Article by Jacob Black, photo courtesy Mercedes-AMG F1.
It’s mid-march and the 2015 motorsport season is in full swing. NASCAR, Formula 1, WRC, World Superbike and a host of other series have launched their seasons, with only MotoGP and IndyCar yet to have their first race.
The Australian kick-off for the 2015 F1 world championship was chaotic, at best, and a pure soap opera at worst. There were legal threats, teams half-showing up and McLaren-Honda still not opening up about what happened with Fernando Alonso in testing.
The race was won in convincing fashion by Lewis Hamilton, who demonstrated what everyone else already knew – Mercedes are dominant and Hamilton has an even greater edge over teammate Nico Rosberg now that his confidence is buoyed by his 2014 championship. If you hoped for anyone else to take the fight to Mercedes (or even Hamilton) this year – you are sadly out of luck. If your bookie is still offering odds at all, put all you can now on a Hamilton/Mercedes championship.
In the post-race presser Rosberg hinted that he hoped the racing will be closer at the next round in Malaysia, a bemused Sebastian Vettel – who was third on debut for Ferrari by the way – couldn’t contain himself: “Be honest. Do you really hope so? Seriously? You finished 30 seconds ahead of us and you hope it’s going to be closer? So you hope you slow down? Is that what you’re saying?” Vettel prodded.
The reality is the front of the race for the rest of 2015 is pretty much set in stone, but the mid-pack proved interesting. Sauber were strong despite a ridiculous amount of pre-race intrigue. In short, one of their drivers who was dumped for this year (probably because someone else had more money) opened up his can of butthurt in the courtrooms, pushing for a drive he was “legally entitled to”. Courts originally sided with Giedo van der Garde, and he even got as far as doing a seat fitting before common sense prevailed and he let Sauber get back to work.
The legal stoush was the height of petulance, not only because he was forcing his way into a seat racing for a team that clearly didn’t want him there. Not only because he was suing for breach of contract and forcing Sauber to breach another contract at the same time either. No, van der Garde’s dummy spit was particularly ridiculous because he didn’t even have a license from the FIA to race!
But van der Garde’s little issues did a good job of distracting everyone from the fact that McLaren-Honda’s re-formed alliance was dead last – but at least Jenson Button finished. Kevin Magnussen broke down on the warm-up lap, as did Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat.
With those two out, plus Valtteri Bottas a late scratch for Williams due to a back injury, and Manor/Marussia not even making the grid, only 14 cars took the flag. Of those, only 11 finished.
At least some of the mid-pack scraps were fun, though we were robbed of proper excitement when Kimi Raikkonen’s gun man couldn’t get his right-wheel done up, ending the Ferrari driver’s race.
McLaren will be glad of the turmoil of Melbourne though – not only did they finish dead last with a turned-down engine (due to reliability concerns) but the squad continues to face questions over Fernando Alonso’s bizarre testing crash.
Wild speculation surrounds the crash in which Alonso suffered a concussion that saw him hospitalized for four days and declared unfit for the Australian Grand Prix, with a return date indefinite.
The team has claimed that Alonso was conscious and braking when he hit the wall in Spain, that a wind-gust caused the crash but that there was also no loss of aerodynamic pressure, and that he was concussed but there was no physical sign of concussion. They’ve since said their investigations are complete, but they don’t know what caused the crash.
All we know is that at relatively low speed compared to the normal pace at that corner Alonso crashed hard enough to suffer a massive concussion, yet do comparatively little damage to his car. The question has to be asked, if a minor crash that barely even breaks the suspension can do such heavy damage to a driver in the world’s most modern and safest race cars – um, what the hell is going on?
And with that, we award this week’s Green and Black Flags.
Lewis Hamilton is at in peak form right now. Downright untouchable. His performance in Melbourne was commanding, dominant, decisive and frankly, a bit scary. If he gets any better, he and Marc Marquez will have to form their own series. Nobody performed better, Hamilton gets this week’s Green Flag.
It could easily have gone to McLaren-Honda for whatever is going on with Alonso and their woeful performance – but I’m inclined to forgive Honda for struggling with the immensely complicated F1 power units on their return to the sport. Instead, the Black Flag goes to van der Garde for his farcical attempts to force his way into a race seat that he was never going to get.