The big question for the 2016 Australian Grand Prix was if Mercedes win, will it be with Nico Rosberg or Lewis Hamilton? Some said prior to the weekend that Lewis Hamilton had the edge because he starts the season as the reigning World Champion, while others said that Nico Rosberg had the edge after his dominance shown at the end of the 2015 season. We all wanted to know the answer.
Well the obvious answer was Nico Rosberg won the race, so he was the better driver? But was he? Lewis Hamilton topped all previous sessions of the weekend and looked much more dominant throughout. Lets break down the race for both drivers.
Off of the line both Rosberg and Hamilton were very slow, meaning Vettel was ahead before the first corner with Räikkönen right behind him. Rosberg had a lot of luck, as he took the inside line into turn one, which history will tell you is the preferred line. Hamilton found himself on the outside, so he couldn’t get the drive out through turn two and Rosberg could. Not as known to many is that Hamilton and Rosberg had contact at the first corner. As Rosberg went ahead of Hamilton out of turn one, Hamilton’s front wing clipped Rosberg’s left-rear tire. Fortunately, Rosberg did not receive a puncture and Hamilton’s wing damage was minor.
By this stage Rosberg was in fourth, while Hamilton was stuck in sixth position. Rosberg had the advantage from the better line in turn one and when Hamilton dropped further after the contact, Rosberg would have been feeling a little more confident.
As the first stint went on, Rosberg managed to get himself up to third position and Hamilton pushed up to fifth, with Max Verstappen ahead of him. The critical mistake for Hamilton was the choice to pit on lap 16, for the medium tyre compound. This dropped him down to seventh.
Disaster was spelt the very next lap after Fernando Alonso botched an overtake attempt on Esteban Gutiérrez before turn three. This massive shunt brought out the red flag, which meant that the race would be temporarily stopped. When this happened, it made the order effective and it gave drivers a free pit stop. This crash cost Hamilton three track position, whereas it didn’t affect Rosberg.
After the red flag, both Mercedes drivers fitted the medium tyre compound, opting to take the tyres with just under 40 laps remaining in the race. The alternate strategy (which Ferrari opted for) was to go on super-soft tyres and switch to softs later. Rosberg summed up the Mercedes choice of strategy, saying, “we chose the perfect strategy by going onto the medium tyre after the red flag”. In my opinion, the call to go the mediums won Mercedes the race.
Both drivers managed the mediums perfectly and didn’t appear to struggle. Hamilton appeared to be in much more control than Rosberg and he subsequently lapped much faster. However, the previous situation meant that Hamilton needed to go full out, whereas Rosberg needed to conserve and just focus on getting to the end of the race.
Now, to answer the almighty question: Who will have the edge for Bahrain?
I’m going with Hamilton, but I’m not saying Hamilton will win. What I’m trying to say is that Hamilton won’t count himself out. After analyzing Australia, I feel Nico Rosberg had some luck on his side with his win: the red flag benefited him, his grid slot benefited him and he was very lucky to not be out of the race with a puncture when Hamilton ran into the back of him. The other factor which makes me go Hamilton is the fact Hamilton won at Bahrain in both 2015 and 2014, giving him a 2-0 advantage over his teammate.
I almost feel bad actually saying that Hamilton has the edge, but I believe Bahrain truly will be Nico Rosberg’s race to lose.
The last comment I have on this, is that I think Nico Rosberg definitely showed fight during the race. Once he got that sniff he took it. There was none of that in 2015 and I’m pleased to see it back. I think that this is going to be a season where we will see where the two Mercedes drivers fight to the death.
The Bahrain Grand Prix gets underway on the April 3 at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir for the second round of the 20126 Formula One season. All of the fans will be optimistic for a great race after what they saw in the season opener.