F1 Power Rankings: Australian Grand Prix

As we are wont to do before every Grand Prix, we preview the upcoming race with a look at the chances of everyone on the grid in the Formula One Power Rankings. As it’s a new season, it’s a fresh set of rankings. Well, it’s a fresh set except at the top because I’m not expecting the front quarter of the grid to be very different.

f1-lewis-hamilton-helmet-2015#1 Lewis Hamilton
Old Louise Hamilton is even higher on this year’s car than last. Well, it was a good championship while it lasted: “Testing was just incredible – the best I can remember in my career. The car feels even better than last year’s from both a performance and reliability perspective, which is saying something. It’s all so refined in every area and we can be really proud of what we’ve achieved over the winter.”

f1-nico-rosberg-helmet-2015#2 Nico Rosberg
Keke’s boy doesn’t completely share Lewis’s optimism: “It’s so impressive how the team keeps on pushing, aiming to be better all the time. Of course, we all know that Ferrari are right there with us and maybe some of the others will be up there too, so we have to keep pushing. But it’s good to have that competition. With the team we have I believe we can keep them behind.”

f1-sebastian-vettel-helmet-2016#3 Sebastian Vettel
The question on everyone’s mind for 2016 is if Sebastian Vettel can take the fight to Mercedes this year. Based on testing, the answer is yes and no. There’s no question that Ferrari have done a great job showing that they have single-lap pace. Over the course of a long run, the balance shifts back to the Silver Arrows. If the Ferrari is again easy on its tyres, they can compete on tracks with high wear and softer tyres. How many of those will we see from 21 Grands Prix, though?

f1-kimi-raikkonen-helmet-2016#4 Kimi Raikkonen
Pirelli Motorsport boss Paul Hembery talks about the impact of the new tyre rules for 2016: “With far reaching changes to tyre regulations compared to 2015, we expect strategy options to have extended considerably, with more possibilities open not only to each team but also every individual driver. In fact, the tactical decisions for Albert Park already began last year, as each team nominated their tyres: only recently, like a poker game, did everyone have to finally show their hand.”

f1-valtteri-bottas-helmet-2015#5 Valtteri Bottas
The season’s real competition is underway already. Which Williams driver will have the most generic PR quotage this year: “Melbourne is a really nice city and I always really enjoy going there. The people are nice and the weather is normally very good. Because it’s the first grand prix of the year it’s a very exciting time for everyone. I really like the track as well, for me it’s one of the best on the whole Formula One calendar.”

f1-felipe-massa-helmet-2015#6 Felipe Massa
Phil isn’t any better than #BO77AS: “Australia is always a nice place to start the season because it’s a fantastic country and everybody likes to go there, it is also a race where anything can happen. I’m really looking forward to starting a new season, and I hope we can start well like we did last year. Hopefully our car is competitive straight away, that’s the most important thing.”

#7 Sergio Perez
I have Checo ranked best of the midfield here. He doesn’t outright say he feels my optimism but if you read between the lines… “No matter how many laps you do in testing, you never really know where you are compared to the other teams. So I don’t want to say too much. As a team we feel quite happy with what we achieved in Barcelona and that’s the main thing. The car has been reliable and we’ve made a good step forward compared to last year. I think we can go to Melbourne knowing that points are achievable.”

#8 Max Verstappen
Mad Max sounds so sad talking about his first F1 DNF. He’s like a little puppy: “The last part of the track has some good combination of corners, even though it was a bit of a disappointing part last year, as it’s the sector where I retired… To be racing in point’s position in your first F1 race and have to retire is something hard to experience! But all in all, it’s a fun, enjoyable track and I just can’t wait to go back!”

f1-daniel-ricciardo-helmet-2015#9 Daniel Ricciardo
Danny Boy is excited to be going home to kick off the season: “For me the favourite things about the Australian GP are first of all the fans. They’re pretty awesome, every day we go to the track we get a pretty big greeting from everyone and they are super enthusiastic, it’s cool! The track is fun, I love street circuits so for me Melbourne’s got really good flow, really good corner combinations, lots of left/right, left/rights which is cool. And I’m not a massive fan of the European winter so getting back to Oz, not only to race but just to get back to some sunshine is great. To hear the Aussie accent, have some good Aussie food and live that summer lifestyle is great, so not really much to complain about!”

#10 Nico Hulkenberg
I know fans don’t particularly care for street circuits but the drivers love that city life on race weekends: “I don’t know of anybody in the paddock who doesn’t enjoy this event. After the long winter you arrive in Melbourne and everybody is pumped and ready to get the season started. The weather is great, the city is cool and you get a lot of energy and positivity from the crowd and the buzz in the paddock.”

f1-daniil-kvyat-helmet-2015#11 Daniil Kvyat
Daniil Boy quite likes everything: ” I like Melbourne it’s a nice, chilled out place with good food, a good beach and sunshine. The track is quite unusual, there is no other track you can compare it to; it’s half street circuit, half normal circuit with tight run off areas. You have to maximise your entries everywhere, be very precise in your driving – I like it.”

#12 Carlos Sainz
Chili talks us through a lap of Albert Park: “I remember that Turn 1 is quite bumpy and it’s therefore easy to lock the front wheels. The second DRS zone is a tricky one, as we open it just as we exit Turn 2. What we need to be careful with is the entry of Turn 6, as it’s quite easy to put a tyre on the grass! I also recall having to get very close to the wall at Turns 9 and 10, as this gives you lap time, and it reminds me a bit of Monaco. My favourite part of the track, and also the fastest, are Turns 11 and 12, driven in sixth gear. The last sector also includes another nice combination of corners that I enjoy very much, even though the final two turns are the trickiest, especially Turn 16, where you’re fighting with the steering wheel to get a good exit.”

f1-fernando-alonso-helmet-2015#13 Fernando Alonso
Fernando explains that changing track conditions aren’t actually a myth: “Usually the track conditions change quite dramatically from the start of FP1 on Friday to the end of the grand prix, so it’s a race in itself for the drivers and engineers to keep on top of it and make sure they have the right set-up ahead of each session, or risk losing out.”

f1-kevin-magnussen-helmet-2016#14 Kevin Magnussen
KMag is back! After getting the shaft from McLaren, he’s out to best them this year: “I’m extremely motivated after a whole year away. I’ve been sitting on the sidelines during the races for so many weekends and I’m hungry to come back and prove my worth. I’ve raced my whole life and I’m extremely hungry and keen to get in a race car again and even more so with Renault Sport!”

f1-jenson-button-helmet-2015#15 Jenson Button
While the Honda looked good in pre-season testing, Jenson is quick to point out that testing and race pace aren’t the same thing: “The Australian Grand Prix is always a fascinating unknown because you’re never sure where you are in relation to your competitors. Although we’ve finished pre-season testing, we’ve not had much time on track before the season starts, so this is the first chance for us to compare ourselves on similar set-ups. We’ve been concentrating heavily on our own development and processes, so I’m looking forward to seeing where we are on a level playing field.”

f1-jolyon-palmer-helmet-2016#16 Jolyon Palmer
Rookie Jolyon Palmer didn’t ask much testing as he would have liked but he got his prep work in FP1 last year: “It’s important as there are a lot of procedures and the cars are very technical to drive so it has been a big help to have the experience of last year to fall back on. Even though I did not get the greatest amount of laps in testing, I don’t feel too behind and know that when we turn up in Melbourne it will be OK.”

f1-felipe-nasr-helmet-2015#17 Felipe Nasr
Here’s something that’ll be overlooked for the rest of Young Phil’s career until long after he’s retired: He had a phenomenal debut race. Bet he gets lost in the list of all-time great F1 debuts: “The Australian Grand Prix reminds me of my fantastic result from last year. Finishing fifth in my first ever Formula One race is something I will probably never forget. It is nice to come back to Albert Park with these great memories.”

f1-marcus-ericsson-helmet-2015#18 Marcus Ericsson
With the departure of Maldonado, is Marcus now F1’s resident great pay driver? “Looking back to the last few weeks, the preparations during the test days in Barcelona went well, and I felt comfortable with the C35. Now we have to see how things work out during a race weekend. I am confident the team has worked hard to be in a good shape for the season opener in Melbourne.”

f1-romain-grosjean-helmet-2015#19 Romain Grosjean
Romain talks about getting off the ground with a new team: “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, being part of a new team and driving the car out of the garage for the first time, especially with Haas being an American team. It’s been a unique experience. It’s good to be able to give your advice, give your feedback. All the engineers have been listening a lot. Everyone is an important piece of the puzzle and we’re all trying to do our best.”

#20 Pascal Wehrlein

f1-esteban-gutierrez-helmet-2013#21 Esteban Gutierrez
Steve is back after a year as a Scuderia Ferrari tester. His goals for the first weekend back as part of a team’s first weekend are lofty: “First of all, we need to find out how competitive we are. I hope we are as competitive and as good as the car feels, but we need to maximize and optimize what we have. Our target is clear – to achieve points. It is quite ambitious as a new team, but that’s what we’re targeting and we’ll work very hard to achieve it.”

#22 Rio Haryanto

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