The Michael Report- 2013 FORMULA ONE ROLEX AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX
In this sport a year makes quite a lot of difference. In Melbourne last year, everyone was singing McLaren’s praises as Jenson Button pulled off a stunning victory to kick start 2012, and Ferrari looked glum after a slow, poor season opening race. You may also remember Grosjean in his stunning qualifying performance, and being denied points by his crash.
The 2013 Australian Grand Prix witnessed a role reversal to a considerable extent from last year, as today we witnessed a resurgence of the Ferrari drivers, a stronger opening race from Vettel, and a superb victory by Lotus’ Kimi Räikkönen, coupled with dire straits for the team from Woking.
Red Bull did excellently in their first 2013 qualifying session to produce the hallowed front row lock out that we have become accustomed to seeing in recent grands prix, but unfortunately for Mark Webber, the curse of the home race loomed as he staggered forward as the lights went out and fell back off the front row, being overtaken by at least five or six cars, including Lewis Hamilton from Mercedes, who we honestly didn’t think could pull off a third place in qualifying following his defection from McLaren.
Felipe Massa was stunningly quick off the grid and regained places very efficiently indeed, and just- along with team mate Alonso- showed the superb pace and durability of the new Ferrari car for 2013. It was, however, a disappointing start for Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg, for he was forced to withdraw from the race following a fuel system fault that ruled his car out of the race. Joining him on the side lines today included Nico Rosberg from Mercedes, who retired due to a gearbox problem, Daniel Ricciardo from Toro Rosso with a broken exhaust and Pastor Maldonado from Williams who went out of the race with a spin, beaching his car in the process.
Tyre strategy seemed to be the main determining factor as to who took the first chequered flag of the year, and with a faster two stop strategy, that privilege fell to Kimi Räikkönen, with a stirling effort that saw impressive overtaking, careful tyre management and impressive driving to fend off the challenges of Vettel and Alonso, to score the first twenty five points of the season. Alonso and Vettel joined the Ice Man on the podium down under, with their superb performance hampered by the changing weather conditions, forcing them to pit three times, a move that may have cost them a win. Nevertheless, it was a good, solid first result for Ferrari and for Red Bull, winning eighteen and fifteen points respectively.
Alas, tyre degradation meant that Force India’s Adrian Sutil- who’s astonishing return saw him lead the grand prix twice today- had to settle for seventh place and six points, but they will be obviously pleased that they have a competitive pair of drivers and cars that could throw a spanner in the works for the higher teams. Might we see a Force India podium? It remains a good possibility after a promising start. Paul Di Resta finished behind his team-mate with four points in eighth. Lewis Hamilton was also one of the seven leaders of the Australian race, but he dropped back slightly to finish fifth, earning ten points in his Mercedes debut. Ahead of Hamilton was the Ferrari of Felipe Massa, who finished fourth with twelve points to add to Ferrari’s tally. Mark Webber finished sixth and earned eight points.
Last year’s victor Jenson Button had to fight to retain two points in ninth place, which was a rather underwhelming performance by McLaren, whose other driver Sergio Perez finished six tenths of a second outside of the points. Keeping his car in one piece, Romain Grosjean brought home another point for Lotus in tenth place. Nonetheless, Martin Whitmarsh will be scratching his head as to why McLaren under performed today, and they will have to find form fairly soon, if he wants to see his drivers atop the Formula One podium this year, for it seems to be dominated by Lotus, Red Bull and Ferrari at present. But, there are stll eighteen races to go, and anything could still happen.
A final congratulations should go to the superb Jules Bianchi, who managed to finish in fifteenth place for his first F1 race, in the Marussia. To be challenging some of the mid- field drivers like Williams’ Valtteri Bottas shows that the back markers could still claw a few points from some of the other teams at some point this year.
OFFICIAL STANDINGS UPDATE
Kimi Räikkönen claimed his victory was an easy one, but it sees him as the early leader in the Driver’s Championships, with 25 points. Two World Champions follow close behind with Fernando Alonso in second place with 18 points and Sebastian Vettel third with 15 points. Felipe Massa’s first race this year has seen him jump straight to fourth place with 12 points- he was never fourth in 2012- and Lewis Hamilton is fifth with 10 points. Mark Webber’s home race may have been disappointing, but he is sixth with 8 points, and the two Force India drivers Sutil and Di Resta (6 and 4 points respectively) eclipse Jenson Button, who is in ninth with 2 points, and Romain Grosjean is tenth with a point to his name.
Concerning Constructors, Ferrari’s impressive results mean they are the early leaders with 30 points, 4 adrift of Lotus who have 26 points. Red Bull are currently third with 23 points, followed by Mercedes in fourth place with 10 points. The Force India team are currently in fifth place with 10 points as well, but since race position determines ranking if the scores are level, this is why they are behind Mercedes. McLaren are in a lowly sixth place with 2 points. Toro Rosso lead Sauber and Williams in the teams with no points, and Marussia are currently ahead of Caterham, who are in last place.
I will be back next week as Formula One returns to Malaysia for the second race of 2013, and hopefully we won’t have a postponed qualifying session due to rain, but, it should be said that Malaysia is one of the notorious circuits renowned for its hot, humid, but often wet conditions.