Richland F1’s Luke Smith looks at the start of the 2015 F1 season.
The 2015 Formula 1 season has started just how 2014 finished: Mercedes domination. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg once again romped home to a one-two finish at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on March 15th, going unchallenged at Albert Park on what was a disjointed weekend for the sport. That in itself is also continuation of last season, it seems.
The financial crises and tribulations that the bottom half of the grid have been dealing with over the winter have been well documented, with Lotus, Sauber, Force India and Marussia – now Manor – all working to make ends meet. Manor’s comeback was nothing short of herculean, but it wasn’t enough to get the team on the grid in Australia. Sauber’s financial problems forced it into signing a contract with three drivers for two race seats, resulting in forgotten-man Giedo van der Garde launching legal action. What followed was a brutal act of mud slinging by both the driver and the team, which thankfully was settled and cleaned up out of court. It is the kind of press that F1 simply doesn’t need.
However, the case fitted rather well into a difficult race weekend for F1. The race started with just 15 cars, and with only 11 finishing the race, it led to questions about “the show” once again. Was this just another example of F1’s declining stock and how out of touch it is becoming?
Mercedes’ domination did not help matters, leading to calls from Red Bull for some kind of equalization in F1 by tweaking the regulations and cutting the Silver Arrows’ advantage. Of course, winning a race by 30 seconds does not offer much in the way of tight-knit racing that fans crave, but artificial attemps to level the field would only stifle ingenuity. If Mercedes can’t win big, why should it pour tens of millions into development? The saga smacks of sour grapes from Red Bull, whose advisor Helmut Marko even said the team could quit the sport unless changes are made.
The engine formula currently in F1 is perhaps more open to disparity than before, though. Ultimately, Red Bull could produce the best car package only for its Renault engine to be the team’s downfall. The team is now engaged in a war of words with the French marque over the power unit, knowing that hopes of a fifth constructors’ title in 2015 are already dead in the water.
F1 needs to accept that, from time to time, races are dull. Australia was certainly one of them, but this wasn’t Mercedes’ fault. In fact, at the flag, the gap between Hamilton and Rosberg was the smallest through the field. As we saw in 2014, the Silver Arrows can put on a show, as we saw at races such as Bahrain and Brazil last year. The Australian Grand Prix simply wasn’t one of those races.
So for the time being, it’s a case of ‘tough luck’ for Red Bull. Mercedes has once again done a better job, and we’re poised for another great scrap for the championship between Hamilton and Rosberg. It would be a shame for anything to spoil that.
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