Australian Grand Prix: Sebastian Vettel fastest in final practice before qualifying

“They’re the fastest cars on the planet, the fastest-ever Formula One cars”, he said in an interview with The New York Times.

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The Finn, who is filling the perhaps ill-fitting shoes of Nico Rosberg, finished over 0.5s behind Hamilton in both practice runs Down Under.

It meant Mercedes, who were comfortably quicker than Ferrari in Friday practice, did not have time to go out and do a final pre-qualifying simulation run. So what’s new in 2017?

Similarly, the front wing is now wider, to increase downforce, with the span growing to 71 inches from 65 inches. The rear wing, on the other hand, has become shorter and narrower to produce the opposite effect.

Looking at Melbourne’s weather for this weekend, there could be some scattered showers during Saturday’s qualifying but conditions for Sunday’s race are predicted to be fine.

The drivers had become frustrated with the performance of tires that were thermally unstable and rapidly degraded when drivers entered the hole in the air created by the vehicle they were following, called slipstreaming, significantly reducing grip and damaging their prospects of overtaking. “It is a wonderful feeling to have the vehicle so strong coming into a new era”. He faces a steep learning curve with the new regulations.

But new rule changes may help bridge the gap this time.

Vettel disagreed, saying the Mercedes team that has won 51 of the last 59 races had to be considered the team to beat again.

The first practice was nearly processional with the Mercedes cars followed by the two Red Bulls and the Ferraris. If that form translates into race results, and they can develop while avoiding the strategy blunders of old, that will be good news for those eager to see an end to three years of Mercedes domination.

Though never a very successful team, Sauber has been a steady entrant since 1993, making them one of the older teams on the grid. Williams and Force India have been at the sharper end here, often mixing it up with the big boys.

The mid-field is an exciting space to watch this season, with the delicate pink vehicle of Force India taking on Williams, Renault, Haas, Torro Rosso and Haas.

“You want to be racing against the best”. Amid this all, we are wondering who will leave first, Honda or Fernando Alonso. Lance Stroll, the rookie at Williams has given the team some scary moments in testing. His team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne was 20th and 17th respectively.

Mercedes duo Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton were next quickest around the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne with Australian Daniel Ricciardo sixth-fastest.

Expectations are indeed high at Mercedes, and if Bottas fails to at least support the team’s charge for a fourth successive constructors’ title with regular podiums and points there will be no shortage of drivers waiting to replace him for 2018.

Nico Hulkenberg was an impressive fifth in the Renault, ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, whose team have struggled with auto behaviour throughout the weekend.

But Ricciardo believes Red Bull, which won four consecutive titles between 2010 and 2013, will start the season half-a-second a lap adrift of their rivals. A tense atmosphere in the Red Bull Racing garages does usually bear well for Formula 1.

Ferrari set the pace during winter testing but the “scuderia” had a subdued session, with Raikkonen edging four-times champion Sebastian Vettel with the fifth fastest lap. “The Ferrari is obviously very strong and fast, they might not have the power turned up or whatever, but it seems we are as strong, if not a bit stronger than them”.

As previously mentioned, the cars for the Formula 1 2017 Season.

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“Hamilton’s margin over Bottas will raise questions over whether it is auto or driver that has the advantage”, he adds. Let’s hope the others give him a tough fight along the way, giving us all an exciting season.

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