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#840 2011 Australian Grand Prix

2023-01-25 23:00

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#2011, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Giulia Montemurro,

#840 2011 Australian Grand Prix

The countdown is now running out and Felipe Massa looks forward to the Australian Grand Prix, Sunday's opening round of the 2011 Formula 1 World Champ

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The countdown is now running out and Felipe Massa looks forward to the Australian Grand Prix, Sunday's opening round of the 2011 Formula 1 World Championship, with considerable confidence. The Brazilian highlights the reliability shown so far by Ferrari during the winter tests. And, while expressing a bit of disappointment at not going to race in Bahrain, a track traditionally favorable to him and the Maranello car, he underlines that you have to go to Melbourne with the aim of winning.

 

"I'm ready to race and I think the team is perfectly prepared. After all the kilometers we've covered during the winter tests, even more than we had planned. The car seems reliable but that's not enough: it needs to be also fast. From what we've seen so far, we can't complain about the performance, but we'll only have a clearer idea when we're all together in Melbourne".

 

So the South American driver dwells on the many new features of the season that is about to begin and that will take some getting used to, even if KERS is something you know well having already used it in 2009.

 

"As regards the mobile rear wing as well, we know how to use it well, given that we've done hundreds of laps: you press a button, the wing moves and the resistance is reduced - explains the Maranello team driver - for a speed between 12 and 15 km/h.In free practice and in qualifying you can use the wing where and as much as you want, even on the shortest straights and we focused a lot on this during testing, so much so that it has become a reflex automatic when driving.We therefore know how to use it to improve performance and lap times, but as far as use in the race is concerned, where it is only an aid for overtaking, we do not yet know what the situation will be. There will be help looking for overtaking but we have to wait and see what the situation will be".

 

One of the big news in the circus is certainly the arrival of Pirelli as the sole tire supplier.

 

"The biggest change of all, which will affect the entire race weekend. Understanding its behaviour was one of the most interesting aspects of the winter tests and, as far as I'm concerned, it's true that I have no difficulty getting the tires up to temperature , one of my biggest problems last year. With the significant degradation we have seen so far, racing will be very different: there will be many pit stops whereas last year almost all racing required just one stop".

 

The Brazilian also ventures a prediction on the tire issue.

 

"It will be interesting to see how the tires perform when we race in warmer temperatures: I don't think it will happen in Melbourne, where it shouldn't be so hot over the weekend. Also, the difference between the soft and hard tires is much larger, which could also change the approach to qualifying, thinking about the type of tires to start the race with. Surely the drivers will have a greater influence on the choice of when to make the pit stop. Obviously there will be different strategies defined before the start, but I expect the situation to change much faster during the races: when a driver feels that degradation is starting to be felt then maybe he will choose to stop early to overtake a car in front, or in the event of a Safety car. very different and, perhaps, more spectacular".

 

Once the tire topic is over, the Brazilian concentrates on the first Grand Prix of the 2011 World Championship.

 

"I'm happy to start the season in Australia, even if I was a bit disappointed not to have gone racing in Bahrain, at least from a competitive point of view. I really liked that track, I seem to adapt very well to it and it's the same also for the team, which has won in Sakhir many times.But when you build a Formula 1 car you make sure that it is good on all the tracks so, wherever the championship starts, you have to go there with the goal to win".

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And that's exactly what Ferrari is aiming for in the first weekend of the racing season.

 

"For my part, I'll be ready to do my best in Melbourne, even if the Albert Park circuit has never been very favorable or favorable to me, given that I had a few crashes there. Last year it went better and I managed to do my best result, climbing on the third step of the podium. I hope we can make a great start in Australia: I'm optimistic about our chances, based mainly on the reliability shown so far. I can't wait to compete with the others teams, to understand where we are compared to them".

 

Thus begins the letter from Stefano Domenicali, Ferrari team principal, which appeared on the website of the Maranello team:

 

"When starting a new adventure, there is always excitement and enthusiasm in Maranello. Racing is part of our DNA and we are here for it. The atmosphere in the team is good, each of us can't wait to be in Australia to understand where we are compared to our opponents".

 

He doesn't say it, perhaps out of superstition, but the goal is to win the World Championship.

 

"So far we've done a lot of tests in four sessions all held in Spain between February and the beginning of March but only in Australia will we have the opportunity to really assess our level of competitiveness. I'm very cautious by nature: we've done all the work we we had planned but, in light of the fact that we don't know exactly how the others have shot, I can only remain so in judging our performance. The goal? It's so obvious that I don't even need to repeat it. I think that everyone can figure it out for themselves".

 

The main change is linked to the transition from Bridgestone to Pirelli: Domenicali talks about the process that Ferrari is going through to get used to the new tyres.

 

"From what we have seen in testing, they are very different tires to what we were used to. We therefore need to take a totally different approach. It is obvious that it seems that there will be many more pit stops in the race, which has a significant impact on the work of the team: more stops mean that everyone's role increases in importance in determining the final result.A further consequence will be the possibility that the starting grid will end up being less decisive than in 2010: a car that may not have been the fastest in qualifying will still have a chance to win the race. To do that, it will be vital to have the right strategy".

 

As always, the main protagonists will be those who will drive the single-seater.

 

"They are both motivated, even if for different reasons. Alonso has had an extraordinary winter in terms of preparation and testing: he can't wait to race in Melbourne because after the extraordinary comeback in the second part of last season he wants to erase the bitter end in Abu Dhabi. Massa has become even stronger from a mental point of view and intends to show the best of himself in a very important championship".

 

Fernando Alonso is no longer in his suit and helmet on the eve of the Australian Grand Prix.

 

"We're finally here. I couldn't wait to get to the first race: the postponement of the Bahrain Grand Prix made this wait longer than expected".

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The Spanish driver is aware that the postponement of the season, due to the cancellation of the Bahrain Grand Prix, served to give technicians and drivers more time to deepen their relationship with the new cars:

 

"Of course, the technicians had more time to prepare and there was the possibility of working more calmly but for us drivers. I think the same goes for all my colleagues as well - the desire to return to racing was fortissimo".

 

Ferrari arrives at the early season appointment after a winter marked by intense work on the new single-seater:

 

"After Abu Dhabi there wasn't much time to regret how the 2010 championship ended. We immediately had to roll up our sleeves and work on developing the tires and on the new car, without thinking too much about what had happened. We have done a lot of kilometers in the tests and we have shown that we have reached a good level of reliability, which is always important. There is optimism, even if we cannot know where we really are compared to the others. In the last test in Barcelona we brought a nice package of new features and here in Melbourne there is yet another update on the front wing. We will see if it bears the expected results, although I think it will take three or four races to get a precise picture of the situation".

 

The 2011 season will present many novelties that Alonso had to accept calmly during the winter:

 

"There are many innovations this year, from the mobile rear wing to the return of the KERS and, above all, there are new tyres, the Pirellis".

 

Already those new tires that for now have not met with great success among the drivers:

 

"As far as we could see in the tests, the degradation is much higher than the Bridgestones. There will therefore be more pit stops and strategy will be the key point for the final result. Qualifying will be less decisive, given that the many stops will make the course of the race is more uncertain. Surely our guys at the pit stop will have much more work to do".

 

The second enemy of the pilots this year will be the complex racing wheel, more similar to that of an airplane than a car:

 

"There has been a lot of talk in recent weeks about possible difficulties in managing all the controls we have in the car, especially on the steering wheel. Frankly, I don't think there will be any problems, let alone related to safety. After all, we are professional drivers and we need to know each other adapt to different situations".

 

Also new will be the movable rear wing. With a special button on the steering wheel it will be possible to reduce aerodynamic friction so as to be able to have more thrust when overtaking on a straight line. The wing will only be usable in the attack phase, while chasing, and will instead be prohibited in the defensive phase, i.e. when there is a risk of being overtaken.

 

"It seems like a good idea to me but it's obviously too early to tell if it will really make overtaking easier and, therefore, increase the show. We'll start seeing it on Sunday afternoon".

 

The Spanish driver arrived in Australia on Monday 21 March 2011:

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"Here, ten years ago, my adventure in Formula 1 began. Of my twenty-nine years, I spent twenty-six behind a steering wheel and on four wheels, ten in the premier category, the most beautiful. I never thought I'd get there here and I've achieved much more than I ever hoped for as a kid".

 

As soon as he landed in Australia, Fernando Alonso felt at home: his adventure in Formula 1 began in Melbourne ten years ago. And now, as then, he can't wait to get on track in search of points. Not at all depressed by the survey among the team principals of the stables that still give Sebastian Vettel as the favorite for the world title.

 

"It has been an intense winter. in the tests we reached a good level of reliability, we are optimistic".

 

From that debut in 2001, driving a Minardi, to 2011 with the Maranello team, a career of great victories and a wound that remains. Impossible to forget Abu Dhabi, the World Championship fled at the climax, left in November in the hands of Vettel.

 

"That defeat gave us even more motivation and now we are stronger. After Abu Dhabi there wasn't much time to regret how the 2010 championship ended. We immediately had to roll up our sleeves and work on developing the tires and on the new car, without thinking too much about what had happened".

 

Alonso thinks about the future, but also looks back:

 

"Of my 29 years, I spent twenty-six behind the wheel, ten in the premier category, the most beautiful. I never thought I'd get this far and I've achieved so much more than I ever hoped for as a kid. Now I want to try to make the years to come the most beautiful".

 

The occasion is the right one.

 

"A new Formula 1 kicks off in Melbourne".

 

Alonso and Ferrari are ready for the new challenge,

 

"The main thing is to learn this weekend. There will certainly be a new way of racing in terms of strategy. A new Formula One starts here in Melbourne. We will have to stay very focused on strategy, because it will play an important role in the final result. while qualifications will be slightly less relevant than last year".

 

For a Ferrari driver, winning is almost an obligation:

 

"If you race for Ferrari, you always aim to fight for the world championship, because this is the story of Ferrari: everything in this team is about passion, competing and winning again is our goal for 2011. Whether we win or lose it will depend on many factors".

 

At Albert Park Alonso won in 2006, but out of a total of nine appearances in Melbourne, he has always seen the finish line, which is already a respectable result on this difficult track, where there is certainly no shortage of accidents:

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"I love Melbourne and all that surrounds it. Being the first race of the season, I expect it to be very exciting, considering we have seen some strange racing in the past, many with the intervention of the Safety Car. We will do our best, and I hope to score points to be able to start the season in the best way".

 

Felipe Massa also speaks of the season of redemption:

 

"The goal is to compete in a completely different championship from my 2010, in every sense, so as to be able to fight again for the leading positions in every qualifying session and in every Grand Prix. I'm really confident".

 

The Brazilian also says he is ready to fight for the world title:

 

"This weekend we'll really understand where we are compared to the other teams. In fact, there are too many variables in the tests to be able to make a comparison, even if we clearly weren't slow. We'll really understand how good our car is and how good the others are teams".

 

However, Massa has already had good sensations about his driving style, which seems to adapt well to the new Pirelli tyres:

 

"I'm more comfortable making the car work at its best, especially in those qualifying conditions with which I had difficulty last year. This has allowed me to be more confident".

 

Sebastian Vettel, on the other hand, is cautious:

 

"This year the situation is a bit complicated, because you don't really know how competitive you are. However, I'm very happy with what we've done. From the first practice sessions, the car has been reliable, but we still don't know if that's enough".

 

The German driver is curious about the new features of the season, but in the meantime he has clear objectives:

 

"We certainly want to continue as we finished last year".

 

Michael Schumacher is optimistic on the eve of the start. The seven-times World Champion is convinced: Red Bull is once again superior to the other teams this year, but Mercedes has taken a huge step forward and can be considered at the level of Ferrari and the other best teams:

 

"I think our goal this year and our realistic possibility is to fight for the podium. And if things go very well maybe we could even win a race".

 

However, this does not mean that Mercedes can really be able to fight for the title.

 

"I don't think so but if it happens, and an opportunity does arise, then we will try to take it. Mercedes have taken a huge step forward compared to last year, but Red Bull remain the team to beat and we will play an important role just behind , together with Ferrari, Renault and Williams, not forgetting McLaren".

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Accustomed to starting among the favourites, this time they will have to settle for an outsider role. But Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton are not the types to be supporting actors, even if the forecasts are unfavorable to McLaren. Jenson Button says:

 

"Whether it's enough to challenge the top teams we have to wait and see but I like this aggressive approach".

 

Lewis Hamilton also appreciated the efforts of the Woking team to work until the last moment to put a competitive car on track:

 

"We've always had to deal with difficulties but we've always faced them as a challenge in a positive way. What I like to see is that our guys didn't give up and said to themselves: ok, this is all we have and we have to They've done everything they can to improve the car".

 

And who knows, maybe we won't see the first results in Australia already. Adds Lewis Hamilton:

 

"Let's hope we're not too far from the others. I've won at least one race every season, maybe we won't be on the front row this weekend but that doesn't mean that within one, two or three races we won't be able to compete to win".

 

To unleash everything is a sharp joke from Hamilton, the first McLaren driver:

 

"Red Bull sells soft drinks. A miracle has succeeded, I don't think it can happen again".

 

The company of drinks, moreover energy drinks, did not take it well. So when Alonso, in front of the press from all over the world, recounts the last hours before the start of the World Championship, Mark Webber, who is nearby, replies ironically:

 

"They are a phenomenal team, their story is phenomenal, the passion they generate in all the fans, we are small, a soft drink company, but we have the same goal. The car goes, the team is strong, maybe someone will be skeptical, but we really hope to repeat ourselves. And if it's a second miracle, so much the better".

 

Drink dispensers versus dream dispensers. The problem that has triumphed so far has been Red Bull Racing and in the ferocious war of nerves, corollary to that on the track, which this weekend will experience its first chapter in Melbourne, does not seem to feel uncomfortable. Certainly Red Bull Racing will be small in the irony of some opponents, but it hasn't lost any of its valuable pieces, starting with the brilliant designer, Adrian Newey. Twice this winter the Englishman was courted in vain by the Maranello team.

 

"I can't deny the contacts, after all they had also been there in the past. Maybe then the time for my transfer to Italy could have been ripe, now absolutely not. I'm fine where I am".

 

In a team that has always given him carte blanche and allows him to spend most of his days in his beloved England, close to his family. Ferrari no thanks, a bit what Vettel also said, indirectly, starting today for the first time on the track as a World Champion. A future for him in Maranello was speculated and he, in response, extended with Red Bull Racing until 2014.

 

"I have the fastest car, I'm in the best team, they give me a lot of money, why would I change? It's clear that I've thought about it for a long time, these aren't decisions that are made in one day, you sign a two-page contract, but there's an enormous meditation behind it. I reflected and said to myself: we are still the strongest. I won a World Championship, I have to bring home another one".

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It is up to Alonso or perhaps the hyper-motivated Massa to restore hierarchies, to ensure that Ferrari returns to being competitive, with the mobile rear wing that others detest and instead Ferrari considers it a precious weapon, with the Spaniard who gives Massa courage, but who thinks above all of himself. Optimism that also pervades Massa.

 

"2010 was a nightmare, now I'm ready to start from scratch. I was struggling with the Bridgestone tyres, I am happy with the Pirellis. Driving has become a pleasure again, in a World Championship that I consider unpredictable and with so many pretenders to triumph, I too am slipping into it. Just let bad luck leave me alone".

 

Friday, March 25, 2011, Red Bull Racing led the first practice session, with Mark Webber finishing three tenths of a second quicker than reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel and almost a second faster than Fernando Alonso. Vettel experienced a blistered front tire that initially caused concerns over the integrity of the Pirelli tyres, but was later revealed to be a phenomenon experienced by several teams during winter testing. The session was marked by an early accident involving Karun Chandhok. The Indian driver was the first car to take to the circuit and lost control on his installation lap, spinning off and crashing into a wall on the exit of turn three. The team recorded no mechanical failures and attributed the crash to driver error. Several other drivers, including Felipe Massa, Vitaly Petrov and Nico Rosberg all experienced troubles at the third corner, running wide into the gravel trap. The damage to Chandhok's car was minimal, and Jarno Trulli was able to resume his seat in time for the second practice session. Despite claiming during the off-season that they were a second behind their rivals, McLaren followed Red Bull in claiming the two fastest times in the second session, with Jenson Button a tenth of a second faster than Lewis Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel. Intermittent showers late in the afternoon led to race control declaring the circuit to be wet, but no driver used the wet or intermediate tyres, and a dry line was quickly established. The final half hour was run under race conditions as a simulation of the DRS in order to check that the system was properly implemented. As most of the times during the day had been set with the aid of an unrestricted DRS, no driver recorded a fastest time for the session once the simulation had begun. Hispania Racing did not take part in the first practice session, with the team spending most of the day building both of their cars in the pit garage. 

 

Vitantonio Liuzzi was able to leave the garage three minutes before the end of the second practice session and completed an installation lap, but did not set a time. Narain Karthikeyan did not take to the circuit. Both cars were able to take to the circuit for the third practice session, with Karthikeyan setting a fastest lap some fourteen seconds slower than the fastest man of the session, Sebastian Vettel. Liuzzi was unable to set a time after his car abruptly lost all drive on his installation lap and he was towed from the circuit, though the team were able to resolve the problems in time for qualifying. However, as their 2011-specification front wing failed a mandatory crash test, the team was forced to use the 2010 wing, which was not designed in conjunction with their new aerodynamics package, thus leading to a car that was operating at less than peak aerodynamic efficiency. The session was otherwise incident-free, although Williams experienced delays when a gearbox problem kept Rubens Barrichello in his pit garage and Pastor Maldonado spun off the circuit and was unable to rejoin which meant they joined Pérez, Karthikeyan and Liuzzi to complete less than 10 laps in practice 3. After revolutionizing F1 with new regulations, mobile wings, Kers and spaceship steering wheels at the end of the first opportunity, the free practice of the Australian Grand Prix, it turns out that nothing has changed. But absolutely nothing, nothing: the stopwatch ruling is final and proves that - once again - the crazy F1 regulations have not only served to throw away money (a real specialty for these teams) because the cars are going faster and faster and that above all, the forces in the field have not changed. In short, we are faced with a film that has already been seen, both because of fans there is nothing more soporific than a Grand Prix in which two cars from the same team immediately take the lead and compete on their own. In other words, if the leveling of performance much desired by Ecclestone apparently hasn't occurred, and the values in place after this regulation revolution are the usual ones, we must prepare to relive the 2010 season, starting immediately with a race where the overtaking is almost impossible and where almost everything is dictated by the starting grid. 

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Of course, it is known that the Australian Albert Park Circuit is one of the most difficult tracks due to the variable weather conditions, the characteristics of the asphalt, the peculiarities of the semi-city track but with the chronic difficulty of overtaking there is only hope in a miracle to see a good race. In fact, the track is a sort of ring that imposes a high aerodynamic load, necessary to face the succession of many curves and a few long straights, but which then offers deadly curbs, which must be dealt with immediately after the start and at the first braking , where the drivers are forced to anticipate the insertion point and to drive carefully so as not to destabilize the single-seater by hitting them. A difficult track full of uncertainties (one of which is the blind curve at 240/250 km/h, where you have to stay on the rubberized stretch of track to make the most of the grip) but which then offers the usual only point where you can overtake : before the straight, between turns 14 and 16, there is a lot of braking, with a transfer of load to the front, and then a chicane with sharp and opposite corners which leads onto the main section, the only one that allows higher speeds at 300 km/h in seventh gear and, in fact, the only one where you can overtake. Will we see? Mystery. Although it must be said that this year a big hand could come from the tires because here, with the new regulations, three pit stops per team are expected. In fact, Pirelli brought PZero tires to Melbourne in the hard and soft versions, the Prime and the Option respectively. Paul Hembery, Pirelli Motorsport Director explains:

 

"The choice of hard rubber, i.e. the more resistant compound, is made necessary by the characteristics of the track, one of the most demanding due to the stresses received by the tyres. The track combines medium abrasiveness with continuous variations  in altitude, due to the ups and downs, of speed and direction. For the same reasons, the soft compound was chosen which, despite having similar performance to the super-soft one, offers greater guarantees in terms of durability. The combination of the two compounds, marked respectively by the colors silver and yellow, will ensure sufficient number of changes to vary team strategies as much as possible and increase overtaking opportunities".

 

Still, Fernando Alonso promotes Ferrari after the first day of free practice in Australia.

 

"I'm happy with the performance of the car. At the start there was a bit of understeer and it still lacks perfect grip on the front but it went better than I expected. However, these two free practice sessions haven't really clarified the real balance of power in the field".

 

So no verdicts:

 

"This morning Red Bull went well, in the afternoon it was McLaren's turn, us and Mercedes have always remained there and Williams and Renault also seem to be competitive. There are many teams that can have their say in the fight for victory and it is therefore clear that we need to have a good Saturday without mistakes if we want to start from the front rows".

 

Meanwhile, the discovery of Pirelli tires continues.

 

"Today we concentrated above all on analyzing the behavior of the Pirelli tyres, which seem to perform a little differently here compared to what we saw in the tests, also because the asphalt has very different characteristics. As far as strategy is concerned, we will have to be very flexible during the race because we still know too little about the tires to be able to say with certainty which lap it would be better to stop at: from what we saw today, maybe you can do ten laps with a set of tires or thirty".

 

Instead, it was a first day in chiaroscuro for Felipe Massa:

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"I expected to get a faster time, also because with the soft tires the best performance only came on the fourth lap. With the hard tyres, in the longest series of laps, it didn't go very well, a few drops of rain also complicated the situation".

 

The reigning World Champion, Sebastian Vettel, smiles.

 

"We can be satisfied, we are not bad. We completed a lot of laps today, but the weather created some difficulties. It starts to rain, then the track dries up again: all this does not allow for easy testing. Beyond that, I think we have a pretty clear picture. We know where we are compared to our rivals and all in all we can be satisfied. It looks like we're not bad, but we still have to wait and see".

 

Feet on the ground at McLaren despite an excellent Friday. Jenson Button, who set the fastest time on the first day of free practice, explains:

 

"First of all, today we proved to be reliable and this is important. We weren't reliable during the winter. It's a source of great satisfaction to have a single-seater that does as many laps as we want. I don't think there's much to gain if let's look at today's times. I certainly don't get carried away by the situation. Of course, it was a positive day because we lapped a lot with good sensations, regardless of the fuel load".

 

Lewis Hamilton is also satisfied and cautious.

 

"The car seems better than in the winter tests, but I don't want to dwell too much on the performance of the others. In the meantime, we've only thought about our programme. The single-seater is fine, but we have to wait for tomorrow. All in all, I'm optimistic, we hope to go to points this weekend. The level of grip has improved. The tires are performing very well. There doesn't seem to be any deterioration".

 

Of course there is only the unpredictability. With the drivers ready to bet that there will be no more talk of Formula Noia. Too many variables on the table to think of a long linear sprint, Red Bull imposing its law, Ferrari trying to escape, McLaren and Mercedes trying to play the role of third wheel. Too many unknowns, in a puzzling eve, where even qualifying seems to have lost their decisive weight, where expert drivers like Button, first in the second free practice session with his McLaren and triumphant in the last two editions of the Australian race, swear they have discovered the Red Bull Racing bluff, Vettel and Webber who never use the advantages of the mobile rear wing, as opposed to a Ferrari-clad Alonso who admits to having operated the device - that modification which decreases downforce and increases straight-line speed for help overtaking - eight times per lap since in free practice, unlike in the race, there are no constraints: only once per lap, 867 meters of the final straight, and only if the person in front of you is less than a second away. Others, primarily the Ferrari drivers themselves, guarantee that they have often seen the Red Bull drivers press the fateful button on the steering wheel. Where the new Pirelli tires were greeted with terror, the soft ones crumble to the eye, who knows how many pit stops in the race, only to discover after three hours on the track that they are not so crumbly, Michael Schumacher, the Mercedes man, is ready to sanctify them, Lewis Hamilton, applauds them, Felipe Massa, however disappointed by the first taste with the stopwatch, even the wands. Too many cards in the deck, there is also kers and the Melbourne climate, rain that comes and goes, a wet track, dry and then again damp, I even lottery the weather forecasts, to be sure of picking the winning one, and in this hodgepodge the one who likes to make people understand the least is Alonso. You ask him about the possible favorites and he says:

 

"Red Bull very strong, dominated the first session, McLaren too, unbeatable in the second, we're always there (Spaniard third in both rounds), like Mercedes and I wouldn't underestimate Renault and Williams".

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Half the world. You talk to him about tire degradation and he disarms:

 

"They could last ten laps or thirty".

 

However, what an expert, so making mistakes is impossible. But where he warns, an important message to those who run and those who watch, is on the importance of tactics. Who knows if the memory of Abu Dhabi weighs on him, but now failing is equivalent to an irremediable own goal, because when the rubber runs out, there's little you can do, you have to go back to the pits immediately, otherwise everyone will overtake you. Calamity good for show, not ambition. So it's fair to say it immediately a few hours before the start:

 

"The strategy will have to be flexible, it will be above all us drivers who decide it. If we notice that the tire is losing strokes, a shout on the radio and off we go".

 

Lottery formula, with overtaking and twists and starting grids that risk turning into waste paper. It begins without a certain master. But at least the tires are the same for everyone. Saturday, March 26, 2011, the first qualifying period opened with uncertainty over whether as many as four cars would be able to qualify. Hispania's limited running and poor lap times made qualification unlikely, while Virgin Racing admitted that they were concerned they would not be able to race when Timo Glock's best time in the third practice session was just two tenths of a second inside 107% of Sebastian Vettel's best time while Jérôme d'Ambrosio was well outside the benchmark. Both Virgins were able to qualify, taking the final two places on the grid while the Hispanias were both eliminated for being outside 107% of provisional pole-sitter's time. They later requested to be allowed to race, citing exceptional circumstances, but were refused by the stewards. Lotus were also eliminated in Q1, causing surprise within the team, who had expected to be much closer to the midfield. Nick Heidfeld was the other Q1 elimination, first of all experiencing a problem with the Kers device on his R31 and later encountering traffic that compromised his flying lap. Several teams, including Ferrari, were forced to sacrifice a set of soft tires simply to progress to Q2. The second session opened with a mistake from Rubens Barrichello that saw him spin off. He failed to set a time, and so qualified seventeenth on the grid. Sauber's Sergio Pérez also struggled with a hydraulics problem that cost him track time. Michael Schumacher failed to advance to Q3 by one hundredth of a second. Jaime Alguersuari qualified twelfth, followed by rookie drivers Pérez, Paul di Resta and Pastor Maldonado. Adrian Sutil was left sixteenth on the grid when, on a fast flying lap, he activated his Drs and Kers devices simultaneously as he came out of the final corner, pitching him into a spin. Although he was able to avoid contact with the walls, the spin compromised both his flying and final laps. The final session started with Sebastian Vettel setting a time that quickly proved to be unbeatable. Mark Webber held second place for much of the period before Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button were able to split the Red Bull cars. Webber was able to reclaim third from Button, but was mystified as to his lack of peace compared to his team-mate; Vettel was almost a second faster than Hamilton. He was observed to set a similar time later in the session without using his Kers device at all during the lap. Fernando Alonso tailed the McLaren cars in fifth, bemused at his car's lack of pace after early promise in free practice. Vitaly Petrov was sixth for Renault, ahead of Nico Rosberg in the second Mercedes, Felipe Massa, Kamui Kobayashi and Sébastien Buemi.

 

"We couldn't have started better".

 

The World Champion celebrates his pole position, achieved even without using KERS, the kinetic energy recovery system which guarantees an additional boost to the single-seaters for 6-7 seconds per lap.

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"It was a particular winter, the single-seater has changed and many innovations have been introduced. Here we realized the work we have done since the first lap. The results are promising and encouraging, even if it is only the first step. This pole is a good sign, the setup is good. I was fast, but we still have zero points like everyone else. I'm confident, the car has always been reliable and it wasn't slow either. Tomorrow will be a bit of a leap in the dark, because we don't know exactly how the tires will work. But this goes for everyone: it will be a fun race, we'll have to pay attention to many details".

 

Vettel's happiness is contrasted with Alonso's anger.

 

"The starting position isn't bad, the problem is the gap compared to the best. It surprised us negatively".

 

Fernando Alonso can't smile after qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix. The Spanish Ferrari driver closed qualifying with a delay of almost 1.5 seconds compared to the sensational Red Bull Racing of the German Sebastian Vettel, who conquered the pole position with the track record.

 

"The gap compared to the leaders has increased quite a lot compared to yesterday's free practice, we've lost competitiveness. We need to understand how and where it happened. The starting position isn't bad, but the problem is the gap, which surprised us negatively" .

 

Ahead of Ferrari are both Red Bulls and both McLaren-Mercedes, who have risen considerably after the problems manifested in pre-season testing.

 

"The McLarens are always there, like Mercedes. The top teams are fighting for victories and for the championship, this is just the beginning of the season. We know we need to improve competitiveness over the single lap, but we'll be better in the race tomorrow. We can get on the podium. Fifth place was the best we could get today. Red Bull and McLaren proved too strong for us. I repeat, fifth position on the grid is not bad. But I'm not happy with the way it arrived: I'd like to be faster, I didn't feel perfectly at ease in the cockpit today".

 

The first race of the year can offer surprises and therefore Ferrari too can aim for a prestigious result.

 

"Here in Australia there are always exciting races. Last year, Robert Kubica started from sixth position and finished second".

 

It seems difficult to worry about Red Bull Racing, better to focus on McLaren.

 

"In practice they didn't do more than twelve consecutive laps, tomorrow the race is 58 laps".

 

Like Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa is also surprised by the distance between Ferrari and Red Bull in qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix.

 

"It's true, it's a big difference. Here we suffer more, we are less competitive. We went worse because we had less grip. The asphalt at this temperature didn't help us. We hope to be more competitive in qualifying in Malaysia where the track is a bit different. The difference between us and Red Bull is what you have seen".

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Can a Vettel like this already escape in the World Championship?

 

"If his car is like today, it can escape everywhere, of course it can. Anyway, let's see tomorrow, it's a race where many things can happen. Reliability is important, we have to think about scoring points and finishing the race".

 

Mark Webber still can't understand why his time is so far from the one set by teammate Sebastian Vettel: 1'24"395 against 1'23"529.

 

"I'm disappointed with my performance today. Sebastian did a great lap and to be honest I'm a little surprised by the gap that separates us, I did my best. But now I have to go further, understand where I can improve and start from there".

 

The Australian, who wanted to do better in front of his home crowd, admits that the gap to Vettel is frustrating.

 

"But it must be recognized that the guys on the team have done an incredible job. It's not my best day, I would have liked to have done better but if we look at the overall performance of the team and what has been done over the winter it's incredible".

 

Talk about great team performance Christian Horner, the team principal of Red Bull Racing.

 

"First and third in the first grand prix of the season is an excellent start. Sebastian did two impressive laps, Mark was preceded by less than a tenth by Hamilton on the last lap but first and third place on the grid is a good way to start tomorrow. It should be a fascinating race, especially with the new rules and we are happy to have taken the first pole for the Pirellis on their return to Formula 1".

 

While in Ferrari they are forced to admit that:

 

"Some of the new features we've introduced this winter work, others don't. We need to deepen and focus strongly on development if we want to reduce the gap from Red Bull".

 

At the first round of the season, Ferrari is already in a position to take stock and have to focus on a sort of plan B, given that plan A - starting the season with a car worthy of its rivals, especially in qualifying - seems didn't work. All the fault of a Red Bull Racing that showed an almost embarrassing technical superiority on the track, regardless of the pole position conquered and the final positions in this morning's race.

 

"Even if we were to win, the problem would remain in all its dimensions".

 

Which are easy to say: in qualifying, Alonso and Massa took Vettel by 1.5 and 2 seconds respectively. Aldo Costa, head of Ferrari engineers, specifies:

 

"Actually, in my opinion the real gap in qualifying is one second. We made a mistake with the set-up and made some specific choices, the car was nervous and the gap widened instead of narrowing in the end".

 

More efficient weight distribution, lower tire wear, better braking distribution. All with a stroke of genius. 

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Or with a trick, if the idea were to trigger the protest of rivals and if the FIA were to decide that the technical leap is against the spirit of the regulation. What is certain is that Red Bull Racing has a secret Kers, different from all the others. This was understood on Saturday, on the sidelines of Vettel's great feat, who crushed everyone in qualifying, inflicting stellar gaps on his opponents, almost 0.8 seconds to Hamilton's McLaren, barely nine tenths to his teammate Webber, 1.2 seconds to Button, l 'other half McLaren, and 1.5 seconds to the shocked Alonso, beaten with his Ferrari. Vettel destroyed the competition and without using the Kers, apparently an own goal, given that the device with its energy recovery gives important tenths (0.4 seconds per lap is calculated) to the engine. The German candidly admits that due to the team's decision the battle for pole had been tackled without kers. This is because the novelty from Red Bull Racing is a super light mini Kers (the rival's weighs 20 kilos), which will be loaded into the garage and only used at the start. To announce it with a bit of mystery is Christian Horner, the team principal:

 

"It's different from the traditional ones, but it will give us great advantages at the start. As I won't tell you, I don't want to spoil your fun".

 

Joke that however risks spoiling the mood of the adversaries and which, inevitably, also begins to unleash the usual tangle of suspicions and poisons. Whether it is borderline virtuosity or out of legality will be determined by the FIA: some point out that the KERS was born to recover energy otherwise lost in every braking, that at the basis of its reintroduction it also had an ecological meaning, than to think that only for the start (at the start the advantage of a car over another that does not have it on board is estimated at seven meters) does not make sense, a sort of betrayal of its aims, and therefore the Federation would do well to forbid it, forcing Red Bull Racing to immediately return to the standard device (the possibility of inserting that of the others into the car exists and it is said that the team does not do it, to increase speed on the straight, when the enormous margin due to skill will have decreased aerodynamics by the designer Newey). But there are also those who tell of the advantages it can offer right away, with better braking, less accentuated wear of the tires and with that space saved, a Kers mignon format, which without altering the expected weight of the car (640 kilos per regulation) allows you to play with the ballast, to optimize the distribution of the loads and maximize the balance of the car. The prerequisites for yet another case are all there, with Red Bull already in their sights last year for the flexible front wing. But as always happens (have you ever seen, were it really legal) the copying race has also begun, with the rumor of a team that does not currently have KERS and would like to install one like that of Vettel and Webber. He won't be able to clone Newey (the design of the car makes the difference anyway), but a little help to escape from the rear never hurts. Sunday, March 27, 2011, speculation before the Australian Grand Prix suggested that Red Bull were using a start-only Kers device that had been deliberately designed to be used to aid their drivers at the start of the race at the expense of using the device for the duration of the Grand Prix. This was seemingly supported by telemetry that showed Sebastian Vettel did not touch his Kers button during his qualifying laps, but team principal Christian Horner revealed post-race that the team had never fitted either of their cars with Kers during qualifying or the race and kept the decision a secret so as to mislead their opposition. Vettel made the best start from pole whereas the McLarens of Hamilton and Jenson Button started slowly from second and fourth on the dirty side of the grid. This left Vettel unchallenged into the first corner, with Hamilton's Kers button allowing him to just keep second from Webber. Button was unable to defend his position as he was under challenge from Fernando Alonso and Vitaly Petrov. Petrov took fourth and Alonso was pushed on the grass and dropped back, while Button dropped to sixth behind Felipe Massa. In the middle of the pack, there was a collision between Michael Schumacher and Jaime Alguersuari as a result of which both drivers had to pit for repairs; Schumacher for a puncture and Alguersuari for a front wing. The rest of the field passed through the first lap safely, sparing a run across the gravel for Rubens Barrichello in an attempt to avoid the incident, which dropped him to last. Sebastian Vettel was 2.4 seconds ahead of Hamilton at the end of the first lap, and he increased it to 3.2 seconds at the end of lap 2, with Webber right behind Hamilton. Hamilton then began to respond to Vettel's fast laps, easily pulling away from Webber and keeping the gap to Vettel around 3 seconds. Webber and Petrov were comfortable in third and fourth, with the main battle on the track being Jenson Button's repeated attempts to get fifth from Massa.

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Button tried many times to pass Massa, but his attempts by him were to no avail until lap 11 when he went around the outside of the Brazilian at the fast Turn 11 chicane. Button was forced to cut the chicane to complete his overtake and was given a drive-through penalty despite stating in a radio transmission that he felt he had the position when he was forced off the circuit. Massa lost momentum and was passed by the recovering Fernando Alonso in the sister Ferrari, compromising Button's position further, as in order to give the position back to Massa he would have had to let both Ferraris past. At the front, Vettel was only 1.5 seconds ahead of Hamilton when he made his first stop and rejoined fourth behind Button who was yet to serve his drive-through and make his tire stop. Button made an attempt to hold Vettel up in order to aid teammate Hamilton, though Vettel quickly passed him and set the fastest lap of the race on new tyres. Hamilton pitted two laps later, but this proved to be a disadvantage as he rejoined nearly seven seconds behind Vettel. Webber, Petrov, Alonso and Massa followed; the former rejoining on hard tires unlike all the others. Pastor Maldonado was the first retirement of the race, pulling over to the side of the circuit with an undiagnosed technical problem that the team later traced back to a problem with the transmission. He was joined several laps later by Michael Schumacher, who had sustained damage from contact with Alguersuari, and the Mercedes team felt it was better to retire than to continue on and risk further damage to the car. Heikki Kovalainen retired his Lotus T128 on the same lap with a water leak, whilst Timo Glock was initially parked in the garage with a mechanical failure before he was able to return to the circuit. As he completed less than 90% of the race winner's distance, he was not classified in the final standings. Later in the race, Alonso and Webber made their second stops much earlier than the others, and a greater picture began to emerge. The new Pirellis afforded several different pit strategies; where Vettel, Hamilton and Petrov were all running two-stop strategies, Alonso and Webber nominated a third stop each. Further down the field, rookie Sergio Pérez defied all expectations by making a single stop in his Sauber. Jenson Button was also running on a two-stop strategy, and had managed to climb back up through the field to be in the points at the halfway point despite his drive-through penalty.

 

Elsewhere, Nico Rosberg joined team-mate Schumacher in retirement when Barrichello attempted a pass up the inside into turn three that damaged the Mercedes' side pod, and turned Barrichello around. Rosberg's car gave off blue smoke during the half-a-lap after the collision and he was able to park the Mercedes safely by the circuit, removing the need for the safety car to deploy. Rubens Barrichello later retired his Williams with a similar problem to team-mate Maldonado, leaving the team pointless. With the race moving into its final phase, Webber and Alonso both pitted, rejoining the circuit some twenty seconds behind Petrov. Lewis Hamilton had an off-track excursion at the first corner that damaged his undertray. It was enough to stop him from mounting a challenge towards Vettel, but he was able to remain in second place as Webber and Alonso closed on Petrov. Vettel went on to win the race by twenty-two seconds from Hamilton, to become the first driver to win three consecutive Grands Prix since Button won four races in succession in May and June 2009. Alonso rapidly caught Petrov, but Petrov held on long enough to secure third place, the only podium finish of his career. With Alonso fourth, Mark Webber equaled his best result at Albert Park, finishing fifth. Jenson Button finished sixth ahead of the Saubers of Sergio Pérez in seventh and Kamui Kobayashi in eighth, while Felipe Massa crossed the line ninth, almost ninety seconds behind Vettel. Sébastien Buemi claimed the final championship point in tenth, one lap down. Everything as expected, with Sebastian Vettel who immediately takes the lead, makes a vacuum and goes on to win. For the rest, many surprises from the first race of the season, the Australian Grand Prix. The most pleasant is precisely for the Ferrari fans who have discovered that in the end the F1 150° Italia is not going so badly, even if in the end the result was disappointing: Fernando Alonso fourth, Felipe Massa ninth (who became seventh at the end of the race following the disqualification of the two Saubers). The times of the Ferraris were in fact of great importance. Of course, Red Bull Racing and McLaren are much more competitive but - at least - compared to what was shown in practice, they are not on another planet. To begin with it is already something. Second was Lewis Hamilton who incredibly did the last 20 laps with the underbody rubbing on the asphalt, and third (another surprise) the Russian Vitalij Petrov who once again managed to keep Fernando Alonso behind. 

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All in all, a historic race for Petrov who drove very well with the Lotus Renault and managed the tires well: he only made one pit stop. This would be enough to enliven a race but it must be said that there were several duels and several overtakings. Thanks to the new rules? In part: today the mobile wing was of almost no use (we will have to see on other tracks), the contribution of the Pirelli tires was more incisive, with different compounds offering many more possible strategies. But if on the entertainment front the new rules have brought some novelties, instead they have served no purpose in upsetting the balance on the track: the 2011 world championship began exactly as the 2010 one ended. And, if you like, even with the same controversies: it is not clear which Kers the Red Bull Racings mount and what kind of use they make of them given that even in the race every time the Kers had to be used it was never activated by Vettel and Webber. Officially, Red Bull Racing is talking about a technical problem, but obviously nobody believes it. In fact, many think that they use a micro Kers made especially for departures. Zero spontaneity, maximum concentration, sympathy not even talking about it. Just a lot of fake smiles and a lot of speed. Ladies and gentlemen here is the new Sebastian Vettel, the former Formula 1 prodigy boy now definitively transformed into a man and above all into a professional ruler, Michael Schumacher style, to understand each other. The definitive proof of the successful transformation came as soon as the finish line was crossed, when it was a matter of sending the usual message of thanks to the team via radio. Occasion in which, in the past, he enjoyed doing everything: he cried, screamed, laughed hysterically, made noises, sounds. But not now. Now in a slow and marked tone he thanks the whole team, listing one by one all the exceptional features of the car at his disposal. Then, once back in the pits, in the press room, he publicly thanks his men. And he does it like this: 

 

"They have been extraordinary, they have worked all week to prepare this weekend and now as a reward they can go and eat a pizza".

 

Becoming aseptic, if not downright obnoxious, is something that happens frequently to those who win a lot. And Vettel, by now, is a winner in his own right. The World Championship won last year says it all, the naturalness with which he dominated the first race of the new season, without hesitation, without paranoia, and above all the numbers say it. Which in Formula 1 are the most important thing. One above all: that of the pole positions. On Saturday Vettel took the sixteenth of his career, a feat he reached after just 63 races, 29 fewer than his mentor Michael Schumacher, the man who leads the all-time standings with 68 poles. The comparison with the unattainable Senna is also gratifying, who at 16 had arrived there after only 48 races, but at 27, while Vettel still has to complete twenty-four. And so, Sebastian Vettel faces his first press conference of the new course with a markedly different attitude than usual, a little more affected and at the same time a little more snooty. First he forces a Brazilian journalist to call him by name ("I also have a first name, me, you can call me Sebastian"), then, in summarizing the race, he explains that from halfway on he had lost track of what was happening behind. The thing that he does worst of all, however, is the forced joke (and in this too he recalls Schumacher). Example the one on the kangaroo:

 

"There is not even one engraved on the trophy. But I'm not disappointed. I'll pretend there is".

 

He says laughing, making the hall freeze. Frost reinforced by subsequent evasive answers to technical questions. During the interview he was asked on several occasions to explain the kers issue well. Red Bull Racing is said to have a special one, bordering on the regulations; even if some suspect it is not true.

 

"Did I use it? I don't know… I pushed the button but nothing happened".

 

This is the answer, followed immediately after by a long technical answer, didactic but not at all clear. There is a bet, however, that no one at Red Bull Racing will suggest Vettel to retrace his steps, to change his communication strategy. Christian Horner is fine with that. After all, at this moment the German can afford anything. As Fernando Alonso explains with his usual effectiveness:

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"Sebastian is on another planet".

 

His scream on the radio, his jump on the podium, his embrace of the Renault mechanics have historical value instead. Clearly we are talking about the first Russian in Formula 1 who climbs the podium for the first time in the history of this sport. He took it away from Fernando Alonso. It is not the red who participates in the awards, but the Russian. Who rubs his eyes convinced he is dreaming:

 

"My legs weren't shaking in the final stages, I didn't think at all about Alonso, also because he always stayed very far away, he only approached me at the last corner; I was just concerned with saving the tyres. This is a great result for the team".

 

And it is for him too, skier failed, pilot from the age of fifteen, but more for fun than for conviction.

 

"I used to go racing with my father's Lada, I liked it, but it was like playing football. I never thought it could become my job. After all, I've never been a fan, think I didn't even know who Ayrton Senna was".

 

The story of someone more prone to ice than asphalt. Born in Vyborg, a town closer to Finland than to St. Petersburg, as a boy he had never even seen a kart. One day they offered him to participate in a race, he who for pleasure had only ventured into rallies in the snow or raids on frozen lakes. Petrov raced, he won, he began to take everything terribly seriously, as he has done since last year, when he came to F1. He shows up at the circuit, turns off his cell phone, no longer answers his email, only talks to the mechanics and concentrates on the weekend. In this he is helped by a not exceptional English, certainly more limping than his walk in the car, so much so that the speakers of the official press conferences must have more than one eye to make themselves understood and get answers. An eye that not even he seems to have, however, for Kubica, teammate in 2010, the great absentee from Renault. He does not dedicate the podium to him and adds:

 

"Becoming the team leader has been good for me. Of course it's me, who else?"

 

Hamilton finds him obnoxious, Alonso would kick him, but in the meantime he has written some history of the country about him.

 

"I'm not a Russian ambassador, I don't open borders, I'm just a pilot".

 

Alonso, have you seen the ghosts of Abu Dhabi again?

 

"In what sense?"

 

Vettel who wins the race, but above all Petrov who doesn't let it pass.

 

"These are things that can excite the fans, they don't interest me at all. The way it was, it wasn't that bad".

 

He won't say that he smiles for a fourth place.

 

"When everything seems to go wrong, it's right to settle. Let's take the start: Petrov demanded too much, he pushed Button towards me and I couldn't help but slow down. I found myself ninth and god dreams. But in those moments what matters is lucidity. Better fourth than parked in the sand after just one bend. I put a patch on it and that's enough for now".

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Without those problems at the start, how would it have gone?

 

"I would have finished on the podium. But third, no more. Hamilton was too fast, I would never have been able to beat him. I would have beaten Petrov, easily".

 

The partial redemption does not erase the disastrous Saturday.

 

"We took a step back from the last tests and it's difficult to understand why. Our car is probably very sensitive to the external temperature, hot or cold can change everything. Now the extreme conditions of Malaysia await us, I'm curious to see if it will be good or bad for us".

 

If he continues to take more than a second in qualifying, it will be difficult to think about the World Championship.

 

"We absolutely have to improve in the race, but especially on Saturday. It doesn't exist that Ferrari finds itself almost two seconds behind Red Bull. We need to work better. During the race I had the same pace as Webber, who ended up behind, a sign that a fight is possible".

 

It remains that the premises were different, there was no talk of a comeback, but of escape.

 

"We came here thinking we were one tenth, maximum two behind Red Bull. Unfortunately this is not the case, but we already showed last year that we know how to bridge the gap. In the middle of the season, everyone thought we were finished".

 

How did the movable rear wing look to you?

 

"Kers is more decisive for us. With Webber he helped me a lot, he allowed me to get within a second of him and be able to attack him. The winger went well with Rosberg, less so with Button. I still maintain that to overtake you have to be much faster than the one in front of you".

 

Tires?

 

"They make running more confusing and that should amuse people".

 

Couldn't you bet on two stops instead of three?

 

"With tactics I overtook several opponents. Our strategy was perfect. We need to grow quickly and reach the level of the Red Bulls, because to be champions, you need to win a few races".

 

But, after what you saw in Melbourne, can you win the World Championship?

 

"Naturally".

 

Lewis Hamilton does not look at Sebastien Vettel: the Englishman has a fixed nail that responds to only one name: Fernando Alonso.

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"Alonso is my nemesis. He is my direct rival, because of my history in Formula 1. Since I started I see him as my Prost: given the choice, obviously I would like to be Ayrton Senna. Vettel I don't see him as a real opponent. Perhaps if he continues to have a car this fast he will become one, but I am convinced that when we have a car of the same power available, only then will we see real racing".

 

Hamilton closes the argument by further downsizing the World Champion.

 

"Is he the new Mansell? No, no, I definitely don't think he's a match for Nigel".

 

The McLaren driver is convinced he can have his say this year.

 

"Finally I have the necessary means to fight on more or less equal footing with the Red Bulls. At Sepang they will still be very fast, I have no doubts about it, but we will certainly go out on track with the awareness of being competitive".

 

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh is also within reach of Red Bull Racing.

 

"We are wrong to define them unattainable. The signals collected in the first Grand Prix are encouraging: our tire wear is slightly lower than Ferrari, Red Bull and most of the fastest teams, with the exception of Sauber. This could become a determining factor on a circuit like Sepang, where the tires are put to the test".

 

In view of the Grand Prix which will be held in Malaysia, Whitmarsh cradles the dream of victory.

 

"If we managed to make two stops where others made three, all of this could prove to be an advantage in Sepang. It depends on what happens. In Melbourne we could have had two cars on the podium, Hamilton couldn't keep up with Vettel's pace but until he didn't have the problems with the underbody of the car, he wasn't far from the German".

 

Evening falls over Albert Park and the air around the Ferrari motorhome is filled with creaks and calls, like echoes of ghosts. Luca Montezemolo's voice echoes from a mobile phone, asking for explanations, promising reproaches and threatening measures. Not far away you can hear the men of Red Bull Racing celebrating with Sebastian Vettel, as boisterous as only a team full of Austro-British can be. The men in red try to ignore them, and they encourage each other, they tell each other not to wrap their heads, they repeat that the story of this World Championship has yet to be written, and they are certainly right. But they don't seem convinced, they first. After a winter spent dreaming of a top-of-the-class debut, the awakening in Australia was brutal. Something in their certainties has cracked. You can tell from the details, how they talk, how they move, even how they wear their beautiful red overalls. It is as if they had suddenly lost that patina of voluntary dislike, daughter of the coat of arms, which once distinguished them from the rest of the circus.

 

"We have to figure out what happened".

 

It is the most repeated phrase during the evening. It belongs to Stefano Domenicali, the team principal, who as usual tries to stay as lucid as possible. Last year, in the worst period of the season, he was the one who kept the rudder of the boat stationary in the centre, who gave the right address, who prepared that comeback which then failed for a miracle in reverse on the night in Abu Dhabi. And he is still trying to pick up the pieces of this small and premature blow.

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"We leave here with a few points and a feeling of disappointment, there's no denying that. Also this time the level of our performance was not up to the best. On the other hand, the pit wall went well, if Alonso fought for the podium it was thanks to his strategy. And if he hadn't had problems at the start he would certainly have finished third. Now let's try to recover the aerodynamic load we had in the wind tunnel and you will see that we will get closer to Red Bull".

 

The impression, however, is that the real problem isn't so much performance - the car didn't go terribly bad in the race and will improve in any case - but rather the group which for the third consecutive year was unable to keep its winter promises (one efficient machine right from the start) and which, now devoted to the pursuit of opponents that are always too far away, risks becoming prey to every psychosis, from the Adrian Newey complex (the one that leads engineers to get nervous every time they hear the name of the designer Red Bull) to the fear of making a mistake. The 150th Italia had to be innovative, full of extreme solutions. And instead Ferrari finds itself contemplating Red Bull Racing in fear and wondering if it really has a light kers under the body to be used only at the start or if it is just a legend in the paddock. What is known is that Ferrari has no such thing. No rabbits jumped out of the hat (or at least, nobody noticed).

 

"But the championship is still long. Let's try to understand what happened on this strange weekend and then start working on developments again. We have to understand why we didn't see what was expected on paper on the track. Among the few happy notes must be counted the reliability, in particular as regards the engine and the Kers. Vettel? Maybe not in Malaysia but we will be able to get closer, I'm sure. Of course, there will be suffering. But we have to react immediately and stay focused".

 

In the meantime, the important thing is to try not to hear the noise coming from Red Bull Racing. The handicap compared to the Red Bulls, which seemed to have been ironed out only a few months earlier in the winter tests, turned out to be identical to last season's. No step forward by Ferrari after the first Grand Prix of the Formula 1 World Championship in Australia except in terms of reliability. The day after the disappointing Melbourne weekend in Maranello it's time to take stock.

 

"Nobody at Ferrari hides behind a finger. It wasn't the start to the championship that we wanted and hoped for. Eighteen points are not a haul up to expectations and we can't get over it. It's useless to play catastrophists right away : better to concentrate energies on analyzing the reasons which did not allow the 150° Italia to show its real potential. However, some positive notes were seen. It is true in fact that the two fastest laps of the race were the prerogative of the two drivers of Ferrari, with Felipe setting a time of 1'28"947 on lap 55 with soft tires and Fernando stopping the clock at 1'29"487 on lap 49 with prime tyres. The signal is encouraging but it is a fact always to be taken with a grain of salt, because the drivers can find themselves in different conditions during the race and those who are not fighting for a position in the final stages, when there is little petrol on board, do not need to push, but it is worth however, it is worth noting that the third best performance belongs to Webber (Red Bull, ed), with a time of 1'29"600, set on lap 50".

 

In the race, Alonso and Massa did better than in qualifying.

 

"It didn't take much, the critics will say, but it's a positive note nonetheless. Fernando's pace was competitive to fight for the places of honor on the podium, considering that even yesterday a Red Bull, Vettel's, was unreachable by anyone It should also be understood why on Felipe's car there was overall more significant degradation of the tires compared to his teammate: managing the Pirelli tires and identifying the way to make the most of them will be one of the keys to the season. it lacks, as well as the desire to react immediately and to show up in Malaysia in a better condition".

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Fernando Alonso makes no drama, finished at the foot of the podium in Melbourne:

 

"It wasn't the departure we all wanted but it's not even time to make a drama out of it. I already said it last night at the circuit: twelve points are just below the average held by last year's world champion and two candidates for the title finished behind me, so the outcome of the Australian Grand Prix cannot be described as catastrophic . Of course, in qualifying we were very far from Vettel's Red Bull and far from Hamilton's McLaren but in the race the situation improved, maybe not compared to Sebastian but as far as the others are concerned, yes. We'll see how things go in Malaysia, in Sepang, on a circuit that is very different from the semi-city circuit at Albert Park".

 

To underline the gap in times between Red Bull Racing and Ferrari thinks a former Circus, Flavio Briatore.

 

"You don't recover six tenths in two months. That was Ferrari's difference from Red Bull last year. Half a second is a huge thing in F1. Red Bull is very well financed, it has no budget problems and I see it It's tough. When you enter a world championship like this that you have to start chasing and see what the others have done, it's tough. Then there are the new tires and I want to congratulate Pirelli. I was surprised by how they put this team together, this resin and this group. They were all with their guns drawn, but she was very good". Last year Ferrari fought for the world championship until the last race because Red Bull threw away 70-80 points. Fernando can make up a race, but Vettel also seemed safer to me. Then McLaren is always there, it has an incredible reaction force. It takes a step of 0.7-0.8 seconds, otherwise you'll chase like everyone else".


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