Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia.
Sunday 26 March 2017.
World Copyright: Sam Bloxham/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _W6I4899 via PirelliThey say that one swallow doesn’t make a summer.
But in the Australian sunshine, there is no question that Ferrari will certainly be feeling a warm glow after they became the first team other than Mercedes to lead the World Championship with Sebastian Vettel’s victory.
The win was Vettel’s 43rd, but from the way the four-time World Champion celebrated his fourth Ferrari success you’d think it was his very first.
It was a disappointing 2016 for both Vettel and Ferrari, in which much was promised but little delivered and it appears lessons have been learnt.
After all the flattering to deceive in 2016, in which they never could get over the line when in a race-winning position, Ferrari have given nothing away unlike the public confidence exuded 12 months ago.
After multiple strategy mistakes like in and Canada Melbourne last year, in which the Prancing Horse managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory on both occasions, their strategy became a laughing stock.
Internally they will know that after all the tricks and flicks in testing that season cannot play out in a similar fashion
So it took a lot of bottle not to just simply follow Hamilton into the pits on lap 17 and instead push it to lap 23.
By that point Hamilton had spent six laps staring at the back of Max Verstappen’s Red Bull, and with Vettel having more clean laps than not, he was able to squeeze ahead of the Mercedes – and crucially the Red Bull.
It appears Vettel has his mojo back too.
His angst with everything and everyone last season a lot of critics questioned his motivation.
When Ferrari were a second or more off the pace on Friday, Vettel, who had spent the winter telling anyone who’d listen that Mercedes were the quickest, was unruffled in a way that he perhaps wasn’t towards the end of last year.
His drive to victory was calmness personified and has raised hopes that we might finally see a battle between Hamilton and Vettel for the title in a fight not too dissimilar to the days of Mika Hakkinen and Michael Schumacher.
Kimi Raikkonen had a less illustrious drive to fourth, with his only half-battle coming in the shape of Max Verstappen chasing him from time to time.
The 2007 champion admitted the team found setup issues after qualifying – too late to make changes to the car.
Victory for Ferrari isn’t a huge shock, despite the upgrades brought in by Mercedes. The Scuderia were quick in testing and less than 0.3 slower in qualifying despite a so-so sector one for Vettel on his flier.
This result by no means guarantees that Ferrari will be at the top of the tree, or fighting with Mercedes through the season.
It doesn’t guarantee either that Red Bull, despite being slower than expected, are completely out of the running already.
The litmus test for Ferrari is whether they can maintain the pace for the rest of the season.
Indeed, one swallow does not make a summer.
But if Ferrari sustain this battle with Mercedes, they’ll have plenty more birds singing.