Last weekend, the much anticipated return of F1 didn’t disappoint. The opening round of the championship is one of my favourites, as you don’t know what to expect. Obviously pre-season testing give a slight indication of the quicker cars; but these never do tell the whole story.
The Australian GP in Melbourne is very much one of the most attractive in the F1 calendar. I love this circuit, as its one of the quickest tracks with plenty of excitement.
Qualifying had perhaps the most atrocious weathering conditions for many years. Heavy downpours and consistent showers took their tall and many cars were seen losing control- spinning into barriers and into gravel. Qualifying 1 was complete though, as unsurprisingly both Caterham and Marussia locked up the bottom 4 places on the grid, with Williams driver Pastor Maldonado the surprise driver to miss out on Q2, coming an unconvincing 17th on the grid. The rest of the day was a washout, and red flags indicated that the day’s racing ceased for the day and were to resume early Sunday morning.
Sunday was much drier, but water still sat on the track. The most surprising incident was by McLaren Mercedes; who had been underperforming all winter. Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh made the decision to switch to super slick tyres to try and increase the pace of the McLaren car. This plan backfired however, and new driver Sergio Perez (making his McLaren debut) finished a disappointing 15th on the grid. Jenson Button managed to scrap through in 10th to Qualifying 3.
Qualifying 3 was dominated in particular by one team. Guess who?! Yes, Seb Vettel again finished pole, with teammate Mark Webber claiming the position next to him on the grid. A Red Bull front row lockout (again).
The race itself started as I hoped it would, a Red Bull mucking up. Although I didn’t feel some sympathy towards Mark Webber as it was not only his home race, but possibly his last. He could only watch as his slow start was taken advantage of by opposing drivers such as the Ferrari pairing of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa and Mercedes debutant Lewis Hamilton. Vettel himself though, had a solid start and lead the way in the beginning phrase. As the race played through, team strategies were the key to a successful race. Some worked, and others didn’t. Ferrari brought Alonso in early, and this played to their advantage as they managed to get past current world champ Seb Vettel. Lewis Hamilton’s plan for a 2-stop race backfired when his tyres failed to live with him. He was constantly getting caught up and overtaken and just didn’t have the pace, so he changed to a plan B, perhaps which denied the Briton a dream debut podium with the Mercedes team. Two driver’s plans of action worked magnificently. Firstly, Force India’s Adrian Sutil- who incidentally was making a return to F1 after 12 months out- decided on a 2-stop race and therefore finished an impressive 7th, way ahead of the rather unconvincing McLarens. But the best strategy was that of Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen. He again, managed to complete the race with only 2 stops, and convincingly won the Australian GP; many seconds ahead of the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso and Red Bull’s Seb Vettel.
Overall, the F1 returned to viewers screens with a bang, maybe not as big as last year, but this will certainly be another season to remember, and possibly could go all the way.
AUSTRALIAN GP RESULT: 1) KIMI RAIKKONEN, 2) FERNANDO ALONSO, 3) SEBASTIAN VETTEL,
4) FELIPE MASSA, 5) LEWIS HAMILTON, 6) MARK WEBBER,
7) ADRIAN SUTIL, 8) PAUL DI RESTA, 9) JENSON BUTTON
10) ROMAIN GROSJEAN
RETIREMENTS: NICO HULKENBURG (DNF), NICO ROSBERG, DANIEL RICCARDIO, PASTOR MALDONADO