The circus comes to town in Melbourne once again. It has been an even longer off-season than expected with the GP in Bahrain being cancelled due to civil unrest. But the season was finally starting. Who would be the fastest? Red Bull again? Ferrari? Maybe even Mercedes? A lot of questions that we would still only know the partial answers to after the race. But I will get to that.
Last year I didnt get to see the race live. But it was an entertaining race. It was wet/dry and I even made the suggestion one year ago that we should start dousing the track with water to get some exciting races. I mentioned it jokingly, so it was interesting to see that Bernie Ecclestone apparently reads my blog and came with a genuine suggestion for artificial wet races. 😀
So many other questions to be answered. What about the Pirelly tires? Will they only last a few laps? What about DRS, the adjustable rearwing for aiding overtaking. KERS? It will take a few races to get the bigger picture.
Lets cut to the chase. That 1.23.5 pole lap from Vettel around the Melbourne track is the fastest ever on that circuit. Ever. And it came to light that it was done without KERS. And he was on his way to cut another tenth of it on his second run if not for a small mistake in S3. Watch it here:
A stunning lap indeed. Underlined by his teammate being 8 tenths behind in 3rd. I dont think that will be the case in Malaysia. Webber will be closer. But I doubt he will be in front.
McLaren did an unbelievable turn around from their extremely poor showing in testing. To be the next team behind Red Bull when they had been a couple of seconds off the pace and unreliable as well is pretty incredible to say the least. Hamiltons place on the front row is a testament to that as well.
Ferrari who had looked so strong was 1.4 seconds away from Vettel in the hands of Alonso. The Ferrari waterboy from Brazil was 2 seconds down.
The paddock was buzzing with rumours and speculations about the Red Bull. No KERS? A start-only KERS? Christian Horner was secretive and did not reveal anything.
The lights went out and the Red Bull of Vettel stormed in the lead.
Surely KERS was activated? He quickly pulled out a solid lead on Hamilton. Alonso got a bad start as he was pushed slightly on the grass in Turn 1 and found himself in 9th and having to pass some people.
Everyone was waiting for when the tires started to go. We hear Vettel stating this on the radio and he pits a lap later. He gets out behind Button and crucially passes him to gain a large buffer for Hamiltons pit stop 2 laps later. From then on his lead only increased and eventually controlled the gap until the finish. No real drama there but a truly dominant win.
The drama was between last years winner Button and Felipe Massa. The Brazillian was much slower than the McLaren and we just waited to see the DRS system help Button ease past Felipe on the straight. But wait.. That didnt happen. Next lap then? No. There was not much difference to be seen at all. Even if the system is supposed to give you 10 km/h extra top speed. It may be the track but I think that KERS plays a part here. Ok, Massa could not use the wing but he could still press the button to avoid Button. And that was quite sufficient to prevent him from getting close enough. Malaysia has a nice long straight so lets wait and see how it works there. Some clips from the scrap here:
Eventually Button gets fed up and gets right beside Massa at turn 12 but has to take the escape road to avoid contact and thereby passes him. Rules say that he should give the position back. However, Button proclaims on the radio that his wheels was ahead of Massas before he had to take evasive action. But Massa then pits and the stewards had no choice but to give the Briton a drive-tru. Calculated from Ferrari I suspect.
Alonso takes advantage of the situation and gets ahead of both drivers.
Further up the field there was a nice surprise. Petrov in 3rd place in the Renault. He had qualified a strong 6th and had a great start to boot. And it must have been a great morale boost for the Renault (Lotus?) team that saw their star driver, Kubica almost killed in a rally crash.
Behind again was the other Red Bull of Mark Webber. His pace and lap times were surprisingly slow compared to Vettel. I am no Webber fan but I do know that there is not this big a gap if all things work like they should. Car problems? Tires? Again we will know much more after Malaysia.
To great irony, fate would have it that Alonso once again found himself chasing Petrov in 3rd after he had passed Webber in the pit stops. Alonso and Webber stopped 3 times. Vettel, Hamilton and Petrov had 2 stops. Would Petrovs tires give up the ghost in the remaining laps? Apparently not. Every time Alonso pushed, Petrov responded enough to keep him at a safe distance. Out of reach of the 1 second gap that allows him the use the DRS. (Drag Reduction System). So he got Petroved for the second race in a row. The Ferrari struggled with grip all weekend and it seemed to have some of the same problems that the F60 of 09 had. I doubt this will last though.
So a Russian gets a first ever podium in F1. Vettel wins in commanding style and Hamilton vows boldly that McLaren will catch up with Red Bull. Horner revealed that the Bulls had indeed been running without KERS in Australia. But that would not be the case in Malaysia. Nothing else to do but to stay tuned, eh?
Keep it real, folks.
Oh, I almost forgot.
DOUCHE OF THE DAY
Goes to Barrichello. Brakes way way too late and takes poor Rosberg out of the race. Rubens blamed it on the tires but I dont know.
DRIVER OF THE DAY
Sure, Vettel deserves this one. But because of his first podium and a great defense from a charging Ferrari on fresher tires, it goes to Vitaly Petrov. Well done. Have some vodka.
Images © Lorenzo Bellanca, Steve Etherington/LAT Photographic, Clive Mason/Red Bull/Getty Images, Ercole Colombo