New cars are faster than ever, Albert Park track record was improved by more than a second and the goal of achieving five seconds faster times compared to 2015 is fulfilled- is the new Formula 1 really the fastest in history?
The first race of the season offers us the first opportunity to compare the laptimes and compare them with those from last V10 era when cars were equally fast in qualifying and race conditions.
Lewis Hamilton’s 2017 pole position (1:22.188) was 1.649 seconds faster than his pole position last year and 2.220 seconds faster than Schumacher’s pole position in 2004 that German drove with fuel for 12 laps long first stint of the race. The fastest lap in Melbourne before the 2017 race (Vettel’s pole position from 2011) was knocked down by 1,341 seconds.
More than 100 kilograms ligther 2004 cars were faster than 2017 cars in the race with Schumacher clocking a stunning fastest lap 1:24.125, three tenths faster than his pole position time while his only third timed lap was already under 1min25s (1:24.968).
Refuelling during the race allowed cars to be lighter – average speed of the 2004 race (219.010 km/h) is still the fastest in the history of Albert Park (Vettel won in 2017 with an average speed of 215,408 km/h).
This year’s Australian Grand Prix was shortest race in the history of this track (1:24:11.672), four seconds faster than 2004 race (1:24:15.757), but 2017 race was one lap shorter due to warning signal activated by one of the marshalls which forced Charlie Whiting to send cars for another warm-up lap (57 laps race instead of 58 laps).
Kimi Raikkonen clocked the fastest lap of the 2017 race (1:26.538), two and a half seconds faster than last year’s fastest lap and 4.5 seconds faster than the fastest lap in 2015, but Kimi was also just two tenths slower than Hamilton’s 2015 pole position (1:26.327). It was the 44th fastest lap in Raikkonen’s career – only Michael Schumacher has more fastest laps in his career (77).
Vettel’s start from the front row is the first front row start for Ferrari in Australia since 2007 when Raikkonen started from pole position and won his first race for Ferrari.
Vettel is also the first Ferrari driver who won the first race of the season after Alonso won in Bahrain in 2010 while German also ended a three-year dominance of Mercedes drivers who led the championship since the beginning of 2014. The last non-Mercedes driver to lead the championship was also Vettel who convincingly won the 2013 championship in Red Bull.
Ferrari has also stopped the Mercedes’ dominance in the constructors’ championship which they led since the second race of 2014 – McLaren Mercedes led after the first race in Australia after Magnussen and Button were second and third behind Nico Rosberg.
Hamilton equaled Senna’s record in Australia with sixth pole position and needs only three more poles to equall Senna’s number of poles record (65). Schumacher is still first with 68 pole positions in his career.
Hamilton also led the race for the hundredth time (only Schumacher led more races, 142) and continued his pole position streak from the end of 2016. (total of 5 races), winning at least one pole in every season in his F1 carrer since 2007.
Valtteri Bottas is no longer the driver with the most appearances for only one team in his F1 career (before 2017 he drove 77 races for Williams) and this record returns to Jim Clark who drove 72 races for Lotus. Bottas is now the driver with the most points without a win (426).