Australian Grand Prix 2019: the F1 paddock surprised by the pace of Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton is on first place for the Australian Grand Prix. So, what else's new?
For the sixth year in a row, the world champion was the fastest in just one round of the tough and bumpy Albert Park Street race in Melbourne. And the 0.7-second margin between Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel's fastest Ferrari will send a lot of hearts after five consecutive world titles in Mercedes.
But this is not necessarily a sign that the season can already be canceled.
On the one hand, Hamilton has a total of eight career clubs in Melbourne, but he has won only two of those races. For another, the margin between Mercedes and Ferrari on Saturday was about the same as last year – and Ferrari has not only struggled for the title for much of 2018, but it has not not been possible to push Hamilton even harder because of a series of errors. .
Ferrari had left pre-season testing with what appeared to be the fastest car. This was not a media fiction. This was what the internal analysis of their performance by Mercedes had told them.
Can football tell us if Ferrari are faster than Mercedes?
"I felt good, we had a decent work package," said Hamilton reflecting on the trials after dominating the entire weekend in Melbourne. "But we were aware that we might be slightly late, that's what we thought sincerely – according to our analysis, we sincerely thought we were late.
"We did not change the car, we understood the car, but we did not bring any upgrades.The last two days have felt really good."
Hamilton said the Ferrari was clearly losing cornering time, rather than in straight lines, and that he was as perplexed as anyone else to know why red cars were no longer as fast as they could be. in Spain.
"By testing the [Ferrari] car looked airy, "Hamilton said. I just told him [Vettel]: "Were you on the emanations?" But I'm really grateful for the place where the car is. I know that Ferrari will progress and that tomorrow they will fight a good fight. "
Toto Wolff, the boss of the Mercedes stable, said: "This was not the easiest start to Barcelona and we can not judge if it was a little outlandish because Melbourne is different or if we actually have a car as fast as it appeared today. "
Max Verstappen, of Red Bull, said: "We know it's a solid circuit for them." Certainly, Vettel, disconcerted, hopes this is the explanation.
Norris is the youngest British driver in the history of F1
Hamilton was the only representative of Great Britain in F1 last year, but this year he is joined by three other drivers born in his country.
George Russell, Lando Norris and Alexander Albon have all done enough in their junior careers to suggest that they could impress in F1, and their three starts did just that.
Norris was the brightest star, placing the McLaren in eighth on the grid – not just a great performance on his part, but a welcome hint to the team that the company's restructuring after the gloomy form of the l? last year seems to work.
Nineteen-year-old teammate Carlos Sainz was sniffed for most of the weekend, but in qualifying, the Spaniard crossed Robert Kubica's injury in his second run in the first session and was eliminated.
But Norris went up to the top 10 shots on goal, which he and his team admitted to being unexpected.
"I am obviously very happy with the way this has been achieved," said Norris.
"I'm upset, especially because I've never managed to put it all together in another round of the weekend, but I'm just happy with how it all went and improvements in areas where we needed to make improvements. "
Alexander Albon, who is under Thai license but was born in London, says he will not rely more on one of his nationalities than on his over-qualified teammate, Daniil Kvyat – to his fourth season of F1 – on merit.
Albon, who has an attractive and erased manner, had a tough first day with a slight crash at turn two but rebounded well.
Hamilton's Australian pole tied with Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna's record of an eighth pole position on a track – Schumacher at Suzuka in Japan; Senna in San Marino in Italy
"Melbourne is not the most enjoyable track to start," he said. "It's so bumpy.And if you're not comfortable and confident in the car, lap time will never come because you really have to use the whole track and play with bumps." and the sidewalks, it took a while to get up to speed but we came to the end of qualifying.
"Being a rookie when the car is a bit difficult to drive makes your confidence stronger than it should be."
Beating Kvyat must have felt good, but he downplayed it by saying, "In fact, I was a little behind [to him] most of the weekends. It was more like a "good just to be comfortable". It was not like I was confident. I was just like: "This thing is a bit of a beast". It was more me. I did not really know …
"On this track, there are about a thousand lines you can do in terms of entry borders, apex borders, astro. There are so many places where you put the car in very specific places, unlike in Barcelona, where you can almost do what you want, want and go out with everything.
"It was a good session, I'm not going to lie about it, we'll see the race come."
And then there's George Russell, who, just like Norris, was consistent from the first day, but was comfortably faster than his teammate Robert Kubica all Saturday and had every reason to be satisfied with his performance in a very slow car. Kubica lost 1.7 seconds after hitting a wall on his second pass, but he was already second after the first.
Norris, Albon and Russell still have a lot to learn and a lot to prove. But it was a good start.
Woe is Williams
Private jets, VW polo shirts and laundry worries – meet George Russell, F1,
Russell's performance was pretty much the only bright spot on a dark weekend for Williams.
In the Albert Park paddock, the Williams area is deep down, separated from the row of buildings housing the other teams side by side from Pirelli's tire supplier, Red Bull's engine partner, Honda , and the bar. organized by the official sponsor of the sports beer.
The positioning of their building was, by coincidence, an appropriate and accurate reflection of Williams' competitive position – drifting from the rest of the grid, all alone in a world of pain. Russell was 1,276 seconds faster than the next slowest car.
Over the weekend, the team's assistant director, Claire Williams, used gallows humor to refer to this symmetry – and to the difficult situation in which now lies this team that dominated the sport it's not so long ago.
Williams had a bad year in 2018 – last in the constructors' championship with a tough car. It was the worst season of their illustrious history, but it was nothing compared to their current situation.
How is it that Williams has found himself in this position? This is a question that is asked within the team, as well as in the rest of F1.
Clearly, the internally pointed fingers indicate Paddy Lowe, who went on "leave of absence" a few days after the end of pre-season testing, that Williams started with two and a half days late because the car was not ready in time.
Williams stated that Lowe was away for "personal reasons". But few people in F1 think that these reasons are other than Williams' anger and frustration because of the situation they are in, for which they seem to hold Lowe accountable.
Lowe has been the main technical figure of the teams that have won races and championships over the last ten years or so, so what's really wrong with Williams remains a mystery, including for the bosses and owners of the team. team.
Last year, Chief Designer Ed Wood left the team in the spring after a poor start to the season. In the end, the director of performance, Rob Smedley, moved away and now works for F1. Neither has been replaced. Now that Lowe is gone, Williams is getting ready for 2019 with no one occupying one of the three most important technical roles of any F1 team.
Clearly, any recovery will take time – and the beginning will be to discover exactly what led Williams to this place and, more importantly, how to get out of it.
"We knew this year was not going to be easy for us," said Claire Williams. "Obviously, there are a number of problems to be solved and weaknesses to be corrected within the team.This is not a particular item. the work of the moment.
"We are working in this process and are confident that when the time comes, we will come forward better." The real plus is that the team has lost none of its spirit. his head is down, his sleeves rolled up and he's fighting to fix it. "