Grand Prix 2019 Australian Grand Prix Practice, Qualifying & Race Discussion

There's still another test session before the F1 season kicks off in Melbourne on 17th March but lets get the hype going as we enter the 69th season of the Formula One World Championship. It will be the usual early start for UK viewers if you able to watch live with Sky starting their broadcast (or narrow cast if the declining number of viewers is true) at ten past five in the morning. Yes, there is a five o'clock in the morning now.

The 2019 season is long. We are starting earlier in March than normal and the last race is on 1st December at Yas Marina. In amongst all this the 1,000 GP will be held in China on April 14th. There had been suggestions of trying to run the race in the UK to bookend race 1 and race 1,000 at Silverstone but anyone who can recall the Easter GP of 2000 will realise what a very silly idea this would be. I went to a WEC race at Silverstone in April a few years ago and it snowed. Enough said.

So can we hope for a close, exciting and entertaining season with a close battle for race wins and the championship? I have no idea. Testing has suggested Ferrari are the team to beat but then it has suggested this for a few years and the Scuderia has failed to deliver. I suspect the Mercedes will be up to speed come Australia when then take the bag of cement out of the cockpit. Valterri Bottas is talking tough in the season build up, I have a feeling he will roll over and the team will take it in terms to tickle his tummy as each race goes by before they part ways at the end of 2019.

Charles le Clerc should give Sebastian Vettel a run for his money at the red team, it will be fascinating to see how the team dynamic develops and if the young pretender can rattle the four times world champion in the way Daniel Ricciardo did at Red Bull. Talking of Red Bull, it is a new era as they move to Honda power. Testing has shown the engine to be finally getting some reliability and Helmut Marko claims they are behind Ferrari but ahead of Mercedes. This may well be wishful thinking on Helmut's part but I do hope the Red Bull can mix it up the front.

Behind the top three teams Renault and the newly branded Alfa Romeo team look like being at the head of division two with Toro Rosso not too far behind. McLaren, Racing Point and Haas will be hoping to get closer to these two as the season develops whist poor old Williams will simply be grateful to met the 107% rule if current form continues.

So what of Melbourne itself? It took over as the home of the Australian GP from Adelaide in 1996 and has produced, in equal measure, some of the most exciting and boring F1 races I have seen. I hope 2019 proves to be the latter, if not I will have to look to Formula E to continue to compensate for the dirth of excitement in F1.

So stats fans, which drivers (according to Wikipedia) have the most wins at the Australian GP? Well there are two with four wins, Michael Schumacher (well durr) and Lex Davidson. Who he you ask? Well, as much as Formula One would like to think it holds the intellectual property on the term Grand Prix lots of other races have been given this title and Lex won races back in the 50's and 60's.

These races were run to different rules, Davdison's win in the the '54 race being to F2 spec, the '61 race was Formula Libre and looking at the list of entrants it's quite an eye opener. You had Cooper F1 and F2 cars racing against road cars like the Austin 8 and Zephyr. Can you imagine the bleating from today' s drivers if they came up behind a Fiesta or a Mondeo half way through a lap at Melbourne. It's bad enough for the poor little loves when they have to lap a back marker who's only marginally slower than they are.

Back to the Grand Prix pre-85. There is a stunning list of winners including Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Alan Jones and, inevitably, Jack Brabham and Bruce McLaren. These were the days when F1 drivers had to race in various series to make ends meet and were often contracted by the teams to run in F2 and F3 races as well as F1.

Here's another for you stats fans, the Australian GP has been won by two father and son combos (I wasn't sure how else to put this so please forgive my rather clumsy description). Graham and Damon Hill should be easy to work out but Alan Jones' father Stan won the race in 1959 in a Maserati.

Before I leave you to get excited about the upcoming season, one last pointless fact for you to take a guess at. Only one driver won the Australian Grand Prix at the full World Championship event and in the Formula Pacific era, who he?

Welcome to F1 2019.
 

Titch

Champion Elect
Premium Contributor
Maybe they didn’t think it was urgent to work on the problems because they thought they were faster than Mercedes, who it would appear were sandbagging.
 

Ruslan

Podium Finisher
I have found an interesting article on the subject on Motorsport.com Italy Analisi Ferrari: due micidiali concause che hanno mandato in crisi la Rossa - Formula 1 News

In essence they highlight the fact that Vettel's fastest lap was 2.3 seconds slower than Bottas' and 1 second slower than Leclerc. Leclerc's fastest lap was the last lap on the race whereas Vettel couldn't improve his pace after the pit stop despite a lighter car. Also they highlight the fact that Vettel's top speed was considerably slower than Bottas'.

On the basis of the above they claim that Vettel's Ferrari had some serious reliability issues during the race and as a consequence the engineers turned down his engine. In order to understand why that was the case (given that Ferrari hasn't mentioned any reliability problem) they point to the fact that in Malbourne the Ferraris were the cars with the smaller intakes for the radiators so they assume that Vettel's problems could originate in the overheating of some parts of the PU.

they also claim that the Ferrari has less suspension travel that the Mercedes and on the bumpy surface of Melbourne they couldn't find the right set up (a bumpy track is not always so easy to replicate on a simulator, let alone the effects of high temperature).

In essence they claim that (i) they couldn't find the right set up because the data fed into the simulator wasn't accurate enough and anyway the car has been designed in such a way that it is diffuclt to extend some parameters (ie suspension travel) and (ii) given that they didn't have enough cooling effect they had to turn down the engine to prevent a failure.

Both things are quite serious, on the one hand a severely restricted suspension travel means that their car is very extreme and not suitable to work at its best in borderline conditions. On the other hand the cooling issue is a textbook mistake and I'm not surprised that are cagy about it.

Well, they probably did turn down Vettel's Ferrari so he could finish the race, as it is hard to believe that he was a second slower than Leclerc otherwise. On the other hand, he was faster than Leclerc in qualifying and still 0.704 seconds slower than Hamilton and I gather Leclerc was at least a half second slower that Bottas (I have not checked the times....so...). So the explanation is probably valid and does explain why Vettel was slower than Leclerc. It does not really explain why Ferrari was slower than Mercedes.

The suspension travel issue is interesting. Does that mean that Ferrari will not be a factor on half the tracks this season? Do we need to put together a list of bumpy tracks, not so bumpy tracks and smooth tracks? It does sound like they have multiple engineering problems here. We shall see how they look in Bahrain, but probably not fixable in 2 or 3 races.
 

Ruslan

Podium Finisher
I have founf another interesting article on Ferrari on Analisi Tecnica F1 https://www.f1analisitecnica.com/2019/03/gp-australia-analisi-ferrari-sf90-la.html

They claim that Ferrari's main problem is their PU, they have some reliability issues and are working on them. The fact that their engine is not as strong as they wish it would be has led, according to the author of that article, to a very aggressive front of of the car. He claims that especially on qualy they suffered a lot of understeer (I can't comment on that as I didn't watch qualy). He claims that they also have some issues with their suspensions and couldn't find the correct set up for Melbourne on their simulator.

Well, I watched qualifying and the Ferrari's looked fine. In fact too good. Even the commentators noted how solid they looked. I did not see any problems. I did not see understeer. On the other hand, the Mercedes looked edgy, but were clearly (much) faster.
 

RasputinLives

Leave me alone I'm on Smoko
Contributor
From a for the hell of point of view I think we should try and put together a list of bumpy tracks.

I'll start:

Azerbaijan
Monaco
Singapore
Canada
 
So if all those things about the Ferrari are true, why then Publius Cornelius Scipio did none of it show up in testing? That's what I don't understand. Surely they should have encountered some of these problems then and had time to do something about them, shouldn't they?

the tarmac in Barcelona is famous for being super smooth so one issue is gone. regarding managing their temperatures they might have got it right in Barcelona and wrong in Melbourne, please also condier that they had a very clear idea of what to expect in Barcelona (and I assume that they could have opened something had the need arisen).

the point is that I was looking at other web sites and it looks as if all Ferrari powered cars last Sunday had relatively slow top speeds, maybe Ferrari's PU is not as good as Mercedes or Honda
 
Well, they probably did turn down Vettel's Ferrari so he could finish the race, as it is hard to believe that he was a second slower than Leclerc otherwise. On the other hand, he was faster than Leclerc in qualifying and still 0.704 seconds slower than Hamilton and I gather Leclerc was at least a half second slower that Bottas (I have not checked the times....so...). So the explanation is probably valid and does explain why Vettel was slower than Leclerc. It does not really explain why Ferrari was slower than Mercedes.

The suspension travel issue is interesting. Does that mean that Ferrari will not be a factor on half the tracks this season? Do we need to put together a list of bumpy tracks, not so bumpy tracks and smooth tracks? It does sound like they have multiple engineering problems here. We shall see how they look in Bahrain, but probably not fixable in 2 or 3 races.

I guess that they could work on some sort of fix for the suspension travel, however if you design a very extreme car then it's difficult to make a few tweaks and presto you have an uncomplicated bit of machinery, so in a sense I guess that they might struggle in other tracks too, maybe not as badly as last Sunday but it doesn't look great on that front.

The issue with the temperatures is probably a one off, it happens, it shouldn't but we're all human and we all make mistakes, what is more worrying is the fact that it looks as if they could have come up with a very agrressive design for their front section to compensate for a weak PU. They certainly can improve their PU but it's not that easy.

I guess that in Bahrain it will be better, apparently Vettel was very impressed with the car's turn in when the conditions were good so I guess that there will be some races were he will shine. Having said that, from what we have seen so far that Ferrari doesn't look like a champiosnhip winning car, I'm sure that they will win some races. It remains to be seen if they can rectify their problems and turn in into a championship contender
 

RasputinLives

Leave me alone I'm on Smoko
Contributor
I'm not surprised BradMan - even as a neutral Ferrari's peformance is frustrating. It baffles me how the lead driver can ask "how are we so slow?" and the team say "we don't know". If they don't know what chance have the rest of us got?
 

Il_leone

Champion Elect
Was not Albert Park a low grip circuit given its lack of use and neither is it aero reliant which is what Barca tends to show cars with great downforce. Also were not temperatures a bit cooler in Barca

Not sure how Ferrari can get it that wrong in that they admitted that they could not find the balance since first practice. If it is a sensitive car with very small operating window then it might struggle

All in all its a shock to them and everyone that they were soundly thrashed and got beaten by Red Bull as well. How long is it before finger pointing starts at Maranello?
 

BradMan

Rookie
Was not Albert Park a low grip circuit given its lack of use and neither is it aero reliant which is what Barca tends to show cars with great downforce. Also were not temperatures a bit cooler in Barca

Not sure how Ferrari can get it that wrong in that they admitted that they could not find the balance since first practice. If it is a sensitive car with very small operating window then it might struggle

All in all its a shock to them and everyone that they were soundly thrashed and got beaten by Red Bull as well. How long is it before finger pointing starts at Maranello?
It has already started
 

Ruslan

Podium Finisher
I guess that they could work on some sort of fix for the suspension travel, however if you design a very extreme car then it's difficult to make a few tweaks and presto you have an uncomplicated bit of machinery, so in a sense I guess that they might struggle in other tracks too, maybe not as badly as last Sunday but it doesn't look great on that front.

The issue with the temperatures is probably a one off, it happens, it shouldn't but we're all human and we all make mistakes, what is more worrying is the fact that it looks as if they could have come up with a very agrressive design for their front section to compensate for a weak PU. They certainly can improve their PU but it's not that easy.

I guess that in Bahrain it will be better, apparently Vettel was very impressed with the car's turn in when the conditions were good so I guess that there will be some races were he will shine. Having said that, from what we have seen so far that Ferrari doesn't look like a champiosnhip winning car, I'm sure that they will win some races. It remains to be seen if they can rectify their problems and turn in into a championship contender
Yes, I agree. Now over the next couple of races we shall see what the real situation is.

So they dumped Arrivabene, I gather in part at Binotto's request. So, if the car is worse than last year....what is next at the Scuderia?
 

Angel

Race Winner
Contributor
the tarmac in Barcelona is famous for being super smooth so one issue is gone. regarding managing their temperatures they might have got it right in Barcelona and wrong in Melbourne, please also condier that they had a very clear idea of what to expect in Barcelona (and I assume that they could have opened something had the need arisen).

the point is that I was looking at other web sites and it looks as if all Ferrari powered cars last Sunday had relatively slow top speeds, maybe Ferrari's PU is not as good as Mercedes or Honda


Sorry to be thick here Publius Cornelius Scipio but is that PU issue something that they would only pick up amongst other traffic, or is it something they should have realised anyway? In testing they don't run close to other cars as such do they, so that could have hidden the issue perhaps?
 

Ruslan

Podium Finisher
Rosberg comments: Bottas can be world champion in 2019 says Rosberg

Highlights:
1. Rosberg noted that...race director Michael Masi started the race after a shorter than usual pause after the five lights came on.
2. "Valtteri--as I always did--practiced all weekend with his clutch: once, twice, three times, hundred of times. And Lewis, not once, or maybe five times maximum."
 

F1Brits_90

Race Winner
It has already started

its no surprise because Ferrari have or getting a reputation of chokers which is worst considering that Ferrari team boss is equal in media scrunity to the england football manager, this last decade silly errors from either team or driver or both have cost them in 08 10 17 & 18. you don't want that because rivals & people within Ferrari will get to crucial part & just expect things to go wrong. without comparing to football again Tottenham Hotspur have that where every time they get to a title decider or semi final/final they crumble. which breeds mistakes

although this might come back to haunt me in december but wouldn't be the 1st one :D
 

Angel

Race Winner
Contributor
I don't really follow football much anymore to be honest but Spurs is a family thing, my Dad's uncle used to be their groundskeeper a lot of years ago. In my house you wouldn't dare support anyone else.
 
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