There’s been a lot of speculation over the winter break. People suggesting that Red Bull’s dominance may be at an end, that McLaren had slipped off the pace, that Ferrari and Alonso were on a level with Vettel. But Sebastien put all of this to rest earlier today with an absolutely stunning drive to victory in Melbourne.
In fact, was anyone else really in the race? The entire weekend was a complete whitewash for Vettel, a real credit to the current champion. Both him and the team have kept the form over the winter and have set off as they wish to continue. In fact rival Fernando Alonso, said Vettel was on another planet today and it was almost impossible to compete with him.
But it wasn’t a perfect race for the team. Australian Mark Webber only managed a fifth around his home track. I’m starting to wonder if Mark Webber’s heart is still in the right place for F1. He had his biggest chance for a title ever last year and since he lost it from so far ahead, I do wonder if he’s a little down hearted. He was certainly off the pace today and lucky not to slip any further down, a shame.
And they didn’t have complete dominance. Lewis Hamilton drove his heavily damaged McLaren to a comfortable2nd position. Not enough to compete with Vettel, but proof that McLaren are on the way up and a lot more competitive than was expected.
I would expect Ferrari to be quite disappointed with the day. Alonso was clearly driving the Ferrari well outside of it’s league, working very hard to get his car up to fourth. And Massa has sadly started the same way as last year… by going backwards. It’s a real shame, but I just feel the Brazillian has already passed his peak in racing.
The problem is, I fear today’s race (and potentially the whole season) has taken it’s eye of the acing and is more interested in rules and regulations.
It started with Button’s move on Massa. Now, there’s no denying that Button broke the rules by taking a shortcut and gaining an advantage. It’s also true that he should have given the position back. But I feel it was wrong for him to take the drive-thru penalty as it effectively ruined a promising race.
The problem it seems was the FIA’s delay in responding to McLaren’s queries on the issue. I therfore think that some new guidance needs to be prepared for the teams on this issue. The teams need to know to let a car back past immediately, if not then they’ll keep getting this OTT penalties which is only going to ruin the spectacle.
Next comes the new technology on the cars. KERS I do believe can be a good system, making the action more frequent and a more strategic plan every lap for the drivers (although it didn’t seem to affect Red Bull who didn’t use the system today).
However, I’m very unsure on the new DRS system. It seems very strange to me that the FIA should control when cars have a chance to overtake. Surely this system should be available throughout the race, once again adding a strategic element to the drivers throughout a lap.
But of course the main problem seems to be that the DRS doesn’t really work. Only a couple of cars overtook using it and few others seemed to get any kind of advantage from it. The FIA are developing this throughout the season, but I’m unsure if it will be here next year.
And as if all this ‘politics’ wasn’t enough, the day has been marred further by the disqualification of the Sauber’s. Both Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez have been taken out of the results due to the size of their rear-wing not adhering to regulations. The Sauber team have said this caused no performance advantage and will be appealing the decision.
But aside from this, there have been some notable drives today. Perez drove fantastically on his rookie race and only pitting once (although of course that MAY have been due to that rear wing). Paul Di Resta also had an impressive fist race for Force India, certainly challenging his team-mate Sutil.
The stand out drive goes to Vitaly Petrov who proved the power of Lotus-Renault for 2011. A very strong third for the Russian and a second race in a row ahead of Fernando Alonso! I expect great things from this man who has already massively overshadowed Nick Heidfeld.
And that was the Australian Grand Prix. I have mixed feelings. It’s been great to see F1 back, but it wasn’t a very entertaining race and the rules are continuing to get in the way of the sport. The action continues in two weeks in Malaysia where we can hope that all the action will happen on the track and within the race!