Australian Grand Prix: Feedback from teams

Team chiefs and engineers report from the Australian Grand Prix, Round 1 of the 2017 Formula 1 World Championship, at Albert Park in Melbourne.

Maurizio Arrivabene, Ferrari 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, Ferrari 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.”

Christian Horner, Red Bull 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.”

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, Mercedes 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.”

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.”

Guenther Steiner, Haas 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.”

Monisha Kaltenborn, Sauber 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.”

Robert Fernley, Force India 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.”

Franz Tost, Toro Rosso 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!”

Paddy Lowe, Williams 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.”

Cyril Abiteboul, Renault 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.”

Mario Isola, Pirelli 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.”