Formula One title Lewis Hamilton’s to lose: Five things we learnt from Australian GP

Five things we learned from Formula One's season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
Lewis Hamilton talks to Arnold Schwarzenegger after winning the Australian Grand Prix. William West / AFP
Lewis Hamilton talks to Arnold Schwarzenegger after winning the Australian Grand Prix. William West / AFP

Five things we learnt from Formula One’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne:

Arnie isn’t as tall as we thought

A fan might expect the Terminator to tower over Lewis Hamilton, but it wasn’t the case when they met on the victory podium on Sunday. Maybe he was slouching, but Arnold Schwarzenegger, supposedly 1.88 metres in height, was nearly eyeball to eyeball with the 1.74m British winner. “I thought you were taller,” said Hamilton, to which Schwarzenegger replied: “I’m not wearing my high heels.”

Hamilton appeared delighted to receive his trophy from the 68-year-old star of the Terminator movie franchise, completing a perfect day after he comfortably outstripped teammate Nico Rosberg with the rest of the field nowhere in sight.

17 is not too young to drive

Max Verstappen is only just old enough to drive in his home country of the Netherlands but at 17 years, 166 days, F1’s youngest driver showed he was comfortable behind the wheel of his Toro Rosso. Perhaps it was the reduced field of 15, eventually whittled to 11, but Verstappen did not look out of his depth at the season opener. It is a comforting thought, from a safety perspective, as several drivers this year are in their early 20s in what is an increasingly young-looking sport. Verstappen, though, quickly got a lesson in disappointment when his historic drive ended with a power-unit failure on the 34th lap.

Title is Hamilton’s to lose

After just one race the fate of the drivers’ title is in Hamilton’s hands following a commanding performance at Albert Park. Hamilton got off to a shocker in 2014 when he failed to finish in Melbourne, setting off a season-long dogfight with Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg. But a supreme performance in qualifying, and an untroubled, wire-to-wire win on Sunday, left Hamilton looking like the man to beat. In this form, and with nobody else finishing within 30 seconds of the Mercedes pair, it is hard to imagine Hamilton being beaten for the season championship.

F1 technology is really, really complicated

The hybrid petrol-and-electricity engines are a modern marvel, going faster than their predecessors with a fraction of the noise. But if that is difficult to comprehend, it seems they are even harder to design. Mercedes’s mastery of the technology has put them streets ahead of their rivals with Honda and Renault, among others, struggling. Neither of Manor’s cars drove all week and just 15 made it to the starting grid, the fewest in 52 years. Red Bull are calling for a level playing field for the engines, and it would not be a surprise to see new regulations aimed at curbing the Mercedes advantage.

Vettel’s Italian is coming along

“Forza Ferrari!” Sebastian Vettel shouted when he finished third in his debut drive for the Italian team. The 27-year-old German cut a morose figure last year when, after four successive world titles with Red Bull, he found himself outdone not only by Mercedes but also by teammate Daniel Ricciardo. But Vettel seems re-energised by his move to Ferrari, and he was all smiles on the podium after some enthusiastic hugs and high-fives with his team. His Italian is coming along, too. “Abbiamo una macchina bella (we have a nice car),” he said on the podium, something Ferrari could not lay claim to last year.

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Published: March 16, 2015 04:00 AM

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