Vettel wins as unknowns become clearer

The Australian Grand Prix is back as the first race of the season – which somehow feels right. It is nice to get up early to watch the start of the season, even if it does mean that, for some reason i am struggling today!

It was also a more exciting race than Bahrain last year. Yes, one car led from lights to flag, and dominated proceedings, but there was an air of the unknown.

At the start, Hamilton got away poorly from second, losing out to Webber before regaining the position at turn one. A fast starting Petrov (more on him later) baulked Button, which in turn caused Alonso to run wide, and drop from 5th to 10th. Massa meanwhile, took advantage to climb from 8th to 4th. This was a key point for a couple of reasons.

The ‘air of the unknown’ I mentioned came about in a few ways. Firstly, we were never sure about those tyres. It was not just how well they would last, but how well they could last on each car. In FP1 we had seen that Red Bull seemed heavy on its Pirelli rubber, so would Vettel and Webber be required to make extra stops?

Another unknown was the McLaren. Written off after winter testing, no one knew what to expect. It flew. Yet it had never covered a full race distance in one long run before this weekend. However, Hamilton was able to peg Vettel, until his floor dropped, and Button was visibly faster than the Ferraris. The team could have had a double podium…

That brings me to point three – DRS. We didn’t know what the system would do, how easy it would make it to overtake. But we got a first hand demonstration in the Massa / Button battle. As I have said before, DRS will aid overtaking, not cause it. All the driver in front has to do is choose a defensive line into a corner, and the pass will not happen. That is exactly what occurred, with Button using the DRS, and Massa defending.

Button’s drive through was fair and just, but was a shame. McLaren asked Race Control what they should do, but I do believe they should have known. Martin Whitmarsh states that they didn’t see the move, but I swear they have screens on the pit wall. What did surprise me though, was Alonso passing Massa directly afterward. Were Ferrari playing a team game there? They believed button would have to let Massa through, which meant Alonso would also have to be let past. Alonso was about to pit anyway, so he didn’t really gain a huge advantage by passing his team-mate. Clever move.

In the end, it was Vettel, from Hamilton, with a very impressive Petrov taking the final podium step. Well done to him. After last season, being openly questioned as to whether he was any good, he raced comfortably, and never looked like losing third to Alonso, who must be sick of the sight of the Renault rear wing. Petrov outpaced his team-mate all weekend, and while Heidfeld claims damage caused him to finish 14th, one only needs to look at qualifying.

Special mention to a couple of rookies. Sergio Perez drove a one stop race, something even Pirelli couldn’t believe, to finish an impressive seventh. However, Sauber were later disqualified from the results, due to a technical infringement with their rear wing. They are set to appeal. This lifted British rookie Paul Di Resta into the points in 10th. He drove a solid race in a Force India which really should be doing better.

Mercedes and Williams both recorded DNFs, Mercedes cars were both involved in accidents. One note, the track was much less cluttered without the HRTs racing. We wait to see if they can make the 107% cut in Malaysia.

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