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Class of the Field
Adam Barton

A Formula One fan since he was six, back while Häkkinen and Schumacher were having many an epic battle, Adam has seen a great deal. From German domination (twice), to British determination (once) and a Spanish invasion. A near compulsive fan who one day hopes to write about the sport for a living, outside of F1 Adam also authors his own blog One Guy's Opinion.

Giovinazzi takes his chance - Sauber inherit a three-driver conundrum of a different kind


The new season is here and boy did the Australian GP add to the intrigue. With many sceptical of Ferrari’s title potential, they more than kept Mercedes on their toes on Saturday and then on Sunday, Vettel showed that Ferrari had the pace, as well as the ability to manage their tyres, to beat Mercedes, regardless of strategy. Is this the end of single team domination? It’s too soon to tell but it won't be long before we find out.

Last minute sub steps up to the plate

Antonio Giovinazzi, Sauber F1 Team: Started 16th, Finished 12th

The Italian wasn’t done turning heads
Credit: Sauber AG

Many will have woken up on Saturday morning wondering who Antonio Giovinazzi was. By the end of qualifying he was suddenly Italy’s next big hope in F1. Giovinazzi came within a whisker of causing a major shock and outqualifying his teammate Marcus Ericsson having had a very late call up to replace the unfit Pascal Wehrlein. With just an hour of practice to get to grips with a new track, Giovinazzi put in a great effort, qualifying within two tenths of Ericsson, despite running very wide late in his final lap. Unfortunately for Giovinazzi, the error left him 16th with Ericsson’s blushes spared as he scraped through.

The Italian wasn’t done turning heads though. Despite driving arguably the slowest car on the grid, Giovinazzi put in a fine drive to secure 12th, as he benefited from a race of high attrition. The debutant lost a place at the start as chaos at the back, caused by fellow rookie Lance Stroll, was only just averted. Giovinazzi kept his head and looked after his tyres, running a long first stint on the soft prime tyres before pitting on lap 15. Having run as high as 13th, the Italian dropped to 15th after his stop.

Giovinazzi’s fine performance and Wehrlein’s decision to withdraw could have a dramatic impact on both driver’s futures

From there, he was always going to struggle to keep up with the Williams and Renault ahead but he showed he was more than capable of racing at the highest level, as he comfortably held off Vandoorne and Magnussen behind, eventually rising to 12th when Stroll and Alonso dropped out. Credit should also go to the Italian for making a set of supersofts last 40 laps, without any track experience to rely on. There may be areas to improve on but it was a very accomplished performance in tough circumstances and suddenly it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in the car again this season.

After Giovinazzi’s fine performance, Wehrlein’s decision to withdraw, made solely by the German, could have a dramatic impact on both driver’s futures; and consequentially create an interesting dynamic for Ferrari and Mercedes.

Kvyat charge runs out of gas (literally)

Daniil Kvyat, Scuderia Toro Rosso: Started 9th, Finished 9th

It’s good to see Kvyat back on full attack
Credit: Mark Thompson/Getty

This weekend may have given us a glimpse of how much impact being dumped by Red Bull actually had on Daniil Kvyat. The Russian was back to his best down under and it was a shame to see his efforts thwarted by an air pressure issue. Kvyat was consistently there or there-abouts with his teammate Sainz, before beating him comfortably in Q2 as both Toro Rossos made it into Q3. Once there, Kvyat was just edged out by three hundredths to qualify ninth.

Kvyat was the last man to pit despite starting on ultrasoft tyres

On race day, the Russian was beaten into turn one by Pérez, dropping to tenth but Toro Rosso had a plan. Knowing that overtaking was going to be a challenge, Kvyat was the last man to pit despite starting on ultrasoft tyres, eventually pitting on lap 34 having made it up to sixth.

The stop dropped Kvyat back down to ninth but now he had the tyres to strike fear into the cars ahead. Sainz let him through, with Kvyat’s strategy clearly better and put him in with a chance of catching Pérez for seventh. Sadly, a second stop was needed to top up the air pressure, dropping Kvyat back behind Sainz when best of the rest in sixth wasn’t out of the question.

It was a shame but it’s good to see Kvyat back on full attack and demonstrating why Toro Rosso weren’t so quick to ditch him.

Bad news for the new boys

Sergio Pérez, Sahara Force India F1 Team: Started 10th, Finished 7th

Both Sergio Pérez and Felipe Massa had similar weekends, with strong performances tough to benchmark against teammates who made their full season debuts. While Massa took the points for sixth, it was Pérez who continued to impress and maximised Force India’s weekend with seventh. Ocon may be inexperienced but he does have strong pedigree and couldn’t get within half a second of Pérez all weekend.

Force India will be targeting fourth but they appear to be behind Williams and Toro Rosso, as well as potentially Haas to start the season. However, Pérez is there to get them out of a hole. The Mexican was on the edge of the top ten throughout the weekend, and then just missed out on Q3 by less than a tenth to Sainz.

Force India will be targeting fourth but they appear to be behind Williams and Toro Rosso
Credit: Sahara Force India

Starting from tenth, Pérez jumped Kvyat at the start, and then profited from Grosjean’s retirement. The Mexican made a relatively early call to pit for ultra-softs on lap 17, but used the overcut to pass Sainz. When Kvyat eventually made his first stop, Pérez was up to seventh and with the Williams too far ahead, his thoughts turned to ending his race-long battle with Sainz ahead, not to mention holding off Daniil Kvyat on softer, fresher tyres before his second stop. Pérez held firm and crossed the line just over a second clear of Sainz and started Force India’s season with six valuable points, added to by a maiden point for Ocon.

Grosjean proves a point

Romain Grosjean, Haas F1 Team: Started 6th, Retired

Going into the weekend there was a lot of talk of how tight the battle for fourth best team was. Not many were backing Haas to secure the best of the rest tag. Truth be told, the car doesn’t warrant it but then Romain Grosjean weaved his magic.

After seeing new teammate Kevin Magnussen unceremoniously dumped out in Q1, hopes were low for Haas. But Grosjean was well within the top ten, 10th in Q1, 8th in Q2, making Q3 by well over three tenths of a second. The Frenchman improved yet again in Q3, taking another seven tenths off his best time to qualify sixth, four tenths ahead of Massa and the Toro Rossos. Alright he gained a spot on the third row through Ricciardo’s crash but it was a spectacular effort regardless.

It made it even more of a shame when he dropped out of seventh on lap 13 with a good chance of points, but Grosjean had made his mark in Australia as he once again looks to impress the top teams.

Not many were backing Haas to secure the best of the rest tag
Credit: Haas F1 Team