by Dave Bass
2017 Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix. Albert Park. Round 1.
58 laps @ 5.303km/3.295ml = 307.574km/191.117ml.

Lap record 1m 24.125s held by M. Schumacher Ferrari (2004).

Schumi holds the record of most wins at this circuit.

There is only one full rookie this year; Canadian teenager Lance Stroll driving in the Williams.

The first 20 minutes of FP1 was spent doing system checks so not much excitement for the fans until the drivers started putting in timed laps. Ocon spent the first 30 minutes in the garage with the mechanics working on his pink car. Van only managed to do an install lap in his McLaren before returning to the garage for a check-over. At the half way point Stroll was the quickest through the speed trap and Joly had a short session due to a seal problem. Apart from that it was a fairly clear session with Ham, Val, Ricci, Max & Kimi the top five.

FP2 in the afternoon started with Alo sitting in the garage for 35 minutes with his car up on the jacks. Joly crashed and the red flags came out for a short while as his RS17 was removed. Massa had gearbox gremlins and pulled off the track. Gro had more brake issues. Max ran wide and lost some bodywork as he ran over the kerbs and littered the circuit with debris, then Eric went off and beached his C36 that brought out the VSC. After an action-packed 90 minutes Ham was at the top again with Seb, Val, Kimi & Ricci making up the top five.

FP3 on Saturday was cloudy with a chance of rain. The big surprise of the weekend came when Wehrlein announced he would not take part in the remainder of the event due to fitness concerns. His replacement was Ferrari reserve driver Antonio Giovinazzi making his F1 debut. Kimi had a puncture and took to the escape road, but managed to limp back to the pits. Massa had a brake problem and his team mate Stroll hit the wall bringing out the red flags with 10 minutes remaining. The session was not restarted. Seb, Val, Ham, Kimi & Hülk were the top five runners.

Qualifying in the afternoon, started with a slightly altered system with only 20 cars participating. 5 would be knocked out in Q1 and another 5 in Q2. The Williams crew were still working on Stroll’s car, but he got out with just 6 minutes remaining. There were more issues for McLaren as Van was told to pit with a fuel flow problem. Ham, Kimi, Max, Val & Hülk were the top five and Joly, Stroll, Van, Mag & Gio were the 5 drivers to be eliminated. Q2 was still very cloudy, so the drivers were very keen to get out in case of rain. Apart from Alo suffering with a loss of power it was a problem-free 15 minutes and ended with Val, Ham, Kimi, Seb & Ricci the top five with Eric, Ocon, Alo, Hülk & Chico being eliminated. Then came the top ten shootout where 10 drivers are left to fight for pole and once again the drivers were quick to get out and put in a banker lap. Ricci crashed out after 7 minutes (another red flag situation). At the restart, with just 5 minutes left to fight for pole, it got very exciting as times were exchanged. Ham did it yet again with Seb very close behind Val. Kimi & Max made up the top five. Stroll & Ricci were handed 5 place grid penalties for gearbox changes after their accidents.

With the grid now down to 20 cars, Ricci had a problem on the way to the grid and had to return to the pits. Hülk took the wrong grid slot causing the start to be aborted as last year. After the second formation lap the race was again reduced to 57 laps. Eventually they all got away, with the top five all maintaining their positions. Mag clipped Eric putting both cars in the gravel at turn 3, but they managed to get going again. Ricci had to start from the pit lane, but was 2 laps down. Seb got ahead during the pit stop. Gro was the first retiree on lap 15 with smoke pouring from his VF-17. Brake problems for Joly caused him to retire, then Eric with hydraulic trouble caused by his clash with Mag. Ricci only made it to lap 32, stopping with an engine failure. Rookie Stroll was the next casualty on lap 44, followed by Mag on lap 50 with suspension failure and finally Alo, adding to his frustrating weekend, retired. There were a few good battles going in the midfield making it an exciting race. Seb drove very well to take the win and his and Ferrari’s first since Singapore 2015. Ham did well, as did Val in his first race for the silver arrows to give Mercedes a 2 – 3 finish. Kimi & Max made up the top five. Massa, on his return after the shortest retirement on record, was best of the rest in 6th place. Checo, Jnr, Dani & Ocon the final point’s finishers.

13 of the 20 starters finished the race with 6 on the lead lap. Kimi recorded the fastest lap of 1m 26.538s on lap 56. The drivers made 21 pit stops between them.

Chinese GP. Shanghai International circuit Round 2.

56 Laps @ 5.451km /3.387ml = 305.066kms /189.559mls.
Lap record 1m 32.238s held by M. Schumacher Ferrari (2004).

FP1 had a very disappointing start to the weekend for the teams; drivers and the fans had wet and misty conditions causing the session to be red flagged soon after it started due to the medical helicopter not being able to land at the designated hospital. After a 40 minute delay the session was resumed. Both Haas drivers spun off but got going again. Hülk beached his Renault in the gravel at turn 3 before the red flags came out again. The 20 drivers only completed 88 laps between them in the 90 minutes, with Mag doing the most with 8. Only 14 drivers recorded times and Max came out on top 1m 50.491s followed by the Williams duo Mas & Lan, with Jnr & Gro making up the top five. FP2, did not start as the weather had not improved so no cars on track for that 90 minutes. Saturday morning for FP3 was much brighter with a dry circuit. There were quite a few lock-ups, spins & offs during the 1 hour session, but no major problems. Seb, Kimi, Val, Ham & Massa were the top five.

Qualifying in the afternoon was still bright but with the mist approaching in the distance. Gio had a race with a bird on his way round the circuit. Gro had a puncture causing him to spin off, but he recovered. Max had to return to the garage suffering with an engine software problem and just as the chequered flag came out Gio had a huge crash exiting the final corner and into the barriers on the start/finish straight heavily damaging his Sauber. Out in that session went Ocon, Max, Joly, Gro & Van. The top five drivers were Seb, Ham, Kimi, Val & Lan. Q2 was delayed for 10 minutes so the debris could be cleared from the main straight. The 15 minute session went very smoothly giving the drivers some good laps. Gio did not run after his accident and went out with his team mate. Then came the all-important top ten shoot-out and Ham got his 6th successive pole. Rookie Lan was in the top ten in only his second GP.

Gro & Joly were both handed a five place grid penalty and 3 penalty points for not slowing sufficiently under the double waved yellow flags. Gio was also given a 5 place penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change after his accident.

The circuit was very wet after an earlier downpour so all drivers except Jnr were on the intermediate tyres. Joly started from the pit lane.

They all got away well until Checo hit the back of Lan and forced the rookie into the gravel trap. Gio had another big crash in the same place as qualifying bringing out the safety car for 4 laps with the drivers having to use the pit lane as the main straight was being cleared. Hülk was handed a 5 second penalty for overtaking during the VSC and another 10 seconds for overtaking behind the safety car as well as 4 penalty points. Val had a spin trying to get heat into his tyres and lost a lot of places meaning a fight through the field to get back to the front end. It was a bad day for McLaren as both drivers retired; Van with a fuel flow problem and Alo with a broken driveshaft. Dani also retired with a hydraulic issue.

Ham took the chequered flag from pole and recorded the fastest lap clocking 1m 35.378s. Seb & Max joined in on the podium celebrations.

The drivers made 33 pit stops during the race (33 less than last year). Of the 20 starters 15 finished the race. The “pit stop award” for the second time this season went to Williams (Massa) after a 2.52s stop.

Ricci & Checo were both reprimanded for turning up late for the National Anthem.