No it isn’t a reference to Spinal Tap. It is indeed the amount of drivers that managed to make the finish, after what can only be described as a conservative amount of action from them during Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix.
Predictably the two Mercedes drivers managed a one-two, with Lewis Hamilton taking the first strike in what is sure to be another hard fought battle between him and his teammate Nico Rosberg in 2015.
Ferrari showed that they were quicker than Williams, who were a man down after Bottas injured his back during Qualifying. Both Sebastien Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen looked like their 2013-spec selves during that race, as opposed to what they were 12 months ago. Vettel was clearly more comfortable with the pace of his Ferrari, yet still miffed as to how Mercedes managed to finished ahead of him by 30+ seconds.
Raikkonen meanwhile probably had one of his best weekends in a Grand Prix car since he won the season opener here two years ago. I found myself utter despair when he stopped with that loose left rear. In fact I wasn’t too impressed with any of the pitstops on Sunday, after it looked like most of the teams forgot how to screw on a wheel properly.
Of course none of this is the fault of the mechanics, with many pointing the fingers towards the new ’blown wheel nut’ solution, which has had its fair share of controversies over the last couple of years since it was introduced – most notably with Williams during the latter stages of their 2013 campaign, and with Toro Rosso at Silverstone during Practice last year.
But aside from the annoyances, Ferrari seem to be back on top and working their way towards toppling Mercedes’ absurd pace advantage. A lot of this has been down to the restructure that they did over the winter, in which a number of people who worked on the engine and aero were either reshuffled or told they weren’t good enough.
Key to that has been the employment of Maruzio Arrivabene as their new team principle. Rather than employing the autocratic leadership style that we saw with the likes of Jean Todt or Marco Mattiacci, he seems to be more willing to learn from mistakes and move forward, something which was exhibited when Raikkonen retired on Sunday.
Rather than giving the left-rear gunman a ticking off, he instead inquired about the issue and sought to solve the problems. But whilst I’m a massive fan of his suaveness and the open interaction he has with the fans, I’m somewhat conflicted with what has been said about their openness in the paddock compared to the other teams.
Elsewhere Red Bull were seemingly slower than their junior team which looked rather tragic. Their engine was breaking gearboxes all weekend, after apparently introducing a new part that circumvented their usual quality checks as per request from Red Bull.
The drinks company later spat their dummy out of their mouth in the form of threatening to quit the sport, even though they said that they were committed until 2020. By the looks of things its a strained partnership between Renault and Red Bull at the moment, but if they pick up the pace in the next few races they could settle their differences and focus the bigger picture.
Sauber impressed after what was a weekend of absolute turmoil for Hinwil. Both Nasr and Ericsson performed rather well in what looks like a very competitive C35, most of which is likely down to the Ferrari Power Unit which seems to be placing them ahead of some Mercedes and Renault-engined teams.
And finally McLaren were five seconds off the pace in what can only be described as a window into the future of their first half of the season. Button of course was still comical after the race, saying he “actually had a race” and that “some dude drove into the side of me,” before adding “It was from behind that was the amazing thing. How gutted is he?”
McLaren seem to know what they’re doing. But for what its worth, its going to be rather painful to watch Alonso in the next couple of races – should he return – wasting his talent, running around and treating each race like a test session. As an admirer of his ability, its rather heartbreaking.
And that is your lot. We’re off to Sepang next for the Malaysian Grand Prix, where Mercedes will no doubt want to impress in front of their chief sponsors Petronas. But will the notorious tropical weather spice things up? We’ll have to wait and see….