“And it’s GO GO GO” – The lights went green today on the Formula 1 season as teams emerged from the pit for free practice at the Australian Grand Prix.
This was the first opportunity to get a look at how the cars perform outside of Winter Testing and they did not disappoint. Just half-a-second separated the top six cars at the end of FP2 in what is shaping up to be an unpredictable weekend with rain expected for the next two days at Albert Park.
No real surprise that Lewis Hamilton topped the timing sheets for both sessions with an 1.24.026 in FP1 and the first driver to go into the 1.23s with a 1.23.931 but looking down the order Red Bull sandwiching the Ferraris is something to watch over the weekend. Max Verstappen timed third after the two Silver Arrows in FP1 and put his Red Bull second in FP2 just a tenth off the reigning World Champion with Bottas third.
Although this appears positive for the world’s youngest GP winner this early success has not been shared with teammate Daniel Ricciardo who was last of the top three teams placing sixth in FP1 and seventh in FP2.
Both the fastest laps for the Red Bulls came while on the ultra soft tyres which may be the reason for the Ferrari sandwich with the Prancing Horses using only the soft and supersoft compound throughout the sessions – hiding the true pace of the car for qualifying?
Kimi Raikkonen got the best of four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel beating his team mate by just a tenth of a second in the first session with a 1.24.875 and two tenths in the second with a 1.24.14. Once again starting the season as they ended last year hot on the heels of Mercedes.
A driver who will keep popping up this year is Romain Grosjean in the Ferrari powered Haas. Now in their third year it appears they are leading the midfield with Grosjean on the tail of the top six just 0.6 seconds back and in FP2 managing to beat Ricciardo to sixth right in the mix with Red Bull and Ferrari.
McLaren have picked themselves up after a questionable testing period with both cars in the top 10. Fernando Alonso positioning his car eighth in both sessions allbeit nearly two seconds off from Hamilton and likewise for Stoffel Vandoorne placing tenth in both sessions.
This is the closest to the true pace of this years updated cars with gaps closing throughout the field. But if preview pieces in the media are anything to go by Formula 1 is in need of stopping Mercedes domination to add some excitement to the sport. Dare I say this season might just be that?
But as Ferrari, Red Bull and Haas add some spice to the grid, reaction to the halo from fans has been increasingly negative. This time aimed at the on-board camera coverage.
Fans took to social media with pictures of the on-board view with comments complaining the apex, steering wheel and 30% of the screen is covered. The on-board view has always given the audience a chance to get a POV angle of the driver and often provides the clearest view – the halo has now blocked that.
Reddit was quick to try and come up with a solution to the problem with many suggesting to put a camera in the halo. This I feel would go against everything the halo stands for. Most likely impacting the safety aspects of the design while also weakening the structure.
Others called for a camera to be placed on the front of the car or near to the front wing. This would surely be met with pleas from the teams as their millions spent on aerodynamics would be wasted as a camera is plonked into the air flow.
One commenter even went as far to say “the halo is especially bad and will go down in racing history as one of the worst decision by F1”. Although I would argue the 2005 American Grand Prix was most likely F1’s worst decision but we could blame Michelin for that…
With the F1 season finally underway we look forward to another practice session and qualifying tomorrow morning where the rain might just cause an early upset.
Broadsport will be bringing updates throughout the weekend.