2013 Australian Grand Prix
Formula One is back at last with the season opener down under in Albert Park, Melbourne. It has not been looking like a class season, with the teams treading water ahead of major rule changes and the reintroduction of turbos in 2014. Hamilton is over at Mercedes with a creditable 3rd place on the grid for his debut; Schumie is out, Massa appears back on form in a strong Ferrari and alongside Alonso, whilst Red Bull dominate the grid. With the breaking of the Aussie drought at the start, the drivers might have been getting wet.
A bloody awful start from Webber left the running to Vettel, the Ferraris and Hamilton, with the Brit soon relegated by a charging Raikonnen – laughin’ boy Kimi looking very strong in the Lotus-Renault despite being behind the majors on the grid. No sign at all of the McLarens which presages an annus horribilis for the Woking marque, given the limited development likely in this season, with such a major shift required for 2014. Back to the race and the Lotuses kept pace easily with the prancing horses through a pit change which gave the race back to Hamilton’s Mercedes, looking like the Mercs could run a 2 stopper to the 3 required by the big boys. By lap 14, it was not looking like the Red Bulls were going to stomp the competition into the dust as was expected. Slugger Sutil kept his Force India at the front to lap 22 and bunched the pack nicely for Ferrari and the Mercs, with Red Bull missing out slightly on strategy at the mid point. Tyres looked to be the key factor in the race at this point.
Nico Rosberg went out on 27 with a repeat of the Merc’s practice gearbox gremlins, and Lewis could not hold off Vettel or Massa in lap 40 as his tyres went off and the drizzle started which all but put paid to any podium for the Brit. Brave strategy, looked like it could pay off but Lotus and the Ferraris took over as the class of the field by lap 41. This left Lewis scrapping with Adrian, the Force India holding steady and showing good straight-line speed, to slip back and swap places with the harder tyre able to reel in Sutil by lap 51, leaving him to be snaffled up by Webber. All of which led to a worthy win for Raikonnen and the Lotus, followed by Alonso and Vettel, with Massa and Hamilton to catch up with the podium.
Not a hugely gripping race and it suggests a limited variation in results for the season. A good sign in the Lotus win but any strategy mistakes amongst the big boys will be quickly resolved in time for the race in Malaysia, next weekend. Not seeing a great deal of on-track racing – positions swapped largely through pits and tyres, as opposed to outright power or skill. There is enough unknown to make a few spread bets more interesting but purists may have to wait a year for pulses to rise.
Worth a mention is the poor antipodean coverage by Sky, who have rather miserably avoided serving those of us down under with the quality of coverage – including build-up and expert comment – that the Europeans are being treated to. Pity, although David Coulthard’s commentary snaffled from the Beeb is always welcome.