Albert Park: Race Day

The first race of the season is over already! In a blink of an eye those 58 laps dissolved into the setting sun of Melbourne. This year had a lot to live up to, 2010 was a year fought between youth and experience, design and knowledge, and 5 men. But now the clocks are reset, everything at zero. The strongest grid line-up we’ve seen in years; the youngest world champion back to defend his title, and the elder statesman looking for his first. A double champion with nothing to show since 2006, a protégé built from the pride of Britain and the playboy who turned it all around in 2009.

5 world champions are about to duke it out for glory and the indisputable knowledge they are the best. The very best. The best of the best. So what stands between them and the taste of victory champagne in Brazil? New rules, regulations and tyres are bound to have an impact, Red Bull might be fast but are they too fast for the Pirelli rubber. DRS and KERS are the ‘it’ acronyms for this year, forget them at your peril, as one champion found out.

Four rookies join the grid; Paul di Resta (Force India), Jerome d’Ambrosio (Virgin Racing), Sergio Perez (Sauber) and Pastor Maldonado (Williams). One of last year’s rookie teams Hispania, failed to make it past Q1, and with such slow times, failed to even make it to the grid. Are their days numbered? My biggest question doesn’t necessarily concern the team, more about Liuzzi’s decision to join them in the first place. Not only has he seen how they treat their drivers, but he also seen their approach to F1 as a whole; disorganised, questionable and slow. They might have finished ahead of Virgin last year, but somehow that has been forgotten over the off-season.

The Race Report:

 

1:

Overall the current world champions had a good race, with their drivers on differing race strategies. By the end of the race there were two big questions looming over the team, did you use KERS? (not at all, the other teams are quaking in their boots as we speak) and why was there such a big gap between Vettel and Webber? (Apparently a chassis issue and the car is being stripped).

Sebastian Vettel (1): Flawless effort from the defending world champion, scorching pace and excellent pit strategy from the start. Kinky Kylie is off to a good start.

Mark Webber (5): Struggled with pace throughout, however with 3 pit stops to Vettel’s 2, he valiantly drove through the traffic to match his career best. Then had to park it at the pit exit, leading to concerns about the state of the car.

2:

Showed great pace, but hindered somewhat by a questionable approach to Button’s illegal pass on Massa at turn 12. Waiting too long allowed Alonso to pass Massa and pit, forcing a drive-through penalty. If Button had given the position back, he would have had the pace to pass Massa soon enough.

Lewis Hamilton (2): Much like Vettel, he had a clean race and stayed close enough to have a podium secured early on. Despite his undertray being broken, he drove through to the end without issue.

Jenson Button (6): Drive through penalty cost him around 20/23 seconds, and a battle with his DRS left him behind. However he did perform the first DRS pass on Kobayashi on lap 27.

3:

A something or nothing race for the team, with distinct echoes of Abu Dhabi haunting the team. A hint of team orders early on as Massa allowed Alonso to catch up and overtake to force Button into a drive through.

Fernando Alonso (4): A bad start saw a drop to P9, after running wide at the start. Followed a similar pit strategy to Webber, which brought back memories of Abu Dhabi. He also finished the race behind Petrov, who held the Spaniard at bay for several laps, also had to be reminded to use his KERS.

Felipe Massa (7): A cracking start that had everyone buzzing, a massive leap from P8 to P5 at the start, was the star Ferrari driver until Alonso passed him. Then faded away towards the end.

4:

A race of two halves for the team, Heidfeld failed to impress throughout the weekend and damage to the his car just compounded the issue. This may be the first race, but it shows just how good this car is, and that others should be worried. But the question remains, have they made the right choice in Heidfeld?

Vitaly Petrov (3): A storming race from start to finish, hard to believe this is the same driver from last year. Signed again at the end of 2010, it was assumed it was for financial reasons, hard to say that if he continues like this. With his trophy in his hand, he vowed to sleep with it tonight…don’t blame him.

Nick Heidfeld (12): Damaged from the start by Buemi hindered his race, comments by him on Twitter solely blame this for his poor performance. I think he may have forgotten that he was in that position because of his qualifying effort, or lack thereof.

5:

Great start from a team that was barely keeping ahead of the rookie teams last year, both drivers mixing it up with the big boys throughout the race. Indications are that this car is a vast improvement.

Sebastien Buemi (8): Despite being blamed for Heidfeld’s issues, he finished in the points, something they failed to do last year.

Jaime Alguersuari (11): Got involved with Schumacher which led to the 7 time champion retiring with a puncture, Alguersuari needed a new front wing. Solid drive which helped see STR dreams of being a midfield team with his teammate.

6:

Following the disqualification of both Saubers, the team secured their first points of the season as they aim to beat their score last year. Both drivers improved significantly on their qualification times, even without the DSQ of Sauber.

Adrian Sutil (9): Another solid race, without the mistakes of qualification, he manage to finish ahead of his rookie teammate.

Paul di Resta (10): First points on the board of his career collection, may have been helped by others, but it was an impressive drive nonetheless. Di Resta hinted that he let Sutil past, due to his alternative race strategy. Today he proved his worthiness of the seat.

7:

First of the teams not to score a point, due to both a retirement and generally being off the pace somewhat. Disappointing result from a team that promised to be fighting for midfield position.

 Jarno Trulli (13): Only just scraping in ahead of d’Ambrosio, could have easily been lower but the level of attrition helped him today.

Heikki Kovalainen (RET): A mechanical issue forced him into an early retirement, a water leak on Lap 19 prevented him from making a real impact on the race.

8:

Did the best out of newer teams, with both drivers making it to the end, eventually.

Jerome d’Ambrosio (14): One of this years rookies had ended up dead last, but has the knowledge that far more experienced drivers have fallen before him.

Timo Glock (NC): Only just scraping in ahead of d’Ambrosio, could have easily been lower but the level of attrition helped him today. Has ended up not being classified on the official F1 website, due to be out by +9 laps.

9:

Surprising to find such a team so low down in the ranking this early on. This wasn’t a race to remember for the team, two retirements due to the same issue.

Rubens Barrichello (RET): Had a race from hell really, strewn with schoolboy mistakes throughout the first half. Into the gravel on his first lap at turn 3, an overtaking attempt on Rosberg on lap 23 left him spinning with a drive through penalty. Retired on lap 48 with transmission issues.

Pastor Maldonado (RET): Only managed 9 laps before he suffered the same fate that belied his teammate later one, a duff transmission ended his day early.

10:

Another shock entry for a big team, although they were both as a result of collisions with other drivers.

Nico Rosberg (RET): Barrichello’s overtaking effort damaged his car, a cloud of smoke hinted at the cooling system, but officially classified as accident damage.

Michael Schumacher (RET): A mere 19 laps in and he parks the car in the garage, a puncture was the result of a touch by Alguersuari on the first lap.

11:

A very disappointing day indeed for the little team that could, an inexperienced team can lead to a disaster on the track, but they’ve got the pairing spot on here. If they can keep it up, they could cause a few upsets in midfield. Disqualified for rear wing infringements.

Sergio Perez (DSQ): A sour note to end his debut race on, he wowed the crowd by being the only driver to manage on 1 pit-stop! Considering the degradation other suffered, he was doing something right.

Kamui Kobayashi (DSQ): Finished respectively, but seemed quiet on track where his banzai nature was subdued. Won’t be long until he’s back in business though.

Read: Full Results

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