Plenty of Steam Action and Excitement in Melbourne – Season 16 Round 1

A brand new season of AOR Hype Energy F1 Leagues racing kicked off at Melbourne and it did so in brilliant fashion. Once again, the Australian Grand Prix acted as the opening race and it delivered a great amount of action featuring varied strategies, overtakes, drama, broken front wings & penalties! Season 16, the first season disputed on the brand new F1 2018 game, brought together a typical strong field on PC’s top tier of F1 with plenty of known faces returning along with a few new names coming in, hoping to make their mark.

Track: Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia
Laps: 29
Tyres: Ultrasofts, Supersofts, Softs

Circuit Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia

Albert Park, a tight fast-pace track, puts the drivers to a strong test for the very first Grand Prix of the season. It requires precision from the drivers, who usually struggle to avoid track-extending time penalties when pushing the limits, and a decent amount of tyre wear management to allow themselves to complete the preferred one-stop strategy comfortably. An interesting feature that the grid has to adapt to this season is the addition of user-controlled ERS (Energy Recovery System), creating a new layer of race craft required to master the long stints and the battling.

Qualifying

A dry session was in store for the 19-man grid in Melbourne where they would have 18 minutes to post their fastest time for qualifying (6 additional minutes to last season’s 12-minute sessions). It did not take long for anyone to break the 1:20 barrier as newcomer Daniele Haddad took P1 in his initial run with a 1:19.206 followed by Alvaro Carreton and Szabo-Konyi “Foton” Bence, 0.06 & 0.16 seconds away respectively, completing the top three. Veteran driver and certainly one of the favourites to take the Drivers’ Championship, Dani “FormulaDani” Bereznay, was awarded a session disqualification early on when he slowed down too much on pit exit in an effort to let four drivers through on their flying lap, meaning he was guaranteed a back of the grid start.

The shootout for pole really began with only a few minutes left in the session when the drivers came out as late as possible for their final run to profit from the track evolution’s added grip. Renault driver Daniele Haddad immediately improved on his provisional P1 time by a tenth of a second but Fabrizio Donoso answered right up to be the first man in the 1:18s with a 1:18.862. However, his top of the leaderboard effort would not stand long as Foton would improve on Donoso’s lap by a mere two hundredths of a second to take Season 16’s inaugural pole position. An all Renault second row was formed by italian teammates David Tonizza (1:18.875) and AOR rookie Daniele Haddad (1:19.081). The familiar names of Alvaro Carreton (1:19.255) and Jan Fehler (1:19.285) secured row number 3 in Ferrari and McLaren, respectively. Marc “Marc313” Schlüter took P7 with a 1:19.411 in his Haas car with Donoso’s teammate at Force India Mads Sorensen alongside him on the grid in P8 with a 1:19.435. Completing the top 10 on the fifth row were Marek Schinz in the other Haas (1:19.450) and MUSTO_Whitelilac in the second Ferrari (1:19.453). A notable name missing from the top 10 was Tino Naukkarinen, F1 Esports first pick for Williams, qualifying on Supersofts as opposed to the grippier Ultras, ending up in P18. Tino admitted in his post-race interview that he had hoped for a much better result out of that strategy.

Race

Every driver outside the top 10 opted to start the race on harder tyres; Supersofts or Softs, while everyone inside the top 10 was stuck with the purple-walled Ultrasofts they had qualified on. Again, a rain-free track greeted the grid as they went around the circuit for the formation lap. The start went relatively smoothly through turns 1 & 2 but a first incident occurred in turn 3 when Sorensen misjudged his braking point and tipped the McLaren of Jan Fehler who spun around and suffered front-wing damage. The trio of Chro (Fehler’s teammate), Toro Rosso’s Railgone, and Mads Sorensen would eventually pit at the end of the opening lap to get new front wings and install brand new Soft-compound tyres in the process. The top four after one lap : Donoso, Foton, Haddad and Tonizza.

Ferrari’s Foton was the first driver to come into pit lane for a regular stop on lap 4, getting rid of his Ultrasofts and putting on Supersofts which indicated that he was most certainly on a two-stop strategy. However, he was caught speeding at the pit lane entry, a costly mistake granting him a 5 second stop & go penalty. Fehler ran with a broken front wing for as long as he felt necessary and decided to come in on the same lap to get a new one and install a set of red-walled Supersofts. A lap later, David Tonizza came in from P4 for a new front wing after he had damaged it scraping the wall in the exit of turn 10, effectively taking him out of contention. So, after six laps and the Ultrasofts pit window approaching fast, the top three looked as follows: Donoso P1, Haddad P2, and Whitelilac P3, two and four seconds back from the lead respectively. All the while, Williams’ driver Tino Naukkarinen was making his way up the order, taking advantage of both Aleksi “NonRunner” Korsman & Ross “n0body” Woodford’s battle to close up and overtake them, improving two positions in two consecutive corners and now in P9 from P18 on the grid. Both NonRunner and Woodford would end up making an unscheduled pit stop and fit Soft tyres that same lap as they had picked up front wing damage from their side-by-side action.

That is when race leader Fabrizio Donoso chose to enter pit road for his first and final stop of the race, fitting his Force India with the yellow Softs which would take him to the checkered flag, initiating the one-stoppers’ pit phase. The very next lap, Haddad, Whitelilac, Marek and Carreton all came in for their own pit stop on a similar one-stop strategy. The quartet came out in the same order as they had come in, three and half seconds behind seventh position Foton, who was engaged in a battle with Donoso which would go on intensely for several laps.

The Mercedes teammates, FormulaDani and Gergo “G3RRX” Bodi, both on the alternate strategy with Supersoft tyres, came into the pits consecutively from P1 & P2 on laps 10 & 11 to fit Soft compound tyres while Sauber’s Slickk copied the move from P4 in the table. All of this left in the lead the only two drivers who had started the race on the hardest available compound (Softs) : Naukkarinen and Red Bull’s Chris “Ycoms” Holstein, separated by less than a second and still over seven seconds clear of closest rival Fabrizio Donoso.

On lap 16, race leader Tino Naukkarinen finally brought his car in the pit lane to complete his lone pit stop and opted for a set of Supersofts for his final stint charge, rejoining the action in P9. Foton, running in P4 at the time, came in on the same lap for his second and final stop and another set of Supersofts. He rejoined the track to form a four-way scrap between himself, FormulaDani, McLaren’s Chro and Red Bull’s NonRunner in a fight for 13th position. Ycoms, who had been promoted to race leader after Naukkarinen pitted, came in on the following lap, emulating the Williams’ driver’s strategy. However, he’d make a huge mistake by speeding in the pit lane, earning him a 5 second time penalty.

The situation after the top runners’ pit phase’s end : Donoso P1, Haddad P2 four seconds back and Whitelilac P3 another three and half seconds back. The Force India ace would go on to win the race on track with a brilliant and consistent drive, managing the gap to Renault’s Daniele Haddad. Ultimately, that three second gap between the top two would prove too little as the win was awarded to rookie driver Haddad due to Donoso’s time penalties total of six seconds, stealing the opening Grand Prix honors. Completing the podium in fantastic fashion : Williams driver Tino Naukkarinen, who charged to take third place in his 13-lap final stint, overtaking Marek, Carreton (his teammate made it easy), Tonniza, G3RRX and Whitelilac in the process from way back on the grid initially in P18.

Whitelilac drove his Ferrari to P4 after starting in P10, executing the one-stop perfectly. Behind him in fifth place was Naukkarinen’s teammate at Williams Alvaro Carreton, promoted from sixth on track over Red Bull’s Ycoms who had five seconds added to his race time dropping him to P7 despite a solid effort that had brought him to P5 on track. Starting dead last, FormulaDani went on to grab P6 in what was certainly a disappointing season debut for the Mercedes ace but a strong recovery nonetheless, highlighted by a double overtake on Foton and teammate G3RRX late in the race and a penalty-free outing. Rounding up the top 10 : Haas’ Marek, Mercedes’ G3RRX and Sauber’s Slickk. Pole sitter Foton notably was just outside the top 10 in P11 despite finishing well within it but his three time penalties of three seconds paired each with a less than optimal two-stop strategy proved extremely costly.

Another driver who will undoubtedly be disappointed is the race winner’s teammate David Tonizza, finishing in P14. Tonizza ended up on the wrong side of a four-way battle during lap 21 when an aggressive Naukkarinen sent one down the inside of turn 3, spinning the Renault driver around who Mercedes’ G3RRX could not avoid and therefore making contact. Tonizza pitted three times in total, including twice for repairs. In 12th and 13th places: NonRunner in the other Red Bull and Marc313 in the other Haas, both of whom had started in the top 10. Finally, in 15th and 16th, the McLaren teammates of Chro and Fehler. Three drivers retired and classified as DNFs : both Toro Rossos Railgone and Ross Woodford along with Mads Sorensen in the Force India.

The Australian Grand Prix definitely kicked off the hostilities with a bang along with plenty of surprises. Five drivers from the top 10 on the grid ended up finishing outside of it while others starting from far away managed to take home important points thanks to alternate tyre strategies and brilliant showcases of driving. As is generally the case in Melbourne, the finishing order was significantly altered by the plethora of penalties awarded throughout the race to the drivers unable to stay correctly within the limits of the white lines.


Drivers Championship standings after Round 1

Next week : Round 2 of Apex Online Racing Hype Energy F1 Leagues as we will be covering the Bahrain Grand Prix!

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