Annoyingly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, the hype of the start of the F1 season has seemingly been replaced by negativity and recency bias.
A dominant 1-2 finish for Mercedes in the first race of 21 must mean they will do the same at the other twenty.
Ferrari are nearly a minute off the pace in Australia, which is apparently a gap that will be exactly the same in Abu Dhabi.
As is usually the case, the most negativity stems from overtaking, or rather a lack of it.
For years, we have seen drivers struggle to overtake at Albert Park, only for Bahrain and China to have them in abundance. Some circuits are more difficult to overtake on, that’s just how it goes.
I am not claiming the 2019 Australian Grand Prix was a classic, far from it, but there are plenty of reasons to be positive about the season ahead. Especially the battle for who will be ‘Formula 1.5 champion’.
Australia put on a decent spread
The monopoly of the top three teams is unfortunate and inevitable until 2021 but a battle between numerous teams for who will be next best seems probable and will likely provide plenty of entertainment for fans willing to pay these drivers enough attention.
Of the six midfield teams (there’s not much point including Williams in the discussion) five of them walked away with points from Australia and no midfield team had two drivers in the points.
Had the car for points, but I didn’t get ‘em. First race out of the way though and got to say thanks to everyone at the track or back home on the sofa who gave me a nod this weekend. Special few days that I’ll not forget 🥛 #AusGP pic.twitter.com/dXzRCb68E4
— Lando Norris (@LandoNorris) March 17, 2019
McLaren, the odd one out who didn’t claim a point, still have reason to be hopeful as rookie Lando Norris qualified P8.
I can understand why there is such a focus on the top few positions, ultimately that’s where everyone wants to finish but realistically that just isn’t possible for these teams in most races.
An all-star line-up
The array of talent on display deserves attention. The likes of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez have built a career around maximising the car at their disposal.
Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen are proven talents who are entering the fray.
Add rookies who will likely improve as the year goes on and you have guaranteed exciting battles between now and December.
Australia was good…if you know where to look
Judging who will head the pack come Abu Dhabi was a difficult task post-testing and the Australian Grand Prix has done little to make things clearer. Far from a bad thing.
As a team, Haas qualified best and when the race was over it was Magnussen who led the way but questions remain over their ability to capitalise on their pace.
Imagine: you screw up twice with a pitstop in the first race of 2018. The whole world watches it on Netflix so there’s ONE thing you need to avoid the first race of 2019.
Haas mechanic: Hold my Rich Energy Drink. pic.twitter.com/9m9IDqkx3M
— Giedo van der Garde (@GvanderGarde) March 17, 2019
Whilst Magnussen was scoring a solid eight points, Grosjean retired thanks to a pit-stop error. An ironic case of déjà vu but it points out why doubts continue to exist.
With the biggest budget, a great driver line-up and having finished P4 last season, Renault should be favourites for being best of the rest again but those expecting a runaway might want to reconsider.
Neither driver found their way into Q3 on Saturday and whilst Hulkenberg scored points, he had a hard job staving off pressure from behind.
Elsewhere, Alfa Romeo clearly remain a team on the up and a brand new line-up should only improve.
Lance Stroll scoring points on his debut for Racing Point should give him and the team confidence, Daniil Kvyat scoring a point for Toro Rosso on his return should have a similar impact.
There is more to life than the big three
At this point, no one can say how the battle at the top will turn out and I am hoping that we get an entertaining duel between two or three teams for supremacy but F1 is much more than this.
The battles further down the grid are just as entertaining, and sometimes even more so.
The Netflix docuseries ‘Drive to Survive’ perfectly highlighted this.
The close, unpredictable racing we all want is there. Sometimes, you just need to know where to look.
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