What a race to start the season, Sebastian Vettel claimed the first chequered flag of the year and returned to the top after almost two years. Ferrari’s last victory was in Singapore in 2015.
The new regulations affected the outcome of the race, the cars were faster, last season Daniel Ricciardo set the fastest lap, 1:28.997s on lap 49, by comparing this lap with Raikkonen’s fastest lap which was 1:26.538 it is obvious that the 2017 cars are almost three seconds faster. Furthermore, overtakes are harder this season, Lewis Hamilton was struggling to pass Max Verstappen and that might cost him the victory.
This means only one thing, this season will be more interesting and looks like Ferrari have the answer to Mercedes’ dominance.
A clean start allowed to Lewis Hamilton to retain his lead, Sebastian Vettel was close to the three-time world champion, followed by Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen. The two Finns had their own battle at the beginning of the race, but Bottas increased his lead and remained third until the end of the race.
Ferrari showed that they have the pace to stay behind the Mercedes. Vettel was about 1.5s behind Hamilton during the first 16 laps. The Brit, couldn’t increase his lead and that forced Mercedes to take the risk and call him into the pits on lap 17.
Hamilton, re-joined behind Max Verstappen, it was one of the most critical moments of the race. Mercedes told to Lewis that he had to pass Max, but Lewis was unable to do that. Ferrari took advantage and let Vettel on the track until lap 23. The German re-joined ahead of both Verstappen and Hamilton, and he needed only two laps to increase his gap to six seconds.
We were worried about the undercut possibility, we knew we would come out behind Max and Kimi and that’s what happened. Ferrari played it very well.” said Wolff.
When Max Verstappen pitted, Lewis Hamilton was far behind Vettel and he couldn’t challenge him for the first place. Bottas was closing to Lewis in the final laps, and he finished just 1.2s behind his team-mate in his race debut with Mercedes.
Max Verstappen scored 10 points for his team as Daniel Ricciardo had a bad weekend at his home race. The Australian, took a five-place grid penalty because he had to change his gearbox. He started the race from the pitlane, as his car stopped while he was driving to take his place on the grid, due to electrical issues and finally retired after some engine problems.
Felipe Massa had also a quiet evening, the Brazilian finished behind Verstappen on the sixth place, whilst his team-mate and rookie driver retired on his F1 debut race.
It was a pleasant weekend for Toro Rosso and Sahara Force India. Esteban Ocon scored his first point in his Formula One career and both teams finished in the points. Sainz and Kvyat finished eighth and ninth respectively, whilst Perez finished seventh.
It is too early for safe conclusions, Ferrari looks strong and competitive, Sebastian Vettel had the pace to remain behind Hamilton in the first laps, whilst Mercedes seems that they have difficulties to make the right calls when they are not leading.
Best moment of the race
Esteban Ocon’s and Nico Hulkenberg’s overtake on Fernando Alonso, a few laps before the end of the race. Three cars with three different colours (yellow, pink and orange) were running on the same line.
By Victor Archakis – @FP_Passion
Formula 1 Editor