Formula One drivers say overtaking has become even more difficult this year following a substantial drop in passes during the 2017 season.
Scuderia Ferrari Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen was one of several drivers who admitted that it was very difficult to follow another car closely in the first race of the 2018 Formula One season, the Australian Grand Prix. Kimi confirmed that after attempting to overtake Lewis Hamilton at the start, he tried to stay as close as possible and put pressure on the Mercedes driver, but eventually backed off by a couple of seconds in order to be able to drive in clean air: “It was difficult to stay behind and it was starting to hurt my tyres. This circuit makes things even more difficult, well’ll have to see what happens in the next races.” – Kimi Raikkonen said.
Lewis Hamilton was also unable to challenge Ferrari after dropping behind Sebastian Vettel at the end of the race: “My best friend was on the edge of a cliff and I couldn’t get to him to save his life today, that’s how hard it was to overtake,” said Hamilton – “I couldn’t for the life of me, with all my abilities, all my tools, I just couldn’t get close enough to be in fighting range. I was catching him in the corners but he was quicker on the straights. Maybe the next races it’s going to be different.”
Hamilton’s team mate Valtteri Bottas gained the most positions from the start of the race to the end. He said the effect of turbulence coming off other cars has become even stronger: “You already feel some losses when you are three seconds away,” he said. “Once you get within one second to a few tenths it just ramps up.” – A third DRS zone was added at Albert Park in a bid to make overtaking easier – “It helped a little bit but very small difference,” said Bottas. “This year it’s again more difficult to follow so maybe it plus or minus zero with that.”
Esteban Ocon said his Force India showed strong pace in the race but he wasn’t able to use it: “We couldn’t come back because it was hard to overtake,” he said. “I got Lance [Stroll] at the start and that was basically it.” One of the race’s few passes was made by Daniel Ricciardo, who got past Nico Hulkenberg on lap five. But he spent the latter part of the race stuck behind Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari: “It’s not often I sit behind someone for most of the race but it’s a tight track and one of the more tricky ones for passing,” he said. “There were a couple of times I had a look at turn three but Kimi was wise to that and could see what I was planning.” – the Red Bull driver concluded.