Analysis: F1 looks for silver linings in dark clouds

Mon Mar 16, 2015 10:26am EDT
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By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - Sunday's season-opening Australian Grand Prix showed that Formula One has lost none of its ability to shoot itself in the foot -- and to detect silver linings in the darkest of clouds.

Just 15 cars lined up on the grid after a week of negative headlines that portrayed the glamour sport in a far from flattering light, with only 13 after the first lap and 11 at the finish.

Struggling Sauber were dragged through the courts to address why they had contracts with three drivers to race two cars, a case that triggered speculation about possible arrests and seizure of equipment.

Manor Marussia's feelgood story about a team beating the odds to survive turned into a tale of one that failed to turn a wheel on track.

McLaren -- the second most successful team in the sport's history -- began their new Honda partnership by qualifying last, finishing last and expressing relief that Jenson Button had even made it to the checkered flag.

By the time fans were heading out of Albert Park, after a processional Mercedes one-two, Red Bull consultant Helmut Marko was discussing the possibility of billionaire owner Dietrich Mateschitz falling out of love with the sport and leaving.

"I feel a bit for the fans," commented Red Bull's Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo. "It was a boring race. It was frustrating."

If Melbourne was not the start that Formula One wanted, with Mercedes seemingly crushing all hope of rivals closing the performance gap, it was also not as bad as the Cassandras were claiming.   Continued...