The last couple of F1 seasons were not as interesting for many reasons – tires were more important, than ever, everything broke, nothing worked and there was only one winner – Hamilton. Don’t get me wrong, I like him, but the viewer doesn’t want to know what will happen in advance and that is what was happening in the 2014 and 2015 seasons. And before that – Vettel and Red Bull did the same. They tried to make it interesting in a couple of ways, but the only interesting thing was the soap opera – The lost friendship between Hamilton and Rosberg.
The season didn’t start promising – it was dreadful, a pure waste of time with the Australia GP’s qualification. It was changed for the first time since the 1960’s, because “they” wanted it to be more interesting. And in theory, it should have worked – the same structure is retained, but after the time limit only one driver would be knocked out and six more drivers would then be eliminated at 90-second intervals before the session ends. In the final part, 8 rather than 10 drivers would take part in the session to determine pole position. This phase would increase from 10 to 14 minutes in length but the driver with the slowest time would be eliminated after five minutes and then one more every 90 seconds. The fastest two drivers would then be left to contest pole in the final minute and a half of the session. Everybody hated it. For most, the qualification is the most interesting part of the race weekend, but for this GP, it just didn’t work. It gave an unjust advantage and it seemed overall unfair and boring. It was such a failure, it is going to change back to its previous version for the rest of the season.
The race was interesting. It started with Daniil Kvyat’s car breakdown and Ferrari’s successful launch in front of the Mercedes cars. As always, the first set of laps was always the most adrenaline filled part of the race. Again, tires played a major role for the race, but under the new rules, drivers were the ones, choosing their strategy and not the team. As an extension of limitations on radio traffic introduced last year in an attempt to make drivers more self-reliant by reducing the in-race role of engineers, there has been further restriction on modes of communication. During races teams are still allowed to use the radio to warn the driver of any on-track dangers, such as track conditions – weather, oil or debris, etc; to inform him if his car has a critical problem, such as a puncture or an overheating engine; to do likewise if rival cars are similarly affected; to issue instructions if the driver needs to pit or retire his car; and to inform him of situations such as marshaling flags in certain corners, race cessation or any instructions they have received relating to the driver from race control. What they can no longer do from the one-minute signal until the race-start signal, is instruct the driver to run through the pit lane, to go to the back of the grid, to discuss the balance of the car, to switch it off, or to conduct a radio check. Although not all fans agree with the new changes, it sure was the root of some messy situations – bad pit stops, penalties and some more.
What changed the atmosphere was the major crash between Alonso and Esteban Gutierrez. It was not what you’d expect of a Champion and his skilled adversary. It was more of a big mistake, rather than an unforeseen accident – After Alonso tried to overtake Gutierrez, the Haas car steered to the left, closing Alonso’s door and all resulted in a devastating crash with (thankfully) no injuries. From another perspective, Alonso is the one, trying to overtake, so it is his duty to drive at a safe distance at all time. It is a mistake, it is no one’s fault. The aftermath forced a red flag and at a later point, a safety car.
That’s where the race changed completely. Everything had to start anew. Hamilton made up for what has been lost in the first laps with the help of another Ferrari breakdown. Raikkonen lost another car. We should expect more of the same, with the new rule changes – the best engines may now be exceeding 1000 bhp, now every car has even more tech on it, but the cooling surfaces are less. The temperatures are now exceeding the limits of safety and it was expected for something to go wrong. And of course, it had to be a Ferrari – they always do that, especially, if Raikkonen is driving one.
All and all, Rosberg, Hamilton and Vettel had a good weekend. Both Hamilton and Vettel made some mistakes at the end, but they didn’t cost them anything, but some embarrassment – we could see the results of the limited communication in the mistakes, as Hamilton’s was caused by lost of focus, and Vettel’s was caused by really old tires and the strategy behind them.
The race ended in good mood, as Rosberg went past the finish line and later, the winners were interviewed by the Australian and ex F1 driver – Mark Webber.
What should we expect of the new season – we don’t know and that’s the good thing. With the recent changes we should expect the unexpected and a call back to the 80’s as the drivers are the ones, winning their races in their powerful new (safety driven) cars.