What did we learn from the Australian GP?

Friday, 23 March 2012 From Issue Vol. XX No. 12 By  Dr. Iain Corness

Well, we saw right from the start of Qualifying, that the old order had changed.  Red Bull was no longer dominant, Mercedes was no longer just a middle of the field runner, “Lotus” (nee Renault) had a quick car in the hands of Romain Grojean, Ferrari were nowhere, even with Alonso and Massa?  Forget him!

Qualifying belonged to McLaren, with Hamilton on pole and Button alongside, then the first sensation, with Grosjean in the “Lotus” in third and then Schumacher in fourth.  It all promised an exciting GP on the Sunday.

Right from the start, it was Button in the McLaren with a class act all the way.  Outdragging team mate and pole-sitter Hamilton, Button was never headed, seemingly winning as he pleased, even with the artificial bunching up caused by a safety car period.

The safety car allowed Vettel (Red Bull) to leap-frog Hamilton, knocking him back to third, a position he did not like, visibly tripping over his bottom lip on the podium.

Fourth was all Webber (Red Bull) deserved, after another of the miserable starts for which he is now famous.  Is there nobody in the Red Bull organization that could take him out one weekday and teach him how to start?  Hero after Qualifying and zero after the red lights went out.

Another in the lower lip club was Alonso, battling with a Ferrari which has been defective since the first practice session and was no better under race conditions.  As mentioned above, Massa put in another very poor showing, and quite frankly, Ferrari should drop the Brazilian now and put a young driver in from the GP2 ranks.  There is no room for sentiment in F1.  Ask Bernie.

Mercedes began the race well, but Schumacher was forced to retire on lap 11 from third place with a gearbox problem, whilst Rosberg just never seemed to be on the pace all day, finally ending up 12th after a puncture on the final lap.  Once again, Mercedes showed great potential, but did not deliver.

The Sauber drivers had a great day with Kobayashi in sixth and Perez in eighth, and always in the middle of some sort of action.  Killer Kobayashi (the paddock pit bull) being well known to attack anything.  Perez came from last to eighth, a drive that many commentators missed.

Another driver who looked as if he was going to rewrite the record books was Grosjean in the “Lotus” who unfortunately only managed two laps before ending up with bent suspension and out of the race, whilst his team mate Kimi Raikkonen did well to come from the back of the grid up to seventh.  When interviewed after the race he reputedly said, “It was OK.  I didn’t spill my vodka.”

After Williams’ dreadful 2011 season, 2012 looks a lot better, with Maldonado harrying Alonso’s Ferrari for much of the race, only to overcook it on the last lap and collect a wall, but was still classified as finishing 13th.  Unlucky 13th.

The also-rans did provide good racing, but are really off the pace, especially Marussia, Caterham and HRT (which was so slow they were not allowed to start).

The safety car protocol deserves a mention of its own.  The FIA has decreed that the ‘lapped’ drivers have to pass all the drivers in front, and then drive all the way round the circuit and rejoin ‘unlapped’ at the tail.  This is a time wasting exercise if ever I saw one.  All that has to be done is to pull the lapped drivers to one side and then let them rejoin at the tail.  A much quicker solution.

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