Highs and Loews: Australia

Taking a look at who came out of the race weekend on a high, and who will be feeling like a poor pun shoehorned into a title of a feature.

Highs

Sebastian Vettel
A brilliant drive from Vettel who took his 43rd career victory in Albert Park, as we finally saw the true pace of the SF70H. Vettel didn’t allow pole sitter Lewis Hamilton to pull away during the opening stages of the race, and was then able to put in some quick laps to ensure he emerged in front of the Mercedes driver after the pit stops. The second half of the race was the Vettel we saw so often during his world title winning seasons, effortless control and pace management which allowed him to take the chequered flag nearly 10 seconds ahead of Hamilton. If this season is going to be Vettel vs. Hamilton, first blood Vettel.

Vaterri Bottas
Despite being out qualified and beaten in the race by his more high profile teammate, Bottas will be able to take heart from the weekend. Many said he risked being completely blown away by Hamilton, and despite confidence in his own abilities, would have also been slightly apprehensive in Melbourne to see how he matched up against the three time world champion. He wasn’t too close in qualifying, and lost out to Vettel as well to qualify 3rd, but in the race was able to stay within touching distance of Hamilton, closing on him in the second half of the race, which will give him a sense of optimism moving forward.

Felipe Massa
Williams look as if they have the 4th strongest car on the grid, so Massa would have expected a good finish, especially after Daniel Ricciardo’s issues. However with changes expected throughout the season as teams develop, it’s important for Williams to maximise any advantage they currently hold. Massa managed this, 6th place and 8 points will be welcome by both team and driver.

Sergio Perez
Perez came home in a respectable 7th, beat his teammate in both qualifying and the race, and proved to the doubters that overtaking was possible with a great move on Daniil Kvyat early on. Toro Rosso probably had the quicker car this weekend, as shown in qualifying, but as you’d expect from Perez he got the maximum return and finished ahead of both.

Daniil Kvyat
Having been comprehensively beaten by Carlos Sainz last year after returning to Toro Rosso, this is a big season for the Russian if he wants to secure a future in the sport. His teammate qualified one position ahead but by the smallest of margins, and were it not for needing a second pit stop for circumstances out of his control, he would actually have finished ahead of Sainz in the race. Kvyat needs to show the doubters that he belongs in Formula One, and performances like this early on against a teammate touted for big things will certainly help his cause.

Esteban Ocon
Behind his more experienced rival at Force India across the weekend, but secured his first point in Formula One, which is a great platform to build on.

Antonio Giovinazzi
Having been drafted in at the 11th hour to replace Pascal Wehrlein in what appears on paper to be one of the slowest cars on the grid, nobody expected much from the Italian, especially given that the 2017 cars are already described as difficult to come to terms with. A promising qualifying where he just missed out on Q2 combined with finishing the race in 12th, and ahead of Vandoorne in the McLaren, was a very good debut. Sauber will have no problems bringing Giovinazzi in again, should either of the current drivers need to be replaced.

Romain Grosjean
A hugely unfortunate DNF for Grosjean will obviously be a huge disappointment, but his showing on Saturday had people sitting up and taking note. The order appears to be the big three teams followed by Williams, Force India and Toro Rosso. Grosjean got his Haas in front of all three of the latter.

Lo(e)ws

Lewis Hamilton
Despite having the advantage over his teammate across the whole weekend, Hamilton will feel hugely disappointed with the result in Melbourne. Having taken his 62nd career pole on Saturday, Ferrari’s rumoured competitive pace turned out to be genuine as Vettel jumped him during the first pit stops to take victory, and a year of Vettel vs. Hamilton appears to be well and truly on. There’s a long way to go of course, but Mercedes will need to improve on their ability to both follow other cars and subsequently pass, as clearly Hamilton’s issues getting passed a much slower Max Verstappen ultimately cost him victory on Sunday. He’ll need a strong response to Vettel and Ferrari in China.

Kimi Raikkonen
A relatively poor showing across the weekend from the Raikkonen, who finished five and a half tenths down on his teammate in qualifying, and then never threatened the front three during the race. Vettel has shown Ferrari have a great package this year, so Raikkonen will have to up his game as the team will need both drivers firing if they want to take the constructors title.

Daniel Ricciardo
A mistake in qualifying, probably through a desire to impress at his home race, which cost him a gear box and eventually ended his race on the Sunday too. A weekend the Australian will want to quickly forget.

Fernando Alonso
Alonso himself did nothing wrong, qualifying way above expectations and running in the points until problems hit his McLaren. However, seeing one of the most talented drivers of a generation perform better than imagined and still only sit 12th on the grid is troubling. As if it’s not bad enough the McLaren is slow, it clearly also has reliability issues. Alonso deserves so much better than this.

Stoffel Vandoorne
No one expects Vandoorne to compete with Alonso, and everyone could see that Alonso found something this weekend that shouldn’t have been possible. However that doesn’t stop the comparisons. Well down in qualifying, and whilst Alonso was holding off a Force India and Renault before problems hit during the race, Vandoorne finished last and behind a Sauber. Ouch.

Kevin Magnussen
Haas looked unlikely to be one of the stronger teams in the midfield this season, so a 17th place in qualifying, although disappointing, wouldn’t have been particularly surprising to the team. However the moment Romain Grosjean sticks the other car 6th , 1.4 seconds in front of Magnussen in Q1, suddenly questions are being asked of the Dane. Things then went from bad to worse as a first lap incident with Marcus Ericsson, which he was lucky not to be punished for, ultimately ended any chance he had of being competitive.

Lance Stroll
An accident on Friday which, like Ricciardo, required a gear box change and a grid penalty. Then a poor showing on Saturday and was a long way off his teammate when his car decided it’d had enough on Sunday. Is young so will get some patience, but Massa has shown Williams’ true class, Stroll needs to play a stronger support role than he showed this weekend.

Jolyon Palmer
Horror show in qualifying, critical of the car, then things went from bad to worse in the race for the Briton. Was also comprehensively beaten by his teammate across the weekend. Palmer needs results quickly this season, it’s unlikely his race seat is safe, and with a 21 year old Sergey Sirotkin as a potential replacement he can’t afford many more weekends like this.

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