F1 2017: Australian Grand Prix Race Recap

rr F1 AUS

Sebastian Vettel won the 2017 Australian Grand Prix, a race marked by mechanical failures and attrition. Lewis Hamilton got a good start from pole, but could not maintain the lead in the single pit stop of the race. Vettel stayed out, allowing Hamilton to be caught in traffic for a couple of laps, and kept the lead the rest of the race. Valtteri Bottas rounded out the podium for Mercedes. Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen completed the top five, with the youngster trying for the race fast lap at the end. Only thirteen of the twenty drivers finished the race, despite a remarkable clean race. Notably, despite a retirement, Fernando Alonso kept his McLaren in the final points paying position for much of the race.

Results of the 2016 Australian Grand Prix

1.  Sebastian Vettel Ferrari
2.  Lewis Hamilton  Mercedes  9.975
3.  Valtteri Bottas  Mercedes  11.250
4.  Kimi Raikkonen  Ferrari  22.393
5.  Max Verstappen  Red Bull  28.827
6.  Felipe Massa  Williams  83.386
7.  Sergio Perez  Force India  1 Lap
8.  Carlos Sainz  Toro Rosso  1 Lap
9.  Daniil Kvyat  Toro Rosso  1 Lap
10.  Esteban Ocon  Force India  1 Lap
11.  Nico Hulkenberg  Renault  1 Lap
12.  Antonio Giovinazzi  Sauber  2 Laps
13.  Stoffel Van Doorne McLaren  2 Laps
 Fernando Alonso McLaren
 Kevin Magnussen Haas
 Lance Stroll Williams
 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
 Marcus Ericsson Sauber
 Joylon Palmer Renault
 Romain Grosjean Haas

Qualifying Sessions:
Hamilton {1:22.188} started on pole, winning the position in a bifurcated Q3. Early in the session, Bottas held provisional pole, then Vettel, then Hamilton as raindrops began to spit from the sky. Ricciardo lost the rear and smashed across the gravel, into a barrier, halting proceedings with eight minutes remaining.

Bottas and Hamilton continued to fight over pole, with the Finn ahead of his teammate on the track, only for the Briton to slice ahead in the timesheets. Vettel split the Mercedes drivers at the flag, almost three tenths slower, with Raikkonen, Verstappen, Grosjean, Massa, Sainz, Kvyat, and Ricciardo the top ten starters. The Australian would suffer a five place grid penalty for a gearbox change. He also stopped on the way to the grid, eventually starting from the garage multiple laps down. Kvyat had his own issues on the grid, as his onboard fire extinguisher went off over ten minutes before the race start.

Grosjean continued to show the Haas speed at Albert Park, qualifying sixth and starting fifth. Though McLaren continues to falter, Alonso moved forward to Q2, qualifying thirteenth and starting twelfth. Teammate Stroll started last. Filling in for the withdrawn Pascal Wehrlein at Sauber, Antonio Giovinazzi started the race sixteenth.

Lights Out:
The cars lined up under the lights, only for the first start to be aborted by Hulkenberg in the wrong grid slot. An extra formation lap shortened the race distanced by one lap. The lights went out for the first start of 2017 under sunny skies, with Hamilton getting away cleanly. Vettel and Bottas scrapped momentarily, but held starting positions into the first turn. Verstappen looked around the outside of Raikkonen, but the Finn exited Turn 1 to the better. Further back, Magnussen pushed Ericsson into the gravel at Turn 3.

Perez made his way around Kvyat, leaving a bit of an opening for Hulkenberg, who could not capitalize. Hamilton led Vettel, Bottas, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Massa, Grosjean, Sainz, Perez, and Kvyat the top ten at the end of L1. Hulkenberg slid back to twelfth as Alonso made his way up to eleventh.

Magnussen pitted his Haas after a puncture. Ricciardo followed him out of pit lane on L3. Though Hamilton maintained his lead, Vettel remained less than a second behind the Mercedes driver, who radioed about his lack of grip on L5. Still, he upped his gap ever so slightly as the cars settled. The top ten drivers started on ultra-soft tires, and all held station through the first laps after the start. Stroll made a stop on L9, switching to that tire choice.

End L10 of 57:
At the end of L10, Hamilton led Vettel, Bottas, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Massa, Grosjean, Sainz, Perez, and Kvyat. Stroll moved to seventeenth with a daring pass on Ericsson. Van Doorne pitted on L10, needing to restart his dash, which stopped working earlier in the race. About the same time, Hamilton told his team his “tires are overheating.” Palmer had his own problems, slowing on the track with a temporary brake issue.

Though race control investigated the first lap incident, no further action was taken against either Ericsson or Magnussen. Grosjean pitted and retired on L15, while Giovinazzi and Stoll scrapped gently over fourteenth. The Frenchman’s Haas smoked as the came into the box, leading to the team urging him out of the cockpit.

Pit Stops Begin {L17 of 57}:
Alonso and Hulkenberg pitted from tenth and eleventh on L17. Hamilton followed as he began L18, dumping out of the lead for soft tires as he and Vettel collected lap traffic. Perez pitted as well. Palmer’s brake issues continued, for at least the fourth time, leading to retirement for the Renault.

Sainz pitted on L19, continuing the slow trickle of traffic in for fresh tires. Vettel remained on the track, still moving briskly, with a nine and a half second gap to Bottas. In fifth, Hamilton posted a race fast lap on L20. Vettel continued to lap, with encouragement from the pit wall. Massa made his stop on L21.

Perez made his way around Sainz at Turn 3 for eighth. Meanwhile, Hamilton worried about his floor and suggested he could save tires if necessary. He quickly became stuck behind Verstappen, with Mercedes informing their driver “it is race critical that you pass Verstappen.” Hamilton, “I don’t know how you expect me to do that.” He closed on the younger driver as Vettel finally made his stop. He rejoined in third, behind teammate Raikkonen, and directly in front of Verstappen and Hamilton.

Sainz and Perez continued to scrap, making contact at Turn 3 on L22. Ericsson pulled to the side of the road in his Sauber, ending his race. Hamilton, in fifth, sounded frantic, complaining, “there’s nothing left in these tires, guys.” He would not have to worry about Verstappen, who pitted on L26. Bottas did as well. Raikkonen followed on L28.

Halfway {L29 of 57}:
Ricciardo joined the growing list of retirees, stopping on track on L29 at Turn 4 with what Christian Horner indicated was an engine failure. Stroll made his second pit stop on L31. Hulkenberg followed on L32. Vettel led Hamilton, Bottas, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Kvyat, Massa, Perez, Sainz, and, surprisingly, Alonso as the top ten at the halfway point. Kvyat finally made his first pitstop on L35.

Radio communications indicated Hamilton might have tried to add a second stop, only to decide to stick with Plan A and keep lapping until the end. He sat second, with new teammate Bottas closing the gap between them with nearly twenty laps to go. Soon, Bottas had under three seconds to Hamilton. By L43, Sainz and Kvyat switched position in an effort to attack Perez, who remained seventh.

Stroll added to the retirement list with a brake failure, missing the pit lane entrance to pit after a trip down and escape road and across the gravel. Hamilton continued to struggle over the radio, though his times were quick enough to close the gap to Vettel ahead and lengthen the one to Bottas behind.

Final 10 Laps of 57:
Vettel’s lead remained around eight seconds over Hamilton with ten laps to go. Bottas followed his teammate, with Raikkonen looking racy as Ferrari told their driver to hustle in case Hamilton required another stop. Verstappen, Massa, Perez, Kvyat, Sainz, and Alonso rounded out the top ten.

As the final laps ticked by, Vettel lost time to Hamilton as he moved through traffic. He lapped up to seventh place with eight laps remaining. Haas’ bad day continued with Magnussen’s retirement on track on L50 with a suspension issue. Kvyat followed, fighting Toro Rosso over stopping when the team indicated could not continue with an engine air issue. He would pit and continue on.

Despite running most of the race in the final points paying position, Alonso lost out doubly as Ocon and Hulkenburg both made a move, turning F1 into a three wide affair into Turn 1 on L52. The Spaniard followed by pitting the next time around, telling McLaren “There’s something wrong with the car; it’s pulling to the left.”

Verstappen wanted to go for the race fast lap with two to go. The team told him it was too fast to try to attempt. Meanwhile, Toro Rosso told Sainz to “push like an animal” in the effort to pass Perez. The Spaniard did not pass the Mexican before the checkered flag. In the end, Vettel took the checkered flag for Ferrari, the team’s first win at Albert Park in ten years.



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