Darren Fisher has opened up the season in style with a victory in Australia after going through multiple lead changes during the race.
Qualifying gave us high drama when Mat Harto (Toro Rosso) stole Pole Position from Leandro Schwaab (Red Bull) in the dying moments by just one thousands of a second. There was a clear indication that it was going to be a tough race when not even a full second separated P1 from P10.
After Qualifying, proceedings moved to the formation lap. Harto went off to lead the 21 car field closely followed by the Brazilian in the Red Bull. A lot of tension building up to the start countdown sequence, we could see Fisher's engine smoking as well as the nervous faces in the Sauber garage. As the lights went off and the race got started, Harto immediately dove to the right to prevent any overtaking opportunity from Schwaab and Mackey (Haas) while Schwaab moved in the other direction pushing Mackey into the grass, they both went off track at turn 1, advantage Harto and Otto Acosta (Ferrari).
Meanwhile, once the field reached turn 3, Argenis Riera (McLaren) who was forced to start from last place after having technical difficulties during Qualifying, was able to move his way up the field, but the was involved in a collision with Williams driver Glyn Cooper. He would receive a Drive Through penalty for that.
Acosta would take the most out of the situation at the start and find himself closely following Harto for the lead. But then on lap 3, a bizarre incident saw both drivers collide and drop to the end of the field, force both of them to come into the pits for repairs. The lead at this point was taken by Darren Fisher in the Sauber, followed by Brandon Gant in the Force India, and Keyter Bautista in the other Sauber.
In the fight for second, Bautista would touch Gant and send him into a spin nearly colliding with the wall on lap 8, but the Sauber driver would give up his position again one corner later while Fisher extended his lead.
Lap 10 gave us the first retirement when Harto received the call from the Toro Rosso pit-wall asking him to stop the car and preserve the engine for the next round, it was game over for the pole sitter.
Gant would take the lead of the race after Fisher's first stop on lap 11. Fisher would rejoin in 7th with the yellow-banded soft tires.
Glyn Cooper would become the second retired on lap 13 after suffering too much suspension damage early in the race.
Gant would then give up the lead to Sasha McHenry (Haas) after pitting on lap 15. McHenry would hold it up to lap 22 when Gant took it away from him with fresh tires.
Lap 40 would see another lead change when Fisher briefly took the lead away from Gant, then Bautista would assume it setting up a Sauber 1-2 at that point. It was clear that it wasn't going to be any sorts of team orders from the Sauber pit-wall when they went for it on lap 51. Fisher would then take the lead from his teammate and never gave it back.
Edmundo Martinez saw an opportunity to salvage some points for Renault late in the race when Bautista began struggling with a very worn set of tires. With just two laps to go, the Venezuelan made attempted to make the move on Bautista for second place, but it was Richard Walcott (Toro Rosso) who took advantage of the fight and overtook both of them at turn 2.
The last lap saw a great effort from Martinez to take second place from Walcott, but it was not enough as the Renault driver took too long to open his DRS on the final straight and would lose it by a mere four thousands of a second.
Round one is in the books now and we move to Shanghai for the SRHF1 2017 Chinese Grand Prix. Will Fisher and Sauber continue performing at the same level? Will we see the resurgence of the defending champion Argenis Riera? Stay tuned for more next week!