Because in F1 the first you have to beat is your team-mate…
Red Bull Racing
Season: Sebastian Vettel 1 – Mark Webber 0
The fact that Mark could outqualify Sebastian again seems to add weight to the theory that Webbo does indeed like the RB8 a lot more than the RB7 (He’s said it, but that’s the kind of thing you say pre-season). And he’s lot more confident in it. Apart from when the lights go out. This sets us up for quite a season, because Vettel’s unchallenged dominance last year was exacerbated by Webber’s failure to get to grips with his car and take points off him. Malaysian qualifying should be very interesting.
What Christian Horner said after the race was not sour grapes, it was a fair point – the Albert Park track doesn’t have a lot of fast, aero-sensitive corners, and McLaren are usually good at point-and-squirt street circuits. So we can regard the Aussie GP as the Foreword to the book; Chapter 1 starts next weekend.
Vettel had a great race, crucially getting past Nico Rosberg early on with an overtaking move that was among the best. All four drivers swapped fastest laps in the final 17-lap sprint to the flag, so he’s not going to have it all his own way this season.
Season: Jenson Button 1 – Lewis Hamilton 0
Almost all of last year Jenson spent his grands prix recovering from poor qualifying or a bad start and trying to make up ground. This was an entirely different race pattern for him. This was back to the Brawn team of 2009, qualifying on pole and setting the pace. He seemed to be able to set successive fastest laps at will and only eased off to save tyres and fuel. Apart from the dodgy moment when McLaren left him out on track too long before the first tyre stop it was a commanding display. It’s not surprising that Lewis looked so glum, he was comprehensively outdriven. Reinstated girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger and mum Brenda were sat together in the McLaren garage watching their boy fail to reward his happy bubble… I wonder what Brenda really thinks of Nicole…?
Season: Michael Schumacher 1 – Nico Rosberg 0
A stirring performance from Schumi – qualifying in front of both Red Bulls, both Ferraris and most importantly, the whipper-snapper. What’s more he got his trademark good start and was up to P3 by the first corner. In a repeat of last season, the Merc’s tyres were quick to fade in the race, but not as conclusively as his gearbox, which denied us the thrill of seeing how far he could test out the new 2012 blocking rules with a friend. Nico had an even better start. Why bother with qualifying any higher than P7 when you can just sashay round people at the start?
Season: Fernando Alonso 1 – Felipe Massa 0
A tale of two drivers. One squeezed the most out of his difficult charge, the other made a difficult charge through the field. No sooner had Felipe got past a load of cars than he had to come in for new tyres and overtake them all over again. This could turn out to be Felipe’s Groundhog Day season if they don’t stop his tyres wearing out. Now that Lewis Hamilton is qualifying a long way in front of him he needs to sort himself out a regular Bash Buddy and right now it looks to be Bruno Senna. Athough if Bruno loses interest he can always count on Kobayashi on the way through.
Further forward Fernando Alonso had a great race, aided by Nico Hulkenberg’s race-rusty shove at Mark Webber, that cleared cars out of the way for Fernando to sweep forward. Even so, despite being presented with a gift-wrapped P8 on the opening lap, he looked like he had the pace for P5 or P6 – the only cars that looked quicker than the Ferrari (which weren’t in front of him) were the two Lotus-Renaults.
Season: Kimi Raikkonen 1 – Romain Grosjean 0
Having spent a lot of time developing their dynamic braking system which corrected the ride height of the car – and was banned - Lotus were a bit miffed to arrive in Melbourne and find that Mercedes has a new-fangled gadget attached to their car. That Charlie didn’t have an objection to. You should start going on fishing trips with him, Eric.
As for the drivers – Grosjean produced a brilliant qualifying effort, not too bad a start given that the Mercs are starting maestros, but should have realised he’d been overtaken by Maldonado. Raikkonen put in a good shift at the office. His lap times didn’t drop off nearly as fast as the Mercedes, Ferraris and McLarens and while Lewis was struggling with a 1:36 on Lap 16, Raikkonen was still in the 1:34s. Eric might not be too happy right now but the propsects are bright.
Season: Paul DiResta 1 – Nico Hulkenberg 0
We know that Nico Hulkenberg’s good at qualifying after scoring a pole position at Interlagos, it’s the other stuff he has to improve. His opening lap thump into Mark Webber looked like all his own fault. DiResta took the patient approach, including one of the wiliest use of KERS to gain a point you could ever wish to see, as he hit the button to overtake Jean-Eric Vergne on the line.
Season: Kamui Kobayashi 1 – Sergio Perez 0
Two good performances from the Sauber drivers, though Sergio Perez’s position flattered to deceive. His strategy only really worked because he was able to cool the soft tyres he was flogging to death when the Safety Car came out. Kimi Raikkonen got as high as P2 on the road but he knew he’d have to come in for tyres and lose it all and to a degree that was Perez. However there’s no doubting he’s particularly good at managing tyre wear. With Kobayashi it’s an entirely different approach. If you wanted to go onboard with one driver through the race then many would chose KK.
Season: Maldonado 1 – Senna 0
A fantastic start to the season from Maldonado (even though it was heartbreaking) – for whom Monaco can’t come fast enough. Bruno Senna will be keen to see a lot less qualifying places between them than for the Aussie GP. Maldonado had a superb race, harrying Alonso all the way and though he probably wasn’t close enough to make a final lap lunge at the Ferrari, you don’t doubt that if there had been a Kamui-sized gap, he would have gone for it. Maldonado vs Kobayashi is a battle to look forward to in 2012.
Bruno was in the wrong place at the wrong time on the opening lap and got bumped for his troubles – and then bumped again by Massa. He should be a lot closer to his team-mate in Malaysia.
Season: Daniel Ricciardo 1 – Jean-Eric Vergne 0
The intra-team battle at Torro Rosso looks like it’s going to be a tight one, but will Dieter Mateschitz’s preference be based on race results or their ability to get out of the way of the Red Bulls? Last year the team were too far back to come into play with the senior team, but if Mark Webber is going to keep having bad starts then he’s going to drop behind them a lot. In the past there’s always been a jokey thread that the Sauber-Ferraris get out of the way out of the Ferraris quicker than anybody else – based on the slimmest of evidence. This year with such a direct link between Red Bull and Torro Rosso, i.e. one of them could well end up with Mark Webber’s drive in 2013, that Charlie Whiting has got to keep a very keen eye on the situation. Ricciardo edged out JEV in qualifying and charged back up the field after getting a bent nose. Vergne had a gravelly expedition that didn’t help his chances and got mugged for 9th place within sight of the line. Zut!
Season: Vitaly Petrov 1 – Heikki Kovalainen 0
Petrov may not have made it past Kovalainen in qualifying, but he got past him in the race. None too shabby a start.
Season: Timo Glock 1 – Charles Pic 0
Situation normal at Marussia. The names may change, but the result stays the same.
The new pairing of David Coulthard and Ben Edwards as the BBC commentary team was an immediate success with Edwards injecting a sense of drama into the proceedings. That’s what the BBC lacked last year with two pundits in the commentary box and no commentator. Interestingly Martin Brundle admitted as such when he was doing press interviews for the new all-singing, all-dancing Sky coverage. However DC and Ben still can’t beat the dream team pairing of Brundle and Crofty.
After the race, there was the most brilliant study on Jake Humphrey’s face when someone tried to take a photo of Jenson Button as he was being interviewed by DC and Eddie and started to get in the way of the camera. If you could read faces out loud it said: “If you don’t sod off in 5 seconds I’m going to punch you.”