D'Arcy Waldegrave: Prancing Horse gallops but passing pains still a problem

By D'Arcy Waldegrave

Sebastian Vettel drove a beautiful race in Melbourne. Photo / AP
Sebastian Vettel drove a beautiful race in Melbourne. Photo / AP

The Prancing Horse is kicking its hooves up again.

The opening round of the 2017 Formula One season in Melbourne answered the prayers of race fans globally as the dominance of Mercedes was checked by a resurgent Scuderia Ferrari team.

Sebastian Vettel drove a beautiful race, looked at one and at ease with the SF70H as a serendipitous pit strategy forced on Lewis Hamilton by sketchy tyres left Vettel with the "overcut" to victory.

This year's championship is now set up as the high velocity, high expense circus embarks on its annual 20-race odyssey.

The off season heralded numerous changes, at a race and management level. The most obvious of these is the new look of these hybrid monsters. Lower profile, wider stance, bigger rear wheels.

These rides are enormously pleasing to the eye, albeit with the exception of the ubiquitous dorsal fin, a by-product of boffin designers whose folly is within the rules, but not expected from the category.

Sadly, with the advent of wider rears, larger aero wings have also been necessary.

So we have the counter intuitive situation where fat rubber means more mechanical grip which should encourage closer racing and the ability to pass, which has been negated by more aero which makes it nigh on impossible to overtake.

It appears some teams have a front wing that is more comfortable in the disturbed air of the dominant rear wings, enabling them to keep tucked in behind their rival, waiting to pounce with the artificial Drag Reduction System.

The most promising development over the offseason though, has been the ability of Ferrari to embrace pace. The rumours in testing were laid out for all to see at Albert Park as the Mercedes dominance of years gone by was laid to waste.

Although F1's history is littered with corpses of one-sided champion-ships, the essence of racing is not one team's superiority, but bitter battles between motoring behemoths and their rock star pilots.

Early days yes, but to have a sniff of genuine competition in the air after round one is surely enough to excite even the most comatose of fans. More importantly, should we see more results of this ilk, new fans may be attracted to a sport whose fan-base is getting older.

This is where the other major change in the series comes in - Liberty Media. The new owners of F1 have already shaken up the GP world by effectively removing one-time overlord Bernie Ecclestone. They've made a massive investment in the sport and will need to see returns.

The expectation of sweeping change as F1 is dragged into a brave new era of punter-based pragmatism is keenly anticipated.

But where we stand now, there's a big black steed rearing up, snorting out of its nostrils, ready to rock.

- NZ Herald

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