The 2015 Formula One season got off to a bumpy start in Australia on March 15th and if you were looking for a good battle, you would have had to start in a Victoria Court room where Sauber and former reserve driver, Giedo van der Garde, were locked in a fierce drama over breach of contract allegations.
While the court ruled in favor of van der Garde, it was Sauber’s on-track performance that really brought redemption to the team who had entered the weekend with three contractually obligated drivers—both Sauber’s finished in the points with a highlight performance by rookie Felipe Nasr.
image via formula1blog
A legal battle aside, the F1 grid was missing two cars from Manor Marussia as the team was narrowly allowed to continue racing under new ownership having just exited administration proceedings. The team were present in Australia but failed to send a single car on track the entire weekend. This did not make F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone happy and that’s never a good way to start your 2015 season.
Ferrari’s resurgent performance in Australia sent a message to the folks in Grove as Williams F1 is now squarely in the crosshairs of the Italian team for second place in the Constructor’s Championship. Ferrari, along with Renault, had lobbied for in-season engine development and discovered a loophole that allows for F1’s complex development system to be spread throughout 2015.
While Ferrari have gained performance over the winter, McLaren were 4-6 seconds off the pace only managing to get one car to the finish of the opening grand prix. Jenson Button limped his de-tuned, Honda-powered McLaren to the finish and while expectations were high for the return of the Honda-McLaren combination—too high in retrospect—the 2009 champion feels the chassis and engine will improve dramatically over the season.
The youngest driver ever in Formula 1, 17-year-old Max Verstappen, joined rookies Carlos Sainz and Felipe Nasr in delivering inspired performances. Meanwhile, Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat suffered a mid-field result and DNF respectively. Being lapped by Lewis Hamilton in a Mercedes compounded a miserable weekend for energy drink team prompting team boss, Christian Horner, to call for FIA equalization of Mercedes AMG Petronas’s dominating performance.
Lewis Hamilton claimed victory with a flag-to-flag leading performance with his teammate, Nico Roseberg, in tow just 1.5 seconds adrift of the 2014 champion. Whatever gains were made by the opposition, Mercedes not only covered the gains but offered gains of their own moving the goal posts from being 1.2% quicker in 2014 to a hefty 1.6% faster in 2015. What does that percentage mean?
Finishing nearly 30-seconds ahead of their nearest rival—Seabstian Vettel in a Ferrari—Mercedes proved once again that they have not only embraced F1’s new hybrid engine regulations but they’ve dominated them and made significant gains over the winter.
Mercedes will now face 19 more races—now that the German Grand Prix has been removed from the calendar—and there is little doubt that the season is theirs to lose. A highly motivated Lewis Hamilton will still face a strong competitor in Nico Rosberg but we’ve seen before that Mercedes is keen to let their drivers compete and that could be an interesting key to the 2015 season.
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