“Luckiest Man Alive.”

Thats what the headlines in the local newspapers read on the morning after Fernando Alonso crashed out of the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday.

I don’t think I’ve seen a Grand Prix car in such a state since Robert Kubica’s monster shunt at Canada in 2007. We have a lot of people to thank for seeing Alonso clamber out of his mangled McLaren just seconds after the near 200mph incident took place, and I have no doubt that this will be a case study going forward to help improve our sport and make it even safer.

One could point towards the recent ‘halo’ concept in this case and argue that it would’ve helped Alonso even more, but if anything I think it made more of a case against the whole concept completely. Speaking to the media after the crash, Alonso said that at those speeds “you are so focused on the slipstream, you only see a rear wing. You don’t have any more vision of the track.”

A massive bar in front of you isn’t going to help, which along with the technical challenges (you can’t just retro fit the thing onto an existing chassis) leads me to believe that a 2017 introduction won’t happen. I’m still of the opinion that the halo is a step in the right direction, but there needs to be more thought put into it from a design point of view.

Another driver who had a lucky Sunday was Nico Rosberg. This was Ferrari’s race to lose in my view once they took the lead with a one-two on the opening lap, and having not run the Medium tyre at all it seems they weren’t confident enough to run with it at the end and risk losing track position to Red Bull – especially with what turned out to be one car running to the end.

It all looked like a repeat of Hungary was on the cards for Mercedes. A circuit notoriously hard to overtake on, that is narrow and has little grip, was about to play into the hands of Ferrari once we’d sorted out who started where. It might well have played into their hands without the red flag – ironically caused by two former Ferrari drivers – but the lack of data is what ultimately failed them here. Sebastien’s late charge looked like they could salvage second place, but the slippery surface down at the penultimate corner sealed his fate with just a couple of laps left to run.

I don’t quite know what could’ve caused the poor start from both Mercedes drivers. We’ve seen them completely botch starts in the past and lose track position, but it seems both their drivers are yet to get to grips with the new start procedure.

Toro_Rosso_Aus_GP_2016_F1WeekendsElsewhere it looked like the planned team radio ban didn’t stop drivers venting frustration to their teams on the pitwall. Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen was effing and jeffing after they elected to pit him after teammate Carlos Sainz, even though he was ahead at the time. The pitstop also looked like a throwback to their Minardi years. You can understand his frustration over the team radio afterwards, although it is the first time I’ve seen him looking properly ragged in a race since his debut.

Speaking of rule changes, it seems the race somehow made up for the shambolic excuse for a new Qualifying format on Saturday. 4 minutes until the end of Q3 and we’d already decided who was on pole? I don’t think so. Some of the teams also looked like they didn’t know how it worked, despite voting for the changes pre-season!

I will admit that there was elements of jeopardy that made it interesting in the opening stages, and I think tweaks could make this genuinely exciting. But I think the best thing for Formula 1 to do is throw this out and pretend like it didn’t happen. For me there is more of a threat of an anti-climax happening, which is what it set out to fix in the first place.

The only rule change that did seem to work this weekend was the tyre choices, which looked like it gave drivers more of an incentive to ‘push’ in the opening stages, much like what we see in the GP2 support races. Going forward I think the tyre choices teams make will be very interesting, with Bahrain looking like the true test of how this affects the action throughout the weekend after Friday’s deluge.

Finally I must congratulate Haas on their points debut. As an ecstatic Romain Grosjean said on the team radio: “this is a win for us!” There was an element of luck of course with the red flag – I guess what works for some doesn’t for others! – but if they play their cards right I can see Haas sneaking a couple of top five finishes in later this year.

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