Kurt Verlin
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2015 Australian Grand Prix Recap: The F1 Drama is Back

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Another season begins! This will be the first of a series of recap articles covering the 2015 Formula 1 season, so if you’re a huge fan of the greatest motorsport in the world (hey, I’m biased), make sure to come back to The News Wheel after every Grand Prix weekend!

2015 Australian Grand Prix Recap

Last Sunday’s race took place in Melbourne, Australia, which always attracts some of the most passionate fans. I’m guessing that’s partly because our Aussie friends just love auto racing and partly because their track has hosted the first race of the F1 calendar since 1996.

We had drama on the grid before the lights had even gone out, as you might have expected if you’re a regular watcher. One universal truth about F1 is that it’s never short on delicious, delicious drama!

McLaren, a team whose winning reputation is second only to Ferrari, managed to qualify 1st and 2nd… from the rear. Someone needs to remind Ron Dennis that the point is to go fast, not in reverse. Needless to say, the team’s hyped-up alliance with Honda hasn’t quite turned out as successful as they hoped. Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, who just left the Prancing Horse to join McLaren, is probably feeling a little sick right now. Or is he? These days, we just don’t know.

Related: Meet the New McLaren-Honda Formula 1 Drivers: Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button

2015 McLaren-Honda Formula 1 drivers: (Left to right) Yasuhisa Arai, Jenson Button, Kevin Magnussen, Fernando Alonso, Ron Dennis | 2015 Australian Grand Prix Recap

2015 McLaren-Honda Formula 1 drivers (left to right): Yasuhisa Arai, Jenson Button, Kevin Magnussen, Fernando Alonso, and Ron Dennis

Fortunately for them, many competing cars weren’t even running. The formerly-bankrupt Marussia team—now “Manor F1”—showed up with half a car with no intentions to run in the first place; Williams’ rising star, Valtteri Bottas, couldn’t race because of a back injury; and Red Bull’s new driver, Daniil Kvyat, had to sit out because of a gearbox problem.

That and other issues left us with a grid of only 15 drivers. At the start, anyway. Pastor Maldonado crashed on the first lap (I won’t even pretend to be surprised) and Kimi Räikkönen ended up having to retire following a streak of bad luck: someone damaged his wheel in the first corner, which caused his pit crew to completely botch both of his stops, losing precious time. He then had to pull over because one of his new tires wasn’t securely mounted after the second pit.

In the end, only 11 drivers made it to the checkered flag. Surely, McLaren could squeeze into the top 10 and score some points? Well, no. Kevin Magnussen, Alonso’s replacement for the weekend, couldn’t race because of an engine failure, and his teammate Jenson Button finished dead last. He didn’t even come close to the next guy, though I doubt anyone could have expected the 2009 champion to do any better with the car he was given.

During all this, the Mercedes drivers continued to do the same thing they’d done last year. Namely, start at the front of the grid and then proceed to decimate the competition (which is becoming a problem). Sebastian Vettel did manage to score a podium in his debut race in the red car, but he finished more than 33 seconds after Nico Rosberg had crossed the finish line, himself just 1.36 seconds behind race winner and title defender Lewis Hamilton. There’s already every reason to think Mercedes will win both the driver’s and constructor’s championship this year.

Related: Sebastian Vettel Learns Calligraphy, Compares to F1

2015 Australian Grand Prix Recap: Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton

Pictured (left to right): Nico Rosberg came in second only to fellow Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton

Fortunately, the racing behind them is plenty good. Ferrari has stepped up its game compared to last year and looks poised to be the second-best team—that is, if Williams lets them. Australian local hero and permanent smiler Daniel Ricciardo also put on his best show, but was ultimately let down by the disappointing power of the Renault power unit.

2015 Australian Grand Prix Recap: Daniel Ricciardo

Seriously, Daniel Ricciardo never stops smiling

The most surprising performances came from none other than the Sauber team, which has just come out of a series of controversial and messy court cases. Rookie Felipe Nasr managed to cinch 5th place during his debut race while his teammate grabbed 8th. It’s already a huge step up from last year, when they failed to score any points at all.

That’s it for the recap! It’s already looking like a great season ahead of us. Let me know what you thought about the race in the comments below, as well as suggestions for this series if you have any.

I’ll see you in two weeks for the Malaysian Grand Prix!