F1 season officially begins its on ground launch tomorrow with the Free Practice runs at the Melbourne GP. Naturally the players have been involved in a lot of activities that precede a GP with everyone looking particularly relaxed and cheerful during the parade on the 12th.
Vettel and Hamilton both have reasons to be relaxed, with Hamilton having had a perfect season that for the first time in his career makes him the most successful driver on the F1 existing F1 circuit and Sebastian Vettel with a Ferrari car that has finally caught up to and possibly passed Mercedes, giving the German a shot at focusing on purely racing instead of getting too involved in team strategies to make up for the loss in race pace.
Late on the 13th F1 world was shocked by the passing of Charlie Whiting, F1 Race Director and a constant on the F1 circuit from before Lewis Hamilton even made his debut in 2007. Teams tried to celebrate his life rather than mourn his death with tributes pouring in from every corner ahead of the beginning of the new season.
F1 held its drivers press conference earlier today and on the panel were Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Robert Kubica. All the drivers spoke of Charlie Whiting fondly.
Sebastian Vettel was in shock having walked around the track with Whiting just the previous day and the suddenness of the news. Hamilton and Toto Wolff remembered Charlie as an icon of the sport and Hamilton spoke of how Whiting had been a tower of strength for him right from his first race in 2007.
Daniel Ricciardo also brought up Robert Kubica and his return to the sport, unprompted from the press. All drivers spoke about how happy they were to see him on the track 9 years after a horrific crash had caused him so much damage including slight severing of his arm.
“Robert mentioned he has had a pretty long winter break, but I don’t think we all actually know the extent of what he has been through to get here,’’ Ricciardo said in the press conference.
“I just think it’s awesome to see him back. I have known him from when I moved to Europe in 2007 which feels like a long time.
“Just a testament to his character. I won’t ask for everyone to applaud, but I really think it’s awesome.”
All the drivers and media members applauded him though and you could see it visibly moved Kubica who has fought his way back to F1.
Vettel continued to remain bullish about Ferrari and its chances this season, saying they were ahead of where they had been last year after pre-season testing.
But he did offer caution given that they won the Melbourne GP last year, so he couldn’t really improve on that, but anything lower than 1st would be a fall from last year and a real blow to the team given their work on the car for this season.
Similarly Max Verstappen was asked about all the claims made by Red Bull management about the work that has gone into the car after the testing at Barcelona and their chances of being potentially faster than Mercedes and maybe on par with Ferrari.
He also chose to remain cautious while praising the team for its work, by saying nothing that has been done has been tested on during the race and while theres reason for optimism after engine switch, it doesn’t mean anything until a race begins.
Hamilton spoke on the Mercedes’ need to improve and did say that work has been ongoing at the back end. However he confirmed that no new parts would be coming for the Melbourne GP and advised caution as both Ferrari and Red Bull are known for getting new parts for the first race and going a bit quicker than previously believed.
Ricciardo spoke of his excitement of being in a car that wasn’t considered at the top, saying he was excited to be the hunter instead of the hunted.
Upon being asked if he would take a dip in the Albert Park Lake if he won the race making him the first, Daniel reminded everyone that Renault is a bit away from competing against the big 3 just yet, however he remained optimistic about the developments and said the car isnt very far away from a win or two given the right circumstances.
It was followed by this exchange between Vettel and Ricciardo that highlighted the spirited mood most drivers are in before the start of the season.
Check out the video:
— Utkarsh Bhatla (@UtkarshBhatla) March 14, 2019
How excited are you for the Australian GP?