F1 can only get better after lifeless Melbourne opener

2015 Australian Grand Prix

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Last week’s Australian Grand Prix wasn’t the lowest-scoring season-opener we’ve seen since Rate the Race began in 2008 – but it wasn’t far off.

Only the 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix received a lower average score from readers. However it’s worth pointing out that season culminated in a tense, four-way fight for the title at the final round.

The 2015 season opener fell short of expectations in many ways with one obvious exception: Lewis Hamilton was first to take the chequered flag, picking up where he left off last year.

Nico Rosberg offered little challenge over the weekend and Mercedes were even more dominant in this race than they were last year. They were left to control the race and were rarely even shown in the coverage.

Reliability was a problem for many teams over the weekend and only 11 cars finished the rather dull race. With so few cars on track and points available for nearly all the finishers there was never going to be a great deal of incentive for battles during the race.

It was a straightforward race in terms of strategy as well: a fairly conservative selection of tyres meant there were few pit stops and little variation between strategies. The race scored an average of only 4.7 out of 10 – one of the worst scores since 2008.

Here are a selection of your comments.

An F1 grid?

Only 15 cars made it to the grid and a mere 11 finished. The shortage of cars was painfully obvious as the television cameras cycled through the diminished field throughout the race.

This is why F1 needs more cars, the field seemed pretty empty.

Dreadful. F1 needs to heed the warning of this race. Just 15 cars starting, only two cars which ever had a chance at victory. 11 cars finishing. Good quality teams like Force India and McLaren scrapping over last place. There are no positives to draw from this race. It was a dark day for Formula One.

This race was a farce – there is only one race I can remember that was worse which was the six-car race at Indianapolis. Eleven finishers in a relatively tangle-free race with perfect weather is a poor showing. The spectacle is far from what it used to be, the cars sound rubbish. I was ready to call myself an ex-F1 fan near the end of last season. I don’t feel like watching any more races this season.

The good and the bad

Although the race was rated poorly, there were fans that enjoyed it and found some positives. There also seemed to good and bad points about the on screen graphics. Here are a mixture of positive and negative comments from the race.

I scored it highly because there was proper racing between midfield teams, good to see Ferrari and Sauber back and McLaren finishing the race. I won’t mind an 11-car finish due to reliability (most of them suffer at first race so it’s OK). Bring on Malaysia and picture will be even better.

I feel sorry for the fans, so few cars and so few battles of any genuine interest.

Ecclestone and Todt need to get a grip on this situation. I have watched F1 for four decades and this is the least interest I have had in a season for many many years. I gave my lowest ever score.

Not much in the way of action but some good drives. Was fun watching Button defend from Perez.

What a snore fest. The most boring race in my 32 years of following F1, Even a day at work passes more quickly than that race. It was painful to watch. I just feel so sad that my favourite sport in the world has also become the most boring sport in the world.

Big shout-out to FOM for the progress they have made over the winter. The on-screen graphics look slick and give a much clearer picture of what was happening. In particular, the simple addition of tyre compound in the bar at the bottom of the screen was nice. Also, the social media stuff (Twitter, Youtube, even Instagram) is a big step forwards. If they can sort out the website and the app, they are golden.

Adding to that last point, the CGI they keep forcing on us is horrible. Absolutely horrible. The problem with them is they are so obviously fake – it just keeps grabbing my attention, it’s really distracting. I would prefer it if they just paint a Rolex/Pirelli logo on the grass or tarmac, like they used to do. Oh, and Ecclestone needs to stop with the CGI messages, it’s one of the most decadent things I’ve seen in my entire life.

Did anyone else notice the graphic on the start/finish line at the start of the race? Similar to the crap we saw in (I think) Austria last year. This time a note from Ecclestone to a friend. I am getting quite tired of this but clearly, F1 is all about Ecclestone. It’s just so tacky.

It’s not the organisers fault. Putting aside the joy of F1 being back, there were simply not enough cars on the grid ready to race and most of those who made it weren’t up to spec.
This lack of reliability and differences in performance is much worse than the worsening of the engine sound from the normally-aspirated era to the current turbo era.
Felix IR

Talk to me if you want to live

It says a lot about the quality of the event that what few positive comments there were concerned the podium ceremony conducted by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Even Hamilton seemed genuinely thrilled by his brush with ‘The Governator’:

To be honest the best performance today was by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

For me, the only exciting part was Arnie’s podium interview. They didn’t even bother to properly show the Mercedes in the race. Hope Ferrari catches up and we can have fight for first place.

Awesome interview! Good chosen questions with connection to both F1 as well as the interviewer’s popularity.

Reasons to be cheerful

Will F1 bounce back from a poor start to the season to serve up a season of excitement and intrigue as in 2010? Or was Melbourne the shape of things to come? Here are a few optimistic thoughts from F1 Fanatic readers:

Exciting? No. But nor was last year’s Australian Grand Prix.

But the racing last season really got going after Bahrain (Russia and Monaco aside). I’m not deeply concerned, yet. Besides, can’t really remember a true humdinger barring 2010 at Albert Park. Things should get better!

It was not a stellar race by any means, but was encouraging for the rest of the season for several reasons…

1) Money was not might – Lotus, Toro Rosso and especially Sauber (in race trim) showed excellent levels of performance despite being among the teams most under pressure to make ends meet, whilst Red Bull and McLaren floundered.

2) We can stop naively thinking 2014 was representative of Vettel or Raikkonen’s abilities – The inter-team battle at Ferrari is set to be one of the key points of intrigue of 2015.

3) Terrific teenagers (and Nasr) – The rookies of 2015 all performed excellently, with Nasr especially producing a near fault free run to fifth and in doing so humiliated his more experienced team mate. Pay driver? Who, me?

4) An anonymous glimmer of promise from Rosberg – a lacklustre weekend disguised some excellent early stint pace for Nico on the medium tyre – his primary deficit to Hamilton in races in 2014 – where he was as fast if not faster than Hamilton after Mercedes’ one and only stop.

5) A rejuvenated Ferrari can take the fight to Williams – A messy weekend and the lack of the mechanical grip that hampered Williams at slow speed tracks and in the wet handed a rather easy podium to Vettel, but come Sepang, presuming Williams’ main man is fit, we can expect battle royal for third.

6) McLaren’s hands are clean – The Honda power deficit is giving McLaren a similar deficit to a full ERS failure. In Abu Dhabi this saw Rosberg fall to 14th and lap around four seconds off the pace: since another four seconds would catapult McLaren into podium contention, the MP4-30 chassis does appear an improvement on its predecessors.

2015 Australian Grand Prix

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43 comments on “F1 can only get better after lifeless Melbourne opener”

  1. A full 2 points below its previous worst but still ,7 above last years Russian GP. Looking forward to Malaysia although i don’t expect the top three to change from last race.

  2. I admire your optimism. 30 years watching this sport has robbed me of mine.

    1. Any of us that have watched for that long will always look back at the good old days. We did see racing improve after the Schumacher era. His team mate wasn’t even allowed to challenge him.

      1. tgu (@thegrapeunwashed)
        23rd March 2015, 13:14

        +1 @ncode429 Nothing has come close to a couple of Schumacher’s seasons. Credit to Mercedes for allowing their drivers to race in the absence of competition from elsewhere.

      2. I’m in the same group as you guys I took proper notice and got pulled into F1 in the Mansell era, although as a young boy I watched Hunt v Lauda. My worst years where the Schumacher Ferrari era. The McLaren Honda domination years had Senna and Prost battling, then Williams 92 (Mansell) to 93 (Prost) and 96 (Hill) to 97 (Villeneuve), but they had a different WDC each year. Red Bull domination was the next worse period for me with Vettel, apart from 2010 his team mate did not (or was not allowed) give him a fight. The question this year is can Rosberg give Lewis a good enough fight for the championship? I am not sure he can.

    2. I´m getting close to 30 years as well, and I do believe there will be entertaining battles. Probably Hülkenberg and Alonso meeting on several occasions again, which also means Button might be near, and if both teams make a somewhat expected progress they´ll meet the rookies of Toro-Rosso and Sauber as well.
      We´ll probably not have any excitement about the championship, further bad news on teams struggling financially, people from within or outside F1 complaining about rules, noises et cetera… but we already had that last year, and 2014 still gave us some memorable moments. The Vettel-Alonso-battle in Silverstone was one of the best in decades, for example.
      So instead of expecting F1 to just suddenly become “everyone is pleased – fantasy wonderland”, I may as well just try to enjoy what we´ve got. There may come or have been better times, but I still like it better than any other sport (as long as I haven´t made myself enough money to compete in VLN, then VLN will be better, of course).

    3. Michael Brown
      23rd March 2015, 14:23

      Only 4 years for me and my optimism for this sport has nosedived.

    4. I guess you didn’t see last year’s Bahrain, Canadian, Hungarian or Belgian Grands Prix then…

      1. The Canadian GP was thrilling right up to the end. Mercedes showing a chink in the silver armor; Danny Ric’s first win; the battle for 2nd and 3rd; and a near disaster right at the end; stellar. And I am with you on the Vettel/Alonso battle. Six WDCs between them and they show what true wheel-to-wheel/wheel-between-wheel racing can be.

    5. This. I fully expect another yawnworthy race in what looks set to be an extremely yawnworthy season.

      Personally, I’ll do the same as I did last year after a quarter-century of never missing a single race — I’ll watch the first three races of this year, and if Mercedes continue to have an advantage that the rules (homologation, engine lifetime controls and extremely harsh limits on testing) artificially protect by preventing rivals from being able to develop their engines properly, I will simply stop watching again.

      Last year, I said I’d give things another try this year. This time around, if I stop watching I will most likely never be back. There is next to nothing of the real F1 left any more — half the car is spec parts, the rest is so tightly limited that it might as well be spec, and there is no significant engine, tire etc. development any more.

      All that’s left is an aero formula whose battle is made meaningless by the fact that one manufacturer is given a huge engine advantage, courtesy of a rule that was originally intended to promote parity but now promotes the exact opposite. And all the while we rely on childish gimmicks like DRS that are totally unsporting to try and create some fiction of there being actual racing taking place.

  3. I suspect people are mostly disappointed because they had hoped Rosberg would mount a strong challenge from the off but his lacklustre showing left the impression that if Hamilton gets a significant lead in the opening rounds he will simply romp away Schumacher style. If you are not a Lewis or Merc fan I can see why it might seem like it’s gonna be a long year. Hopefully Nico has given himself a talking to and will raise his game. Either way I suspect he has no chance!

    1. Mr win or lose
      24th March 2015, 18:00

      What more did you expect from Rosberg? The only thing he could do was to chase Hamilton, as it is virtually impossible to overtake an equally fast car. He lost the race on Saturday.

  4. In agreement with @Andae23 and @Ares. Those silly messages are quite representative of the state of F1 and its misaligned priorities.

    While the sport flounders, the 84yr old anchor dragging it down – who’s publicly boasted a shocking grasp of the relevance of technology in media today – is introduced to the drab possibilities of CGI on-screen and is now akin to a 6 year old let loose in a toy shop.

  5. Good points brought up by @countrygent, yes this race was not the most exciting race, but there is plenty of good things to see in how it played out, so I am looking forward to a very solid season.

    Thanks for compiling this piece @brawngp, nice work.

    1. @bascb I think we can rightfully be a bit disappointed with Rosberg’s speed over the weekend, with his speed versus Lewis in practice and qualifying in Oz’ last year appended to his testing mileage advantage I think he was perhaps the favourite for the win, but I think Hamilton looks to have made a step forward. Since Lewis won on a track that is by no means his best, I fear the Bahrain-esque battles between the Mercs will be reserved for tracks that Rosberg enjoys…we may have to grin and bear Sepang then…

      However this was the only real disappointment for me from Melbourne, aside from the lack of on-track spectacle. Pleasant surprises in the shape of Toro Rosso and Sauber in addition to a thoroughly formidable looking McLaren chassis bodes well for the rest of season. In terms of drivers, I think it speaks for itself that we can lose drivers of the quality of di Resta and Vergne and not remember their absence because of the antics of the latest batch of super-talented youngsters. Well done GP3, well done FR3.5…shame the FIA barely remembers you exist…

      1. Yes, I had a bit of a feeling that Rosberg treated it as having to settle for 2nd afer the Saturday a bit @countrygent.

        They can say all they want about him having given it all he could to close up, but I still feel that an Alonso in that car, or a Hamilton with his mind set on cracking it would have been able to do more. I hope he gets his stuff together and gives Hamilton a fight for it next round though (maybe with some rain? Not sure Rosberg can do much in Malaysia).

        1. @bascb Exactly, the only things that can pose a threat to Hamilton when he’s on form is rain, the finest racing driver in the world and Hamilton himself!

    2. ColdFly F1 (@)
      23rd March 2015, 22:20

      I like @countrygent‘s points a well, but I’m not sure though we can state that Kimi ‘is back’.

      On softs Kimi was on about 1 sec slower than Vettel (whilst using more tyre). And when on different tyres he couldn’t make his tyre advantage count sufficiently.

      1. @coldfly – And yet he was notably faster than Vettel on both types of tyre in the race runs in FP2. And I’m not sure what stint you are referring to, but Kimi was in dirty air for the bulk of the race. Sepang is a track where both Kimi and Vettel are historically strong, so it will be interesting to see who comes out on top.

    3. thanks @bascb :-)

  6. Pretty mystified about the positive reaction to the podium interview. I like Arnie as much as the next guy but this was just cringeworthy nonsense.

    “So…… …is fitness important in racing?”
    “……….. Nico………. tell us about the importance of concentration in racing”
    “Did I mention the Arnold classic?”

    I thought the podium interview was to get driver’s reactions to the race they’ve just finished, not discuss the generalities of sport.

    I’m sure Bernie loves seeing celebrities up there and fully believes it broadens mass appeal, but it completely kills it for me. Get somebody competent like Brundle or Buxton up there who actually has the knowledge to probe and get to the points of interest, then keep them for the rest of the season.

    1. I agree about Arnie. Was not particularly impressed with his questions. Brundle or Buxton would be much better!

    2. @bookoi I’d scrap the podium interviews completely. They are dull and cringeworthy, and all they do is extend the celebration, which there must surely be a better way to do.

  7. This one was worse than Bahrain 2010. Shows what different expectations can do to the assessment of a race.

    1. Of course Bahrain was better than this year first race. Back then there were 24 cars on the grid!

  8. There’s a reason they run all the races before they determine a Champion. Anything can happen and usually does. For all we know one Merc might dnf the next race and both Ferrari’s might be closer to them. Let’s give F1 more than one race from which to be judged. Let’s see where they are after half a season. Let’s see if Nico can be the one staying ahead just out of DRS reach of LH. Let’s see if Mac will be bolstered with FA’s return and start to show improvement while appreciating they’ve really had very little track time yet with this new car and PU marriage. Let’s watch young Max. Let’s see where RBR really are as I doubt race one was a true indication. F1 is always a work in progress and there is much to watch out for as the coming races unfold.

    1. Totally agree @robbie, the season stretches before us. Even in the late V8 era it was normal for teams to find 1-2s during the season, now there’ll be even more ebb and flow. There’s plenty of interest all down the field. Bernie will tell his TV director to totally ignore Mercedes, to teach them a lesson, so we’ll get plenty of coverage of the enticing midfield battles. It’s not so much a question of what’s happening, but of where you look.

      1. @lockup On the other hand Bernie might strike a £43m deal with Mercedes to make sure they show only the Mercedes cars to put viewers off even more.

        1. Lol @strontium of course you are only too right. Tho he’ll put them on an escalator…

  9. Last year was pretty boring for us non-LH and non-Merc fans (with a few exceptions like Canada).

    Not holding much hope for this season either on that front.

  10. I agree with Andae23. The rest is still unclear, the racing was okay I think cars did struggle to follow each other more than in 2014 and also the tyres faired pretty well.
    It’s simple math double the speed quadruple the energy, the faster these cars go through the corners the more aero will affect the performance and ruin tight running.

  11. Bob Cratchet
    23rd March 2015, 16:40

    You’re whistling past the graveyard. It was obvious by Bahrain of last year that no one would be able to challenge Mercedes. Not just last season, but this season as well. And next. And forever, or until the moronic “tokens” system is abandoned. Because the TR are too constricting to permit the level of development necessary to bridge the gap.

    It doesn’t matter one whit how many cars are on the start grid, or how many cars finish, so long as that number is greater than one, because only two cars stand any chance of winning. The rest all are racing for third.

  12. I do not understand all these “fans” that are moaning about this season with only one race done. A real fan, knows that this is how F1 always has been, and always will be. It’s cyclical. It’s the nature of the sport. Periods of domination have always happened, since the very first days. I thought the race was absolutely brilliant. The first race is always fascinating. It’s also often completely misleading on the true pecking order. If you’re already moaning and whining before Malaysia even, you’re a pretty poor excuse for a fan. These aren’t the kind of fans the sport deserves. I’ve already watched the race three times, so that I could go back and watch the lap times more thoroughly through the field. I’m very excited about the season ahead. I don’t understand how people who claim to be long term fans are complaining about Mercedes finishing thirty seconds down the road. This has happened countless times in the 18 years I’ve been watching. Instead, we should be excited that the dominant car has two evenly matched drivers. That’s rare. I’m not a Mercedes fan, but I absolutely loved watching the championship battle last year, and have hope for more of the same this year.

    1. At last – a real fan!

      Nice to meet you.

      I mean – when was the first race anything other than getting rid of ring rust and an extended test (in these restricted times) it has never been representative of the year ahead and you have to wonder at the moaning lot. Dan the man not quite where you figured? Nico showing without DNS issues he is not really a match good as he may be? Could these be the more likely issues?

      Ferrari have made a huge jump. Williams are there or thereabouts and for those that thought Machonda were going to blitz everyone? Get real. They will get there but give them a chance at least.

      Further (apart from RB and its mouthpieces) was anyone of the teams moaning.

      Or copying Arnie and saying they will be back….

      1. It’s far too early to speculate about anything, really. What has me excited about this season is the Ferrari inter team battle. Watching their times through the weekend, it looks like they are going to be extremely close. Williams should be a good fight too. Hell, I can’t remember the last time there were so many balanced driver lineups. Mercedes, Ferrari, Williams, McLaren, and maybe at Red Bull, Toro Rosso, and Sauber too. Exciting stuff. A couple more races and we’ll see where everyone is at. Already counting the hours to Thursday night! (I’m in Canada)

    2. @jfever78 Thank you for being one of the few sensible people left. I see this kind of whining every year and it seems to get worse every time, I suspect it’s either down to shortening attention spans, Twitter or a combination of both.

    3. @jfever78 For me Aussie GP was more of a starter after months of missing F1 action. I was happy with whatever little action that was there in the race. It is unfortunate that a lot of cars never got to run on race day due to reliability issues. But the ones that ran gave decent entertainment.

      Things will improve definitely. A little bit of patience is all that is required. But as modes of communication/fan’s view increase, more negative posts are to be seen. Same case in any area these days.

  13. It will be more races like this in my prediction for this year. Strategies will all be the same and excitement will only come from weather, reliability or the odd driver mistake. The formula needs more flexibility to run different strategies so the teams can maximize their race pace based on their strengths. IMHO the easiest way to do this is open the tire selection process and let the teams choose the compounds of the 7 sets of tires they get for a weekend. A slightly more challenging way would be to bring back refueling. An even more challenging way would be to only allow fuel or tires on a single pit stop…

    If everyone does the same thing there is no possibility that a non-processional race will result.

    1. If everyone does the same thing there is no possibility that a non-processional race will result.

      Unless the racing is good like at Canada.

  14. I’m loving the depth of data that this site has managed to accumulate. Thanks for everything Keith! Doing a great job!

  15. The Show. Bernie’s Bio says he was a crasher. Someone who can’t even keep it on the track wants sprinklers to ‘spice up The Show’. Constructors do an honest engineer job and then get throttled to even up The Show. Cars can’t pass so rather than fix the cars (they are not airplanes) they rig the track to spice up The Show. The list of things in the last few years to spice up The Show are seriously mind numbing cause they have nothing to do with racing, they are all for The Show. Hard to take it serious or view it as a sport anymore. Bernie has turned it from sport to Show. These are the ‘dark’ years of Formula 1.

  16. The teams agreed on the current rules and now many people are whining over sour grapes. Mercedes DESERVES to enjoy their success and Lewis Hamilton definitely deserves all the success he is having. After having multiple WASTED seasons with McLaren specifically 2012 with their idiotic decisions costing him a title, Lewis was a forward thinker and it’s paying off.

  17. This was the 1st race since 2004 that I actually overslept for.. and caught only the closing 5 laps.

    I did however, download the entire race the next day, and then was asleep by lap 20 again.

    Something needs to be done. If they can’t reduce Mercedes’ advantage, then they need to replace Rosberg with a driver that can actually challenge Hamilton. My pick #1 would be Alonso , pick #2 would be Ricciardo, #3 would be either Bottas or Vettel

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