Australian Grand Prix: Drivers report from Melbourne

Fernando Alonso, Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen, Pascal Wehrlein, Esteban Ocon, Romain Grosjean, Esteban Gutierrez, Daniel Ricciardo, Jolyon Palmer, Kevin Magnussen, Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, Nico Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez, Valtteri Bottas, Felipe Massa, Daniil Kvyat, Carlos Sainz, Marcus Ericsson, Lewis Hamilton, Stoffel Vandoorne, Lance Stroll,

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

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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!”

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.”