Just another 19 races to go: in Formula 1 the only thought is to look forward, never backwards and already we are all focused on the Chinese Grand Prix. But there’s just time for a brief look at how we got on in Melbourne.
The opening round of the championship was also the opening round of a new era in Formula 1, both technically and in terms of having a new management organisation running the sport. The new bosses can be happy with the way things went last week in Australia: there was a very large crowd, the new cars looked good, even if it was hard to see with the naked eye that they were faster than their predecessors and, on Sunday, the dominant team of the hybrid era could “only” finish second and third.
And what of Scuderia Toro Rosso? Our STR12 continued to draw plaudits from the pundits and the fans for its beautiful livery. If you were choosing a track to go testing, Albert Park would definitely not be on your list, as it poses unusual challenges. But testing is exactly how we approached the first free practice sessions, given that a few interruptions to our programme in Barcelona during winter testing meant there were still several items on our job sheet agenda to tick off.
After the long flights from Europe and a Wednesday event paddle-boarding off St. Kilda beach for a sponsor function, Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz soon got down to work on Friday, each doing over a race distance and staying in the top ten on the time sheet. This was to be the foundation of our positive weekend, a trouble free opening day and already the drivers had produced their fastest ever laps of Albert Park!
Saturday also went well and given the quality of the opposition, getting the two cars into 8th and 9th places on the grid was a really encouraging result for the first qualifying of the season. Unless you finish first and second, you always feel you could have done better, but honestly, to finish the race in our start positions – 8th with Carlos and 9th with Daniil is a solid start to the season. Are we right in thinking we could have done better? Yes, probably, maybe. In a race with a surprising lack of a Safety Car period, it was all about pace and track position on Sunday.
Carlos wasn’t helped by having to let the race leaders by, which saw his tyre pressures drop too much and both of our boys looked capable of retaking Perez who had got ahead of them in the early stages. In Daniil’s case, the only reliability issue of the afternoon, the need to top up the air system twice, the last time with only a couple of laps to go, robbed him of the opportunity to attack the Force India. Our Russian driver pulled the longest opening stint of the race on the used Ultra Softs, in itself quite a feat.
Our crew in the garage can also pat itself on the back for some well executed pit stops – a lot of work has gone into improving that area over the winter and there will be plenty more practice in between each race. Next stop Shanghai.