Vettel wins third World Championship in amazing final race

Wow! Just Wow!

The Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday served up some of the most captivating sport I have ever experienced.

For a championship decider, this race had everything. Absolutely everything!

From the moment the rain began to fall around 10 minutes before the light went out, this race took every twist and turn and placed the two championship protagonists under the most extreme pressure.

No one would deny that Alonso, because of the gap he trailed Vettel in the championship, would have wished for some bad fortune to strike Vettel in some way in the race, well, Alonso’s prayers were answered almost immediately as on Lap 1 Bruno Senna spun Vettel round and then was thumped hard by the Sauber of Perez.

An unbelievable turn incident and one that gave Alonso with an wide open goal to win the world championship, but somehow Vettel’s car was not seriously damaged and re-joined the race dead last and set about delivering the comeback under extreme pressure.

As the rain intensified and then eased and then intensified again, and through multiple pitstops for tyres, Vettel was able to storm through the field to work his way back in to championship winning position and when the second and final Safety Car came out on the last lap, Vettel was crowned champion for a third time.

Throughout Vettel’s career, he has been criticised for not being a true racer or being able to overtake, but the last 6 months have proven way beyond any doubt Vettel can do this. He is truly world class, a deserved winner and if winning 3 world titles makes you in affect, a legend of the sport, then that hat sits perfectly well on the young German.

Alonso fought valiantly throughout the year and it was a noble achievement to get his Ferrari in to a position where he could have won the championship at the last race, but his Ferrari fell short in pace over the course of the whole year.

Alonso should take massive credit from his 2012 performances, which should cemented his position as the best driver on the grid and that easily elevates him in to the realms  of being one of the best F1 drivers ever.

It is easy to forget Button won the race, but only after losing out in an exciting battle with his team mate. Hamilton then lost out when he was caught up in a silly incident with Hulkenburg who was driving, in my opinion, the race of his life, having taken the lead before the safety car and mastering the tricky conditions. Hulkenburg spun and took Hamilton out of his final race for McLaren.

It was a frantic and pulsating end to the 2012 championship, a race which defined the pattern of the whole season, and I am sure many of us F1 fans are already counting down the days until lights out in Melbourne.

Congratulations Sebastian.

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Jenson Button – Lost in translation?

F1 2010 - Rd7 Turkish GP - Hamilton wins in McLaren 1-2

There is much to say about the inter team fractions at in the Red Bull team post the Turkish Grand Prix,  but the other talking point was the on track battle between Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button which despite there being no tangible accident poses a similar threat of self-destruction within the team.

Despite Hamilton taking his first win of the season, he looked angry and forlorn as he got out of the car and went through the podium ceremony.  It was clear this was a thoroughly angry and slightly paranoid Hamilton and he was not sure where to point the blame – Button or the team.

The incident involved took place over 4 corners between lap 48 and the first corner of lap 49. Hamilton had been told on previous laps that both cars were being ordered to save fuel.  Most of the F1 world took this as an indirect rule to not overtake each other, but it seems one party didn’t understand what that meant and information appearing today seems to indicate that Hamilton was right to feel aggrieved.

Almost unbelievably after the Red Bull drivers going toe to toe, we saw the Mclaren drivers in the same situation. Button seemed to take advantage of Hamilton slowing up the pace to launch a surprise attack on the his team-mate.

Credit where credit is due, both drivers managed to keep it clean, but it was certainly touch and go at turn 1 on lap 49 where Hamilton threw himself in to the corner 3 quarters of a car length behind Button and risked Button turning him in and taking them both out.

The question begs why was Button attacking Hamilton?

Was he unaware of the order to save fuel and to understand what most saw as a coded message to hold positions, or was he aware of the order and tried to get one over on Lewis by playing on the trust for the team Hamilton has?

Without the information from Button’s radio it’s not clear how the message was given to Jenson before his attack on Hamilton for the lead.  What we do know is that Hamilton clearly asked the team for clarification that Button would hold fire and not attack Lewis for the lead.

We could point the finger at Button’s race engineer for perhaps not making the message clear, but I feel the blame here is at Button’s door.  He would have been told about the need to save fuel, even if or perhaps neither driver needed to save fuel, any F1 observer would have understood the message as the race is over, hold you position and bring the car in.  Button seemed to pump up the confidence to go over and above the communication from this team.

Hamilton, who has been caught out more than once this season by the directorship of this teams information was right to look a bit peeved. He had been told that no attack on him would happen, and against all expectations he had to roll his sleeves up and aggressively force his own team-mate out of the way in order to take the win.

Questions should be asked of the team as to why Button performed his attack on Hamilton.  I have heard Button say that he was told to save fuel, but had no idea as to how much he needed to save.

Martin Whitmarsh needs to explain this to Hamilton and if there is a fault in the lines of communication, he needs to get that sorted.  If the boot had been on the other foot Button would have started to feel the team was lying to him in order to help Hamilton, and I am not saying Hamilton is starting to feel paranoid, but you would understand why he perhaps in a little nervous or unsure of the directorship and control the Mclaren management have and seem to make Hamilton’s races harder than easier.

This could be damaging in the relationship between Hamilton and Button, but if one person is likely to lose respect for what he did, it is most likely to be Jenson Button.

Lewis Hamilton wins thrilling Turkish Grand Prix

Formula One - F1

Wow! Just where do you start with a race that is packed with excitement and controversy from the get go?  Like it or not, the Turkish Grand Prix of 2010 will be remembered for the ticking time bomb of  4 cars racing it out at the front for the win, and ending with that bomb going off in the hands of the Red Bull team, that will certainly damage their points situation as they threw away a win and handed maximum points to the Mclaren team, but it will also have an emotional cost to the team and crank up the pressure in the team .

Round 7 of the F1 championship was held on the Istanbul Park track, which over the last few years has failed to produce anything nearly as exciting as Sundays race.  In it’s sixth year of running and which still fails to captivate the imagination of the Turkish people meaning one of the exciting Grands Prix in years played out  to an empty stage!

Mark Webber went in to the race on the back of two wins on the spin in Spain and Monaco and after a commanding performance in qualifying, looked the clear favourite for the race win on Sunday. Because the only other person people thought that could get near to Webber was Sebastian Vettel and he was down in 3rd place on the grid having been split by Hamilton in the Mclaren.

The Mclaren’s had shown good pace in practice and qualifying, however, the telling signs was that despite the F-Duct giving the Woking teams cars a visible and distinct advantage down the long straight at Istanbul Park in sectors 1 & 3, the Red Bull was putting them and the rest of the field in the shade through the tight and twisty 2nd sector of the track.

Before the race there was some optimism that if Hamilton could jump Webber at the start of the race, he could have a realistic chance of stopping the in form Aussie from romping off in to the distance.  The only potential flaw in this theory was that Hamilton, like his team-mate Button, were on the dirty side of the starting grid, potentially handicapping their get away from the lights and thus giving away their good from qualifying to the Red Bulls.

As the 5 red lights went out, it was the latter that happened and as the field came through turn 1 Vettel had  jumped Hamilton in to second place and Schumacher caught out Button to demote him to 5th.  However the Mclaren’s were able to re address the balance, with Hamilton bravely driving around Vettel by turn 3 and Button passing Schumacher at the hairpin on lap 1.  By the end of lap 1 the order was back to their starting positions.  Webber – Hamilton – Vettel – Button.

This is how the race started to settle in, with Button and Vettel dropping back slightly from Webber and Hamilton. Hamilton looked particularly aggressive in the opening in the laps and was able to really push the Red Bull for the lead.  This was a great sign that despite the Red Bull’s performance in the last 2 races and in their out and out pace in qualifying, the Mclaren on full tanks was going to be a match and make Webber and Red Bull work for their win today.

The differences in the cars was clear to see during this early phase of the race, with Hamilton trying desperately to hold on to the tail of Webber through the twisty sector 2 which incorporated the challenging turn 8 which requires a car with excellent aerodynamic performance, something which the Red Bull has in bundles but the Mclaren is still clearly lacking.  However once through the never-ending turn 8 it was Hamilton and the F-Duct that inexorably pulled in the Red Bull, lap after lap Hamilton tried desperately to get close enough to pull Webber in down the long straight to be able to try and make a pass stick.  A few times Hamilton looked like he would be close enough, but Webber would have just enough lead to cover off the attempt by the time they made the apex of the tight turn 12.

With Pit stops approaching it looked like the first person to pit out of Hamilton and Webber would get the critical advantage that might give them track position to go on and win the race.  Surprisingly then it was Vettel that was the first of the top 4 to come in for tyres.  It was expected to trigger of Button at least to cover off Vettel, but the 2009 Champion decided to stay out, and started to put in some good sector times. It was clear that Button was hoping to have conserved his tyres in the early part of the race to be able to bang in some good times once he was in clear air, but he would have a bit ask to jump Vettel considering he was at least 2 seconds back on the German.

For Mclaren it was clear, pit Hamilton as soon as possible and hope that Webber stays out, but as this was the likely scenario, Redbull covered the Mclaren team and pulled Webber in at the same time.  It was disastrous for Mclaren, being a few meters down the pit lane from the Red bull team, it make the likelihood  of getting Hamilton released before Webber a virtual impossibility.  With such huge pressure on the Mclaren team it is not surprising that a fumble on the right rear wheel held Hamilton up for a crucial second or two and sealed his fate in that he came out behind Vettel and Webber, which would eventually be 3rd once Button had made his pit stop a lap after, rejoined in 4th.

There is no denying that the pit stops changed the complex of the race. Webber now had his worse case scenario playing out – Vettel in the same superbly handling car as Webber behind him and desperate to halt the Australian’s march in recent races. The pace of the top 4 was immense, with fastest laps being traded between the leading drivers lap after lap, but unlike Hamilton, Vettel didn’t seem to be able to amount a tangible attack on Webber.  Did Webber have the race under control or were there team orders dictating that Vettel stay put?  One thing is for sure it was neither!

Despite the frantic pace at the front, the Red Bull’s were still being hampered by Hamilton and Button, however the Mclaren’s were unable to make the F-Duct work as strong in the second half of the race.   Then on lap 38 the worst case scenario happened for the Red bull team.

Unknown to us at the time, both Mclaren’s and Red bull’s were tight on fuel margins, meaning that neither team could allow its drivers to race flat-out to the end of the race without having to lean off the engine and fuel mixture to get them to the end.  Mark Webber was now in this ‘fuel saving’ mode and this gave Vettel a run on him as they came out of turn 10 and out on the flat-out section through turn 11 and down the tight hairpin at turn 12.

Red Bull Formula One driver Webber of Australia leads the race ahead of team mate Vettel of Germany during the Turkish F1 Grand Prix race in Istanbul

Webber spotted Vettel’s charge coming and specifically placed his car in the middle of the road through the flat-out kink that is turn 11 and as they made the run down to the hairpin Vettel pulled alongside to the left of Webber.  Webber had left just enough space for a car to get through as the headed to the left had corner at turn 12.  Vettel looked to have the position in his pocket with the next corner being a left hander he would have the line and Webber would have to capitulate his hard-earned lead.  But in what seemed like seismic seconds, the two cars touched and were unbelievably out of control with debris flying everywhere.  In scenes that were almost beyond belief Vettel had spun off the track in to retirement and Webber was making his way back on to the track in 3rd place after taking avoidance of the out of control Vettel.  Webber needed a new nose to replace damage, and in a second the race was past to the Mclaren team. With the crowd barely recovered from the Red Bull incident, the Mclaren’s were at it as well.

Formula One Turkish Grand Prix

TV viewers were able to hear radio messages to Hamilton that both cars were to enter in to their ‘fuel saving’ mode to ensure that both cars were to get to the end of the race.  This message most people interpreted as the order to hold station and bring it home, but to Lewis Hamilton’s surprise Jenson Button didn’t seem to understand the significance of the message.  Like Webber and Vettel the two Mclaren drivers were side by side in to the turn 12 hairpin, with Jenson Button sensationally trying to go round the outside of Hamilton. The outside became the inside in to turn 13 and Button took the lead with Hamilton shaping up to pounce along the start finish straight and in to turn 1.  It was in to turn 1 that the Mclaren management and mechanics had to close their eyes as Hamilton dived deep in to the apex giving Button the choice to surrender his short reign in the lead or to have a crash with his team-mate.  Luckily Button is a much more mature driver than Vettel and he let Hamilton ease back in to the lead.

F1 2010 - Rd7 Turkish GP - Hamilton wins in McLaren 1-2

It was then an easy run to the flag for the Mclaren drivers after both having to be told again to stop racing due to fuel shortages.  Hamilton’s emotions were telling in the lack of celebration or the restrain he showed through his body language.  He wasn’t happy with Button.  Having been told to back off and preserve fuel Button seemed to chance his luck and try to take Hamilton by surprise.  A word in Hamilton’s ear from Button post race seemed to ease the tension, but like Red Bull, the Mclaren team has some pressure to ease within their camp before the next race in Canada.

What about the others, oh yes, there were others in this race, but they seemed to pale in to insignificance due to the red-hot battle at the front.  Key headlines were Schumacher beating his team-mate Rosberg again, and the lack luster performance all weekend from Ferrari and Fernando Alonso in particular.

Mclaren jump Redbull in the Constructors Championship and both Mclaren drivers are now within touching distance of Webber who managed to bring the car back in 3rd despite the mayhem.

Canada is going to be thrilling, not only because the Mclaren should be good there too with the long back straight, but the lack of high-speed corners should bring the rest of the field back towards the Red Bull’s which is probably the least of your worries if you are a Red Bull fan. Let the inquest begin….

The worrying form of Jenson Button

May 16, 2010 - Monte Carlo, Monaco - epa02159167 British Formula One driver Jenson Button of McLaren Mercedes chat with team members in the paddock prior the Monaco Grand Prix at Monte Carlo circuit in Monaco, 16 May 2010.

This is a worrying time for all the F1 drivers, all except the two Red Bull drivers.

For it seems that unless you are in a Adrian Newey designed car your chances of winning a race at the moment are slim. That is why those that have serious plans to be in this championship are having to maximise every opportunity that presents itself to score well to keep in touching distance of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettle.

In recent races we have seen strong performances from Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton. Both who been able to show that during the race they potentially can keep the blue cars in sight at least. But there is one driver that despite two wins in the championship so far, is starting to worry me about his ability to demonstrate true race pace in “normal” dry conditions. This driver is Jenson Button.

Button who superbly won in Australia and in China when the weather flummoxed 90% of the drivers, was able to demonstrate excellent intuition and decision making when there was no definitive tyre choice to be on. I still stand by the praise and credit Jenson received after these two wins, but lets be fair, we are going to see less races in conditions like in Melbourne and Shanghai throughout the rest of the 2010 season.

If we look at Jenson’s performance in dry races then it indicates a worrying statistic. In dry races Jenson just isn’t fast enough to take the battle to the front, and this will mean he will be out of the championship battle before too long if he is not too careful.

In dry races this season Jenson has finished 7th in Bahrain, 8th in Malaysia and 5th in Spain. This gives Jenson an average dry race finishing position of about 6th place. Jenson retired from this weekends Monaco Grand Prix through no fault of his own, however, a poor qualifying put him down in around 8th, and with no significant retirements, it would be fair to expect Jenson to have finish 6th or 7th.

This means that Jenson is potentially losing 17 points to the championship runners at this stage in the season. As we are entering summer, we are approaching a critical time for the 2009 World Champion, despite him being some 11 points ahead of his team mate Lewis Hamilton and only 8 points off the lead of the championship.

Whereas Button has struggled in dry races in his Mclaren, his team mate has put in solid performances, non more so than in the Spanish Grand Prix, where he was able to force his Mclaren to split the two Red Bulls until a wheel rim failure took 18 vital points from him and it’s this form of his team mate will also add pressure on Jenson, who has yet to look stellar in normal conditions. While Lewis isn’t having a perfect season himself, he is driving really well, despite what Bernie Ecclestone says.

I might sound mad by addressing concern to Jenson’s form and perhaps as the season moves towards a string of races based in Europe where, as we all know the weather could help Button out, it remains to be seen if Jenson can demonstrate true pace in his Mclaren without having the rain gods smile down on him. It seems that this “Hope” for rain is his only chance at the moment, and as I have always been told – Hope is not a strategy!

Time for Lewis Hamilton to take responsibility for his own actions on and off the track

Apr. 04, 2010 - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - F1 GP of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur 02.- 04. April 2010..Lewis Hamilton (GBR), McLaren F1 Team.

Australian 2010 was tough on Lewis Hamilton, very much like it was hard on him in 2009.  In both cases off track shenanigans effected the 2008 World Champion in a negative way that put the Briton in the world spotlight for the all the wrong reasons.  Despite both these transgressions in 2009 and 2010, Hamilton’s speed and ability in an F1 car was enhanced by great drives on race day.

On the Friday evening after practice for this years Australian Grand Prix, Hamilton was caught by Melbourne Police being reckless at the wheel of his hire car, with reports suggesting Hamilton was wheel spinning at a busy intersection and had his car impounded as a result. The bottom line here is that even considering his age, it was stupid and dangerous behaviour and whatever the law is in Australia, Hamilton deserves whatever comes his way in terms of punishment from them.  He was and will be vilified by the worlds press and has yet again brought negative pressure upon his team. But before we get too carried away, a sense of perspective is needed here.  A flick across the news channels on Friday and you would think that Lewis Hamilton had carried out similar acts as Tiger Woods considering the reaction and coverage this got.  In fact it is not even in the same universe as Tiger Wood infidelity issues.  It was such a minor transgression that, it boarded on the embarrassing and trivial.

Let’s pick another point of reference.  Ross Brawn, the then team leader of the 2009 World Champions Brawn GP was caught speeding at 100 MPH on roads in the UK.  Did he receive such widespread condemnation? Was it global news? Did people think that Ross’s performance was lowered due to his knuckles being wrapped – No. So why do we think it would to Hamilton?

One reason why I feel Lewis is negativity perceived in the press is because the Mclaren team have orchestrated the image of Lewis being innocent all the time.  In effect, those managing Lewis in Mclaren and his personal image are always keep to portray the bullet proof reputation and squeaky clean “Hamilton Brand” What this means is that there is always someone publically to take the heat or be the fall guy of situations Lewis finds himself in.

Recently Lewis had separated from his father Anthony Hamilton as his Manager, and was currently without a full time advisor going in the 2010 season and in Melbourne on Friday, Lewis fell foul of this and had his fingers burnt. Many people were quick  to reference the fact his Dad was missing to manage everything for Lewis as the reason he was caught out.  But Lewis is 25 now and it is time he was left to make up his own mind and build his own boundaries of what is right or wrong, he perhaps needs to learn that there isn’t always going to be someone else there to help him make up his mind. This principle also extends to the race track.  

In Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix, Lewis drove a stunningly aggressive race, to storm up from 11th on the grid to be battling with the front runners and to be contending the win.  His driving skill was supreme, his braverly was daring and must have had fans across the world in awe of his ability in those difficult wet-dry conditions. However a day after the race, we are not talking about a Hamilton win. We know Jenson Button won, in fact the press are talking about how Mclaren lost Hamilton the race through poor management of the situation.

The majority of Hamilton’s frustration towards his team comes not just because he drove a brilliant race, “The best race of my life” was how he so calmly put it, but because he was out thought by his team mate Jenson Button.  But he wasn’t really out thought by Button, because we know Hamilton is reliant upon the Mclaren team to make all his in race decisions for him. What Hamilton is really angry is about is that he didn’t seem to know that drivers can think for themselves in the race. His beliefs are that the race team tell him what to do all the time.  I certainly don’t know if Lewis questioned the logic to pit a second time, but he seemed to follow the orders instinctively.  Ok, alright, it shows he has up most faith in his teams ability to call race strategy, but previously this was a 2 dimensional landscape. It concerned Hamilton and the rest of his rivals, none of which were his team mates.  

This time he has a team mate that is a thinking man’s driver, and one that has the ability to act on the spot on information based on his own experience and feelings to make race strategy calls.  All this outside of the eyes of the Mclaren pit wall and the egg heads at “race control” in Woking.  Meaning, if Hamilton goes with the team, there is a good chance that his team mate might get the better of Hamilton and the Mclaren strategist. To Hamilton, his first thought on Sunday would have been that his team purposely did him out of a win. I am sure he would have questioned if he was started to be treated like he was in the first couple of races of his career at Mclaren when Alonso had a grip on the team.  Remember Monaco 2007.  However it was Button alone that out thought them all. Credit where credit is due,  Button drove superbly and his decision won him that race, and Hamilton needs to now grow and step out of the teams shadow and start to drive using his own mind.  Because without it, Hamilton will find these situations crop up again, and it will be a shame for him to lose race wins and possibly championships if he doesn’t develop this ability to question or call his own decisions. This is why I think both of these on and off track events are linked.  

Jenson seems to be mature enough to think for himself, on the track and away from the track.  Gone are Jenson’s play-boy days, and he had to work hard at changing this perception,but I think Button deserves credit for the way he is now off the track to go hand in hand with the plaudits he receives for his on track driving.  Can Button manage himself better than Hamilton can? On impression from Australian, I feel that Jenson holds the better hand here, and perhaps he should, being older and more mature that Hamilton. I have no doubts that Hamilton can get to where he needs to be – In total control of his own actions, on and off the track. Just how quickly he can step up to this only time can tell, but the structure around him needs to change and that means giving the lad freedom to decide his own destiny.

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

Australian Grand Prix Preview

The F1 circus makes its way from the low key desert of Bahrain to the hustle and bustle of the F1 crazy city of Melbourne, Australia.  For some this is the natural starting place for the F1 calender and we will see if many of the questions that were raised after the first round of the season can be answered.

The Circuit

The race is held on public roads that form the perimeter access roads to one of the city’s most enjoyed points of interest: Albert Park.   Set around the lake, the tree lined 5.3km track is a curious track that offers just a few natural places to pass, but often produces interesting and surprising races.  Most of the tracks pits complex are temporary and what is permanent is a sports hall  used as a basket ball / indoor football facility.

The track winds its way past parking lots, a cricket and soccer ground, a sailing club house and also runs parrallel to the cities busiest roads that link the bustle of the city centre to the relaxing and vibrant St. Kilda area.

Questions from Bahrain

The most obvious and most over debated subject from Bahrain is the question over F1’s excitement factor.

  • Can F1 cars pass each other?
  • Do the new tyre rules create a stalemate over strategy?

Unfortunately with Albert park not being a “typical” F1 track, it is had to say if we will be able to come to any better conclusions this weekend.

Questions marks over drivers

Michael Schumacher will be going in to this weekends race feeling a bit of pressure.  He was beaten handsomely by his younger team mate Nico Rosberg in Bahrain, and Michael will need to put him in his place if he is to avoid being asked questions all the time about if he has lost it and if he was right to return to the sport.  Of course, this is doing Rosberg no harm at all and his stock will continue to rise while he is seen to out perform the 7 times world champion.

Jenson Button, like Schumacher will want to correct the balance of power between him and his team mate.  7th place compared to Hamilton’s 3rd, highlights the 2009 Champion has some catching up to do.  Jenson will be hoping the team can find him some more downforce at the front of the car, and he will also be pushing for more flexibility on the tyre strategy after having the rug pulled from beneath him last time out in Bahrain.

Mark Webber is on home ground this weekend and while this usually brings added pressure, the Aussie will be looking for a more consistent qualifying and practice to give him a better chance of fighting at the front on Sunday.

The teams under pressure

Mclaren carries a fairly large question mark at this time over the cars ability to generate enough down force as compared to their rivals.  Both drivers struggled in the race last time out, but the team have said that they lost their way slightly in Bahrain buy not putting enough wing on both drivers cars. With their car enjoying the highest top speed down the straights, the team will be hoping that a simple set up fix will bring them closer to Redbull and Ferrari.

Will Ferrari’s engines that seemed to get a little hot under the collar in Bahrain manage to see out another race.  While the temperature levels will be nowhere near as high as Bahrain, Ferrari might have to limit revs during practice and the race to see them through to the end.

Vettle will be hoping that Redbull have confidently fixed the engine problem that the car suffered in Bahrain in the closing laps that robbed the German of 25 points.  They won’t have to use the same engine here but it will put a lot of pressure on the team should reliability strike them down again.

A word for the new guys, Virgin will be looking to get to the bottom of their dreaded hydraulic problems that dogged both drivers in Bahrain, and HRT will be looking to get Karun Chandhok out for first practice on Friday morning.

Ones to look out for

My tips this weekend are for Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton.  Webber now with the confidence of winning races in 2009 he should have the best ever chance for a home win on Sunday.  Lewis Hamilton goes really well on this track. Even last year when he was driving a pig of a car was he able to get the car up in to the top points positions (less said about the lie-gate post race the better) I just feel even without a truly competitive car the Briton can deliver a result here.