The Pirelli compounds looked almost boringly reliable at Albert Park last fortnight, but the mad heat in Malaysia is going to test the rubber.
Unlike the Australian GP, where the majority of drivers carried out only one pit-stop, of Sunday's second race of the season, at Sepang, Malaysia, will see at least two, says Raja Sen.
It was all business as usual over at the Australian Grand Prix a fortnight ago when reigning World champion Lewis Hamilton stormed to an unchallenged victory, but Australia -- where the cars are still new and untested and the drivers are just getting used to new chassis (and new livery) -- is never an indicator for the rest of the season.
Still, it’s all we have to go by and, with the second race of the season coming to us this Sunday afternoon from Sepang, Malaysia, here’s a look at the five things Race 1 taught us.
1. Mercedes still leads the pack: But, if we’re to stay hopeful about the rest of 2015, not by all that much. Sure, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were unchallenged in Australia, and might score another one-two at Malaysia, but Ferrari is looking stable, Williams is looking sharp and Red Bull is said to be bringing some serious upgrades to the track in three races time. Kimi Raikkonen, in fact, even let it slip that he believes Ferrari might be better on track than Mercedes but are having trouble with the qualifying setup. Hmmm. Well, that and pitstops.
2. The boys in red really want to play nice: Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen both have a lot to prove this year over at Ferrari -- four-time World champion Vettel needs to show his mettle outside of those once-invincible Red Bull cars, and Kimi needs to show the new boy he’s still got it after an abysmal season last year when Fernando Alonso wiped the floor with the Finn. The two Ferrari champs collided in the first corner in a shunt that looked to be the fault of a too-eager Vettel, and while we all speculated about the outspoken Raikkonen and his imminent outburst, he shrugged it off rather casually. Clearly these two want to play nice in 2015 -- at least until they start fighting for the top-step of the podium.
3. Formula One doesn’t seem the same without Fernando Alonso: The Spaniard hasn’t led the pack for many a year now, but he brings an electrifying passion to the grid even when he’s wringing out unbelievable performances from unworthy vehicles. He wasn’t cleared to race in Australia following an accident during testing in Barcelona last month -- reports of him waking up concussed and believing he was Italian or that it was 1995 were, Alonso laughed, tremendously exaggerated -- and we missed him during the season opener, a race that was initially interesting but eventually a drag, something that could well have been livened up by Alonso and McLaren teammate Jenson Button scrapping for the final points or Fernando characteristically carving his way up the field despite the car. Well, he’ll be around in Malaysia wearing white overalls, and here’s looking forward to watching the returning Spaniard charge. Vamos!
4. Both new Felipe and old Felipe are looking good: Felipe Massa was the only Williams driver at the Australian Grand Prix and did well to come in fourth -- even though third place seemed well within reach -- but Massa was calm, driving smoothly and without error, ably handling a car that appears rather capable. His Brazilian compatriot Felipe Nasr, the 22-year-old Sauber pilot, did rather excellently in his debut race to finish fifth, comfortably holding off more experienced challengers like Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg. Are these Felipes going to make Uncle Ayrton, watching from the great beyond, proud this year?
5. Hot Malaysia will burn up the tyres: The Pirelli compounds looked almost boringly reliable at Albert Park last fortnight, but the mad heat in Malaysia is going to test the rubber, and unlike the last race where we saw the majority of drivers carry out only one pit-stop, here we’ll see -- at least -- two stops. Pirelli has brought out their two hardest compounds for the race -- the P Zero Orange hard and P Zero White medium -- but Malaysia will definitely provide more pitstop poker, which should translate to more unpredictability. Especially as some scorched drivers will invariably let the conditions get the better of them.