Well, we’re now one Grand Prix down, with 20 to go – and what a great start to 2019 we had in Australia. There are very few things that can convince me to willingly wake up at 4.30am on a Sunday morning, but Formula One has always been one of them. Once again, I had no regrets, and like many others I came away with lots to think about once the 58 laps of Albert Park were over. First of all, we were treated to a slightly unexpected race winner. After so many years of dominance from the Silver Arrows, I was never going to be surprised by yet another Mercedes one-two, but I’m not sure I would have bet on a rejuvenated Valtteri Bottas cruising into the distance and beating team-mate Lewis Hamilton by some 20.8 seconds. The Finn seemed in total control from the start, never really looking back once he reached Turn 1 in the lead. Although Hamilton was later found to have had a damaged floor, which is likely to have severely hampered his race pace, Bottas looked almost like a different driver – fearless and unprepared to be second-best. His winter break, and the porridge he’d had for breakfast on race morning, had obviously worked wonders. If we can see more of the same from him through the rest of the season, it’ll be great for the sport and its fans.
Behind the two leaders, I took notice of Ferrari’s baffling lack of pace in comparison to the testing speed they showed, Honda’s first podium courtesy of Max Verstappen’s Red Bull (oh, to be a fly on the wall at McLaren), and the closeness of the midfield as they battled over the lower points positions. Daniil Kvyat’s return to Toro Rosso turned many heads as he valiantly kept the second Red Bull of Pierre Gasly at bay for tenth – will he show his team that they were wrong to drop him in 2017? I was left with further questions about those in the bottom half of the field. Renault’s big new signing Daniel Ricciardo endured a torrid home Grand Prix, qualifying twelfth before hitting a bump on the approach to the first corner. This caused his front wing to disintegrate and after circulating at the back until half-distance, his team called him in to retire. The failure to finish means we are yet to see exactly what the Honey Badger will be able to achieve with his new employer, but I’m confident we will see him back to his best very soon.
I’m also excited to see what the newcomers on the F1 grid can do this year. Lando Norris missed out on points after starting a superb eighth, but with better luck it would seem there is more to come from the young Brit. The same can probably be said for Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi (not strictly a rookie, thanks to his two races as a temporary Sauber driver in 2017) and Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon, although George Russell is likely to face more of an uphill struggle. His Williams FW42 is significantly slower than the cars ahead of it – he and Robert Kubica locked out the back row of the grid and finished two and three laps down respectively – and there looks to be plenty of work to do before the car can become remotely competitive. It’s been a shame to see a team with the illustrious history of Williams so far adrift of its rivals, but its progress will be yet another source of intrigue as the F1 circus looks toward the Bahrain Grand Prix. Bring it on!
Before I sign off, I’d just like to apologise for my lack of activity lately. University work has had to take priority, and will need to for the foreseeable future, but I’ve also been struggling with some confidence issues. No passion in my life is quite as great as the one I have for motorsport, but that’s exactly what has made it more difficult to write about. There are persistent doubts floating around in my head. What if I get this so catastrophically wrong, even though it’s something I love so much? What if I don’t have anything new or engaging enough to say about it? Those questions can go some way towards explaining why I may only post here sporadically for a while – but I hope you can be patient with me and stick around as I try to keep you updated. Your understanding would be very much appreciated.