Haas Racing, Violent Crash, Mark Highs and Lows of 2016 Australian Formula One Grand Prix

Although the inaugural Formula One race was won by Nico Rossburg of AMG Petronas, the real stories were the debut of the Haas Racing team, crash safety, and the dangers of leaving the supersoft tires on too long.

As you can see in the video above, F1 safety innovations took center stage when Fernando Alonso and Esteban Guttierez clipped tires.  Were it not for the changes FIA made to literally stop driver fatalities, Turn 3 of the circuit at Melbourne’s Albert Park would now be a memorial to Guttierez.

Haas Automation was the second story of the inaugural Formula One race.  Haas is the first American team to field a team since USF1 in 2010.  Armed with Ferrari technology, the name normally associated with NASCAR hit the track in Melbourne.  That they finished P6 is an impressive feat for a rookie team.

The third great story was how Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel leapt to the lead, lost it to Nico Rosberg, skillfully drove a set of supersoft tires to almost overtake eventual P2 finisher Lewis Hamilton only to have the tires lose traction in a key series of turns (at 4:40 in the video below).  Vettel’s car slid into the infield.  He recovered and finished P3.

Rosberg has won in Melbourne 2 of the past 3 years.  Expect the rivalry between Nico and 2-time Champion Lewis Hamilton to stay as hot.  Rosberg is a fine driver, and does not see himself as the traditional 2nd wheel.

Comments from selected drivers follow.  Watch race highlights below, courtesy of F1 Updates:



Comments from AMG Petronas Racing Media

Nico Rosberg, Winner
That was a perfect race for me. The start was tricky, as I was on the dirty side of the grid and Vettel managed to be ahead. He did a really good job at the start – but we chose the perfect strategy by going onto the medium tyre after the red flag. A big thanks to the team on the pit wall for that, to everyone back at the factories for this fantastic car and to everyone back in Europe who woke up so early to tune in for the race. I hope it was a good show for you! We can enjoy this moment for sure – but we know now just how strong those red cars will be this season, so we cannot afford to relax. I’m really looking forward to the next races and hopefully some more exciting battles. Finally, I also have to say it was a big relief to see Fernando walk away from his shunt. It shows how incredible the safety of these cars is now, which is great to see.

Lewis Hamilton, Finished P2
I’d had a perfect weekend in every way up until the lights went out and felt confident heading into the race. I got a bit of wheelspin off the line then got pushed wide at the first corner, so from there it was just about recovering. But these things happen and I’m grateful for the way I was able to fight back through. P2 isn’t bad in terms of damage limitation after a start like that. I spent a long time stuck behind one of the Toro Rossos and there wasn’t a lot I could do about it as he was on a quicker tyre. I could just see the others pulling away, so the safety car definitely helped by bunching us all up again. I was already on a one-stop strategy and, to be honest, I don’t know why everyone else didn’t do the same on the medium. I’m happy they didn’t, as I probably would have finished a lot further back. In any case, the team did a great job to help us pull it back and there’s still 20 races to go, so I’m feeling pretty chilled. I’ve had far worse starts to the season, so I’ll take that today and head into the next one looking up.

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
First of all, a big relief to see Fernando walk away from that shunt. The race itself was extremely tense throughout – a real cliffhanger and a great way to show what Formula One is really about. We didn’t get it right at the start. The drivers were slow away from the line then touched at the first corner, so we were forced into recovery mode. Our plan from there had been to put Nico on a two stop and Lewis a one stop strategy before the red flag came out. We did the maths and opted to go with one set of mediums to the end, with the drivers on the knife edge of endurance and performance. Managing tyres and temperatures became a big challenge, with debris causing an overheating brake caliper that almost forced us to retire Nico at one stage. Thankfully that was not the case and he led Lewis home for a hard-fought 1-2. A perfect result to start the year, a great job from the drivers to manage and recover the race, fantastic work on the pit wall to give them the right strategy to do so and an incredible team effort from everybody at the factories to get us here. We must now sort our starts and look to carry out momentum into Bahrain.

Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)
What can you say after a race like that? Absolutely fantastic to get a 1-2 at the first race of the season – particularly after we made life very difficult for ourselves with a pair of poor starts. After the red flag we opted to run the medium tyre to the end and expected others to do the same – which would have made the win a very big ask, let alone a 1-2. Of course, we can look back and enjoy it now – but it was quite stressful at the time! It made for a great spectacle, so I hope the fans enjoyed it. Overall, we can be extremely happy today. Congratulations to everyone back at Brackley, Brixworth and Stuttgart. Together, they’ve produced a car which has given us the perfect start to the season in very exciting circumstances.

Comments from RedBull Racing Media

Daniel Riccardo, Finished P4
“Today was fun for me, it was so good to be back racing. I came on the radio more than once expressing my joy to just being out there competing. That joy was emphasized by having a good car underneath me. At the start we were able to pick cars off. We had good pace with high fuel on the option and it was fun to be able to pass cars, I was enjoying that as always. I was sitting in a podium spot towards the end and I was hoping the tyres would last but I knew they weren’t going to hold and I would have to pit again. But fourth is still a good result and I’m happy we’re not that far off Mercedes and Ferrari. It was also good to see that Fernando and Esteban are okay. I haven’t watched the replay yet but I saw the car upside down so I knew it wasn’t a small accident.
Daniel Kvyat, Finished DNF
“I’m glad Fernando is OK, it looked like a very bad accident and it’s a relief to know that he is alright. In terms of my day, it looks like an electronic issue put us out of the race before it started. I think Australia doesn’t seem to be the luckiest place for me so far. The car just shut itself off – I guess it didn’t want to do the race today, but we’ll be back in Bahrain and we’ll start again from there! Last year it was very hard to take, not starting the race, but this year I’m a stronger person so I’ll be OK, these things happen, that’s life and that’s racing.”

 

Christian Horner, Team Principal
“A great drive from Daniel at his home race, he drove a competitive race from start to finish. It was always a long shot for a podium but he did everything possible today. It’s encouraging to see the pace of the car in race trim. It’s a shame that Dany wasn’t able to start the race today, he seems to be cursed here in Melbourne. He unfortunately had a CU-H failure on the power unit, but he’ll be back in Bahrain. The biggest result today was seeing Fernando emerge unscathed from what looked like a very nasty accident. It’s a testament to the safety of the cars and the circuits that he was able to walk away from that.”

Comments from McLaren Honda

Fernando Alonso, Finished DNF
“I’m thankful I’m alive and that nothing serious happened – it was a big shunt.

“A combination of factors caused Esteban [Gutierrez] and me to end up crashing. I was in the car flying and bouncing around – I could see the sky, then the ground, then the sky again. Then, when the car landed, I saw a little gap and I got out quickly to make sure that my mum, who was watching the race on TV at home, could see that I was okay!

“It was a racing incident – I’m very happy we’re both fine, which is the most important thing.

“But, soon afterwards, my thoughts switched to frustration and disappointment, because we missed an opportunity to get some points in the first race of the season, and we probably lost a power unit too because the car is more or less completely destroyed.

“We risk our lives every time we get in a Formula 1 car: these things happen, but I’m extremely happy to be okay. The reason I’m still alive is probably thanks to all the fantastic work the FIA has done over the past 10 or 15 years to improve safety, work they continue to do. And I’m also grateful to everyone at McLaren, who built me such a strong and safe car.”

 

Jenson Button, Finished P12
“I’m really glad Fernando was able to walk away from that accident – I’m sure he’ll remember that one for a few weeks.

“It’s amazing how far these cars can be catapulted when they touch tyres; under braking, it can all happen very quickly when it goes wrong. But the fact that his car survived shows how far the sport has come in terms of safety.

“My car wasn’t too bad, but I think we made some imperfect strategic calls this afternoon. Also, the red flag hurt us because we’d already made our first stop. Then, after the restart, we ran the Supersoft – which lasted about 10 laps – and then fitted the Back-Up, which everyone else had been on since the restart. Around here, you can catch up but you can’t easily overtake, so we ended up at the back of the queue after making our stop.”

 

Eric Boullier, McLaren-Honda Racing Director
“Before I say anything else, I want to praise two things: the structural integrity of modern-day Formula 1 cars, and the safety features of modern-day racetracks. Fernando’s shunt was a big one, and the fact that he was able to walk out of his car after such a heavy impact is impressive indeed.

“He visited the FIA medical centre immediately after the accident, and was formally okayed by the doctors there.

“He’d been driving extremely well at the time, and we believe he may well have scored points had his race run its normal course.

“Moving on to Jenson, ironically, it was the Safety Car and then the red flag triggered by Fernando’s accident that compromised his race strategy, preventing him from being able to drive for a points-scoring finish himself. Tyre degradation was also a problem for him this afternoon.

“However, all in all, despite the fact that we scored no points here in Melbourne today, we’re quietly encouraged by the progress we’ve made over the winter, and we firmly believe that, given a less confused qualifying session and an incident-free race, we’ll be in a position to score points in grands prix to come.”

 

Yusuke Hasegawa , Honda R&D Co Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer

“First of all, I am relieved that both Fernando and Esteban walked away uninjured from their accident.

“Our overall pace during the race was solid, but unfortunately Jenson lost out to the red flag caused by the crash. As the majority of drivers switched tyres during the track clean-up, sadly Jenson had already pitted four laps before. Unfortunately he struggled with his tyres throughout the race, and was unable to regain any of the positions.

“I am pleased that throughout this weekend’s practice sessions and qualifying, we were able to see the improvement of the whole package. However, it was a disappointing to not be able to prove our progress through race results.”

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