The weather has been mostly beautiful for the 20th running of the Albert Park in Melbourne for the Rolex Australian Grand Prix. This is the thirty-first year run for the Australians, with the first eleven races being held in Adelaide.
The sun has mostly shone with temperatures ranging from mild to flat-out hot. The breezes sometimes gusted but usually were a pleasant respite from the sun. The only rain has been negligible and fallen off-hours.
There are 20 cars entered, with eighteen qualifying. But the numbers fell to fifteen by the start of the race, the smallest-ever grid for an AGP. Valteri Bottas/Williams Martini Racing hurt his back during Satuday afternoon qualifying and didn’t participate in any Sunday activities. He was third in the first practice.
Kevin Magnussen’s McLaren Honda blew up on the formation lap, Daniel Kvyat’s Infinity Red Bull slowed and stopped on that same lap and was towed in, and the ill-fated Manor Marussia team never turned a wheel. It showed up with a token crew and will be around for the race, and then be shipped to Malaysia for the next race.
Lewis Hamilton/Mercedes AMG Petronas had the pole, with teammate Nico Rosberg second, followed by Felipe Massa/Williams Martini Racing.
The Mercedes drivers dominated the weekend. Rosberg and Hamilton were fastest in the first and second practice sessions, in that order.
Aussie crowd favorite, Daniel Ricciardo/Infiniti Red Bull Racing qualified seventh, better than he did in the three practice session. With mechanical woes plaguing Red Bull, ran tenth, seventeenth and fifteenth in the practice sessions.
There was more drama off-track, with the question of who would be driving with the Sauber team – Marcus Ericsson or Giedo van der Garade, with Felipe Nasr in the other seat. Van der Garde’s lawsuit to regain his contracted seat and the team’s appeals went through various Australian courts for several days, before being withdrawn “for the good of F1.” It’s not over, but both parties are saying they will work it out. Stay tuned.
The race is shown on NBC Sports Network in the middle of the night in the United States, and 4pm Melbourne time – a year earlier than last. The race’s contract has been renewed through 2020, and will also be the first race of the season during those years and will not be a night race.
Harking back to shipping, Bill Gibson, of Gibson Freight, said this year a record six 747 airplanes flew thirty-five 40 foot containers. As the next race is two weeks out, the pack-up and flying out will spread out four days, until Thursday. In years past, the next race was a week out and everything was gone by Monday morning – which Gibson prefers.
Photos courtesy of Michael Shaw