A round-up of all the action from the 2017 Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park...
Red Bull had lagged behind Ferrari and Mercedes on Saturday so it was a positive that Verstappen not only challenged Raikkonen at the start, but kept the Finn honest throughout the race and even held the pitted Mercedes of Hamilton at bay for a few laps. But Ricciardo's race was more worrying - his RB13 got stuck in sixth gear on the way to the grid resulting in a pit lane start two laps down. He got back out and made it to lap 29 before pulling over with a fuel cell issue, but all in all a home race to forget.
Max Verstappen, 5th
“The start was really good but it was just a shame that out of turn one I had dirty air ahead of me, this allowed Kimi to stay on the outside and get in front of me again. From then on the pace wasn’t too bad, I could follow him pretty well which was a nice surprise and I had no pressure from behind me. It was positive to see we weren’t that far off Ferrari and Mercedes over a full race distance, this was a concern this morning but I’m relieved now to finish within touching distance. Physically I feel fine, you have to fight the cars a bit but to be honest I feel better than I did last year after race distance. The car behaved and handled quite a bit better than in qualifying. It was hard to follow and drive close behind others, I think as soon as you get within two seconds you can really feel it and could destroy your tyres. Looking ahead to China I think we need to keep working hard on the car, race pace was good but you can still see we are not quick enough in certain situations.”
Daniel Ricciardo, DNF
“Not the weekend I wanted at home. For all these things to happen at my home race that’s probably the most frustrating thing. We were on the back foot already after the crash in qualifying and then today we had an issue during the warm up lap followed by a second issue in the race. On both occasions the car just came to a stop so I couldn’t do anything else. But look, it’s the first race so hopefully we’ll move forward from this. Sure I’m disappointed now but it is what it is. I’ve been here before so I’ll wake up tomorrow and be motivated to get ready for China. I feel for the fans. I’m sure they would have loved seeing me in action, but I feel super grateful for everyone that came this weekend and supported me. Even when I stopped they were still cheering and shouting my name. That goes a long way and it makes me stand here now feeling a lot better than if I didn’t have that so I definitely appreciate their support. Also, the boys worked so many hours this weekend, and did a great job getting me out on the track again but unfortunately it hasn’t come together for any of us. Max’s pace in the race looked a bit more encouraging, so I think we’re better than what we’re showing but it’s still a bit of a puzzle we’re trying to figure out. If any Aussies have a bit of energy left in a few weeks, then come out to China and you’ll hopefully see a better race from me.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“A really frustrating start to the race with Daniel having a problem with what looks like a sensor on the gearbox stopping the car in sixth gear on the formation lap. It was an unbelievable recovery from the mechanics to get him into the race, nobody gave up in working to get the car out there. Then we were always going to be relying on safety cars to get back on to the lead lap. We decided to put the mileage in and get the knowledge anyway. Unfortunately on lap 28 he encountered another issue with a fuel cell that we need to look at to understand it fully. Max made a good start and even though he was able to have a go at Kimi, unfortunately he didn’t have the line for turn 3 but he never gave up, didn’t put a wheel wrong all afternoon and drove a very mature race. I think strategically we picked the right tyre for the pit stop and he did everything that could have been asked of him. He had some brake wear to manage in the last three laps but fifth position today was the optimum result. Congratulations to Sebastian, I think he owes us a beer (!) but he drove a strong race today.”
Race retiree Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing at Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday 26 March 2017. © Sutton Motorsport Images
Hamilton led from the start, but was unable to build a gap over second placed Vettel and was soon complaining about his tyres. Mercedes opted to pit him earlier than his rival, but the strategy failed when he ended up getting stuck behind a belligerent Verstappen. Hamilton continued to struggle with his tyres, eventually coming home second, just ahead of Bottas who drove a faultless first race for his new team.
Lewis Hamilton, 2nd
"A big congratulations to Sebastian and Ferrari. I know this win has been a long time coming for them. This shows we've got a real race on our hands this season and it's a challenge we will relish. It's going to be great for the fans. We had a really good start which is fantastic. It was nice to get a good getaway. But I was struggling with grip from the get-go. Sebastian was able to always answer me in terms of lap time and just go quicker. Towards the end of the first stint I caught some traffic and that overheated the tyres. I struggled for grip to the point where I needed to come in, plus the gap was closing up and I was sliding around a lot. We made the call to pit, because otherwise I think Sebastian would have come past me anyway. After my stop I got caught in some traffic which was unfortunate but that's motor racing."
Valtteri Bottas, 3rd
"There are always things that could have gone better on the day but it's a good starting point for my journey driving for Mercedes. As a team I think we did a really good job with the car we had. But Ferrari were quicker today, there's no doubt about that. They've obviously done a great job over the winter. From my side the main issue was the first stint. I felt like I was always sliding around on the UltraSoft tyre - missing front and rear grip - especially after 10 laps. That wasn't easy. But once we stuck on the Softs I had a great feeling with the car. It was behaving really nicely and it felt really nice to drive. It's a shame it was just a bit too late. But overall this race wasn't a disaster. It's good to start with a podium with a new team and every position is important for the Championship. There's a long season ahead. I have my points and I'll do better next time. I'm looking forward to China."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"Some races you win, some races you lose, and when the days come where another team has done a better job, you need to accept that with humility and recognise their performance. Today, Sebastian and Ferrari were well-deserved winners. From the early stages of the race, it was clear that Sebastian was very quick because Lewis wasn't able to pull away. Sebastian came into the window where the undercut was possible and we had the feeling at that point that the tyres were not lasting. It was the team's impression on the pit wall looking at the data and Lewis' in the car, too. So that was when, with all the clear risks of coming out in traffic, we took the decision to come in. We were between a rock and a hard place, really, and we went for it. But Ferrari played it very well - and they had the quicker car today. After that, we seemed to pick up in performance on the Soft tyres. Lewis managed everything perfectly and I must compliment Valtteri, too - he showed really good pace, made no mistakes through the whole weekend and got his first podium with the team in his first race. Now, the job for us is to learn the lessons from this race, understand why we didn't perform to our maximum today and keep working hard to improve the car in every area."
James Allison, Technical Director
"If it wasn't already clear after qualifying, then it's certainly clear now that this is going to be a season of very small margins. We got a good getaway from the flag. But credit to Ferrari today, they had a very quick car and we just weren't quite good enough to stick with them. We won't panic, though. It's race one of a long season and we scored some very good points with both cars today. We'll be determined to come back stronger in China and make sure those small margins go our way next time."
Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 and Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari on the podium at Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday 26 March 2017. © Sutton Motorsport Images
After weeks of wondering if Ferrari's pre-season testing pace was for real, we got the answer on Sunday as Vettel put Hamilton to the sword. The German was unable to challenge the Briton's Mercedes at the start but by following him closely in the opening stages, he was able to overtake him in the pit stop phase through better tyre management. From there Vettel coolly controlled matters to take Ferrari's first win since 2015. Raikkonen was never able to demonstrate the same pace and came home fourth, just ahead of Verstappen.
Sebastian Vettel, 1st
"It's been a great day for us. The team has been working so hard at the track as much as back at the factory. It's a great feeling. "Grazie mille", you can't say much more. The last months have been really intense, it's been tough to get into the rhythm. It's just the beginning and there's still a lot of work going on. This is one of many steps and we have to enjoy what we do. It's great to see people smiling. Now we have to reset to go to China and try to do a good job."
Kimi Raikkonen, 4th
"In the first stint I struggled a bit with the Ultrasoft tires, but once I switched to the Soft compound the car was behaving really nicely. It was not the most exciting race for me, most of the time I was fuel saving, but when I was pushing the car was fast and I got a really good feeling. Fourth place is a bit disappointing, but we scored some points and Seb's win is a great result for the whole team. We learned a lot from this weekend: we start from here, with a good package and we pretty much know what we have to do to make the car better."
Maurizio Arrivabene, Team Principal
"A good result today that could have been a great one if we'd managed to get Kimi on the podium too. When we launched the SF70H we referred to it as "Our Ferrari" and indeed today's win reflects all the effort and hard work put in over the past few months, both in Maranello and at the track. As for Sebastian, he did a great job, as did the whole team in fact. It's a shame that Kimi struggled in the early stages to get into the right rhythm. Our car went very well on track: it was well balanced and consistent performance from the tyres meant we were able to adopt an aggressive strategy. This is only the first race of the championship: there are still 19 to go and we must maintain a high level of concentration at every Grand Prix, avoiding distractions and, already as from today, we are looking ahead to the next Grand Prix in China."
Mattia Binotto, Chief Technical Officer
"Happy? Yes, definitely. It's on the track that you reap the rewards of your collective efforts over the winter. It was a busy period during which everyone doubled their energy and effort. We still have 19 challenges ahead of us and today's race shows how the slightest thing can make the difference between being in front or being behind. Therefore, we must continue to push as hard as possible on development. As for this Melbourne weekend, it was already clear in qualifying that there is little that separates the teams and we knew the race would be very close. The GP was all decided at the pit stops: at that moment, we probably had less tyre degradation than our rivals towards the end of the stint and that meant we were able to stay out on track for longer. From then on, it was a case of bringing home the car in terms of reliability. Seb did an excellent job, while Kimi definitely had a more complicated race, partly because he started from a bit further back on the grid. However, he managed to hold onto this position to the finish and his lap times in the final part of the race showed what he was capable of."
Race winner Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari SF70-H crosses the line at Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday 26 March 2017. © Sutton Motorsport Images
After the excitement of Grosjean's best qualifying for the team, Haas came crashing back down to earth in the race as the Frenchman's hopes of a decent points haul went up in smoke when he lost power while running P7. Magnussen's afternoon was worse still - after tangling with Ericsson at the start and suffering damage he then ran what he termed 'a long test session' at the rear of the field before retiring with suspected suspension failure.
Romain Grosjean, DNF
“I suddenly lost a lot of power. I told the guys, then the next thing I knew I had to slow down the car. It’s a pretty disappointing result, but again, right now I’m hot and we’re all disappointed to lose a seventh-place position, but the car was there in qualifying in P6. The start wasn’t ideal, so we need to improve that. I felt I was faster than the Williams, so there’s huge potential in the car. I guess the key for us is to keep the momentum and get the consistency we didn’t have last year, where I’d be fifth in Bahrain then 19th in China. I really want to improve on that and get more consistency in terms of results. If we do that, then I’m sure there are going to be plenty of races where we can score good points. I’m feeling it right now, but tomorrow I’m going to wake up thinking, you know what, we’ve got a great car, so no matter what, we’re going to be there this year.”
Kevin Magnussen, DNF
“I had contact at turn three. I had Ericsson on the outside and I understeered into the side of him, which was unfortunate. I lost my front wing and damaged the car a little bit. We changed the front wing and then I went for a long test session to feel the car and learn a bit more about it, which was good. It feels good and the car is fast. That’s the really positive thing from this weekend. The car is there. We just have to make it finish and score points.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“Not the race we wished for, or we expected. With Romain it looks like we had a water leak. We don’t know yet where that came from. Obviously, Kevin’s race was destroyed in the third corner after the contact with Ericsson. He then ended up later with a suspension failure, which we still have to investigate why. The good thing we take out of here is that the car seems to be fast. We need to work on a few parts and, hopefully, we can get back strong again in China in two weeks.”
Romain Grosjean (FRA) Haas VF-17 at Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday 26 March 2017. © Sutton Motorsport Images
Ericsson's afternoon unravelled when he was collected by Magnussen's Haas at Turn 3 on a hectic opening lap, pitching him into the gravel. He managed to continue but after trailing around at the back of the field with a damaged car, he then retired with an engine issue. Late call up Giovinazzi fared better - keeping out of trouble to finish his maiden race in 12th place.
Marcus Ericsson, DNF
“A very disappointing race for me. I did not have a good start, but then I was fighting hard in the first couple of corners on lap one. Unfortunately, in turn 3 I got hit from behind, which caused lots of damage on the right side as well as to the floor of the car. From that moment on, it was all about finishing the race. Later on, I had to stop the car on track due to a hydraulic failure caused by the incident on lap one.”
Antonio Giovinazzi, 12th
“It was a good race, and I am happy with my performance today. My objective was to gain more experience and collect mileage in the car. I will sit together with my engineers to analyze areas where I can improve. I want to thank the Sauber F1 Team and Scuderia Ferrari again for this opportunity. It was an amazing race weekend for me.”
Monisha Kaltenborn, Team Principal
“A very impressive performance from Antonio during his first Formula One race. He showed his potential as well as what the car is capable of. The lap times were quite satisfying. Marcus’ race was ruined after the start in turn 3. The situation there was clear-cut, so it is incomprehensible why the stewards didn’t react to the incident.”
Marcus Ericsson (SWE) Sauber C36 and Kevin Magnussen (DEN) Haas VF-17 battle at Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday 26 March 2017. © Sutton Motorsport Images
Starting tenth, Perez moved forwards excellently in the race, with his moves on the Toro Rosso's of Kvyat and Sainz particularly noteworthy. Ocon spent most of the afternoon battling Alonso in the midfield, but eventually found a way past the Spaniard to grab his maiden point.
Sergio Perez, 7th
“I am very pleased with the result and I don’t believe there is anything we could have done better today. Seventh place was the most we could achieve and the team had to make all the right calls to get this result. We had the correct strategy and we managed the tyres well to bring the points home. We still had to pull a few big moves on Kvyat and Sainz, even though it was not easy to overtake, but once I was in clean air I felt I was in a very strong position. Driving these cars is so much fun: you can push a lot harder than in the past and I was doing my fastest laps towards the end of the race. We know we still need to improve this car and there is more performance to come, but this is a positive start to our season and we can be happy this evening.”
Esteban Ocon, 10th
“Scoring my first point in Melbourne is a very nice reward after what has been quite a tough weekend. I spent almost the entire race fighting against Fernando [Alonso] because we were side-by-side for the first lap of the race. He was able to stay ahead and I had to chase him for the rest of the afternoon. It was a hard fight because Fernando is a tough opponent and it was so difficult to get close and overtake. Eventually I found a gap in the last few laps and took my chance going into turn one. It was a big moment for my race and took me into the points. I’m happy with the result and I feel I’ve learned a huge amount from my first race weekend with this team. I hope this is the first point of many this season.”
Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal
“To come away from the first race of the year with seven points is a fantastic reward for all the hard work over the winter and this weekend. Sergio’s race was a typical battling performance as he made some opportunistic moves on both Toro Rosso cars, which proved crucial for his end result. We made some excellent calls with the strategy too, with our early pit stops proving the right way to go. Esteban also delivered a fantastic drive and everyone in the team was delighted to see him score his first point in Formula One. His race-long fight with Fernando Alonso was one of the big stories of the race and seeing Esteban overtake with just six laps to go was great entertainment for the fans. Starting the season with a good bunch of points is always an important boost for the team and shows we have good reliability too. We know there is more performance to come, but we’ve started with our best foot forward and will head to Shanghai determined to build on these results.”
Sergio Perez (MEX) Force India VJM10 and Carlos Sainz (ESP) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR12 battle at Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday 26 March 2017. © Sutton Motorsport Images
Toro Rosso opted to run differing strategies for their drivers, Sainz shadowing Perez and Kvyat being left out for the longest first stint of the pack. The Russian was put on racy supersoft tyres towards the end of the race, and it seemed to have worked - Sainz letting his freshly-shod team mate through to have a go at Perez ahead. Unfortunately a late engine issue meant an additional pit stop for Kvyat but it was still an encouraging double points finish for the team.
Carlos Sainz, 8th
“A tricky race! Obviously, with this new generation of cars, we didn’t know really what to expect, but to finish P8 is a decent result I’m happy with. It’s a shame that soon after the pit-stop we lost the position to Perez. I struggled after having to let Daniil and the two Mercedes by, as my tyre temperatures dropped down a bit and it took me some time to get back into rhythm. Towards the end of the race I was coming fast, catching the Force India, and I got quite close to overtaking him - if only there had been a few more laps, I could’ve given it a try. This race weekend was definitely a confidence boost for the whole team – to get both cars into Q3 yesterday and end with a double-points finish today is a really good start and now we need to make sure we keep on going like this.”
Daniil Kvyat, 9th
“What a good race! It was just a shame that we had to make an extra stop during the final laps, as we had to fill my car with air again… If it hadn’t been for that, P7 was definitely on the table and we were fighting for it well! The team has done a fantastic job all weekend and I’m very glad about that – congratulations and thank you everyone! We now need to keep pushing and fighting for more points like today. Physically speaking, it wasn’t an easy race but I felt good the whole time – I need to thank my trainer for that, we worked very well throughout the whole winter! All in all, a good way to start the season, showing strong pace and with both cars in the points; now we can start to prepare for China and we can all be pleased with ourselves.”
Franz Tost, Team Principal
“We started today’s race from eighth and ninth position on the grid, after performing well in yesterday’s qualifying session and getting both cars into Q3. This shows that our complete package is very competitive and this is certainly encouraging. In today’s race, both drivers did a good start and defended their positions well. Perez drove quite a solid race, overtaking both Carlos and Daniil, therefore finishing ahead of us. I think that, under other circumstances, we could have caught him back, but unfortunately we lost around ten seconds of time as we had to fill air twice in Daniil’s car. At the end of the race, Carlos got quite close to the Force India driver in seventh place, but because of the blue flags for the leading cars he lost contact. After that, there were not enough laps remaining for him to try and overtake the Mexican. Generally speaking, the car showed a good performance and our pit-stops worked very well. I’d like to congratulate the organizers of this race, as they did a fantastic job during the whole race weekend, attracting many fans – it was nice to see a full house. The race itself was also interesting, as it was Ferrari who won, with Mercedes finishing close behind. I think this will become a very interesting fight throughout the whole year. I’d like to congratulate our ex-driver Sebastian for the race win today, he really deserved it!”
Carlos Sainz (ESP) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR12 at Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday 26 March 2017. © Sutton Motorsport Images
Stroll had made his way up to P14 at the end of the first lap, but a lock-up while avoiding trouble necessitated an early stop. He then battled on before a brake issue late on led to his retirement in his maiden Grand Prix. Massa proved to be the 'best of the rest', comfortably ahead of Force India's Perez but a long way behind the Red Bull of Verstappen in fifth.
Felipe Massa, 6th
"It was definitely a good race. I knew the most important thing for me was to overtake Grosjean at the start, because the competition was looking more with him than with the other guys in front who I knew would be very difficult to beat such as Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes. I had a very good start and passed him, then my race was free from there until the end. The result was just great. I was so happy with the whole race. The way I was managing the tyres, the consistency, the work from the whole team, the pitstop - everything worked really well. We managed to beat the teams behind us in the right way. This is something we can really think about in terms of working towards the World Championship. I’m really happy with the result today, so thanks to the whole team. Not bad for an old boy!"
Lance Stroll, DNF
"Today we were running a decent race and the pace was pretty good. I had a good start, which was risky although I didn’t plan on it being quite so risky! Some guys braked quite early in front of me and I managed to gain some places, but then I had a flat spot so had to stop early and, strategy-wise, we changed to a two-stop. Then we managed to have a surprisingly good race. It was my first race, and first weekend, so there are a few positives to take out of it. We had what I believe was a brake disc failure. I just hit the pedal, it went long and I was lucky it was in a place where there was a lot of run-off. Unfortunately, that incident yesterday cost us a lot of positions in qualifying, but today I enjoyed myself and so a big thank you to the team."
Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer
"The first race is always very important and it’s great to get good points with sixth position for Felipe. He had great pace the whole way through the race, and was very controlled with a strong start, good first corner and so managed to get ahead of Grosjean. His tyre management was also very good so we were able to do the one stop that we had planned all along. Probably even more important though, was to see solid pace that keeps us in touch with the three teams at the front. It is a shame for Lance, who put in a good first drive with some overtakes in his first race in Formula One, so it is a shame that he then had to retire with a brake failure. Clearly that’s an issue we need to get on top for the races to come and make sure we don’t have a repeat. But, overall, congratulations to the team back in Grove who have built a great car to launch our 2017 campaign."
Lance Stroll (CDN) Williams FW40 at Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday 26 March 2017. © Sutton Motorsport Images
Alonso kept out of trouble and successfully held up faster cars behind for the majority of the race. An unlikely point seemed to be on the cards until McLaren pulled him in with a suspension issue, ending what he'd later describe as 'one of my very best races'. Vandoorne had an issue-strewn race which included him having to do a full power-cycle of his car during a pit stop. That lost him plenty of time, but he did at least get his MCL32 home, propping up the field in 13th.
Fernando Alonso, DNF
“In terms of driving, I probably had one of my very best races today. I was able to drive the car at my maximum; I felt confident, and I enjoyed driving the car throughout the race – I was able to push.
“With such little degradation from this year’s tyres, it’s enjoyable to be in the cockpit again. However, that enjoyment is less for us, because we are not fighting at the front.
“Our car is obviously not very competitive at the moment, so being able to keep the car in the points was a little surprising. At the end of the race, I had a problem that prevented me from finishing the race.
“It’s disappointing to see we’re not ready to fight at the front – we need to quickly make some further improvements.
Stoffel Vandoorne, 13th
“I had a very tricky race. At my pit-stop, I had to perform a full power-cycle of the car to reset it, which cost me time and position, and I also lost the dashboard readout for a while. Throughout the race, I was very busy on the steering wheel, making a lot of changes to the car’s settings while trying to bring the car home.
“Nevertheless, after the tests in Barcelona, we didn’t really expect to finish the race, so this is a little bit of a milestone today.
“We definitely don’t have enough pace to compete with the cars ahead of us, so we need an extra big push for China, in a fortnight’s time.
“We’ve had decent mileage all weekend; Fernando showed well in qualifying; and we finished the race, so there are positives to take away from this first weekend of the season.
“I think I probably deserve a slice of birthday cake this evening!”
Eric Boullier, McLaren-Honda Racing Director
“The 2017 Australian Grand Prix won’t be remembered as one of McLaren-Honda's finest hours, and indeed there are precious few reasons for us to be cheerful here in Melbourne this evening.
“However, I want to pay tribute to our drivers, both of whom performed superbly, albeit in very different ways. “Fernando’s car suffered a damaged left-front brake duct early on, but he nonetheless drove a prodigiously impressive race, wringing every last tenth-of-a-second from a compromised car on every lap, and at one stage a points finish looked to be a possibility for him.
“Tantalisingly close to the end of the race, however, the damage on his car developed into a terminal problem, the floor having become irreparably broken, forcing him to drive back to the garage and retire. That was a bitterly disappointing end to a wonderfully spirited drive, but I guess that’s racing.
“Stoffel had a dreadfully frustrating afternoon, losing his dashboard function early in the race - causing him to have to count his gearchanges both up and down in the absence of the usual on-dash digital readout – which problem we were able to address by bringing him in for an unscheduled system reboot.
“He soldiered on to the finish – and, although his afternoon was a difficult and unsatisfying one, the fact that he went the distance was a consolation of sorts. Indeed, bearing in mind that he’s now driven the grand total of just two grands prix, I’d describe his performance as dogged and diligent: a very difficult job very well done.
“From here we'll return to Woking and Sakura, where our development work will continue with relentless intensity, with regard to chassis and power unit alike, in an effort to improve MCL32 for the Shanghai-Bahrain double-header in a fortnight's time.”
Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co. Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer
“We knew coming into the weekend that this race wouldn’t be an easy one. But, despite a number of issues, I’m still happy with the progress we’ve made over the last weeks.
"Stoffel drove a determined race to the chequered flag, despite his issues, and Fernando once again drove brilliantly to extract everything from the car. It was disappointing for the team that he was unable to finish while running in the points, and with just five laps to go.
“Still, we take away some encouragement. Both of our drivers performed well in what was a challenging season-opening race, with retirements up and down the grid.
“We will now look ahead to the next race in China, and prepare together with McLaren to have a competitive race.”
Fernando Alonso (ESP) McLaren MCL32 at Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday 26 March 2017. © Sutton Motorsport Images
Hulkenberg spent his afternoon in the midfield, and though he complained about struggling to follow others in turbulent air, he did eventually make an opportunistic pass of Alonso as Ocon also swept by the McLaren. Ultimately though, the German didn't have the pace for points. On the other side of the garage Palmer's poor weekend continued as he struggled with brake issues for a number of laps before retiring the car.
Jolyon Palmer, DNF
“My race was going well. I made places at the start despite being on the hardest tyre, my pace was pretty reasonable and I could see Nico and Esteban ahead of me. Unfortunately, my brakes stuck on at turn 14. We hoped it was just a glitch, but it happened again so we had no alternative other than to retire. It’s not been the start I wanted to my season, so we’ll put it down to experience and look forward to China.”
Nico Hulkenberg, 11th
“The conclusion from my first race with the team is that we are firmly in the midfield and we’re looking forward to continuing to improve. My first lap wasn’t great as I tried to get Kvyat on the outside of turn 13 but he squeezed me wide and I lost a position to Alonso. There was not much I could do about him, even though I was lot faster as I just couldn’t overtake. I had a very positive last stint on the ultrasoft tyres with the car getting better and better, although it wasn’t quite enough to gain another position. My battle with Ocon and Alonso was a lot of fun, I had massive double tow from them, so I gave it all with overtake mode and DRS. It was quite spectacular and must have looked pretty good from the outside too.”
Cyril Abiteboul, Managing Director
“This first Grand Prix of the season under these new regulations has delivered several lessons. Our race result highlights that we were not as well prepared as our opposition and our lack of mileage and preparation, both during pre-season testing and during this weekend, meant we suffered today. We have learnt that in this new Formula 1 era everything needs to be perfectly executed, as it is very difficult to gain track position. We needed to be stronger at the start, in our execution of our strategy, in our pit stops and with our car set-up and balance.
"Although there were very few laps of clean air to demonstrate it, we feel that our car-engine-driver combination allows us to be in the group that we were targeting to race against. At every race, we should be in a position to fight for Q3 on Saturday and to fight for points on the Sunday. Looking forward, our first priority for Shanghai is to improve our reliability and from there we should be in a stronger position.”
Jolyon Palmer (GBR) Renault Sport F1 Team RS17 at Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday 26 March 2017. © Sutton Motorsport Images
Mario Isola - Head of Car Racing
“Formula 1’s new era made a fantastic start in Australia, with close racing and the drivers able to push hard from the start to the finish of each stint. As we expected most drivers adopted different variations of a one-stop strategy, with the leaders moving onto the soft
for the second stint in order to be certain of running to the end. There was low wear and degradation on a circuit that is never particularly hard on tyres anyway, with the drivers able to set fastest laps at the very end of the race on the soft compound that was more than 30 laps old.”