Hello and welcome to another season of my blogs written for the Silverstone website.
I’ve promised to write 21 of them this year, one for every race. So from now until the end of November I’d better think of something to say! To be honest though, when it comes to Formula 1, there’s always something to talk about.
So? Australia then? How was that for you? Quite a weekend wasn’t it?
I took a photo in the Paddock on the Friday night. Not the greatest photo you’ll ever see, photography isn’t my strongest point. But, I was stood at the Sky Pad, the rain had finally stopped and we were treated to a rainbow.
Amidst all the gloom in the sky, we had something colourful shining through.
Now, if you’ll excuse the comparison here. Following that rainbow the rest of the weekend in Melbourne, it could be argued, resembled something similar.
We had gloom over some of the changes to the regulations in 2016, despondency, an outpouring of condemnation for the new qualifying hour and then a race that was thoroughly enjoyed by the majority of those watching here at the track or back at home in the UK.
So let’s start with qualifying and how Formula 1 found itself in a situation where just a handful of weeks before the start of the new season, one of the most important aspects of the weekend suddenly changed. An idea, rushed through, but to serve what purpose? After all, as many fans tweeted to tell me, qualifying wasn’t broken, why did it need fixing?
It didn’t, but the general idea was to try and mix up the grid a bit in order to make the racing a little more exciting. Artificial maybe, but with good intentions.
But the idea wasn’t properly thought out. It was a system that had potential, but as was not only feared, but warned by the team strategists, there was a high chance that it could become rather dull by the end of each session as the majority of the action shifted from the finale to the beginning. And confusing too, I joked that come the British Grand Prix we might have to send Ted Kravitz into the stands to let the fans know what was happening. Drivers were being eliminated, sometimes on the track, unable to complete their flying lap in time, often whilst they were sat in their garages, and occasionally, back in the Paddock.
And sadly by the time the Senior Marshall waved his chequered flag to signal the end of Q3, the fans in the grandstands had already started leaving, Sebastian Vettel was changed into his jeans and jacket and the accustomed crescendo had turned into the wettest of damp squibs! Lewis Hamilton had put in a mega lap to take pole, but nobody was talking about that, just how farcical the new system was.
Which I don’t think it totally was and, had the compromise where Q3 would still be run under the old system been allowed, the reaction may have been a little different. That was the compromise proposed by the teams at the second test in Barcelona, and sadly rejected. The teams knew what was going to happen, they’d worked it out in their simulations. I was told on Saturday morning exactly how it would play out, but yet still the new format was rushed into place, seemingly without proper consideration.
And to put things right for the future, a meeting in the Paddock on Sunday morning where it was hastily decided to go back to how it was last year. Common sense? Possibly. But maybe it might have been better to take 48 hours to reflect on it and then discuss the conclusions, before rushing in to a decision. F1 qualifying 2016 style is now consigned to the dustbin of F1 history.
All a bit doom and gloom for the opening race weekend really and a situation that could have been avoided, surely.
But then came the rainbow moment. Lights out, at the second time of asking, and a thrilling race, aided by the choice the teams now have of three different compounds of tyres, an idea that seemed to work and I hope continues to do so. Helped by Ferrari’s lightening start, halted whilst Fernando Alonso’s terrifying crash was cleared (to see him walk away from that was such a relief), and played out to an exciting climax as Mercedes salvaged a 1-2 and Ferrari’s gamble after the re-start failed to pay off. Defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.
It was a thoroughly absorbing opening battle and I really enjoyed the race and the various subplots in it. Verstappen losing his cool, Palmer on his debut looking very solid and Grosjean coming home in 6th place for a memorable F1 debut for Haas F1. ‘This is like a win for us’ he said, and he’s not wrong. I’m so pleased for a team that, in a sporting sense, found their pot of gold at the end of 57 laps.
And I was delighted to turn to Martin Brundle for a quick off air verdict after the chequered flag, to find that we both enjoyed it. A unanimous thumbs up from the commentary box and with so many races to go, the hope that Ferrari really have made enough gains to challenge Mercedes even more strongly than last year. Fingers crossed then that that’s the case.
We’ll find out more in Bahrain where I’m not sure if they have rainbows or not? We’d better not have all the doom and gloom then, just in case.