A proper title battle at last?: Unlike fifteen years ago, it is now a relief when we see a German winning in a Ferrari. After practice, it looked like we were heading for a fourth season in a row of Mercedes domination, but Sebastian Vettel managed to split the two in qualifying, before taking advantage of Lewis Hamilton losing time after his pit stop to take the lead of the race. After three years of Hamilton vs Rosberg, it’s a relief to see two teams fighting for race wins, and hopefully the championship. However, Vettel should have won this race 12 months ago, and look how that season panned out….
Daniel and Max not so bullish now: Red Bull were also hoping that they would be able to challenge for the championship, but it looks set to be a lonely season for the team. Off the pace of Mercedes and Ferrari, and well ahead of the midfield battle, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen will probably only have each other for company on track, with the engine and the car looking surprisingly off the pace.
Will McLaren stick or twist?: This was meant to be the season where McLaren became contenders again. Without a win since 2012, the teams switch to Honda engines has been a disaster over the past two years, and testing showed that it might get worse before it gets better. There have been rumours that the team may switch back to Mercedes power, but this will leave a £70m black hole in the team’s budget. Fernando Alonso is in the final season of his contract, and it’s doubtful he’ll stick around if the team are still struggling. On current form, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him walk away mid-season.
Lack of on track action a worry: Although this year’s cars are much faster than last year, this seems to have come at the cost of overtaking. The extra downforce being generated by the 2017 cars, coupled with the wider tyres, mean it is now very difficult to follow and get alongside another car, with Melbourne seeing 75% less overtakes than last year. It’s always been difficult around this track however, and we should get a better indicator of how much on track action we’ll see this year in China.
Massa U-turn pays off: Felipe Massa’s retirement at the end of 2016 didn’t come as a surprise, but events triggered by the retirement of reigning champion Nico Rosberg have led to the Brazilian returning to the sport. With rookie team mate Lance Stroll struggling in Australia, Massa’s consistency could be a god send for the Williams team, especially with the midfield looking very close in terms of performance so far. Sixth place was as good as the team could have hoped for on Sunday, and Massa will be grateful for the chance to end his career on a higher note than last year. It’ll be surprising if he gets another car as a farewell present this time around though.
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