

Alonso doing a great job in tenth, the McLaren performing better than expected. (Hoping this isn't a Murray moment).

Verstappen is closing in on Raikkonen, the Finn having a quiet Sunday afternoon cruise thus far.

The Ferrari driver is given some encouragement. "it's not over yet Kimi," he is told, "Hamilton is complaining about tyres. If he stops, he would come out behind Verstappen."

If nothing else, we now know that all the doom and gloom in terms of overtaking was correct.

As Kvyat closes in on teammate Sainz, will the Spaniard be told to allow the Russian by in order that he might attack Perez with his fresher tyres?

Lap 42 sees Verstappen post a new fastest lap (27.045) as Stroll runs wide and does a little bit of Rallycross. He subsequently heads back to the pits to retire, the fifth stoppage of the afternoon.

"Hamilton still complaining a lot about tyres, Kimi," the Finn is advised. "OK, OK," comes the weary reply.

A new fastest lap from Hamilton, the Mercedes driver posting 27.033.

Kvyat passes Sainz to set about Perez who is 0.95s up the road. Further back, Ocon is putting Alonso under pressure.

Hamilton reports that his power is dropping in and out. Bottas is now 2.4s behind.

Blue flags for Perez as he is about to be lapped by the race leader.

Lap 48 sees a late stop for Magnussen who switches to the ultrasofts.

Bottas now 1.7s down on his Mercedes teammate.

Game over for Magnussen who becomes the sixth retiree of the day.

Another stop for Kvyat who had appeared to be on a one-stopper. He rejoins in 9th.

Ocon continues to shadow Alonso, while Hulkenberg is all over the back of the Frenchman.

Ocon makes his move but wily old Alonso has it covered. However, the Force India driver doesn't give up and sweeps by the Spaniard as does Hulkenberg. For a moment they are three abreast. The German tries to pass the Frenchman also but with no success.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Melbourne, here.

"**** there is something wrong with the car, it is pulling to the left. The suspension maybe," complains Alonso. He subsequently pits and retires. Great drive from the Spaniard. As ever.

Out front, Vettel sends a clear message, the German posting a new fastest lap (26.628).

"I'm going to leave you alone to push like an animal to catch Perez," Sainz is told. "Push like a mad animal." Classic.

As Hulkenberg continues to harry Ocon, Verstappen has dropped back to 3.151s down on Raikkonen.

A new fastest lap (26.538) from Bottas as he maintains a 1.811s gap to his teammate.

Moments later, Raikkonen bangs in a 26.538.

Vettel takes to the flag, and as the crowd cheers those embarrassing scenes of booing seem a lifetime ago.

The cameras cut to the Mercedes garage where the post-mortem is already underway, the look on the faces of Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda absolutely priceless.

Vettel wins, ahead of Hamilton, Bottas, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Massa, Perez, Sainz, Kvyat and Ocon.

Hulkenberg is eleventh, ahead of Giovinazzi and Vandoorne.

"P1, P1, awesome, that's the way to do it!" Vettel is told. "Woo-hoo!" he responds. "Forza Ferrari, ragazzi!"

He continues to thank the team in Italian, such is the mark of the man.

"Good job Valtteri, good job," Bottas is told. "Thanks guys, the reds were too fast," he admits.

As Vettel waves to the crowds, the cars still on their slow down lap, there are already fans on the track... a possible issue for the organisers.

It's like the old days as Vettel raises the finger, sadly a gesture that is now synonymous with something other than sporting success.

Out of the car Vettel runs to his crew, their cries of jubilation fill the air.

Hamilton is the first to congratulate the Ferrari driver, followed by Bottas.

Such is his joy, Vettel runs back to his crew, lots of man hugs follow.

As the Italian national anthem follows that of the German, memories of another period of Ferrari success come flooding back.

Not the most exciting of races, and clearly there is an overtaking issue.

On the other hand, it's not a Mercedes 1-2.

Maybe Ferrari has learned from history… after all it does receive a sizeable historic bonus… and this being the 70th anniversary of the company's founding, its history is very much in the spotlight.

On to China.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Melbourne, here.

Article from Pitpass (http://www.pitpass.com):

Published: 26/03/2017
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