Nigel Roebuck
Autosport|March 30,2017

A genuine threat to mercedes.

IN TERMS OF PREDICTING HOW A season will go, history shows it’s a mistake to set too much store by what happens in Melbourne. For one thing, it’s the first race of the year; for another, Albert Park is hardly a typical Formula 1 circuit.

That said, the events of last weekend suggested that the Barcelona tests did not lie, that – Saints Be Praised – at last the endless Mercedes domination is under genuine threat. Yes, you can say that if Lewis Hamilton hadn’t pitted early, then lost time behind Max Verstappen, he would have been ahead when Sebastian Vettel came back out after his stop, and you can throw in that ‘track position’ – with this latest generation of cars – is now more crucial than ever. You can say all that, but while it may be a different story in Shanghai or Bahrain, the fact is that Vettel and Ferrari won the Australian Grand Prix conclusively.

Despite the slight increase in allocation this year, drivers still reported the need for ‘fuel saving’, but a great plus is that the drivers, rather than pussy-footing around on ridiculous ‘high-degradation’ tyres, at last have Pirellis on which they can race, and for long periods at a time. Thanks to the increase in downforce, it didn’t take a Rhodes Scholar to predict there wouldn’t be much passing last Sunday, but if the race was absorbing rather than thrilling, at least it felt like a contest again.

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