A new era of racing kicked off in September as the inaugural Thursday Night Formula One league commenced with the Australian Grand Prix, more specifically, the first of three 7 round legs to take us through the full 21 round calendar. With a field full of competitive and very keen drivers, and equally performing cars, F1 2016 is now the home of some of the most exciting, white knuckle racing at RaceOnOz.
The Flyaway Leg features the first 7 races of the 2016, starting with Australia, the race under lights in Bahrain, the long straight of China, the Olympic site in Russia, the familiar twists of Spain and finally, the treacherous walls of Monaco and Canada for two 100% enduros.
The opening race in Melbourne was a bizarre event where much of the field was spread out, with several cars finishing a lap down. Beau picked up a fortunate win after Jono, who blitzed the opposition in qualifying, lost his front wing when lapping a back marker and fell to 3rd. Sam backed up his Haas teammate for a 1-2.
This was nothing compared to the craziness of Bahrain, where The Spectre and Benny took each other out on the 2nd lap, leaving the two Renaults of Mustafur and Jono leading the way. It would not last. Jono's luck continued to desert him after he again lost elements of his front wing behind a back marker, costing him an 8 second lead. Seth put in a masterful performance to take the victory in his Mercedes despite a drive through penalty, with Beau and Williams' Benny rounding out the podium.
The Chinese Grand Prix was won in the pits, with Sam taking a dominant win for Haas. Beau took 2nd a long way ahead of Jono, who only just passed Seth for the last place on the rostrum, who had a puncture. The Haas drivers superior tyre life proving a far greater match than the pace set by those behind them, nearly half a minute ahead of the pack, a truly brilliant display.
The Russian Grand Prix was marred by a 1st lap incident which turned the race on its head. Red Bull's The Spectre got off to a poor start and Jono lead the way, but the safety car compressed the field and some drivers took the opportunity to pit in. There was more carnage after the safety car when Seth was forced into the wall by Manor's Hatfield and was out on the spot. Bizarrely this did not bring out another safety car. Beau took full advantage and was already 4th by turn 1 and was on maximum attack, taking the lead a few laps later. But he needed to pit in for softs as he hadn't yet taken on a mandatory set of tyres. He still took the win, just ahead of Benny and Sam, who survived a laggy incident with Jono who fell down to 8th.
The Spanish Grand Prix at Catalunya provided a spectacular duel between Beau and Jono throughout the entire race. Jono got off to a lightning start from 3rd to lead into turn 1. Seth's race was ruined after he hit the rear of Jono's Renault and chipped his wing at turn 5. For the next few laps Beau and Jono would swap places until the first pit stops on lap 8, Jono putting on the hard tyres, Beau on the mediums. Beau was unable to pull away and create a gap, leaving Jono in clear air to set a few fliers on old hards while Beau made the earlier stop for hards. Jono had to chase down a 5 second gap to Beau in fresh mediums with 9 laps to go. The pass was complete on lap 29 and Jono romped away to win by 4 seconds. Seth recovered to finish 3rd on badly blistered tyres.
Monaco marked the start of a resurgence of sorts for drivers like Spectre, Benny and Zharvs. Strong results wouldn't come here, but they would in the future. Instead, the first 100% race of the season was defined by several retirements in the barriers. Zuluwoffle joined Ferrari for a one off appearance, and he made his presence felt with a storming pole position. However, on the 3rd lap he spun at Rascasse and fell way back, gifting the lead to Jono who soared into the distance ahead of Motors in the Sauber. After the stops, all hell broke loose. Jono on much fresher tyres was trapped behind Benny's Williams and contact was made at Ste Devote. This started a chain reaction of accidents. Zharvs brought out a safety car after crashing at Casino Square. Seth and Zulu took full advantage of a glitched delta time to pass Benny and Jono in the pits. Jono's plight continued after spinning at Tabac and retiring on lap 52. Beau had a terrible race, also retiring. Spectre in a carbon copy of Jono's crash brought out another safety car, after which Seth was home free, winning by half a minute ahead of Motors and Sam.
The Canadian Grand Prix was another race packed full of controversy, the final race of the Flyaway Leg proving to be full of chaos. Sam roared to pole and was never heard from again once the lights were out. The race was barely 2 corners old when Jono and Beau made contact, and the Haas was out! Seth smashed into the Wall of Champions on Lap 9, retiring on the spot. Several drivers found themselves struggling on tyres and avoiding backmarkers, with Force India's Konnor coming together with Toro Rosso's BlueBounty. Sam was set to take a dominant victory until disaster struck, he had not used a set of soft tyres! He came into the pits on lap 69 but had failed to select the correct tyre, and was disqualified as a result. A crushing blow. Spectre took an overdue win ahead of a brilliant Benny, with Zharvs taking his first podium for Red Bull.
Despite not scoring the final two rounds, Beau was declared winner of the Flyaway Leg, comfortably ahead of the likes of Seth, Jono, Benny and Sam. As the season moves on to the European Leg the intensity of the racing will only escalate as the drivers all fight to become RaceOnOz's first World Driver's Champion!