Ferrari are back! Vettel victorious in Australia

Sebastian Vettel defeated Lewis Hamilton in the opening race of the new Formula 1 era with a superb Australian Grand Prix victory.

The Ferrari driver jumped pole sitter Hamilton in the pit-stops then comfortably led home from the Silver Arrows, with Valtteri Bottas claiming third.

Hamilton made a strong start from pole position, but Vettel kept him in sight throughout the opening stint and closed to within a second before Hamilton dived into the pits on lap 17.

The Mercedes driver still had the upper hand when he emerged, but the pendulum swung towards Vettel when Hamilton got bottled up behind Max Verstappen’s Red Bull.

Verstappen’s defence cost Hamilton dear when Vettel emerged in front of both when he stopped on lap 23.

Vettel then ran off, extended his lead to almost ten seconds before Hamilton made inroads late on – then back to 9.975 seconds behind at the flag.

Bottas caught his team-mate after a disappointing first stint left him a few seconds adrift, but ended up settling for a third position.

Behind the top three, Kimi Raikkonen had a quiet race for Ferrari, only coming into play late on when Max Verstappen briefly threatened to steal fourth.

The Red Bull driver was running super-softs compared to Raikkonen’s softs in the second stint, and caught The Iceman at a rapid rate in the final third of the Australian Grand Prix.

Verstappen’s charge included a brief hold on fastest lap, but Raikkonen kept pushing and settle the score by taking fastest lap from Bottas on the penultimate tour.

Felipe Massa earned best-of-the-rest honours for Williams in comfortable fashion with sixth place, the last of the drivers not to be lapped, while Sergio Perez claimed seventh after two bold passes in his Force India.

Perez dived inside Daniil Kvyat at Turn 10 on the opening lap, then nailed the other Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz before the halfway mark with a fine round-the-outside move at Turn 3.

Kvyat ran extremely long on ultra-soft tyres in the first stint but lost out to team-mate Sainz after a surprise second stop late on.

The Toro Rosso driver finished ninth ahead of Esteban Ocon, who earned his first Formula 1 point on his Force India debut after catching and passing Fernando Alonso late on.

Alonso lost tenth to Ocon into Turn 1 and then P11 to Nico Hulkenberg as the Renault made it three-wide on the main straight, then retired his McLaren-Honda with a handling problem.

The double world champion was one of seven retirements from the opening race of the season, with Romain Grosjean the first.

Grosjean lost sixth to Massa on the opening lap, then brought a smoking Haas into the pits after just 13 laps. His team-mate Kevin Magnussen made it a double retirement for Haas in the closing stages after hitting Marcus Ericsson on the opening lap.

Home crowd favourite Daniel Ricciardo started two laps down after stopping on a reconnaissance lap to the grid, and his race ended at the halfway stage after his Red Bull slowed to a halt exiting Turn 3.

Ericsson rejoined after his Magnussen clash but retired just before Ricciardo, while Williams rookie Lance Stroll and Jolyon Palmer – who rose to P14 in the early stages but suffered a braking problem in his Renault – also failed to finish.

So a fantastic result for Ferrari. Sebastian Vettel’s fourth victory for the Scuderia and the four-time world champion now leads the drivers’ standings for the first time since 2012.

Australian Grand Prix, race results after 57 laps:

1    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    57    1h24m11.670s
2    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    57    1h24m21.645s
3    Valtteri Bottas    Mercedes    57    1h24m22.920s
4    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    57    1h24m45.063s
5    Max Verstappen    Red Bull-Renault    57    1h24m40.497s
6    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    57    1h25m35.056s
7    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    56    –    1 Lap
8    Carlos Sainz    Toro Rosso-Renault    56    –    1 Lap
9    Daniil Kvyat    Toro Rosso-Renault    56    –    1 Lap
10    Esteban Ocon    Force India-Mercedes    56    –    1 Lap
11    Nico Hulkenberg    Renault    56    –    1 Lap
12    Antonio Giovinazzi    Sauber-Ferrari    55    –    2 Laps
13    Stoffel Vandoorne    McLaren-Honda    55    –    2 Laps
–    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    50    –    Retirement
–    Kevin Magnussen    Haas-Ferrari    46    –    Retirement
–    Lance Stroll    Williams-Mercedes    40    –    Brakes
–    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    25    –    Retirement
–    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    21    –    Retirement
–    Jolyon Palmer    Renault    15    –    Retirement
–    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    13    –    Engine
–    Pascal Wehrlein    Sauber-Ferrari    0    –    Withdrawn

Hamilton takes Australian Grand Prix pole from Vettel

Lewis Hamilton kicked off his 2017 season with pole position for the Australian Grand Prix, after winning a tense qualifying battle with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton was three tenths up on Vettel after the first runs in Q3, with Bottas just two thousandths of a second slower in third, before Daniel Ricciardo crashed his Red Bull heavily at Turn 14 and caused the session to be red flagged.

The triple champion went even faster on his final run once Q3 resumed, sealing pole with a time of one minute, 22.188 seconds lap – the fastest ever recorded by an Formula 1 car around Melbourne’s Albert Park circuit.

Bottas held top stop for a few moments before Hamilton’s improvement despite a scruffy final flying lap, with Vettel then denying Mercedes a front row lockout by posting the second quickest time on his final run.

Despite setting the pace in final practice, Ferrari ultimately didn’t quite have the speed to challenge the best of the Mercedes drivers, with Vettel 0.268 seconds down on Hamilton, but fractionally quicker than Bottas.

Kimi Raikkonen was fourth fastest, more than half a second further back, while Max Verstappen claimed fifth.

Romain Grosjean produced a solid effort to qualify his Haas inside the top six, nearly four tenths clear of Felipe Massa’s Williams.

Massa was just 0.044 seconds clear of Carlos Sainz, who in turn narrowly beat Toro Rosso team-mate Daniil Kvyat to eighth on the grid.

Ricciardo wound up tenth after failing to set a time before his crash.

Neither Force India made it through to Q3. Sergio Perez, who complained of a gearshift problem, missed the cut by just 0.074 seconds despite improving by nearly four tenths on his final flying lap, while Esteban Ocon failed to find time on his final run and wound up in P14.

Nico Hulkenberg qualified P12 on his debut for the works Renault team, only 0.010 seconds down on Perez, while Fernando Alonso manhandled the troubled McLaren-Honda to take P13, ahead of Ocon and Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber.

Last-minute Sauber stand-in Antonio Giovinazzi was P16, after replacing the unfit Pascal Wehrlein ahead of final practice.

The Ferrari reserve driver was quicker than Ericsson after the first runs in Q1, but went off at the penultimate corner on his final effort, so wound up 0.183 seconds down and failed to make the Q2 cut.

Kevin Magnussen’s difficult first weekend racing for Haas continued. K-Mag went off track on his final Q1 flier and failing to improve his time.

He was fractionally faster than Stoffel Vandoorne, who completed only one flying lap in the McLaren after a fuel-flow problem forced him to return to the pits for most of the session.

Williams repaired rookie Lance Stroll’s car in time to make a late appearance in Q1, following his heavy crash at the end of FP3.

Stroll was P19, though faces a grid penalty for a gearbox change ahead of the session, while Renault’s Jolyon Palmer qualified slowest. More than a second down on Stroll and over three adrift of Renault team-mate Nico Hulkenberg.

So an interesting grid line-up for the Australian Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton earning his 62nd career pole in the sport with Sebastian Vettel on the front row. The Ferrari seems to be quick and it’s great to see the champions at the top. Roll on race day.

Qualifying positions for the Australian Grand Prix:

1    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    1m22.188s
2    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    1m22.456s
3    Valtteri Bottas    Mercedes    1m22.481s
4    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    1m23.033s
5    Max Verstappen    Red Bull-Renault    1m23.485s
6    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    1m24.074s
7    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    1m24.443s
8    Carlos Sainz    Toro Rosso-Renault    1m24.487s
9    Daniil Kvyat    Toro Rosso-Renault    1m24.512s
10    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    –
11    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1m25.081s
12    Nico Hulkenberg    Renault    1m25.091s
13    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    1m25.425s
14    Esteban Ocon    Force India-Mercedes    1m25.568s
15    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    1m26.465s
16    Antonio Giovinazzi    Sauber-Ferrari    1m26.419s
17    Kevin Magnussen    Haas-Ferrari    1m26.847s
18    Stoffel Vandoorne    McLaren-Honda    1m26.858s
19    Jolyon Palmer    Renault    1m28.244s
20    Lance Stroll    Williams-Mercedes    1m27.143s*

*Five-place grid penalty for gearbox change

Force India goes pink

Force India has revealed a dramatic new pink colour scheme for the upcoming Formula 1 world championship.

The switch to the pink, magenta and silver livery is now a complete contrast to the drab, grey look when the VJM10 was launched. The new colours signals a new sponsorship deal with water technology specialists BWT.

As well as the pink colours on the car, Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon’s racing helmets will also switch paint schemes too.

Force India team boss Vijay Mallya said: “The arrival of BWT in Formula 1 is huge news and represents one of the most significant partnerships in our ten-year history.

“It’s a sign of how far we have come as a team with our strong results and completes a solid commercial performance over the winter.

“For 2017 our cars will sport a vibrant new colour scheme with a smart matte finish.

“Changing the colour of our cars is an indication of the strength of this new partnership and a real statement of intent from BWT as they begin their relationship with the sport of F1.”

It’s certainly a bold new look. Pink is rarely seen in motor sport and will definitely add some colour to the Formula 1 grid.

Bold new look for Toro Rosso’s 2017 racer

Scuderia Toro Rosso became the final Formula 1 team to unveil its 2017 car, as it took the covers off the STR12 in the pit lane at Circuit de Catalunya.

The STR12, which had already made its track debut in a run at Misano last week, features a completely new look compared to its previous model.

Instead of the traditional paint scheme seen over the past couple of seasons, the STR12 sports a striking blue and red livery, the colours used for Red Bull’s Simply Cola beverage.

Apart from a new look, Toro Rosso will also use a new power unit this year, the Faenza-based squad returning to Renault engine after running year-old Ferrari engines in 2016.

The STR12, designed by a technical team led by James Key, incorporates the shark fin seen in most new cars so far this year.

Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat represent the driver line-up. The Spaniard in his third season at Toro Rosso.

As for Kvyat, he rejoined the team after losing his Red Bull seat to Max Verstappen from the Spanish Grand Prix onwards, and secured a contract extension for 2017.

Toro Rosso will join all its rivals at Barcelona from next week, when official pre-season testing will kick off.


Haas unveils the VF-17

The Haas F1 team revealed their 2017 race car, the VF-17, when it issued pictures of the Ferrari-powered online.

Images of the car had already leaked out on social media after the team conducted a filming day at Barcelona.

The new Haas featured an adjusted livery with a greater degree of grey, as well as the ‘shark fin’ on the engine cover that most 2017 designs so far have featured.

“I think the pedal box is the same, but all the rest is very different from last year’s car,” said team boss Gunther Steiner.

“You always try to make a faster car, which is normally a lighter car.

“Now we can put on more ballast and get better weight distribution. The aero is completely new, as are the tires, so we needed to have some built-in adjustability.

“Aesthetically, the car has a more aggressive look. It’s lighter and more aerodynamically efficient. Everything we learned from our first car has been applied to our new car.”

Haas made a spectacular start to life in Formula 1 when Romain Grosjean took top-six finishes in the team’s first two Grands Prix.

It could not maintain that momentum, but its later slump was partly because Haas decided to switch resources towards preparing for the 2017 rules particularly early and carried out little in-season development with the 2016 car.

Grosjean stays on for 2017, with Kevin Magnussen moving from Renault to replace Esteban Gutierrez alongside him.

Unlucky 13? Red Bull Racing reveals RB13

Red Bull Racing’s eagerly-awaited RB13 Formula 1 car became the latest new design to be revealed.

With the new rules for this season putting an extra emphasis on aerodynamics – where Adrian Newey-led design team excelled during its dominant years – Red Bull has been widely tipped for a return to championship contention in 2017.

The team won two races with Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo last season, and is expecting further progress from engine supplier Renault too.

Unlike the other large teams, Red Bull Racing opted over a formal launch event and simply released images of the RB13 online.

The car features the shark fine and the thumb nose tip seen in most of 2017 cars so far.

Daniel Ricciardo believes the regulations overhaul has already achieved one aim by making the race cars look more imposing.

“It looks quite beautiful,” he said of the new Red Bull after seeing early images of it. “It definitely looks sleek. They look like the fastest cars in the world. That was the impression I got.”

Max Verstappen echoed his team-mate’s view.

“The car looks very aggressive,” he said. “Hopefully when it looks that aggressive it will be fast, but we still have to wait and see.”

The RB13 certainly looks beautiful. Hopefully it can challenge the mighty Mercedes for championship honours.

Orange is the new black for McLaren

McLaren Honda have revealed a new livery for the MCL32 featuring the team’s heritage orange colour.

The MCL32 is the first McLaren Formula 1 race car since 1980 to not include the ‘MP4’ (Marlboro Project 4) prefix in its name.

McLaren is kicking off a new era after the departure of its long-time boss Ron Dennis, with executive director Zak Brown having taken over at the role.

After weeks of speculation, the much anticipated launch confirmed McLaren will run with an orange branding this season.

“It is awesome,” said Brown. “It is a special day for all of us, first time in a car launch. I think it is a beautiful piece of art and I cannot wait to see Fernando and Stoffel go around the track.

“It was a collective group – we went through a variety of designs and ultimately it was in response to the fans, we have had such outreach from fans ‘we want to have orange’.”

He added: “I am a McLaren fan – we are going to get there. This team is highly frustrated that we are not winning races.

“We have a new package – it takes a bit of time. 2015 was a very difficult year, 2016 wasn’t a great year by McLaren standards but it is forward progress – and that is what we want to see in 2017 – forward progress. ”

The Woking-based outfit had run an orange livery during pre-season testing in 1997, 1998 and 2006, although a full orange livery had only been raced in Formula 1 from 1968 to 1971.

McLaren enters the third season of its partnership with Honda, hoping to take a significant step forward after two disappointing years.

The team’s fortunes improved in 2016 compared to the previous year – when it scored just 27 points – but it was still unable to compete near the front and finished down in sixth place in the constructors’ championship.

Honda’s new engine will feature a revised architecture and a new layout for this year, the Japanese manufacturer moving away from the ‘size zero’ concept with which it returned to the sport in 2015.

McLaren has retained Fernando Alonso for 2017, but the two-time champion will be partnered by Stoffel Vandoorne, who replaces Jenson Button.

The 2009 champion ended his Formula 1 career at the end of 2016 campaign, although he still has a contract with McLaren for next year.

Vandoorne, the 2015 GP2 champion, is already a point-scorer in Formula 1, having replaced Alonso in last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix, following the Spaniard’s massive accident in the first race in Australia.

So the future is looking bright for McLaren. New driver line-up. New boss in charge. New chassis name. Plus a bold orange look. Can the team fight back to competitiveness? Only time will tell.

Ferrari presents the SF70H

Scuderia Ferrari became the sixth Formula 1 team to unveil its new racing car, the SF70H, as the team aims to bounce back from a disappointing 2016 season.

The Scuderia opted an online launch, broadcasting live from Fiorano, where its 2017 challenger will hit the track for the first time later as part of a filming day.

The SF70H features some aggressively sculpted sidepods and has a T-wing fitted to its shark fin engine cover – exploiting the same loophole in the regulations as Mercedes.

Team principal Maurizio Arrivabene, chief technical officer Mattia Binotto and race drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen were on stage for the presentation.

The Italian outfit had hoped to challenge for the championship last year after winning three races in 2015 to finish runner-up to Mercedes.

But it fell well short as it struggled with set-up, strategy and tyre temperatures over the course of 2016 and rarely managed to get the most out of its package.

It failed to win a race and was beaten to second in the constructors’ championship by Red Bull Racing, finishing 367 points adrift of Mercedes.

Ferrari’s technical structure was tweaked mid-season when technical director James Allison left the team, with Binotto moving from his role as engine boss to head up the technical department.

Mercedes introduces their 2017 title defender, the W08

Reigning Formula 1 world champion Mercedes have officially unveiled their 2017 race car, the W08, at a launch event at Silverstone.

The Silver Arrows has already broken cover earlier when it completed a few laps under the sport’s “filming day” allowance with Lewis Hamilton at the wheel

Its nose is narrower and features a more rounded end compared to the thumb stub as seen on rivals Williams, Sauber and Renault.

A small shark fin was revealed at the race track, but a larger version of it is expected to be tested later.

“It is so exciting to see this thing come together,” said Hamilton as he and new team-mate Valtteri Bottas revealed the car.

“From working in the windtunnel, then they have this jig which is into real carbon fibre, you see it all come together, do the seat fitting over the winter and in the last few days seeing it all appearing, somehow they all just slot in perfectly.

“Driving today, naturally the car feels wider, which it is, and the front tyres feel huge.

“There is quite a lot of grip already even in the cold conditions here.

“This is not a test, really the laps I did today were behind a vehicle to get filming in and just a shakedown.

“I got to go a little bit faster but it’s so gusty and it is wet.”

Former Williams driver Bottas had a late call to join the team that has dominated the last three Formula 1 seasons after Nico Rosberg retired days after clinching the 2016 championship.

“It is a big day for me,” said Bottas.

“Driving a Silver Arrow for the first time is something very special.

“I have been waiting for this moment for quite a while and also for the test for a long time.

“I am going to drive the car in less than an hour, it feels real and I am amazed how good the car is looking.

“What I really like about this is how clean it looks, but there is a massive amount of detail on the rear end and bargeboards – development has been done – and how far everything has been taken with this car.

“It looks cool.”

Mercedes has dominated the sport since 2014, when the championship switched to a V6 turbo-hybrid engine formula, winning 51 of the 59 Grands Prix.

Force India’s bold 2017-spec racer

Force India unveiled the VJM10 at a press event at Silverstone featuring an unique take on the sport’s 2017 regulations.

As was the case with the previous three Formula 1 cars released so far this year, the VJM10 features a thumb-tip nose and a huge shark fin, as well as significantly different front and rear wings to meet the new aerodynamic rules.

The Mercedes-powered design will be driven by team regular Sergio Perez and former Manor driver Esteban Ocon, who replaces Renault-bound Nico Hulkenberg.

It is the tenth Formula 1 challenger produced under the Force India brand, with the sometime Jordan, Midland and Spyker team now nearly a decade into its stint under Vijay Mallya.

Force India enjoyed its strongest season to date in 2016, when it finished in fourth position in the constructors’ championship with 173 points, beating the likes of Williams and McLaren.

“I’m very excited,” said Mallya as the car was unveiled.

“Many commentators have said we punch well above our weight and to add to that we are world champions for the amount of money spent.

“It is a huge compliment, it speaks volumes for the passions, creativity and talent of my team and everyone at the factory.

“This passion will get more intense and the passion to improve further is going to be pretty relevant in 2017.”

Technical director Andy Green said the scale of design change prompted by the new regulations was much higher than usual.

“Compared to previous seasons, this is as close to brand new – it is 95% brand new,” he said.

“The philosophy is similar but we are effectively starting from scratch.

“It was a jigsaw to put together but we have the basis of a car now.”

The VJM10 may not win the beauty contest but lets hope the new racer is competitive in the upcoming world championship.