Ferrari could have revived Formula One

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 14.48.53by JACK PRENTICE

Formula One is back. And plenty of talking points have arisen from the curtain-raiser at the Australian Grand Prix as Melbourne once again delivered an incident packed race.

Before the weekend, the talk was about whether Ferrari have reduced the gap between themselves and the ever-dominant Mercedes team and whether they could even mount a challenge to the Silver Arrows.

If Sebastian Vettel’s performance during the race is anything to go by, then our prayers may just have been answered.

The German got off to a stunning start at Albert Park on Sunday, and disposed of both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at turn one. A throwback to his dominant Red Bull days saw him quickly pull away out front, with teammate Kimi Raikkonen backing him up perfectly.

It was a sight, if not sound, akin to their glorious early-2000s, with dominator in-chief Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello ensuring Ferrari swept all before them for five seasons until 2004.

Mercedes, who had seen Hamilton slip back as far as sixth due his poor getaway and subsequent holding up by Rosberg at turn one, were floundering and Rosberg looked to have no answer for Raikkonen, let alone Vettel.

Such was Ferrari’s dominance, Vettel only needed a lap to catch up and pass Hamilton after his pitstop.

It looked like plain sailing for the Prancing Horse.

That was until a sickening collision between Esteban Gutierrez and Fernando Alonso sent the latter into a terrifying barrel roll at turn three and subsequently brought the red flag out.

The Spaniard was extremely lucky to walk away, but less fortunate were the Ferrari’s. Vettel had his lead over Rosberg whittled down and Raikkonen retired soon after the restart.

A mixture of Mercedes’ intelligence and Ferrari’s unnecessary gamble on strategy left Vettel out cold. With him on his supersoft tyres and Rosberg on his medium tyres until the end of the race, it was inevitable the race would get away from the Italian team.

Vettel, who supersofts were used and therefore not fresh, simply could not get the 24 seconds he needed to have a pitstop over Rosberg, and could only muster a three second gap. When he finally did pit he was well behind Hamilton, who had been busy fighting Toro Rossos, on his exit.

Vettel tried but ultimately a mistake three laps from the end put paid to his chances of second place and Ferrari had successfully thrown away ten points.

Ferrari had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, but there was a lot of encouragement to be taken from the weekend.

As mentioned earlier, Fernando Alonso had an accident in which he was fortunate to escape serious injury, never mind be able to climb out and embrace Esteban Gutierrez, who was the other driver involved.

ALO
Fernando Alonso was fortunate to escape injury in Australia. (Image Credit:Theaustralian.co.au)

It is a testament to the excellent safety standards that the FIA have introduced across all forms of world motorsport since that fateful weekend in 1994 at Imola that saw Roland Ratzenburger and Ayrton Senna both die in horrific accidents, with Barrichello himself only saved by Dr Sid Watkins’ quick reactions.

From that weekend on, the FIA appointed Watkins as the F1 Safety and Medical delegate and the measures he brought in have saved many more from the same fate.

Although Watkins died in 2012, his legacy in Formula One, and indeed all motorsport, will remain forever.

Gene Haas’ F1 project has come in for more criticism than your average new Formula One venture, with rivals upset that the American team have bought parts from Ferrari.

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Australian Grand Prix - Race Day - Melbourne, Australia
Fernando Alonso was fortunate to escape injury in Australia. (Image Credit:Theaustralian.co.au)

Romain Grosjean’s sixth place on Sunday made them the first ever debut team to score points in their very first race since Mika Salo’s sixth place in 2002 for Toyota.

The facts are, this is the most sustainable method for non-manufacturer teams to go racing in Formula One.

And F1 can’t afford to be choosy about which teams enter at the moment.

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