Formula 1

Formula 1 hoping troubled season opener doesn't start a trend

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The opening race weekend of F1 2015 will hardly be remembered as a classic.

Mercedes hinted that they are actually better than ever heading into the new season, the reliability and performance of Renault was worse compared to their rivals than it had been 12 months prior and the anticipated return of the McLaren-Honda partnership was as underwhelming as a Kimi Raikkonen press conference.

Add to that Sauber seeming to spend more time in the dock than in the garage and Manor's triumph of making it Down Under ending in them being nowhere else but. Now the sport is hoping Australia won't start of a trend of dull races, diminished grids and trips to the courthouse, but will it?

Mercedes domination guaranteed

One thing that will carry on from Albert Park and likely continue all the way to Abu Dhabi is two Silver Arrows leading the pack. After dominating 2014 most were hopeful that the off-season would give the rest a chance to catch up but as it stands it seems the gap is slightly bigger at the start of the year.

Perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised looking at the pecking order, Ferrari, who now seem best-of-the-rest were so far behind at the end of last season that they were still going to be some way off at the start of this one, while at Williams they simply don't have the budget to match Mercedes so you would expect over a prolonged period like the off-season that the Brackley-based team would make bigger gains.

Most believed Red Bull would be the team to take the greater fight to Mercedes but it almost seems like they weren't ready for the new season given the issues they had.

There is still the belief that the car itself is among the best on the grid aerodynamically but such is the deficit in the engine department between themselves and Renault the likelihood of a first winless season since 2008 is very high.

McLaren will improve

It was also a worst case scenario for McLaren as their renewed partnership with Honda saw them plumb last of all the teams that took part.

Given the fact the Japanese manufacturer is so far behind in development compared to the rest it shouldn't have been too much of a surprise but such is the reputation of both team and supplier and team and supplier together, somehow it was thought they would be much more advanced in the project than they are.

There was something almost tragic about seeing Jenson Button struggling to keep Sergio Perez's Force India behind him, lapping so far off the pace and ending the only driver to reach the chequered flag but not score a point, however, it should be seen as another step made.

Completing two laps short of a full race distance was easily the most consecutive laps the Honda power unit has managed and given the engine was in a very low mode to ensure reliability, to be as close as he was to the midfield proves there is pace in the MP4-30 when they are able to get to it.

It will take time - and the heat and humidity of Malaysia will be a key test - but for the Woking-based team it will only get better.

Manor will come out eventually

Ten teams turned up in Australia but only nine made it out on track, Manor made a herculean effort to make it to Melbourne but in reality it came a few weeks too early.

Their problem was purely engine based it seems as they were unable to sync the updated engine software to the 2014-specification power unit's that Ferrari are supplying this year.

It is a problem that should be overcome in time for Malaysia and after the FIA deemed them to have officially entered the Melbourne race, the ability to claim last year's prize money and other wrangles should now be resolved.

What was also depressing about the opening race was the lack of cars out on track, as only 15 watched the lights go out. Manor will of course boost the numbers as will the return of Valtteri Bottas who had to pull out with a torn disc in his back.

As mentioned, improvements as the season progresses will see McLaren and Red Bull get on top of the reliability problems that caused Kevin Magnussen and Daniil Kvyat to fail in making the start in Melbourne and there will be enough cars to hopefully see more action out on the track.

Albert Park not a great 'racing' track

Speaking of more action on track we should certainly expect more overtaking and closer racing in Sepang. Albert Park is a very good technical circuit but because it's not a purpose-built circuit it is not designed for great racing.

Braking zones are bumpy and the two DRS zones have preceding corners not conductive for staying close to the car ahead and therefore picking up the slipstream.

Pirelli were also very conservative with the tyre choice and with a more consistent drop off in performance there was not the big variations in pace to allow drivers to catch and pass easily.

While that point about Pirelli could continue for the rest of the year, as the Italian tyre supplier becomes more conservative with its rubber, one-stop races will not always be the norm and opportunities to vary the strategies will then lead to more battles on the track.

Expect more off-track problems

While things should improve on the track, however, expect the politics and potential rows to continue off it.

Sauber's court case with Giedo van der Garde over who has the right to be in the car may have been resolved in Australia, with the Dutchman backing down, but what's the odds he turns up at a Kuala Lumpur courthouse next week?

Also, as the season progresses, we can expect the ongoing debate over the financial state of the sport to continue and perhaps escalate if some teams begin to question whether they will be able to complete a full race calendar.

Of course much of it as all fairly standard over the course of any F1 season, but given the sea of negativity that seems to have hit the sport at the moment it makes you begin to question why you watch it in the first place, so please guys, can we have something to smile about in Malaysia and beyond! 

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