Having started from sixth and eighth, maybe we could have hoped for better but given that qualifying was rain affected and the fact that just getting two cars to see the chequered flag was already a huge challenge, this is a solid start to our season. In general, across all the teams reliability proved to be better than expected, showing that in Formula 1, engineering development moves at a pace not seen in any other area. During testing we never completed one genuine race distance and yet today we did two. That was down to a lot of hard work from our side and also from our new engine partner Renault. Giving them a double points finish is a great start to the new relationship.
In the early stages, the Toros were mixing it with the Prancing Horses, but it was Bottas in the Williams who got past both our guys to knock Jev back to eighth and Daniil to ninth by lap 7. Then both men came in on lap 12 for an early stop, as did the majority of the field, when the Safety Car came out to clear debris from Bottas’ meeting with the wall. By lap 25, the Williams man, whose climb up the order was one of the features of this opening round, was again nipping at our heels, passing Daniil, who was now ninth, with Jev seventh.
Our French driver made his second and final tyre change on lap 33, while Daniil came in three laps later, racing Raikkonen for ninth place. Meanwhile Jev was duelling with….yes, that’s right, Bottas again and he was unable to hold off the Finn. Struggling a bit with his brakes and trying very hard, Jev again had a wobble, which let the other Finn, Raikkonen relegate him to ninth.
Unsurprisingly, the race was won by a Mercedes, with Nico Rosberg taking his fourth F1 victory. But it was the second and third placed drivers that mde most of the headlines. The people’s favourite, Daniel Ricciardo, secured his first ever podium finish on his debut for Red Bull Racing and at his home Grand Prix with a fine drive to second place. The most surprised man in Melbourne tonight though was Kevin Magnussen who, in his first ever Grand Prix, came home third for McLaren. There was definitely a sense that the old order was changing.
The F1 circus can now pause for breath because, whereas in the past, the Australian and Malaysian Grands Prix followed one another on consecutive weekends, this time, there’s a two-week break prior to doing battle again in Sepang. All the teams have now got more useful data than they probably saw throughout winter testing and they will be putting that time to good use, working on reliability and performance.