When Sebastian Vettel won the 2017 Australian Grand Prix many thought it was a sign that Ferrari were going to be the team to beat and that Mercedes dominance had come to an end. In many ways, the Silver Arrows’ dominance did end, as the season was a much more competitive one.
They still won the Constructor’s Championship however, and Lewis Hamilton won his fourth World Championship. While testing is always hard to judge, it seems as though Mercedes still have the edge, and have possibly increased their advantage.
Many Question Left to Be Answered
In many ways the race at Albert Park is the most intriguing of the year. Not just because it’s the first race of the season and the excitement that goes with it, but the amount of questions that have to be answered. A lot can be hidden with testing, and there could be a few surprises along the way.
The race has been won by either a German, British or a Finnish driver in each of the last 11 years and it is hard to see there being any other winner in this year’s race either. The British/Finnish partnership of Mercedes look most likely and the German/Finnish partnership of Ferrari aren’t too far behind. Daniel Ricciardo, however, will be looking to buck that trend and become the first ever home winner in an Australian F1 Grand Prix.
New Life for Alonso
The last winner of the race outside those three countries was the Spaniard Fernando Alonso in 2006, when racing for Renault. While his chances of winning this race are remote, many fans are looking for a much improved McLaren team in Melbourne, and one that could be challenging for podium places as the season unfolds. We needed to see Alonso in a competitive car, and while we won’t see him win the Championship this year, he’ll at least have a car that should be fun to drive.
He will once again be racing with a Renault engine, as will Red Bull and, of course, Renault themselves. They promise to be the third most competitive engine on the grid, but still comfortably behind the Ferrari and the Mercedes. The unknowns come in the form of how much Haas and Sauber can get out of their Ferrari engines, and Force India out of their Mercedes.
Time for Honda to Prove People Wrong
Everyone though will also be casting an eye at Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley, with their Honda powered Toro Rosso. Honda have been heavily criticized in the last couple of years, but their engine throughout testing looked much more reliable. We want as many engine manufacturers as possible in F1, and Honda’s improvement is important, not only as an extra power unit, but also to encourage others to enter the sport. 18 of the drivers on the starting line will be powered by just three different engines; hopefully this is a positive year for the Japanese motor giant.
The 191 miles and 52 laps of Albert Park will tell us a lot about what will unfold over the course if this season. Last year gave hope that we’d have a multi-team battle, and we did. This year we may get the same, or more likely a taste of another year of Mercedes and Hamilton dominance. Whatever the outcome, hopefully what we get is hope for a competitive season that’ll keep us hooked until the very end.