Sebastian Vettel lays down the pace at the Australian Grand Prix.
Qualifying in Australia continues to near as drops of rain linger in the air. But while the rain holds off, Vettel set more than just the pace. All the while Wehrlein was forced to watch on from the garage after withdrawing from the race. Handing Ferrari’s reserve driver, Antonio Givoniazzi, a surprise Formula One debut.
Over the winter, while Formula One took a break, Wehrlein joined the likes of Vettel, Massa and Jenson Button to represent the world of F1 at the Race of Champions. A coming together of motorsport greats and pitting different championships against each other in identical machinery.
Unfortunately though, while Wehrlein raced Massa in an all-F1 encounter, Pascal was pitched into a role that left the German injured and forced to sit out the first pre-season test in the coming month.
Wehrlein was later able to run in the second week, taking the reigns back from Giovinazzi. But with his injury hampering his training, Pascal struggled to push as he completed 192 laps.
Friday practice at the Australian Grand Prix then seemed to present the same fitness issues for Wehrlein. With the 2015 DTM champion bravely taking the step back and accepting he is not fit enough to race.
“My fitness level is not as it should be for a full race distance because of my training deficit,” explained Wehrlein. “I explained the situation to the team yesterday evening. Therefore, the Sauber F1 Team has decided not to take any risks. It is a pity, but the best decision for the team.”
With Wehrlein forced to withdraw from the Australian Grand Prix, the chance presents itself for the 2016 GP2 runner-up to make the step-up to Formula One.
Antonio Giovinazzi missed out on the GP2 title in his rookie year by just eight points to Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly. But his sensational year did not go unnoticed as he was picked up by Ferrari to be their reserve driver for 2017.
He will, though, make his F1 debut with Sauber at the age of 23. Making it two rookies on the grid in Melbourne rather than the stand-alone in Lance Stroll.
— Race Of Champions (@RaceOfChampions) January 21, 201
The man who broke the Saturday morning silence, however, was not a rookie to Formula One as Romain Grosjean rolled out first yet again.
The Frenchman may have broken the silence for the third session in a row, though. But it was Daniel Ricciardo who set the opening time of the day in a Red Bull already featuring updates after late-night packages arrived at the circuit.
Some of the new parts at Red Bull included a new floor for Max Verstappen after the Dutchman ran wide at Turn 12 on Friday. Drifting through the gravel and damaging his car.
Following Friday’s running, Haas too had made modifications to their car. But the American constructor’s reinforcements to their T-Wing came down to their flapping shark fin while at speed.
After Ricciardo opened the timesheet, Ferrari set about their less conservative running following a reserved Friday.
This Ferrari less conservative running saw Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel turn their hands at lowering the benchmark with the ultrasoft tyres. Initially going seven-tenths clear of the Red Bull, before Vettel dropped the hammer to be just the second man to dip into the 1:23’s.
More flying laps for Vettel as Ferrari prepared for qualifying saw the German not only beat Hamilton’s Friday benchmark, but also his own Albert Park lap record with a 1:23.380.
Seb’s lap may now be the absolute lap record for Albert Park, but as it was not set during the race it will not count as the official lap record. Despite being half a second faster than the best offerings by Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton.
Saturday practice was not perfect for Ferrari, however. As in the early stages, Kimi was told he may have a rear-left puncture. A puncture he soon felt as he braked for Turn 13 but continued straight on when the engine cut out.
Lance Stroll’s practice session was also far from perfect as the rookie brought out a late red flag.
In a part of the track that has caught out many before him, Lance just lost the rear of the car as he began to straighten up. Unfortunately, as the rear continued to slide, his right-rear corner clattered the wall to bring the session to an end.
The damage should not be too extensive for Williams, luckily. But with not long remaining before qualifying, the team will have work to do.
|6||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||15||1’25.092||1.712|
|8||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso||11||1’25.948||2.568|
|9||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||11||1’26.049||2.669|
|12||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||7||1’26.269||2.889|
|13||Sergio Perez||Force India||12||1’26.457||3.077|
|16||Esteban Ocon||Force India||16||1’27.103||3.723|