Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Australian GP – The Race

The Class of 2013

The morning after. At least I think its Monday. As much as I’m ecstatic that the new season is underway, it has been a somewhat confusing and sleep deprived weekend. I watched qualifying over lunchtime on Saturday, then some more qualifying in the early hours of Sunday morning and then the race over a number of hours on Sunday. Note to self: its probably best to choose Australia time OR UK time. Juggling both can really fry your mind.

And talking of frying one’s mind – the opening titles of the Sky coverage (btw I see the BBC has pinched the idea of showing retro footage of F1 for its opening titles – bit lazy guys although it works so well with the iconic Chain soundtrack I shall let them off!) were preceded by what can only be described as a hideously pompous overblown Shakespearean style monologue about all things F1. Do they really think that would appeal to F1 fans? The gist of it seemed to be F1 isn’t at all predictable and has ‘characters’ like in the good old days such as Kimi Raikkonen. Cringeface.

The iconic soundtrack to F1
The iconic soundtrack of F1

Race-day (and indeed qualifying day) had finally dawned in Melbourne and the weather was cold and faintly sunny but Damon was still playing it safe in his ‘Dad’ jacket. We were brought the not-at-all predictable news of the Red Bull front row lock out.

We had a real treat for the first pre-filmed feature. It was a lycra-clad Martin Brundle. Guffaw! No, seriously, it was a track guide with Martin Brundle and Paul Di Resta on bikes (so the lycra bit was true), and oh my goodness who could be joining them (like this hadn’t been trailed ad infinitum)? It was none other than 6 time Olympic Champion, Sir Chris Hoy. That 6 time Olympic Champion bit does have a certain ring to it I must admit. As regular readers/Twitter followers may know I am not the biggest fan of Paul Di Resta. He’s a decent enough driver but nowhere near as good as he thinks he is and word on the street is that His People (he now has a new manager) believe that he needs to raise his profile more and do lots of fun touchy-feely fun stuff (see Jenson Button) to put himself in the frame for a Big Drive. Presumably this means we’re going to get saturated with lots of Paul Di Resta this season. Oh good. The main problem is that this segment showed us what a fun and relaxed guy Chris Hoy is (and a bona fide petrolhead) and that Paul is basically still very boring.

A whole lot of lyrca going on!
A whole lot of lycra going on!

Back to the paddock and we had an interview with Martin Whitmarsh (Button qualified in P10 and Perez in a lowly P15) who was looking pretty depressed. To his immense credit he spoke very honestly and frankly saying it had been a very tough weekend, the cars were clearly not very competitive and the qualifying gambles hadn’t taken off. The husband says Martin is the kind of guy he could go out and have a beer with – praise indeed.

Then we had Damon Hill interviewing Lewis Hamilton. Brace yourselves for Oprah style confessional. Apparently Lewis feels reborn and it was as if he had a cover over him (he couldn’t explain it either) at McLaren. He wants to be able to express himself just like drivers did in the good old days when they smoked in the pitlane like back in Damon’s day (though in the good old days, the death rate was a bit higher in F1 so understandably they lived life to the full). Poor Damon looked pretty affronted. He might be grey but he’s not that frigging old. Anyway Lewis says he does lots of exciting things other than F1 he would like to share with people. No, Lewis, just stick to F1.

A new season...a new Lewis?
Its a new dawn, its a new day and Lewis is feeling good. Honestly.

And time for the first #MartinsGridWalk of the season. Neatly side-stepping DC en route, Martin chatted to Mark Webber. Mark was happy it was sunny and he felt good and thought tyres and strategy would be important. Thanks Mark. Then Martin found Niki Lauda who reckoned getting 10 laps out of the tyres would be good going and Niki waxed lyrical about how the two Mercedes drivers were very motivated and working so well together. Early days, Niki. Early days. Did he wish he was still racing? No. Maybe he’s been chatting to Lewis about the good old days.

Lauda way back when

Quick chat with Stefano Domenicali bizarrely through a barrier window and just as Martin quipped about him being like the Pope (and the Sky producer could feel his blood pressure rising), Stefano politely silenced him with ‘respect’. Yes Martin, the new Pope has his own country slap bang in the middle of Rome and both his parents were Italian. Best to tread carefully when interviewing someone from Scuderia Ferrari. Martin just had time for a quick shoulder barge with Lee McKenzie (they’re all good mates really) to get to Jenson who is always great value on the grid. He was hoping for rain and said his rear tyres were totally grained and had no grip. Alas no lucky nipple tweak for Jenson today. I predict a smooth transition into media for Jenson when he hangs up his helmet. Class act.

Jenson Button in happier times (hard to believe this is only 12 months ago)
Jenson Button in happier times (was this only 12 months ago?)

So the grid lined-up as follows:
  1. Vettel

  2. Webber

  3. Hamilton

  4. Massa

  5. Alonso

  6. Rosberg

  7. Raikkonen

  8. Grosjean

  9. Di Resta

  10. Button

Lights Out and Go Go Go at the Australian Grand Prix! Massa had an absolutely blinding start, Alonso jumped Hamilton and Mark Webber had a total disaster. When I predicted Mark Webber might win the Grand Prix I was obviously joking. Honestly. Kimi also had a lightning fast start and was scrapping like mad with Lewis for position and on lap 2 he made his move stick for 4th. Nico Rosberg was next up to overtake Mark Webber and poor old Mark was now dumped down to P7. Button wasn’t lying about his tyres having no grip and on lap 4, he came into the pits for a set of mediums. There was me thinking people were being sarcastic predicting pitstops after 4 laps.

And its GO for the 2013 season!
And its GO for the 2013 season!

Less surprisingly, Mark Webber was hauled into the pits for what seemed like an eternity (maybe the mechanics were thinking what the hey we needn’t bust a gut here). It is possible I have done Giedo van der Garde a grave injustice. Perhaps Webber is the New Narain. And Giedo was actually running 15th which was really not all that bad. Meanwhile Massa was reeling in Vettel and had got the gap down to 0.8 seconds. So clearly it wasn’t going to be one of Those Races where the Red Bull shot off into the distance never to be seen again. On lap 8, Vettel pitted and rejoined just behind Maldonado which lets face it is never the driver you ever want to see in front of you.

Maldonado didn't have the best of weekends
Maldonado didn't have the best of weekends

Kimi was absolutely flying and lapping a whole second faster than Alonso. It could be that we may have really underestimated this Lotus. But all the same I am LOVING the surprise! On lap 9, Massa pitted closely followed by Alonso and Kimi who came into the pits together. They exited into the path of a startled Maldonado who suddenly veered off the track on a random detour.

On lap 10, the running order was 1. Hamilton, 2. Nico, 3. Sutil (from 12th on the grid!) and 4. Vettel. Around this point, I discovered that Hulkenberg hadn’t even started the race. Oooops. I’m sure I would have noticed eventually but there had been a lot to try and keep up with and I was tired. Kimi was now the fastest man out on track. And on lap 14 Hamilton came into the pits, followed by his team-mate a lap later. This meant that ADRIAN SUTIL was leading the Grand Prix. Well how about that? Very interestingly, Sutil and Vettel were doing similar lap times and the Ferrari’s all the meanwhile were closing up on the pair of them. Lewis was on the radio complaining that he needed more updates (bet the McLaren mechanics had a bit of a snigger there) and on lap 19, Webber pitted again. What a car crash of a race for Webber (without a car crash obviously).

Sutil keeping Vettel at bay (one of the many surprises in Melbourne!)
Sutil keeping Vettel at bay (one of many surprises in Melbourne)

Sutil was still out in front driving like a man possessed ahead of Vettel and the two Ferrari’s. And it wasn’t even as if he had Vettel swarming all over the back of his exhaust. He was more than comfortably keeping him at bay. On lap 21, Ferrari decided to bring in Alonso to the pits to then really put a charge on. Sutil and Vettel pitted the next lap and in a Potential Turning Point, they crucially exited behind Alonso. Massa was freaking over the radio as to what was happening. Understandably in my opinion. He qualified higher up than Alonso, he had the track position but it was Alonso who pitted first. Good old Ferrari hey! On lap 24, Massa pitted and emerged back on track behind Alonso, Vettel and Sutil. Poor Felipe. Just bad luck or shafted yet again? Hmmmm.

Massa leading Alonso (fun while it lasted!)
Massa leading Alonso

The car now out in front was the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen and the Weather Monitor of Doom told us that rain was expected in 8 minutes time. Did someone pass on the message to Maldonado? For moments later he spun off into the gravel. Race over. Definitely Bad Driver Maldonado in the house this weekend. Its all very well slagging off your car, Pastor, but you’d better not make daft mistakes into the bargain. The next retirement was Nico Rosberg on lap 27. Some kind of electrical failure. Desperately unlucky for Nico who was in a good points position as well.

Kimi leading the charge at the Australian Grand Prix
Kimi leading the charge

The team radioed Kimi to say there would a light shower but it would be good to stay out and if he could let them know if that was ok. Silence from the cockpit. Alonso was now hot on the heels of Lewis Hamilton and after a fierce tussle (and lock up from Lewis), Alonso eventually made his move stick and Hamilton was straight into the pits having stuffed his tyres fighting off Alonso.

A visual representation of Kimi's in-car radio
A visual representation of Kimi's in car radio

Round-up on lap 33 (with change in position from grid place):
  1. Kimi (+6)

  2. Alonso (+3)

  3. Vettel (-1)

  4. Sutil (+8)

  5. Massa (-1)

  6. Di Resta (+3)
As Brundle said, the main talking point was where had the Red Bull pace gone? Adrian Newey must be inconsolable. If it wasn’t Malaysia in a week’s time he’d be back at the factory redesigning the entire car. Still on the positive side, looks like Red Bull weren’t sandbagging after all. A nation rejoices!

On lap 34, Kimi pitted and rejoined the race in 5th place but could he get to the end of the race on those tyres knowing all the other contenders still had to pit again? Alonso had to stop but only had a 13 second lead! Massa was the first Ferrari to pit again on lap 37 and the next lap, Vettel came in for his third and final set of tyres and slotted back out in front of Massa. On lap 40, Alonso came in, Vettel took Hamilton for P4 and once again ADRIAN SUTIL led the race. Holy cow what a turn up for the books.

Adrian Sutil - a clue here as to his finishing position!
Sutil - a clue as to his finishing position

On lap 43, Hamilton dived into the pits again and out on track, Kimi passed Sutil to take the lead but Alonso was starting to close up and was driving ballistically fast. With 12 laps to go, Alonso got past Sutil and it was game on for the Grandstand Finish. Sutil finally pitted and rejoined just in front of Lewis Hamilton. With ten laps to go, it looked like Kimi was managing to stop Alonso gobbling up any more of his lead and the main drama involved poor old Sutil whose tyres had fallen off the proverbial cliff and was passed by first Hamilton then Webber (who was still going…who knew?!). There was one amusing moment where Kimi lapped Perez and for a split second I thought it was Hamilton being lapped. Still very strange to see Hamilton in a non-McLaren car.

No further drama (unless you count Alonso nearly careering into Giedo’s Caterham near the end!) and the chequered flag fell heralding an immense victory for Kimi Raikkonen and Lotus. A victory that no one would have predicted! As Kimi said on the radio to his engineers, “I told you the car was good”. Is this Kimi speak for a title winning car? Well who knows but on that evidence the Lotus looks like a very strong contender this season!

Round 1 to Kimi Raikkonen!
Round 1 to Kimi Raikkonen

Here are the results from the Australian Grand Prix 2013:
  1. Raikkonen – A masterful drive. Was it just me or did Kimi seem pretty pumped at the win!

  2. Alonso – Another fine drive and he’ll be more than happy with that result.

  3. Vettel – From pole, a 3rd place has to feel like a disappointment but more worrying will be the lack of Red Bull race pace.

  4. Massa – Desperately unlucky not to be on the podium. But Felipe does seem to have his mojo back which is great!

  5. Hamilton – A respectable first outing for Mercedes. Clearly the car has made huge strides since last season.

  6. Webber – Not sure how that happened but there you go!


The Australian Grand Prix may have had a bumpy start but it didn’t let us down on race day. What an absolutely cracking opening race to the season (unless you’re McLaren who must be in the pits of despair – Button and Perez finished P9 and P11 respectively). It was full of surprises, thrills and brilliant racing. And best of all (for the sake of general harmony in the House of Power), the 5 year's New Favourite Driver in all the World (now Schuey has retired) won the race!

And we’ll be doing it all over again in Malaysia next weekend! Must Get Sleep.

Its off to hot and humid Sepang for round 2
Off to hot and humid Sepang

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