Kevin Magnussen, Haas, Albert Park, 2018

2018 Australian Grand Prix Star Performers

2018 Australian Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton and Kevin Magnussen were the RaceFans Stars of the Australian Grand Prix weekend. Here’s the verdict on the field.


Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Albert Park, 2018
Victory slipped through Hamilton’s fingers
Hamilton stormed to pole position by six tenths of a second in qualifying, then joked with Vettel about ‘wiping the smile off his face’. After that it was as if the racing gods decided this moment of hubris deserved an ironic punishment, because 24 hours later the grin was on Vettel’s face.

Hamilton was largely powerless to prevent this. Could he have been closer to Vettel when the Virtual Safety Car appeared and therefore regained his lead when the Ferrari driver pitted? It seems very likely. But he wasn’t, because the team believed they had the correct gap and that pushing the car any further was unnecessary, and would only waste precious engine and tyre life.

Kevin Magnussen

Both Haas drivers had great weekends but Magnussen was doing slightly better at the point disaster struck. His qualifying performance was especially impressive given his Friday running had been disrupted by niggling problems. And his move on Max Verstappen at the start was superb opportunism. A disappointing case of what might have been.


Valtteri Bottas

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Albert Park, 2018
Bottas had a weekend to forget
This was absolutely not the start he needed to his second season at Mercedes. After a few offs on Friday he binned his car during qualifying, leaving himself mired in 15th. He struggled to progress from there as overtaking proved difficult and he kept having to back off to save his engine.

But perhaps worst of all, Mercedes can justifiably feel that lacking their second car at the sharp end cost them a win. With Bottas looking for a new contract for 2019, he needs to bounce back from this bad start quickly.

Max Verstappen

Verstappen admitted to a small mistake in qualifying which potentially cost him the chance to out-qualify one of the Ferraris. he was trying to find a way past one of them at the start when Magnussen darted by, and from then on his race went badly wrong.

A lurid moment at turn 12 left him with diffuser damage, which then contributed to a spin at turn one, costing him three places. Now mired in the pack, he was unfortunate to lose another place to Fernando Alonso through the Virtual Safety Car. But it was his own errors which left him in that position.

And the rest

Fernando Alonso, McLaren, Albert Park, 2018
Alonso made his way stealthily to fifth
Sebastian Vettel lucked into a win on a day when his team mate was often quicker, though not in the final stint where Vettel looked more at home on the soft tyres. Daniel Ricciardo salvaged fourth after picking up a penalty in practice and losing out to Verstappen in qualifying – his pass on Nico Hulkenberg was a highlight of the race.

Alonso largely inherited fifth place: He’d looked good for a spot in Q3 until the final runs in Q2. Stoffel Vandoorne shadowed him. The pair were separated by Hulkenberg, who had a solid run to seventh, and Bottas. Vandoorne profited from Carlos Sainz Jnr’s unusual affliction: a broken drinks bottle left him feeling nauseous.

Both Force India drivers were out of the points. Sergio Perez felt he wrung everything from the car in qualifying, while Esteban Ocon took advantage of Lance Stroll on lap one as the Williams was in the wrong engine mode. Charles Leclerc also got past the Williams. Brendon Hartley brought up the rear after being forced to pit on lap one after locking a wheel at the start.

Romain Grosjean was eager to point out he’d been quicker than Kevin Magnussen before the pair retired, though he was out-qualified by his team mate in Saturday’s cooler conditions. Pierre Gasly, Marcus Ericsson and Sergey Sirotkin all retired early – the latter after a right-rear brake failure which his team suspect was caused when the duct ingested a plastic bag.

Over to you

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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72 comments on “2018 Australian Grand Prix Star Performers”

  1. Umar A (@umartajuddin)
    27th March 2018, 13:28

    +1 and add Liberty to the star performers too. When they first unveiled the logo and the new theme, they didnt seem that impressive. But when I saw the whole package together (including the montage) on the weekend, it was actually quite good. And the in-race graphics and information were way better and less glitchy than in years past. I get the sense that they may be adding more data there as the season progresses, which is great news for fans.

    1. @umartajuddin I disagree with you on the TV graphics. Personally, I prefer the TV graphics design of the last three seasons over the new one, and I also liked the 2010-14 design. I don’t hate the current design either, but I just find the two preceding ones better.

      1. Umar A (@umartajuddin)
        27th March 2018, 18:22

        @jerejj the biggest thing for me was that they werent glitchy. Im ambivalent about the look as long as it conveys information clearly, but in the past they would frequently freeze, sometimes have inaccurate updates and then refresh automatically, or randomly disappear. It was most pronounced in the last few years. I like that they were always up on the screen, there was a little more information,, but most of all it was more seamless.

      2. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        27th March 2018, 19:31

        I thought those old graphics were way better. The new ones still really annoy me. You are supposed to get a better viewing experience of the cars now. And you get a humongous box on the left side of the screen showing all 20 drivers. And the cars keep driving behind it due to where it is placed. It was much better being a small discreet box at the bottom in the middle like it used to be. Showing 5 drivers at a time, changing every few seconds. The new one also isn’t always showing the split times, where as this old one did and also seemed more reliable.

        I also noticed loads of issues with this new version last year. Such as the colours indicating the drivers teams all going to grey. And at one stage, a random drivers name goes from the top to the bottom to top in a matter of seconds. In the Canadian grand prix last year, Bottas was running in 3rd at the start and for no reason, it said he was in 20th and lapped. Fixed itself eventually but these graphics really are glitchy IMO. I even noticed several issues yesterday. The more things they introduce, the more problems there are. I wish it could just be simple and reliable!

        1. @thegianthogweed You remember the old one wrong. The tower size is roughly the same, and the info it presented is about the same. You mention split times, but the old one also don’t present them at all times. In reality the new ones has most of the info the old one has and more. The one they haven’t had yet, I’m pretty optimistic will be added later.

          In the race, the only glitch I’ve seen is “lastname” one (which to be fair it only failed once) and the “live current speed” that never worked (which is pretty minor and they only attempt to show it twice or thrice).

          1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
            28th March 2018, 9:08

            I certainly don’t remember what it looks like wrong, The size difference is huge. I was wrong that they showed the split times all the time, but they certainly showed it more than they did last year in the previous years.

            At the bottom, they showed 5 drivers and their time gaps. They were shown horizontal

          2. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
            28th March 2018, 9:22

            For some reason, when I pressed enter to create a new line, my post was sent. Continuing here:

            They were shown horizontal right at the bottom of the screen. They may be wide, but it blocked far less as the hight was only what each drivers name is now. But now you get 20 of these stacked ontop of one another the whole race on one side of the screen which I think ruins the view a fair bit. The cars didn’t used to end up driving behind the graphics like they end up doing now. I may be a bit OCD, but they do cover more of the screen.

            On the old coverage, they did show you 2 or 3 drivers on the left when they themselves were on the screen racing in a battle.

            But the only advantage I can see to showing all 20 drivers is that you don’t have to wait as long to find out their split times. But as they show the split times less than they used to, you often have to wait anyway.

            Another advantage I can say about the new graphics though is you can see the time gaps with the lapped drivers where as before 2017, it said just +1 lap or how ever many.

            I have recorded and kept pretty much every single race since 2015 so That is where I have looked back and most things I have remembered correctly.

            If I could post screenshots from the recorded races, I would do as I will be able to show the size difference, which is very big.


    2. I agree with this. As I stated on a different thread, I think that the graphics could be a bit bigger as it’s a bit unclear, but they were incredibly fluid, and I actually like the new theme and logo. It all fits in nicely together.

      1. I didnt mind the graphics, like all new things it will take a couple of races to get use to.

    3. I thought the new graphics were great. Nice to be able to see things like gaps growing and shrinking live in a visual way rather than numerical manner. Lots more information than in previous seasons too. They could do with tweaking, naturally as it’s their first season. I expect it to get a lot better over the coming season and years. As for now, it’s a great start. And if they get this streaming thing sorted out in the UK that’ll be fantastic.

    4. I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that informing viewers that last name was .800 seconds from catching last name is not a big win in TV production.

      1. @faulty – Liberty is just trying to play the generic sibling rivalry card. While saving money on staffing. Money they can then spend on cheesy graphics and passe theme music.

      2. @faulty
        I saw that too. For a fleeting moment, i thought i was watching a video game. Blinked twice and it disappeared. Worst graphics ever. Nearly took us back to early 2000’s with very little information.

    5. Pretty much all that has to be said about Sunday’s performances, though I get the feeling Sainz jr is crafty with his excuses.
      @umartajuddin They didn’t glitch like last years Australian GP, they had a torrid weekend last year.
      I like the new gizmo’s, including the grid graphic, but the in-race hud are not the most effective design apart from small font size, big blocks on-screen, times and gaps coming and going, the director often didn’t provide the info some I needed. The logo is red and the size again is not quite right. Finally, personally the theme doesn’t cut it.

  2. I feel so bad for Lewis but at the same I think he needs to stops those jokes and be humble when it matters, no points are given on Saturday.

    1. Josh (@canadianjosh)
      27th March 2018, 13:50

      Ya the jokes are a thing of the past, it’s much better when the drivers are stone cold Boring sponsor pleasers………

      1. Ellipses only have 3 dots.
        Like this…

    2. @abdelilah – I agree, its one of Hamilton’s traits that make some people not like him. But I don’t think he even means it. Vettel seems to have learnt that as a human and I think that changed when he become a father- the world is a little different and being humble sometimes helps. Both my kids had photos with him on Thursday and he was great and have heaps of time for them (even though he was busy). Lewis still very rushed but still made a good effort with the fans.

    3. @abdelilah To be fair, I believe his jokes after qualifying towards Vettel were by no means demeaning or arrogant. Just a game among two people that respect each other. Vettel would have done the same.

    4. @abdelilah For me, capable making jokes like that is what makes him humble. More like someone you know that just want to having fun, instead a super serious and professional level only interaction. The joke itself is delivered in fun spirit, without malicious intent. Sure it backfired, but should people celebrate it as like the universe itself hating Hamilton? No, for me it’s just a good story for family gathering many years in the future.

  3. Stroll wasn’t very impressive either.

    1. Underwhelming as ever, but he did beat Sirotkin convincingly in qualifying. I guess there was just nothing spectacularly wrong with his race. Or rather, the cameras didn’t really show how underwhelming his race was, being the only driver to be overtaken not once, not twice, but no less than three times in this race, including by a rookie driving a Sauber.
      I would’ve included Leclerc among the star performers. But he had the opposite of Stroll’s problem: The cameras never showed him, so one has to interpret the lap analysis charts to find evidence of a quite impressive debut race.

      1. Consider the expectations of the superrookie Leclerc i wouldnt say his performance was star quality. He was behind Ericsson in every aspect, all weekend (until the latters retirement due to hudraulic problems). It was solid, no doubt, but i wouldnt call it star performance.

    2. playing a bit of devil’s advocate here, Stroll had to manage problems during the race and nurse the car home

      It doesn’t excuse the poor showing on Saturday of both Williams’ drivers, unless the car is really that bad

      1. @johnmilk
        Stroll=devil confirmed.

        On that last sentence:

        It doesn’t excuse the poor showing on Saturday of both Williams’ drivers, unless the car is really that bad

        I have to play someone else’s advocate here. We know Lance Stroll was on average 7 tenths slower than Massa in qualifying (0.702 seconds according to the stats available on, with no signs of improving in the final races. Massa qualified 7th in Melbourne in 2017, Stroll 14th in 2018, with a time of 1:24.230. Where would he have ended up if he had lapped 7 tenths faster (while disregarding the potential of further improving the lap time in Q3 due to track evolution)?
        8th place, that’s where.

        Now, does that answer the question why Williams performed so badly compared to last year? Did they really build a much slower car (or rather: a car that isn’t any faster than last year’s, whereas virtually all other teams gained 1-2 seconds)? Or is it the drivers’ fault that, instead of taking the fight to Renault and McLaren, they’re battling Toro Rosso and Sauber?
        I don’t know, I’m just asking questions.

        1. Yes, aside from everyone at williams saying the car is bad, I think it could really achieve decent pace with a strong driver, would let hamilton drive a couple of test laps if I were williams’ leader, if he can do 1 sec better than stroll and it’s not to exlcude, the car is decent!

        2. Massa’s 2017 time was 1:24.443, if you look at Stroll time this year 1:24.230 it’s very hard to believe that Williams car doesn’t improved that 0.2 difference. I think Massa would have been 11-12th or maybe 10th this year.

          1. Sadly it will go on and on like this for Williams, unless they get fed up and put kubica in the car.

    3. THE Stroll deal “was a what were they (aussie cricket team) thinking” decision…and what a horrible position they are in now, and it is awful watching this once great power house team sliding over the cliff!!

  4. Awful boring race.
    Didn’t see any stars, only millions of losers (the race fans).

    Hamilton drives the fastest car of the field with a party mode button, he looses first place in the race and is not funny in the press conference, so where did he earn his “star performer” verdict?

    1. The pole position lap obviously.

      1. Aided by that one use hyperdrive on the Merc..

      2. And why is that special? He has the fastest car AND a Party Mode button. Doesn’t make HAM a star performer.

        1. @dutch-1 Yes his pole lap was special. The party mode is worth extra 0.18 sec in Melbourne according to very respectable insider sources, which you could read yourself instead of just moaning. To be on pole by 0.66 sec is very impressive. LH lost first place in the race through no fault of his own. He had a perfect weekend from his side.

          And I’ve yet to hear your reason for Magnussen not being a star performer, since you said there weren’t any.

          It wasn’t a great race by any means, I agree, but barring special circumstances F1 races at Melbourne rarely are(cars aero problem not circuits which is actually quite good and flowing and not stop-start useless Tilkedrome.

    2. Also it’s not his fault losing first place here, so don’t see why not giving him star performer, if anything only 2 were picked, raikkonen and ricciardo could be there too, even alonso.

    3. There is a video on YouTube on board comparison of Hamilton and vettels laps q3 laps, and the hyper drive is obvious, he makes up so much time just on the straights. I think Mercedes did their first q3 laps without party mode to see where they stand… It was too close, so on came party mode.

  5. You should add ESPN to the “Strugglers” list.

    1. Brian (@flyinglapct)
      27th March 2018, 15:50


    2. Max (@gurney4prez)
      28th March 2018, 1:45

      Indeed. ESPN/Sky feed in US was horrible. Bring back Hobbo, Diff and Buxton (never, ever, though I’d include Will, but there it is…)

  6. I voted for Hamilton. Which I don’t usually do.

    He dominated this weekend, and only finished 2nd courtesy of bad luck. He was in an absolute league of his own.

    Honorable mentions to Magnussen and Leclerc. Magnussen kept Verstappen at bay after a nice start, and beat his team mate in qualifying.

    Leclerc lost to Ericsson in qualifying (I was expecting the Monegasque to beat Ericsson from the start) and drove behind Ericsson before the Swede had a car failure. Leclerc then carried the flag and beat both Hartley and Stroll to the flag. Nice debut.

    1. I think Ericsson diet is working. It’s not going to be easy for Leclerc. But when things get hot, will Sauber let them fight during the race? Is Sauber can afford that financially?

      1. @ruliemaulana As a rookie, when you are on par with your experienced teammate on your first race, you’ve done well.

        1. @matthijs Agree. Too bad we still can’t compare both during a race yet.

    2. Leclerc impressed me considerably this weekend. On a track he’s never raced before, he was able to qualify within a tenth of his considerably more experienced team mate (4 years in F1) and then go on to have a solid, error free race where he finished ahead of a Williams and a Torro Rosso. I think that’s extremely impressive for a rookie and very promising for the rest of the season.

      1. I fully agree. Why else would I nominate him here? ;)

  7. I am glad that you only mention 2 drivers for star performers and strugglers. But just like Pirelli tyres i think we need a new category which will be the division of the rest. Lets say something a tad postive (Raikkonen, Grosjean, Alonso) for this instance and something a tad negative (Stroll, Sainz, Ocon) come to mind.

  8. Actually, not to be too defensive of Verstappen, according to Red Bull he actually had damage after something fell off at turn four on the fourth lap – which led to him running wide and damaging it even more at turn twelve as you describe here – which only exacerbated the issue. Once he felt that the balance was off however, both after the initial turn four moment and definitely after the turn twelve moment, he shouldn’t have pushed so hard, so to put him as one of the strugglers is still fair.

    1. Antoon van Gemert
      27th March 2018, 15:55

      Again as Max told on Dutch television last night: Something broke on the car at lap 5 in turn 4. It was NOT caused by going too hard over the curbstones. From then on the RB14 was very hard to drive, especially turning into the corners, which resulted in the 360 degree spin at turn 13. It was not a mistake but a result of the damaged car. He had more hairy moments later on in the race as he told on tv. The only mistake he made was in Q3 that cost a frontrow position and probably a way better result. Not so much struggling, but very unlucky at times. As he said : “things like this can happen”

    2. @hahostolze I do believe that he had a significant loss of downforce resulting in a spin. But since that loss of downforce was self inflicted, he sure was a struggler.

      1. @matthijs and I’m saying that RB and Verstappen both said the first significant loss of downforce was not self inflicted. However the first led to the second which was self inflicted and the second led to the spin. After the first loss of downforce he should have just held position and he’d have done better, instead he pushed and spun. Which is why I am also putting him under the strugglers.

        1. Correct, it’s rather strange though RBR can’t pin point why the bottom vin sheered off.
          It all looked quite unnatural seeing Verstapping losing his rear turn after turn, amazing save and amazing lap times stayed competitive especially since he was half the race close behind Alonso.

          Not his best race ofcourse, but for reasons.

    3. I’m going to be Verstappen defender here. If we gonna rate which driver classified as ‘smooth sailer’ and which one is ‘struggler’, Max would not be the former. But the way he handled that spun might put him as one of ‘star performer’.

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        27th March 2018, 19:45

        Well others may as well try and have a spin and save it if they want to be star performers then….

        That cost him time and he caused himself other damage too. Not as bad as Bottasn’s weekend, but if I’m honest his race was probably worse. But I’m not talking about the result as that was clearly lower for Bottas. But Verstappen lost those 2 places down to his own errors. Bottas made a huge mistake in qualifying and because of the rules being the way they are, even though he gained practically no advantage whatsoever by getting a new gearbox/engine (because this is the first race of the season), he had to get a penalty and loose 5 places. Given the overtaking difficulties here, I’d say Bottas did ok during the race. But I would say both have got good enough reasons to be classed as a struggler.

        1. 30 million a year, & he cracked. F1 cars don’t just fall apart. He made a mistake and paid the price, own it. His race day was messy, from the moment he let Mag passed the outside of turn one he pushed too hard. I’m genuinely amazed some people are trying to say he was anything but a struggler on race day.

          1. Antoon van Gemert
            28th March 2018, 8:57

            @ross-willow. O yes, sometimes they do. Max made no mistake during the race. I believe what he said during his face-time interview from Australia on Dutch tv. Drivers can’t lie about those things anymore, because Big Brother is watching you during the whole race. He didn’t let Magnussen pass, Magnussen passed Max briliantly and took him by surprise, because Max was blocked by Vettel and had to back down for a brief moment, so Magnussen took the chance. From then on he had to push hard, because Magnussen was now an unexpected part of his race-scenario. Take also in consideration, as Marc Surer pointed out, that his team pushed him to get by Magnussen a soon as possible. The damage, not inflicted by Max himself, on his car made the RB14 difficult to drive and caused the 360 degree spin. Yes, he struggled with his car from lap 5 onwards, but not with his own performance. His team was amazed he still could do the laps he did, regarding the damage on his car. The only mistake he made was during Q3 and that cost him, afterwards, dearly.

          2. So Max is a struggler, but Ricciardo, who, despite an extremely stupid mistake in FP and failure to qualify in front of Max, isn’t? Odd. He should have qualified in front of Max to not be seriously considered as a struggler, especially when you keep in mind that he would have lost his place had it not been for the VSC/SC.

    4. The damage was actually to the diffuser by going wide at turn 12. From the start verstappen looked like he was trying too hard and nearly losing the car in several spots, his messy driving resulted in damage.

      1. Antoon van Gemert
        28th March 2018, 18:15

        kpcart. Not true! Watch his interview on You Tube (if you can understand Dutch?). The damage happened on lap 5 in turn 4. His ‘messy driving’ was a result of the damage on his car. Don’t forget he was told by his team to push hard!

  9. Why you are not mentioning Williams team as strugglers? They had bigger downslide than Force India.

  10. Brian (@flyinglapct)
    27th March 2018, 15:47

    Excuse me if someone has mentioned this elsewhere, but don’t you think Ferrari’s strategy was to have VET go long enough to go SS for the final stint? He only went to the S because of the opportunity with the VSC. I think this would explain why he was dropping back from the front 2. There was no threat from behind at the time. I’m sure he was adhering to specific lap time target. He did put time into RAI once they were on equal terms. VET did bottle Q3 so he definitely didn’t have the best of weekends.

    1. Not sure because had the VSC not occured, and had he pitted at that same time without the VSC, he would have most likely dropped behind Magnussen, Ricciardo and Grosjean. We clearly saw that Kimi emerged just 2-3 seconds in front of those guys. Seb had no choice to stay out because he was 3-4 secs if I remember, if not.. even less behind Kimi before the pit stop. There was no way Ferrari would pit Seb and then drop him behind 3 cars?

      1. Brian (@flyinglapct)
        27th March 2018, 19:15

        I think the gap to those 3 was still growing even before MAG pitted. I thought the gap was large enough to pit without losing position. Assuming these 3 would pit before VET, Ferrari could keep him out until if/when the window closed. Not sure there was much to gain going on SS anyway. He would only catch RAI. Maybe they think he could have caught HAM too, which was doubtful considering his pace. Could you imagine the drama if he had RAI move over for him?

  11. I agree Max was a struggler. But without the VSC he would’ve probably passed RIC again when you look at the decreasing gap of 22 sec just before it.

    1. @anunaki The two Haas’ came out behind Verstappen, so I’m pretty sure that Verstappen would have jumped Ricciardo and stayed ahead of Alonso. Lousy weekend, but the pace of Red Bull is promising.

      1. Max stuffed up.
        Got caught out at turn 1 and struggled from there.
        What happened after that is conjecture.

        1. What could have happened after that meant to say.

    2. He wouldn’t have passed ricciardo, as he couldn’t pass anyone else. In the end forget about what ifs, look at what actually transpired

  12. I would definitely have put Ocon as a struggler, he had I believe the biggest gap to his teammate in qualifying and couldn’t hold a candle to him in the race either.

  13. Romain Grosjean was eager to point out he’d been quicker than Kevin Magnussen before the pair retired, though he was out-qualified by his team mate in Saturday’s cooler conditions.

    Not first time he comes with comments like that after been behind Kevin. I guess he feels the pressure from his team mate.

  14. As for the graphics I really missed the speedometer with indicators gor how much throttle and brake is applied. G-force and which gear. If DRS is enabled.
    When onboard with a driver that screen is mandatory to me.
    Good screen also to show for two drivers at the same time when battling for positions.
    And gap between drivers in bottom of screen was also missing. Only names.

  15. If I could I would just vote for HAAS as a team. I know they had a very unfortunate thing happen with the pit stops but if that did not happen they were looking to have a 4th and 5th place finish. That would have been amazing if you think about the fact they have been in the sport for 3 years. (I know there is sour grapes with some teams saying its a Ferrari replica which its not, There is similarity but guess what the Ferrari was great last year so its smart to try and copy parts from it as close as you can. They are just mad they are being beat by a team they dont feel is worthy) If you look back at all the new teams from the last 10 years none of them were able to hardly make and run the races much less be in the top ten and be the top midfield team. If you told me when HAAS was first announced to come into the sport i would have told you they might pick up a top 10 the first few years if they were lucky, boy I would have been wrong and it makes me happy. It shows its possible a new team can come in at a low budge and do a great job. They also have 2 pretty good drivers that are not pay drivers. Maybe Williams should take note and get real drivers in the car. I hope with the disappointment from this race that next weeks HAAS can get a repeat and get the spot and points I feel they deserve

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