After the “humdinger” that was the Australian Grand Prix, people thought rather prematurely that this might be a season of crazy dominance by Mercedes.
They thought wrong.
As a viewer, I thought Mercedes had a chance when they dived into the pits with the safety car and ended up a good 10s behind Vettel, who raced away in clear air. But as much as Hamilton and Rosberg huffed and puffed, they just couldn’t keep the tires going for as long as the sleek Ferrari did. If they had stayed out, they may have kept the margins down, but Vettel had pace to match the Mercs all weekend.
As a Hamilton fan, I have to admit to being quite annoyed, especially since Vettel isn’t a driver I particularly like either. But kudos to Ferrari for sticking to their strategy, and for their pace. Pundits say that China might be a different story, but this could really unfold into a thrilling season between a couple of championship contenders.
Behind the podium finishers, Raikkonen ran a pretty crazy race, dealing a puncture that was thankfully equalised due to the safety car. Fourth was about the best Ferrari could expect of him, and he did well to get there from 11th on the grid. Williams trudged to 5th and 6th in Bottas and Massa, the white cars unable to keep up with the massive improvements James Allison has brought to Ferrari.
Well done to Verstappen and Sainz, who took a fantastic 7th and 8th for Toro Rosso. Sainz had trouble in qualifying, and to make 8th is quite the achievement. But Verstappen was amazing in the face of pressure from the sister Red Bulls of Ricciardo and Kvyat, and eventually overtook them all.
The Red Bulls had to come home a pretty dismal 9th and 10th, unable to match even their junior team with brake overheating that threw out black plumes of brake dust at the end of each straight. Grosjean was right behind, apparently with turbo problems that meant he was down on power. Lotus have had better days, but they clearly have a bit of pace if everything came together. Maldonado wouldn’t want that though; a coming together left him with a puncture and had to retire later on.
Nasr came home 12th for Sauber, and Raikkonen might feel a little aggrieved with Sauber given the customer of Ferrari gave him that puncture after getting held up by Ericsson in Q2. Ericsson beached himself in gravel braking too late into Turn 1, which was what prompted the safety car. Behind them were the two Force Indias, still struggling to get anywhere without the aero upgrades from their new wind tunnel. Finally, Merhi completed a race distance for Manor Marussia, which is quite the achievement for a team with zero testing and no running at all in the Australian GP.
And McLaren, well, they’ve had MUCH better days before. Alonso’s car overheated, Button’s had a failure of some sort, and both had to retire. Still, they were much better on pace than in Australia, and things might be looking up for them.
Vettel is now 3 points behind Hamilton after a most thrilling Malaysian GP. This championship could yet turn out to be nail-bitingly good.