F1

F1 2018 Australian Grand Prix: Weekend awards

The first race of 2018 is in the books and it’s time to hand out some awards.

Toby Durant by Toby Durant

(Photo credit: Artes Max)

Formula One returned to our screens in the bright sunshine of Australia. The race was far from thrilling, but it had its moments as Sebastian Vettel rode his luck, and a fast Ferrari, to bag another season-opening win.

Behind him was a frustrated Lewis Hamilton and the sister Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen. That trio take home F1’s trophies, but who takes away ours?

Driver of the weekend

Kevin Magnussen, Haas

The top three couldn’t pull an overtake off all race, but Kevin Magnussen did.

A strong Saturday saw Magnussen qualify sixth as the “best of the rest” behind the big three teams, which is always a good accolade to take. He started fifth on the grid thanks to a Daniel Ricciardo penalty, but it was a fast start and a terrific piece of opportunistic driving that saw him go the long way round Verstappen at Turn One.

In fourth place, the Haas-Ferrari of Kevin Magnussen became an impassable wall as he defended frequent Verstappen attempts to regain his place, eventually it was enough to drive Verstappen into spoiling his rear tyres and eventually losing the back end into turn one and spinning. We have seen Max make some incredible passes and ruin the psyche of other drivers, but not the Dane, not today.

Magnussen’s race would come to a bitter and early end, but he was magnificent in his efforts around Albert Park all weekend.

Donkey of the day

Haas wheel guns

Both Magnussen and his teammate Romain Grosjean had their races ended by pit stop malfunctions. First it was Magnussen, who departed his stop with a left-rear tyre that was not secured, he had to pull over at the Turn 3-4 chicane.

Cameras caught a disappointed and furious Haas mechanic exiting the garage. So it was his fault right? Well no. A few laps later Grosjean headed in for his stop and left with a loose left-front wheel on his wagon, forcing him to pull off almost immediately and creating the virtual safety car that was so telling at the front of the race.

Haas have had just two double-points finishes in their time on the F1 grid, and were in a position to improve on their best result (fifth in Bahrain 2016) only for the simplest and most practised part of the weekend to go awry.

The inquest will be long, the clearing of the garage silent. What was looking like a successful and brilliant race weekend went up in smoke in the space of ten minutes.

Best disappearing act

Force India

In 2016 and 2017 Force India were the dominant midfield team, picking up a pair of seventh-place finishes in their last two trips to Albert Park. This weekend it was as if the pink panthers were not even there.

In qualifying they managed just 13th and 15th, ahead of only the Toro Rossos, Saubers and the debuting Sergey Sirotkin. During the race they were entirely anonymous, only appearing on camera as the recovering Bottas flew past them.

Their poor winter was expected to give way to better racing as they brought some upgraded packages to this race, but it was not enough. With McLaren returning to form, Renault putting in a strong double-points finish and Haas’ pace, Force India’s position in the Constructors’ Championship is under serious threat. They better bring more upgrades to Bahrain.

Least surprising sight of the weekend

Honda problems

Toro Rosso had a double-points finish this time last year, with Carlos Sainz finishing eighth. just ahead of teammate Daniil Kvyat.

A year  later and a lot has changed. Two new drivers and a new engine supplier would always affect results, but this weekend saw Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley struggle for pace in every session. Gasly qualified in last, and Hartley was well adrift as the last car to finish.

Perhaps the most unsurprising part of their weekend was when a plume of blue smoke was coughed out of the back of Pierre Gasly’s car and he slowly returned to the pits to retire.

A lot has changed in F1 over the winter, but Honda power units are still unreliable and down on power. It will be a long year for Toro Rosso.

Who gets your awards and why? Let us know in the comments.

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Toby Durant

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