F1 Season

“Formula One Season Opener not without controversy” by Patrick Wedes

FORMULA ONE correspondent

Charles Leclerc confirmed post race “didn’t you not hear on TV over the radio I was asked to hold position” so once again we see team orders from Scuderia Ferrari to it’s drivers. Noteworthy is the fact that Leclerc was gaining on his team mate Sebastian Vettel for third place, a podium chance for the Monégasque racing driver on his Ferrari debut.

Ferrari declined to expand on that directive as we expected. The business of protecting number one still exists at the Italian squad even though the young gun has the talent to do as good or better in his new team.

The loss of Charlie Whiting on Thursday morning came as a real life shock to the F1 paddock. Charlie was a racer from early days as he fine tuned his engineering skills to lead the Technical F1 Regulations team for the next twenty years. He was the mediator between driver and series often sorting out the trackside arguments as they happened in real time. The trackside camera system came into play to give the race stewards more proof when a driver or team was called to explain ‘what happened?’

Changes to the starting procedure often gave the fans something to chuckle about especially when a celebrity would wave the end of a race one lap early even with millions of euro expensed in the electronic systems. Charlie would survive the anguish, laugh it off, answer with intent and head to the next race. He would inspect new tracks being designed, go back to track building check meetings, attend special motorsport meetings for the FIA, travelling by plane on average every 10 days of his working life.

The big question in the F1 Paddock over the Australian Grand Prix weekend was a reality to check on what you do yourself during air flight. Do you get up and walk around, do you wear compression socks to counteract DVT.

Charlie’s autopsy may reveal a DVT contributing fact to his death as many wait to hear of his funeral arrangements where attendees from the world will be there to say their last farewell to a real and good man.

Formula One drivers rarely speak of their off-season fun once the season is over and before the new one starts. Max Verstappen over the break was home with family and friends, chilling out, not doing a lot, Lewis Hamilton went surfing at Kelly Slater’s surfing ranch, Daniel Ricciardo enjoyed not being at an airport for six weeks, Sebastian Vettel snow skied, Robert Kubica enjoyed after eight off-seasons doing nothing compared to F1 training and being 2019 race-ready after his horrific rally accident in 2011 meanwhile Valtteri Bottas who won this race spent time in his home country of Finland with his dogs, his wife and his racing snow mobile.

The Aussie-spirited Daniel Ricciardo was not expecting a podium or the win at Albert Park for the first race of the 2019 F1 season. He felt a top 10 finish was achievable as a result that’s exactly where his team mate finished. Ricciardo on the other hand went grass-cutting on the main straight at the start only to crash out early. He looked back at the footage only to see he collected some concrete gutter which should have been picked up on his and the FIA track walk the Wednesday prior. Perhaps starting his track walk from turn 16 would have been the better option and not from the pit exit.

Ricciardo spoke on local TV of ‘the pressure having to be available all of the time for the event, his home Grand Prix detracts from his race weekend focus’. This comment he may one day retract with his fans purchasing his F1 cap in the hundreds, they queued for his autograph for hours, the fans vote with their feet, they buy tickets, nobody likes to race to an empty grandstand.

The new rule where you gain a point for the fastest lap only if you finish in the top 10 raised a lot of interest for the drivers and teams. ‘That’s 26 points they all said’. They actually both win a point, one for the driver’s championship so Bottas scored 26 points and one for the Constructor. Mercedes leads with 44 points followed by Ferrari on 22 and Red Bull F1 with 15 to round out the top three constructors.

At the end of the race where AMG Petronas Mercedes came home 1-2 with Bottas taking the win it was revealed Hamilton’s race car floor had a hole in it at the right rear hence upsetting the aerodynamics of his race car prohibiting him to chase down his team mate’s 20 second lead as his tyres were slowly shredding.

Haas did well with a sixth place finish ahead of the factory Renault team whilst ex Ferrari driver now Alfa Romeo driver Kimi Raikkonen took a comfortable 8th place finish even though a lap down to winning Mercedes.