#TheXtraLap: Mercedes got it right, Ferrari lost the plot

MsportXtra on Twitter, run by Dutch uber-motorsport fan turned social media wiz Duurt Dijkman, gives his post mortem and thoughts in the wake of the 2019 Formula 1 season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

Those who know him will agree that there are few people out there with a finger on the pulse of all the racing disciplines he follows, his Formula 1 coverage through Twitter left few stones unturned during a headline packed week Down Under.

Hence, this season MsportXtra has kindly agreed to pen a post-race column (and others when the need arises) sharing his insights through his social media presence and his private sources.

Here is his take on the weekend in Melbourne:

Where did Mercedes ‘new’ pace come from?
MsportXtra: Looking at testing, you would think Ferrari would be faster than Mercedes but the Champs did a lot of laps and gathered a lot of data. They to were surprised by their speed but I think the track conditions also played a part in it. When we come to warmer circuits, they could run into some trouble.

Where did Ferrari horsepower go?
MsportXtra: While Mercedes got it right, Ferrari lost the plot. Vettel said in an interview that the connection he had with the car in Barcelona, disappeared in Melbourne. This might also be because of track conditions as the Albert Park circuit needs a different approach to Barcelona. Knowing Ferrari, they will find out what went wrong and will rectify it when it comes to Bahrain.

How good was Max?
MsportXtra: Straight from Friday onwards, Max was on it. During all three free practice sessions, he was in the same ballpark as both the Mercedes and Ferrari. His start was good and he managed to overtake Vettel early, an important part of the strategy to give him a podium chance. The new Honda partnership meant before the race started we had no idea how competitive Red Bull would be, however after the race Max said he was pleasantly surprised with the power unit and he was even able to push and fight on the straights. He maximized the situation, drove a very mature race and a podium was his reward.

How bad was the Williams team?
MsportXtra: From testing forward, they were on the backfoot but seeing the times they did, it was obvious they would be a clear backmarker during the race. However, I wasn’t expecting them to be that slow. At the finish, both Williams cars were the only ones that were lapped multiple times with Russell 2 laps down and Kubica 3 laps down. Of course, Kubica had an issue from the start when he lost his front wing and I’m sure the car had damage that kept him from setting “faster” times but all through the weekend Russell showed quicker times than Kubica. I think we need to give Kubica a bit of time because he hasn’t raced in 8 years and is missing mileage in testing. Still, it would be very hard for them to close the gap to the midfield and this might turn out to be a bad year again. Fingers crossed they will find some solutions.

What were big trends on Twitter during the course of the weekend?
MsportXtra: There were a few trending stories. Redbull/Honda, Guenther “F*cking” Steiner, Sandbagging, Ricciardo and Kubica to name a few. But the one that stood out and is worth mentioning is the hashtag #ThankYouCharlie after the sudden passing away of race director Charlie Whiting.

I would like to take this opportunity to extend my condolences to his family, colleagues and friends. On behalf of everybody at MsportXtra, our thoughts and prayers are with you all.

Other talking points according to MsportXtra:

  • As it is a new year with new cars and new engines, I was surprised about the reliability of the engines (except Sainz, although not sure yet what happened)
  • All drivers and teams used to be a bit rusty at the start of a new season and little mistakes tend to creep in but this weekend, nothing much happened except the front wheel deja-vu at Haas. Furthermore, the stewards didn’t have much to do. Stroll got a 200 euro fine for speeding in the pitlane on Friday and both McLaren and Haas got a 5000 euro fine for an unsafe release. That was it.
  • The fastest lap point went to Bottas and although it is a fun addition, I’m pretty sure only the top teams would be able to get them. Even if an “outsider” would try it, it seems the top teams still have some pace in hand to go for it. That said, after the Australian Grand Prix, it became clear that once again, the top three teams are way clear of the midfield and the 21 points total (fastest lap points) will only make the gap bigger.
  • The midfield seems very close so that battle will be fun to watch as it unfolds. I think the team with the biggest development rate, will be the team that ends up P4 this year but which one is anybody’s guess at the moment.

Now it’s onwards to Bahrain and I’m already looking forward to penning the next “The Extra Lap” with MsportXtra.