Aston Martin and Williams experienced a totally screwed up qualifying Saturday. Crashes caused the mechanics of the two traditional British teams to work extra shifts. In the case of Alex Albon, there was also trouble with the FIA referees.
If Mike Krack had known what he was doing in his new job at Aston Martin, he might have preferred to stay with his old employer BMW. The team boss has to answer uncomfortable questions, although he can do practically nothing about the current misery. The Luxemburger is still coping with the stress surprisingly well.
"The weekend isn't going really well so far," explained Krack with a dose of gallows humor after qualifying in Melbourne. In fact, it couldn't have gone much worse. Sebastian Vettel was unlucky with his engine problem on Friday. Then there was the trouble with the FIA about the scooter excursion on the race track.
Stroll crashes twice
As soon as the car was ready for use again on Saturday with a fresh engine, the fun was already over. Vettel threw his car into the barrier at turn 11 20 minutes into the third practice session. Shortly before the final whistle, Lance Stroll imitated him – albeit one corner further. In both cases, the nose and the suspension on the left front broke.
Vettel's gearbox also had to be changed, which is why the stroller was repaired a little faster. It was just enough for participation in Q1, where the Canadian then crashed into compatriot Nicholas Latifi. "He wanted to overtake me at a strange spot where you normally don't overtake. The track narrows. That's why there was contact," Stroll defended.
However, the stewards could not follow this argument. They gave Stroll a grid penalty (+3), which was hardly noticeable in the end. The accident in which the front right wheel snapped off the Aston Martin had at least something good. This gave the mechanics a few extra minutes to get Vettel's car moving, which would not have been possible without the interruption.
Vettel lap with a lot of magic
Shortly before the restart, the Heppenheimer's company car was actually repaired. It was even enough for a fast lap, on which Vettel left Latifi behind. In the evening the whole team came together in the motorhome. The team management and the two pilots personally thanked the mechanics for the work they had done.
"We have to give credit to the crews on both sides of the garage," explained Krack. "They were faced with a monumental task today when they had to repair two cars in parallel in record time for qualifying. And in the end they pulled it off. The mechanics are the unrewarded heroes of Formula 1.”
Vettel also found nice words for his boys: "Today was real teamwork. The boys and girls did a fantastic job. They first finished Lance's car, then both crews came together to repair my car. Being able to do a lap at all was a huge achievement. 18th place doesn't sound like much on paper but today it was the result of something magical."
Third Latifi accident in a row
The mechanics at Williams also have to put in an extra shift. When the two Canadians crashed in qualifying, Latifi clearly lost out. Already in Jeddah he had hit his racer twice in the wall. Now you have to put your hands on the car with start number 6 again.
"The damage is quite extensive. The car hit the rear right side heavily. That means a stressful Sunday morning," lamented chief engineer Dave Robson. "But we have enough spare parts. When we were planning production last fall, we made sure that we were well prepared for the first overseas races. And as far as the budget is concerned, we also calculated with such things."
As with Aston Martin, there was trouble with both cars at Williams. Alex Albon got stuck on his way to the pits after his last run. As it turned out later, a lack of fuel caused the emergency stop. "We saw in the data that something was wrong, so we told him to stop so nothing breaks," explains Robson.
Albon is disqualified
The FIA started an investigation after qualifying. Because the delegates could not draw the required amount of one liter of petrol from the tank for the fuel test, the Thai was subsequently disqualified. Again, the penalty hardly played a role in the starting line-up. After his Jeddah crash with Stroll, Albon had already lost three places anyway.
But how could it happen that the Williams was sent out with too little fuel? Robson provides clarification: "We had to queue at the end of the queue before the restart. The outlap was therefore much more aggressive than expected. Alex had to really accelerate because the others wanted to overtake him and to heat up his tires. They were in the queue cooled down. In the end, unfortunately, the amount of fuel was a little less than we would have liked."