Australian Grand Prix Review

Mar. 29, 2010 - 05696278 date 28 03 2010 Copyright imago HochZwei Motorsports Formula 1 World Championship 2010 GP of Australia 01 Jenson Button GBR Vodafone McLaren Mercedes xHOCHxZWEIx motor aviation men Formula 1 F1 F World Cup GP Australia Melbourne Award Ceremony Single Vdig xsk 2010 horizontal Highlight premiumd motor aviation Engine Formula 1 Formula One F1 F 1 one Grand Prix grand Prize Australia Australia cheering Celebration Mood mood pleased Look forward happiness jubilant cheering positive Winner Champion happiness Joy Award Ceremony Podium Medal Ceremony Ceremony Honour Human Beings Celebrates rejoicing Winner won partner02.

2 weeks after the Bahrain Grand Prix there have been 14 days full of negative press and debate about how to fix Formula 1. Round 2 in Melbourne turned those comments well and truelly on their head.  In an action packed and thrilling race in which there were more overtaking manoeuvres than can be remembered, Jenson Button came out on top to win a vital race for the 2009 as he seeks to settle in to his new team.

Race day dawned damp and overcast, the expected rain  hit the track as the cars were on the grid 5 minutes before the start of the race.  The wet conditions meant that all the drivers had to start on the intermediate tyres. As the cars lined up on the grid, the race the emphasis was how the cars were going to get off the line on cold intermediates and get through the first couple of corners without any incidents or casualties.  Michael Schumacher was told as to make sure he positioned his car perfectly between the white lines to avoid the chance of wheel spin, but and as the 5 lights went out, Championship leader Fernando Alonso could have done with similar information as he was swamped by the pack from his 4th place grid slot.  With Vettle getting away well and leading in to turn 1, it was a amazing start from Massa that took him from 5th to 2nd, Webber 3rd and then a 3 way battle for for 4th place between the slow starting Alonso, Button and Schumacher and as they turned in to turn 1, the inevitable happened.

With Alonso in a sandwich between Schumacher on his left and Button on his right, when Alonso turned in, Button who had the inside line for the corner could not help but tap the Ferrari in to a spin, with the Ferrari collecting the Mercedes of Schumacher in the process.  As the Ferrari spun across the track the rest of the field took avoiding action.  Hamilton who had made a good start, took to the grass and by turn 3 he was up to 8th from 11th place.  Schumacher who had held on to his car also went through the grass and doing so damaged his front wing.  Alonso was stranded in the middle of the track and had to wait for everyone to filter past him before he could spin turn his car back round and rejoin the race.  He was way down in 22nd place and he then started a sensational drive from the back of the grid.

There was one more major incident on the first lap.  At turn 6 the front nose of the Sauber of Kobayashi collapsed underneath the front of his car rendering his car without any form of steering, sending the Japanese driver hurtling towards the wall.  As he deflected off of the wall he rebounded back in to the field smashing in to Nico Hulkenburg and Sebastien Buemi eliminating all 3 and leaving them all lucky not to be injured in the process.

With 3 cars in the gravel and debris all over the track the Safety Car was inevitable and came out before the end of the first lap, giving Michael Schumacher the chance to pit for a new nose.  The Safety Car was out for 3 laps, coming in at the end of lap 4.

With the cars starting lap 5 Vettle led from Massa, Webber, Kubica, Rosberg, Button and Hamilton. It was Kubica in the Renault that attacked Mark Webber for 3rd straight away and indicated that the Renault would have real pace today. Further down the field we were treated to a bizzare situation with Schumacher trying to overtake Di Grassi in the Virgin only to be re-passed at the very next corner. Something the Brazilian will remember for a while.

Hamilton then managed to pass Button for 6th at turn 3 on lap 6 and set of to attack the Mercedes of Rosberg.  Two corners later a mistake from Massa in second on the slippery track let Webber through to create a Redbull 1-2. Massa was then quickly under attack from Kubica, and as Massa slowed up to defended his position a 6 car train formed – Massa, Kubica, Rosberg, Hamilton, Button and Liuzzi.

It was Button that dropped out of this group at the end of the 6th lap as he made his way sensationally in to the pits to change from intermediates to slicks.  On a slippery and wet track it was a gamble that could have ruined his race. A slow 7.7 second stop saw him rejoin to mass condemnation by BBC commentators Martin Brundle and David Coulthard.  Then as Button slide off the track at turn 3, skating across the gravel trap, it seemed that the wisdom in Button pitting was ill founded.  However, Button rejoined the track and got it together instantly, banging in the fasted 2nd & 3rd sector time.

It was obvious that slicks were they tyre to be on and the majority of the field then followed Button in to the pits to cover off Button’s move to slicks. Massa, Kubica, Rosberg, Hamilton and Schumacher all pitted leaving Vettle, Webber and Sutil out front.  As they all raced back on to the track,  it was clear that Massa and Hamilton had been compromised in their stops, both being delayed on their exit from their box by oncoming cars.  Kubica now the benchmark from the front runners rejoined just in front of Button, who despite his off had managed to jump in front of 3 cars and was clearly the fastest man on track and disposed of Kubica in clinical style while the Pole was still getting his tyres up to working temperature.

On Lap 10 Button put in the fastest lap of the race and was nearly 5 seconds a lap faster that the drivers on intermediates, and it was no surprise that Vettle and Sutil pitted, leaving Webber to lead, however he was the only front runner out on the intermediates.  The Australian pit at the end of the lap and put him out in front of Massa, but a mistake at turn one on cold tyres let Massa through and put Barrichello and the recovering Hamilton right on his tail and the Aussie down in 6th.

The order on Lap 12 saw Vettle leading from Button, Kubica, Rosberg, Massa, Webber, Hamilton, Barrichello, De La Rosa and Alonso sensationally in 10th after being dead last on lap one.

The next couple of laps saw Vettle start to pull away from Button at about 3/4 of a second per lap and saw him starting to put a bit of day light between the Mclaren.  Mark Webber made up from his earlier mistake and passed Massa at turn 1.  As he did so Hamilton pounced on Massa who was forced off line and as they made their way to turn 3 on Lap 16, Hamilton pulled alongside Webber and ahead, but Webber wasn’t having any of it and tried to brake later that Hamilton, but it didn’t work.  The Redbull driver headed off in to the gravel letting Massa have back the two places he had lost 3 corners earlier. All this allowed Alonso to join in the fun in 8th place. It had been an utterly breathless start to a race and a complete contrast to the snooze-fest in Bahrain.

Hamilton was able to get past Massa on lap 22 at turn 3 and was then quickly on to the tail of Nico Rosberg in 4th place. The Briton looking the fastest and most aggressive driver on track and an outside threat to Vettle for the win if he could maintain this blistering pace.  On lap 26 Hamilton passed Rosberg in an amazing move round the outside at the fast turn 11-12 chicane. Rosberg looked to get Hamilton at the next corner but was confronted with waved yellow flags and had to fall back in line.

Amazingly the yellow flags were for the race leader Vettle. The German facing the wrong way and sunk deep in the gravel trap at turn 13 had lost what seemed to be a stuck on race victory for the second race running.  The replays showed the Redbull locking its brakes and heading straight off.  A problem with a front wheel leaving Vettle with no brakes was to blame and left the team cursing its reliability for losing yet another win.

This put Button in the lead from Kubica running a great race in the Renault, Hamilton 3rd, Rosberg 4th, Massa 5th and Webber in 6th.  Hamilton was breathing heavily behind the Renault and looked like if he could pass the Renault, we could be treated to a battle for the win between the two team mates, but all this was about to change.

Mark Webber was in the pits on lap 33 changing his tyres from to the harder compound, and as he rejoined Mclaren decided to cover off Webber by pulling Hamilton in to the pits.  The wisdom of this can be argued in hindsight, but this ended Hamilton’s chances of race victory because, none of the other cars in front of him came in to pit.  To make the matters worse, Button had just posted one to the fastest laps of the race.  What was clear here was it was a decision by the team to pull Hamilton in, and as this slowly dawned on Hamilton his frustration became clear.

The shake out left Hamilton and Webber chasing down Alonso in 4rd place, and enjoying a tyre advantage the pair was able to recover the gap by lap 50.   This was tough on Hamilton who had worked his socks off in the early part of the race and now had to slog out quick laps to regain the ground lost, but do it he did.

Meanwhile Schmacher managed to pass the Torro Rosso of Jamie Alguersuari for 13th place, after having struggled to over take him for some 15 laps. It certainly wasn’t where the German expected to be scrapping when he decided to make his comeback.

With 3 laps to go, and Lewis swarming all over the rear of Fernando, the Britain made a move on the Ferrari in an attempt to steal 4th place, as the pair squirmed under breaking, Hamilton had to let Alonso have the turn, but as he turned in Webber failed to anticipate Hamilton’s switchback and ploughed straight in to the right rear wheel of Hamilton and spun both drivers out in to the gravel. Luckily both drivers were able to get themselves back on track, however it was the Redbull that had a damaged front wing and needed to head to the pits, Hamilton was able to recover but was now behind Rosberg.

While all the fireworks were going on Jenson Button had managed to pull out a comfortable lead to Kubica and came through to take victory, his first for his new team Mclaren. Kubica was second to raise the morale of the Renault team, and Massa took the final place on the podium after hold off his faster team mate Alonso.  On the final lap Schumacher was able to snatch 10 place from De La Rosa to earn him a single point.

This was an action packed Australian Grand Prix, that had thrills and spills all the way through.  Helped by changing weather condition and drivers on different tyre strategies, this was the best way to respond to the critics who say F1 is boring.  Next up is Malaysia in 7 days and if the race is only half as good as the race in Melbourne, then we are in for a real treat.

1.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes           1h33:36.531
 2.  Kubica        Renault                    +    12.034
 3.  Massa         Ferrari                    +    14.488
 4.  Alonso        Ferrari                    +    16.304
 5.  Rosberg       Mercedes                   +    16.683
 6.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           +    29.898
 7.  Liuzzi        Force India-Mercedes       +    59.847
 8.  Barrichello   Williams-Cosworth          +  1:00.536
 9.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +  1:07.319
10.  Schumacher    Mercedes                   +  1:09.391
11.  Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +  1:11.301
12.  De la Rosa    Sauber-Ferrari             +  1:14.084
13.  Kovalainen    Lotus-Cosworth             +    2 laps
14.  Chandhok      HRT-Cosworth               +    4 laps

Fastest lap: Webber 1:28.358
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The Virgin that won’t go all the way!

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 27: Lucas Di Grassi of Brazil and Virgin GP drives during qualifying for the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at the Albert Park Circuit on March 27, 2010 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

Astonishingly the BBC is going with rumours that had originally surfaced pre-season that the Virgin F1 car does not have a big enough fuel tank to get it to the end of the race.  Apparently commentator Jonathan Legard has heard about this astonishing blunder.

If this is true it is an amazing mistake that cannot be easily fixed.  Firstly because in race refuelling has been banned, and secondly to change a F1 chassis after it has been approved by the FIA will take weeks to implement.

The Virgin team is yet to make a formal announcement, and I wonder if they ever would admit to such a mistake, as it would make it impossible for them to get a result for the next 2-3 races which would be damaging to title sponsor Richard Brandson.

One hopes this is not true, but a memo has gone round the teams from the FIA that Virgin needs to make adjustments to its car, and this only serves to add to the mounting rumours.

During the first practice session the BBC commented that various parts of the cars designed were outsourced and we can only assume that something has been miscalculated or communicated.

The Virgin car is the first F1 car to be designed completely by computer by Nick Wirth’s team.  Whether he has any responsibility over the design of the tank is as yet unknow.