The World Championship hasn't started yet but Sebastian Vettel immediately sets the record straight:
"I want the trophy to stay on my wall, that's why I run. Alonso is an opponent like any other".
In short, is the famous poker for the young German who has just brought home three world titles in a row around the corner? It's too early to tell, Vettel himself admits that it will take four races to figure out what the situation is, but it is clear that the German always aims high, and that from the tests we have seen during the winter, Red Bull has hidden the his performances: the objective is, as usual, to displace the opponents and not to grant any advantage.
"We've managed to win in the last three seasons, but that doesn't mean it's been child's play. They've been very tough battles. We've triumphed, but the team mustn't sit back. We have to restart and try to gain an advantage over our rivals. If we succeed , the pressure will not decrease: the advantage, in fact, should be defended".
In short, Red Bull is once again the big favorite in 2013, because it shouldn't be forgotten that the car dominated at the end of the season. The unknowns remain related to the crazy management of the pilots. But - evidently - judging by the results, they are right and this year too Red Bull has reiterated that it will reserve the same treatment for the two drivers. And Vettel, despite everything, at least at the beginning, shouldn't enjoy any benefits compared to the Australian Mark Webber. The team's philosophy has always been this, there isn't a number one, says the German.
"If both drivers have the same opportunities, it's good for internal competition. There's nothing new".
In reality, Dietrich Mateschitz, boss of the team, launches some interest:
"If I were a Formula 1 driver, I would definitely want to drive a Ferrari".
At stake, it is well known, is Sebastian Vettel's move to the Prancing Horse since the German is linked to the Anglo-Austrian team by a contract until 2014. And Red Bull immediately puts its hands forward: now let's think about the world championship, then if Vettel wants, the negotiation is open. But from these words it is clear that the German will not raise. Confidence in the F138 and waiting for qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix, which will reveal the values on the field for the new F1 World Championship. It is the synthesis of the thought of Fernando Alonso, speaking on the Ferrari website, in the week leading up to the first appointment of the season. For the Spaniard, an opportunity to summarize the work done so far.
"During the winter tests we did all the work planned to get to know the car better, the new tires, the new solutions, therefore, from this point of view, a normal winter".
Three test sessions on the home tracks of Jerez and Montmelò.
"Five days are never enough - admits Alonso, we drivers and engineers would like to do as many tests as possible, but this is the only sport in the world that tests only five days before facing a World Championship".
However, the impact with the F138 was positive.
"It's a progressive car, to be developed slowly during the championship. Luckily we had a better start than last year when we ran into a lot of problems and so it's been a quieter winter".
However, the development of the single-seater will have to continue.
"The F138 can improve from all points of view, aerodynamics, tire management, we are making progress with the new Pirellis and we will improve the car during the championship".
However, an easy season is not announced.
"I expect a very competitive season, with many alternatives, many competitive teams and therefore, I repeat, it will be a difficult, stressful season in which we must always be optimistic".
According to Alonso the championship will be very balanced:
"It will be difficult to see a team that dominates by continuously winning four or five races. The diversity will be great in the first part of the championship and we will have to be one of those teams that goes into the middle of the fight".
One of the unknowns will be the use of Pirelli Supersoft and Medium tires in Melbourne.
"Everything remains to be seen, we've had very few answers from the winter tests, but this goes for all the teams, we come to this appointment with our eyes closed, with a big question mark".
The test bed will necessarily be the track.
"After qualifying we'll see what the real values are, but the Supersofts will be a bit of a problem for everyone and for this reason our management must be perfect, but we know they're quite difficult tyres".
Finally, an opinion on the Albert Park track, considered a very complex circuit, which changes from Friday to Sunday. Bernie Ecclestone, the boss of the Formula 1 Circus, reveals that Ferrari thinks Red Bull are favourites. And Red Bull thinks Ferrari is the main opponent. A little theater perhaps intended to increase interest in the championship that is about to begin but which in any case explains well how Vettel and Red Bull are hunting for the fourth consecutive world championship double, Ferrari and Fernando Alonso want to return to the top.
"I recently spoke to Stefano Domenicali (the Cavallino team principal, ed.) who came to see me in London. He expects Red Bull to be the main danger for them. And I agree: Red Bull is super-competitive. From Red Bull's point of view, Ferrari are the main opponents. If Vettel wins a fourth title it would not be bad for the circus. It would be good, as it would be good if he wins another one. Vettel doesn't know how to lose. In backgammon he often loses against about me, I tell him he's not good enough and he doesn't take it well: he's a very competitive person".
The World Champion has been compared to Ferrari:
"Is it possible for a driver to live his entire career in the same team? Sure why not? Sebastian is happy there, the results are coming. Why should he leave? It's like Adrian Newey: everyone is happy, that's why the team works".
It would be wrong to think that the 2013 World Championship will be a duel between just two teams. Mercedes, who hired Lewis Hamilton, proved to be much more competitive in the tests than in previous years.
"I'd be very surprised if they didn't get victories, thanks to them and not for any other reason".
McLaren have lost Hamilton and replaced him with young Mexican Sergio Perez, who is partnered with Jenson Button.
"Maybe we'll realize that their co-driver is actually not really the co-driver. Maybe we'll see that he's really as good as everyone believes. Button now has the feeling of being the benchmark, whereas in the past he may have thought he was number two. He's number one now, we'll see a different Jenson and maybe that'll be good for him".
When it comes to the ideal team, Ecclestone has no doubts.
"Let's start with the drivers. I'd obviously choose Vettel, I get along very well with him. Then Fernando and then there's Lewis. Let's say I'd look at the least expensive. On a technical level, I'd think of Red Bull personnel. Everyone would do it and I'm not I would act differently. I would be happy with Christian Horner as team principal".
There is also room to talk about commercial and organizational aspects.
"The Championship is World, not European. So maybe we'll miss a couple of European races and go to other parts of the world".
The candidacy of Mark Webber, who comes directly from his native Australia, completes the shortlist of contenders for the 2013 title on the eve of the World Championship.
"I'm also there for the world championship".
If, in fact, according to the forecasts of the bookmakers, the season that is about to begin will once again be a matter of two between Vettel (quoted at 2.5) and Alonso (quoted at 4), for the paddock experts the match will be much, much more complex and, also thanks to the Pirelli variable, which has brought new unpredictable tyres, it will also concern hard-cores such as Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Kimi Raikkonen and, indeed, him, the Australian with unmistakable grit, Mark Webber. It is useless to deny it: much, if not all, will depend on the work done this winter by Adrian Newey, the man who up to now has best interpreted the set of rules which - with more or less significant modifications - has been in force in F1 since 2009. apparently Red Bull is still the car to beat, even if, for the first time, the impression we had during the tests is that the Austro-English car is slightly less effective than usual. Obviously we will understand something more in three days, when, in the paradise of Melbourne's Albert Park, the engines will finally start up and their roar will drown out the chatter. But for now this slight uncertainty has already had the effect of reviving hopes of seeing Red Bull's dominance finally broken.
Hopes nourished above all by the Ferrari of Stefano Domenicali and Fernando Alonso. The wait for the Maranello team is taking a little longer, and those who live in this city - as we know - are not used to being away from glory for too long. The F138, moreover, unlike the previous single-seaters, seems to have earned the nickname, a bit ridiculous, it must be said, given to it during the presentation by the president Luca Montezemolo:
An appellation, which for the moment is the only thing that hasn't convinced the new Ferrari. So much so that the drivers went so far as to say that the car is from another planet than the previous one - something very rare at this stage of the season. Fernando Alonso therefore explains:
"I expect a very balanced, very competitive season, with many alternatives, there will be many high-level teams that will make the season extremely difficult and stressful from a psychological point of view. We will need to be optimistic during the nineteen races, there will be good Sundays and there will be some Sundays that aren't so good, but we will always have to score points because the championship will decide in the end".
Much will also depend on the other title contenders. In addition to the self-candidacy of Webber (listed at 25) that of Kimi Raikkonen (listed at 15, but it remains to be seen how much his Lotus will be able to invest, in economic terms) and Jenson Button (listed at 8) appear particularly fearsome . Even if many expect some surprises especially from another announced protagonist of the season, Lewis Hamilton (listed at 10). The Englishman, who moved from McLaren to Mercedes, seemed extremely fit, and his car was much better than expected.
"My dream? There's no getting around it. Beating Alonso. He's the strongest. Of course, I know that Vettel is the champion and that he's probably the favourite. But my rivalry with Fernando goes beyond that".
The official start of the 2013 Formula 1 World Championship is just a few hours away and expectations are growing at Ferrari. There is optimism on the eve of free practice for the Australian Grand Prix:
"I think the team is more or less ready for Melbourne. I don't expect there to be dominators but neither will the uncertainty of last season's start".
Felipe Massa also agrees with Fernando Alonso, who confesses:
"I am satisfied with the evolution of the F138 in the tests, I felt at ease".
The Spanish continues:
"We are ready for the Australian Grand Prix. Of course we would have preferred to do more testing, but the laws are the same for everyone and we completed our program during testing. I have confidence in the car, but knowing the circuit in Australia, I know that it won't be easy. As usual, our aerodynamic development will be the key to having a good season, but at the same time it will be essential to get to know the new and more complicated Pirelli tyres. I don't think we will see a single team dominate, but I don't think I don't even expect to see seven winners in the first races like last year. We will all be very close and from our point of view, a good result would take some of the stress off. I like the Albert Park circuit, it's technical and difficult and the track, being a street circuit, evolves throughout the weekend".
Felipe Massa also expects a less balanced start to the season than last year:
"I expect the drivers of two or three teams to collect the majority of victories. As for us, we will start the season with a better car than last year. I remain positive and satisfied with the progress of the tests, during which I was able to notice the evolution of the car from the first to the last day, when, happy with the balance achieved by the F138, I felt at ease behind the wheel. We'll put on Supersoft tires for my joy, since I prefer them rather Soft. done, we will have to perfect the use of the tires and improve the aerodynamics of the car throughout the year, even if in fact we will have to work on all aspects a bit, including the mechanical one.Personally, I intend to start the 2013 season in the same way I went into the second half of 2012 and continued from there I can't say Albert Park is my favorite track but I love coming to Australia, a great country full of nice people who really like racing. It's a demanding track, but I'm sure the F138 will suit us well and we'll have a good first weekend".
On the eve of the official tests, the role of analyst falls to Felipe Masse because compared to Fernando Alonso the Brazilian is more unbalanced and clarified the situation a bit:
"We've understood a lot since last year, in which direction we should go, and the new car is definitely better than the one we started with last season. We've had far fewer problems with the F138 and fewer surprises in terms of numbers, and in test behaved as we expected. Behind the wheel I have a much more positive feeling, so it's definitely a better way to start the season. I don't think we'll have all the answers on the hierarchy of values in the field this weekend, but I'm sure that we have what it takes to start in the right direction. Saturday and Sunday will give us some answers".
The great unknown, as we know, are the new Pirelli tyres, tested so far in polar conditions...
"The tires are slightly softer than last year, and what's more, here at Albert Park we will use the Supersofts, while last season the softest specification used here was the Soft. It will be interesting to see how it works. We just have to work in understanding as much as possible the different types of tyres. But it's nothing different than what has been done in the past, because you always have to start by understanding the tires and how to configure the single-seater to make it marry better with the tyres. There are things that can be done to preserve the tires - in Singapore last year, in my final stint I did more laps than the tires were expected to last.Being careful, changing my riding style to the Supersofts, which allowed me to continue when the safety car came out, gaining many positions. So yes, it is always possible to be able to adapt your driving style to help the tires in terms of degradation. In addition, the way the car evolves over the course of the season can help with tire management".
In short, from what we've seen, and from Massa's analysis, it really seems that Ferrari is about to start off on the right foot. Fernando Alonso, is it really so?
"I hope this is a very interesting, very demanding championship. Because Australia and Malaysia are difficult circuits with very changeable weather, we have to try to start off on the right foot and score some good points for the championship".
In short, Fernando is confident a few hours after starting the engines and compliments his main rival.
"What do you think of Vettel? Not much to say as a driver. Three times World Champion, he's broken all records, and it's not just a question of the car. Seb has won everything. He's been perfect in recent years, which is why he became champion of the world. A tough rival, he will also be in the future. As people, we don't spend much time together, we're from a different generation. He's a normal boy; he looks like a normal boy… (the two look at each other, smile and Vettel thanks)".
For Fernando Alonso a better car than last year, you said two hundred times better than last year; Do you think this is your chance to become Ferrari World Champion?
"We'll see, it wasn't difficult to start better than last year, it would have been difficult to start worse, we were too far behind last year in the winter. This year has definitely gone much better, we understood the car better, we managed to work better and to draw the resources from it in the best way and this gave us more confidence and more optimism at the beginning of the season. But who knows".
Yeah, who knows... It all depends on the performance of others. And soon we will find out everything. Friday 15 March 2013 Red Bull does not forgive and immediately puts everyone in line for the first day of free practice for the Australian Grand Prix, the eagerly awaited opening race of the 2013 Formula 1 World Championship. The German Sebastian Vettel, World Champion in in the second session he lapped in 1'27"11 on the Supersoft tires ahead of his teammate, the Australian Mark Webber. Third time for the Mercedes of the German Nico Rosberg, who ended the afternoon's work early due to a problem Fourth and fifth place for the Lotus of the Finn Kimi Raikkonen and the Frenchman Romain Grosjean, followed by the Ferrari of the Spaniard Fernando Alonso.The Spaniard finished ahead of the Mercedes of the Englishman Lewis Hamilton, who parked his car in the gravel at turn 6 , and the Ferrari of the Brazilian Felipe Massa. Further back the McLarens of the Englishman Jenson Button, eleventh, and the Mexican Sergio Perez, thirteenth. Too bad for Ferrari and its fans because in the first free practice Alonso and Massa had gone very fast, closing a few thousandths from Vettel. Not only that: at the beginning the protagonists had also alternated in the lead, not to mention that even small problems had appeared on Alonso's car. In short, it was hoped. Then in the second session the reversal in front, with Ferrari forced to fight with all the other teams, far from the top. However, the Germans of Mercedes are among the protagonists of today and they find themselves a very competitive car. The real surprise of these tests, together perhaps with the difficulty of McLaren which by dint of revolutions continues to get into trouble by itself.
"Up front there are those who won the 2012 World Championship, it's not a surprise. I expected Red Bull to be competitive right away, evidently they hid a bit in the tests".
Felipe Massa - who in any case seems to have been reborn, it must be said - reveals that in Maranello they were aware of Red Bull's competitiveness. but after the first free practice of the season, in view of the Australian Grand Prix, the picture for Ferrari is not very comforting, given Alonso's sixth place and the fact that the Brazilian Ferrari driver obtained the eighth fastest time in the Friday dominated by the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. In any case, Ferrari is known not to give up:
"For us, these were two positive sessions. We did a good job but we have to continue like this, there's still a lot to do".
They never loved each other. They can't even pretend, in front of cameras from all over the world, on the eve of the start, when right-thinking people, seeing them sitting side by side for the first time, would like them to embrace each other and express their friendship and instead have to settle for a (fake) invitation from the German to drink a Red Bull together, because he just can't stand coffee. No, Vettel and Alonso just can't do it. After all, that's right, they are the duelists, the announced protagonists of a World Championship that fuels its tank of emotions right on their incandescent battle and hopes to draw lifeblood from their skirmishes, even verbal ones, but above all on the track.
Red Bull against Ferrari, this is how we start again, from the endless battle, indeed, in reality it has already begun, with the first free practice sessions. The Anglo-Austrian team, even Webber is a candidate for the title, dream of maintaining the historic monopoly, an incredible cycle of world championship triumphs that began with Vettel in 2010 and never ended, and just to make things clear the German has renamed the own car Heidi the hungry, to underline how the car is not satisfied with successes and neither is he. If anything, the German, who by now has become a mature driver of almost 26 years between one victory and another, is angry because his team was forced to change the front wing, with the risk of negative aerodynamics. The 2013 regulations are very similar to last year, but not in that area, and Vettel doesn't seem to like it:
"They are all rowing against us. Every year they decide to change to stop us, they always invent a new one. The problem is that it's useless, because every time we have a better idea".
The German seems to care little about the restriction of the DRS in qualifying, which is no longer usable constantly, but only in certain points of the circuit, as happens in the race. He would be much happier to know with certainty how good his car is at its début, given the few days of testing (twelve in all to be shared with his teammate) and the great unknown factor represented by the new Pirelli tyres, yes he says deliberately fragile to dramatically increase the number of pit stops. Vettel makes it clear that he is starting a bit in the dark, and it certainly doesn't help his morale that he has never managed to set the best time in a pre-season practice session, even if desire and excitement are greater than anxiety and make any fear disappear . Uncertainty that is also in the mind of the enemy, that Alonso called to interrupt the Red Bull monopoly, standard bearer of a Ferrari that hasn't won the World Championship since 2007 and can't stand it anymore. The Spaniard, as he happens to him every vigil, is wavering in his declarations. First he claims that he considers the new car two hundred times better than the old one and guarantees that he worked well in February, but then he claims he doesn't know if he will be able to win this Grand Prix:
"Because in my opinion there are ten of us who can succeed, five teams, in a thin space of a few tenths that will lead to a great balance".
Alonso prefers not to say too much, although he reiterates that in 2013 there won't be seven different winners in the first seven Grands Prix. However, the important thing for him will be to start off on the right foot, to score as many points as possible in Australia and Malaysia, without dangerous empty passes. This new Ferrari, Massa also swore it, is from another planet.
"We're not the fastest, we knew that. If we want to compete with the best, there's still a lot of work to do".
Fernando Alonso closes the first day of free practice for the Australian Grand Prix without surprises. The Spanish Ferrari driver ended Friday at Albert Park with the sixth fastest time. The F138 showed excellent race pace but appears inferior to the competition when it comes to taking advantage of the Supersoft tires on a single lap. Translation: in qualifying the Ferraris could pay the price.
"Overall it was an extremely productive Friday, we did many laps and completed a first important analysis on the performance of the two compounds Pirelli has brought for this race. This is also thanks to particularly favorable weather conditions, with sun and summer temperatures".
The picture could change in the next few hours:
"However, a completely different climate is expected from tomorrow, with wind, rain and a significant drop in temperatures that could affect Sunday's race".
In general, the top hierarchies appear at least partially delineated. The Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber took first and second times. It is not risky to hypothesize a front row occupied by world championship single-seaters.
"I don't expect big surprises here, we already knew we weren't the fastest and we confirmed it today. The car responded well but we know there is still a lot to do if we want to fight with the best".
More than a Ferrari alarm, it is Red Bull's excessive power. Someone, observing the winter tests in Jerez and Barcelona and seeing that Vettel or Webber had never achieved the best time, had deluded themselves: you can see that finally, after years of monopoly, the usual missile designed by Newey hits the head and leaves space also to the others, to the enraged rivals, perhaps, the dream of the Italians, precisely to the redhead of Maranello. Nothing could be more false: we arrive in Melbourne, we start to get serious and here is Vettel taking the stage entirely, dominating on all fields, at lunchtime, in the first free practice session, when the work is concentrated on harder compound tires and race pace, and mid-afternoon, second round, when the drivers put on the super soft tires and try to figure out what will happen in qualifying, in the battle for pole position tomorrow at dawn in Italy. However you turn it around, Red Bull is impregnable, like the other years, and the most worrying thing is that no one among the insiders is surprised, as if the monopoly of the outgoing world champion, closely followed by his teammate Webber, was an inevitable evil. You meet Niki Lauda, old champion and now Mercedes boss, in the paddock and hope for a word of comfort. Nothing, he too invites you to raise the white flag:
"They have made a big step forward and at the moment their advantage is enormous. I don't know if it will be like this in the race too, for sure this is the picture I foresee in qualifying, in the flying lap. The Lotus could give him a bit of trouble, while Ferrari, like us at Mercedes, is where I expected it to be. Discreet, but not up to par with those monsters".
The monsters, Red Bull men, really seem monsters if you listen to Vettel's story at the end of the second session. He set the best performance amidst a sea of misadventures. He had new tires and was setting an exceptional time, when in the last sector he was faced with a Force India and had to slow down.
"Never mind I thought, I'll try again, but in the meantime I'll stay on the track and do a lap at a slower pace".
Then from the pits the order: try to push again after the finish line. It's true, the tires are on the third lap, but let's see what happens. Said, done, Vettel pushes and sends the stopwatch into a tailspin. That wasn't enough, another disturbing fact:
"Kers didn't work for me".
Making it clear that that lap time, 0.2 seconds to Webber, 0.4 to Rosberg and Raikkonen, 0.7 to Grosjean, 0.8 to Alonso's Ferrari (sixth in the second session) and Hamilton's Mercedes, 0.9 to Massa's Ferrari (eighth), could have be even more exciting. The out of order kers slowed him down, the same problem Massa had in his most important attempt: only that the Brazilian consequently had to comment on a ninth time and not invite everyone to calm down like the elusive German. Red Bull is scary. It's the usual refrain. Ferrari, however, is not alarming, or at least that's how the men in red filter out of the pits.
At the end of the two free practice sessions, Alonso preferred to remain silent, leaving the entire analysis to his teammate. A Massa who tried to spread optimism:
"We worked well in the winter, we're in much better shape than last year. Red Bull doesn't surprise me, they hid in the tests, but we shouldn't be bad in the race".
It is said to be better than all the others in terms of pace, or at most, apart from Red Bull, on a par with Mercedes alone. The problem is likely to always be the same, the fastest lap, where Lotus is also to be feared. The only consolation is the crisis (temporary or real?) of McLaren. On the first lap, both Button and Perez seemed to be in serious trouble and many in the pits were scratching their heads. At Mercedes they didn't do it for the times, but for the usual risky reliability. Hamilton crashed and Lauda immediately rushed to defend him:
"It's not his fault, he had problems with the bottom of the car".
Stop also for Rosberg and again the team's statement:
"We stopped him, as a precaution. The gearbox was in danger".
So are dreams. If these machines don't get a little less fragile. The only hitch they had in getting out of the cockpit. You have to do it in seven seconds, so the regulation says, Vettel and Webber didn't make it. Stop by the marshals, before free practice, a hasty rush by Red Bull to modify the cockpit at knee height, to allow for a faster exit. Thrill. But then no one should be deceived: the World Championship has started, the clock has begun to turn and the others shivered, seeing how those two cars whizzed by and above all how Vettel flew in all conditions. At lunchtime, in the first free practice session on Friday, the one in which one thinks about the race, in which one runs with the harder compound tyres, the one where Ferrari, Massa second, Alonso third, gives hope, with a good enough pace, but not enough to keep up with the unleashed German. And mid-afternoon, in the second round, when the drivers focus on the flying lap, and have the battle for pole as their objective. Looking ahead, even if this will be a very long World Championship, nineteen races on four continents, eight abundant months of duels in the most varied weather conditions, what the German three-times World Champion got up to in Melbourne is impressive. He blew the clock with his performance, but Formula 1 is used to that. Trouble arises hearing him tell the feat.
"In the first lap, with new tyres, I was going really fast when, in the last sector, I found myself in front of a Force India and had to slow down. Patience, I thought, I do another lap at a slow pace, go back to the pits and try again. But no, they tell me: stay on track and push again, let's see what happens. Even if it's the third round, the tires are used, let's try to understand the limit. Add to all this that kers has stopped working. In short, there was little to dream about".
And instead you look at the time and you rub your eyes. There is little to do, Red Bull is always the same, inspired by Newey and masterfully driven by the always hungry Vettel (to understand this, you didn't need to call your car the hungry Heidi). Saturday 17 March 2013, in order to avoid the arrival of the rain, all the pilots immediately enter the track. The fastest is Romain Grosjean in a Lotus-Renault. Shortly after setting the time, the rain soaked the Australian track, no longer allowing any driver to improve on the time set by the French driver. In the final part of the session the drivers tried to fit intermediate tyres, and in this phase a technical problem occurred on Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull Racing. Rain is the protagonist in Melbourne on qualifying day for the Australian Grand Prix. The drivers only complete Q1 before a heavy downpour disrupts the entire program at the Albert Park circuit.
After a series of postponements and with evening approaching, the decision was made to move the second and third qualifying heats to Sunday morning. The fight for the pole will start at 11:00 a.m. This is not the first time in the history of the World Championship that qualifying takes place on the day of the race: it already happened in October 2010, on the occasion of the Japanese Grand Prix. Due to the rain, at the time no single-seater was able to take to the track on Saturday and everything was postponed to Sunday morning. Pole was taken by Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull), who was on his way to his first world title, ahead of teammate Mark Webber. In Q1, Pedro Maldonado (Williams), Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber), Jules Bianchi (Marussia), Max Chilton (Marussia), Giedo van der Garde (Caterham) and Charles Pic (Caterham) were eliminated. The best time was set by Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), ahead of Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), Romain Grosjean (Lotus) and Sergio Perez (McLaren). Sixth time for Felipe Massa (Ferrari) and seventh for World Champion Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull). Comment Stefano Domenicali, Ferrari team principal:
"Now it becomes a lottery. It was quite clear that the situation was getting worse. Now we need to stay focused because it will be qualifying in different conditions. In conditions like this, everything becomes a lottery. Now let's reset tonight and get ready for tomorrow, it will be a Sunday long enough".
And adds Fernando Alonso:
"It's a pity that qualifying was postponed until tomorrow, but it slipped too much on the white lines. It's a shame and this goes both for the teams focused on preparing for the session and for the public who came to support us and the race stewards who worked so hard trying to dry the track. It was a necessary choice given the track conditions, you slipped really too much on the white lines. Now we have to wait for tomorrow and see if the weather improves".
The other Ferrari driver, Felipe Massa, crashed into the barriers and escaped with damage to the front wing.
"I've had enormous luck, in my entire career I've never crashed so hard and continued qualifying. It's positive, very positive. I'm still here, let's see what it will be tomorrow, but with what happened, I'm happy to still be here to continue the qualification".
Sunday 17 March 2013, the front row of the Australian Grand Prix will be all Red Bull. Sebastian Vettel took pole position, followed by his team-mate, Mark Webber, then the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton, then the two Ferraris with Felipe Massa fourth and Fernando Alonso fifth. With promising times. Stefano Domenicali, the Ferrari team principal, says:
"Now let's think about the race, in a few hours, and the tires will be decisive".
The Mercedes of Nico Rosberg, the Lotus-Renaults of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean, Paul Di Resta in the Force India-Mercedes and Jenson Button in the McLaren follow in the top ten. A few hours later, Nico Hülkenberg did not take part in the race due to a fuel problem on his single-seater. The sky threatens rain but the track is dry. At the start of the Australian Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel maintained first position, while his teammate, Mark Webber, was the author of an unhappy start which dropped him to seventh position. Behind the World Champion is Felipe Massa, followed by Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. During the first lap Alonso moves into third position, after having passed Hamilton. During the second lap, the Englishman lost another position to Kimi Räikkönen. The leading cars were on Supersoft tyres, and already on lap 4 Jenson Button made his first tire change. The first four drivers change tires between the seventh and ninth laps. Lewis Hamilton thus climbed into first position, followed by the other Mercedes driver, Nico Rosberg, and by Adrian Sutil, who started on Medium tyres. The two Mercedes drivers changed tires between laps 13 and 14, leaving the first position to Adrian Sutil, for the first time in his career, followed by Sebastian Vettel, Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Räikkönen.
On lap 20 Alonso anticipates his second stop, and during lap 21 the first two drivers in the standings also change tyres. Upon returning to the track, both are behind Fernando Alonso. Subsequently, Sebastian Vettel takes a stand in favor of Adrian Sutil. During lap 23 it was the turn of the second pit stop for Felipe Massa, who returned behind Adrian Sutil. The classification now sees Kimi Räikkönen in the lead, followed by the two Mercedes drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, then Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, Adrian Sutil and Felipe Massa. Alonso gets close to Rosberg who, however, is forced to retire due to a fuel problem during lap 27. During lap 31 Alonso passes Hamilton and climbs to second place; shortly after the Briton made the tire change, also due to a flat spot in the duel with Alonso. Räikkönen, who was 15 seconds ahead of Alonso, made his second tire change on lap 34, rejoining the track in fifth position. Between lap 36 and 39, Massa, Vettel and Alonso make the third tire change. When the Spaniard gets back on track he is behind Räikkönen. Adrian Sutil back in first position, followed by Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and Felipe Massa. But on lap 43 Kimi Räikkönen overtook Adrian Sutil and returned to the lead. Three laps later Alonso also manages to pass the German, but, also thanks to a complicated lapping phase, his gap from Räikkönen increases from 4 to 7 seconds. From now on the Finn comfortably manages tires and gap, also setting the fastest lap with two laps to go. Meanwhile, with twelve laps to go, Adrian Sutil made his last tire change, mounting Supersoft tyres. Five laps later, already in crisis with the tyres, Adrian Sutil had to give up his position to Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber, but he managed to save himself from the final return of his teammate, Paul di Resta.
Kimi Räikkönen thus managed to lead the race to the end, without ever being approached by Fernando Alonso, who finished second. In third place was Sebastian Vettel, followed by Felipe Massa, Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber. Iceman is back: perfect tire management, one pit stop less and absolute concentration, without any mistakes. In addition, the fastest lap set right at the end, as if to say hands off the victory, I'm the strongest. Thus Kimi Raikkonen mortified the ambitions of his opponents at the Australian Grand Prix, beating a wild Alonso right at the end who was unable to take the victory. Yet Ferrari, despite everything, is the team that comes out the best from this Grand Prix because it has almost always been the fastest on the track. And above all, faster than Red Bull. Vettel's dark gaze on the podium speaks for itself because with these forces in the field it is now clear that Ferrari is ahead. Massa also proved it at the start of the race. A reborn Massa (fourth at the end) who seems to be just the shadow of the driver in difficulty who made us fear the worst last season. In short, the World Championship is off to a good start because one thing is certain: from now on we will see much more closely contested races than in the past because even Mercedes, only fifth with Lewis Hamilton (and with Rosberg retiring) in the end proved to have a better race pace than that of Red Bull which placed the other car, that of Mark Webber, behind Hamilton, but ahead of the Force India of Adrian Sutil, author of an amazing race. Eighth place for the other Force India of Paul Di Resta ahead of the McLaren of Jenson Button and the Lotus of Romain Grosjean. Out of the points, eleventh, the other McLaren of Sergio Perez. The three-time Red Bull World Champion Sebastian Vettel has to settle for third place in the first round of the season.
"We can be satisfied even if you can win when you start from pole. After good opening laps the tires degraded quickly. We have to congratulate Kimi who had a fantastic pace, the same goes for Ferrari but I'm also satisfied for third place. Worried? No, we had an excellent qualifying, in the afternoon we didn't go as we wanted but the season is still long. We expected something more but it's not the end of the world. We had fun, we are happy of the podium and it was a good Grand Prix".
With someone like him you don't run the risk of making the opposing coaches angry. The exultation of Kimi the cold, the Raikkonen never forgotten by Ferrari fans, is a timidly raising arm and a pat on the back to his track engineer. But how, he surprised everyone, he won a race in which the triumph of Red Bull was for sure, or alternatively the comeback of Ferrari, and he doesn't even jump in front of the crowd? Only those who don't know him could expect otherwise. Maybe if it were up to him, he wouldn't even show up at the awards ceremony. They forcefully throw him onto the podium, they interview him with wide smiles and then he can't help himself from expressing himself.
"I didn't expect such an easy success and the time achieved in the final proves it. I knew Alonso was pushing behind me, from the pits they were telling me that it might start to rain so I pushed a little more, to look for a safety margin".
The result was to get the fastest lap of the race, when he already had the victory in his pocket and his rivals had given up. That would be enough to make any pilot's eyes light up. Not his, of course:
"You can see that I have a good car, and that's actually how it seemed to me all weekend. I was disappointed after qualifying, seventh place made me angry. All because of my mistake in a corner, precious tenths thrown to the wind. Luckily I made up for it in the race".
He did it so well that he took home the 20th triumph of his career, the second since he put the rally cars back in the attic and became a F1 driver again, the second after Abu Dhabi, 4 November 2012, the frozen Finnish on the top step, Alonso second and Vettel third. Back then that photograph represented a dive into the good old days, when Raikkonen, first with McLaren and then with Ferrari, knew how to annihilate rivals on the track, now this snapshot risks being the best presentation of the season to come, with the three drivers destined to fight for the title. Don't deceive his desecrating calm:
"We're only at the first race, it's early for any predictions".
But everyone likes this Lotus and consequently he too and it could be much more than just a loose cannon.
"I like to win, without too many hassles, now I certainly don't start traveling with my mind until November".
But precisely this ability to run without pressure could be an incredible added value. After all, when he drives, no one can dare to disturb him. Alan Permane, his engineer, knows something about it. In Abu Dhabi he told him:
"You're ahead, it's hot, save your tires and nobody can take away your victory".
Radio advice for good with an icy response:
"Leave me alone, I know what I have to do".
Phrase that has become a cult, immortalized on a t-shirt that has been snapped up among his fans. Now can we expect another successful t-shirt?
"Who knows, I say a lot of stupid things on the radio or on TV".
Words that people like about him though. And to a team that forgives everything in the name of talent. They say (maybe it's just malice) that the recent absence from a test day in Barcelona was due to an oversight of him. He simply did not remember that it was his turn, hence the recourse to the reserve, the Italian Valsecchi, and the emergency summoning of Grosjean. It is useless to ask Kimi for confirmation, grimace and shrug. And at Lotus?
"He was sick".
He seemed to you. Where do they find someone who maybe doesn't come to the tests, but destroys everyone in the race?
"A good start to a fantastic race. We fought throughout the race, thanks to all the fans for the support throughout the weekend. We were sad about yesterday's postponement of qualifying, but today we put on a great show with a race full of action every lap and I had a great time".
These are the first words of Fernando Alonso on the podium of the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix.
"We didn't win, Kimi was fantastic in his Lotus which went great. There were some risky moments after the pit stop, with some traffic with Felipe (Massa, ed) and Vettel, but I'm happy for this beginning".
Looking to the future, Alonso is optimistic:
"We're positive, the car is responding well and we have an interesting future ahead of us. Lotus did a great job, Kimi drove fantastic. They made two stops and now we'll only have four days to analyze what to do before the next competition".
Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali comments on Fernando Alonso's second place at the F1 Australian Grand Prix, expressing his satisfaction at seeing the Red Bulls behind the Maranello cars:
"I would say good as a race, congratulations to whoever won because they managed the tires well, but I'm pleased to see our cars there both fighting one on the podium and the other practically close. The championship started with this score, we'll analyze well, everything, but we're here and so this is the most important thing. I'm happy when they're all behind. Today we had one in front, so it's still not very good, but we hope to do so when needed".
And Felipe Massa adds:
"I was happier when I was second, then I lost some direction in the second stop. Fernando (Alonso, ed) stopped earlier and so we decided to continue. There we lost two positions. But I have to say that as before All in all, the race is a positive start to the championship. It was impossible for me to make two stops like Raikkonen. Alonso, stopping earlier, passed me and Vettel, it was an intelligent choice. However, the work done in the winter was good, what was done on the machine that has proven itself competitive".
Looking to the future, Massa is also confident:
"Red Bull is strong in qualifying, less so in the race, but they're always very strong. We need to analyse everything and improve further, but it's a good start".
The thin gap. Like that material that comes out of a tire, when it crumbles, it degrades and loses speed. Tiny dots, but no details at all. Especially in this Formula 1 World Championship that started yesterday in Australia with so many emotions and surprises.
Tires and their consumption, let's memorize this sentence well. Because it will be the maxim of the season, the hammering refrain, the decisive factor in every race, capable of exalting, for example, Raikkonen and his Lotus, hands-down winners in Australia, with an ingenious strategy and one pit stop less than the competition. or to resize the Red Bull torpedo, elusive as always in qualifying (during the Italian night Vettel had joked with his rivals), but then collapsed miserably in the race, with the German forgetting about pole in an instant and unable to overtake even Sutil with any Force India. Pirelli, its tyres. Impartial arbiter, but who stands out all right, key to glory or defeat depending on how you use or manage them. In the finally rainless Melbourne afternoon you concentrate on the two litigants, Vettel and Alonso, and surprisingly end up enjoying a third, the glacial Raikkonen, two pit stops instead of three, a car that with tyres, at least on the 18 °C Australian track , goes to a wedding and transforms an otherwise very balanced battle into an unequal one. The two announced winners, the Spaniard from Ferrari and the German from Red Bull, dispute another race, they damn themselves; Alonso, with a super fast and very surprising red, got the better, also thanks to a risky tactic, a stop a few laps early and a trick overtaking created by the pits, but all this was not enough to grab the top step of the podium. In front there is someone who drives at high speed and stopping once less can only win. Making it clear, given that he is a phenomenon behind the wheel, that he is more than ever in the running for the World Championship. Stefano Domenicali is right, the refreshed team principal of a Ferrari who scores a decent haul of points (not only according to Alonso, excellent fourth, under the merits of him, Massa) and leaves Australia leading the Constructors' World Championship. The tires count so much, because the gap between the big names is minimal and a particular asphalt can break the bank. What happened to Lotus yesterday could happen to someone else in seven days in scorching Malaysia, so always expect a lot of surprises. The thing that matters, in this deluge of uncertainties and fragile hierarchies, is that Ferrari is also in the game, it is there, and how, Alonso remarked:
"The team's work was outstanding, the car was good, the race was fantastic. Excellent start, well done by Massa and I in immediately overtaking Webber and then Hamilton, perfect strategy, perfect pit stops".
Everything was there and this allowed the Spaniard to finish second, ahead of Vettel, his perennial enemy, and Massa to feel like the champion of the past. Indeed, to tell the truth, the Brazilian could rightly feel penalized. Because he was in front at the start, he was the first to overtake Hamilton and Alonso had to give up with him. You could bet on his podium and instead those three laps more than the Spaniard before the second pit stop proved fatal.
"I lost two positions".
Without any suspicion though (someone malignant that Ferrari with the strategy favored overtaking the Spaniard, up to that moment unattainable on the track) and without anger, only with a newfound happiness.
"Because now I finally feel at ease inside a Maranello car and I think I have raced in the best Australian Grand Prix of my career".
He made it clear that he can also be counted on, able to detach Hamilton (fifth), the disastrous Webber (sixth) and the revelation Sutil (seventh). Let's not talk about McLaren, ninth with Button, winner here in 2012, and eleventh with Perez. The same team admits the deep crisis, a negative surprise on the first day of school and already plans to scrap the new car and go back to the old one. Pressed by the inference, Whitmarsh, the team principal, did not want to answer. Silence assent?
"The hopeful is keeping... hopes".
Puns aside, the president of Ferrari, Luca Montezemolo, is satisfied with the performance of the cars from Maranello the day after the first Grand Prix of the 2013 season. In Melbourne, the Maranello team took second place from Fernando Alonso and the fourth of Felipe Massa.
"We did what we expected, we ran a good race especially against Red Bull and Vettel in particular, who I consider our strongest opponent".
The first points of the season instil confidence for the rest.
"The podium was our goal and we achieved it, starting the championship in a way, certainly positive, which is psychologically good for our whole team: the mechanics, the technicians, the drivers. It was important to start well, which in the last two years had not happened".
Apart from the performance of the car, the Ferrari president also believes the start, the management of the pit stops and the overall strategy of the race are convincing. Three aspects that will be fundamental in the run-up to the World Championship, but which don't exhaust the team's work for the future.
"We have to develop the single-seater further, we know we don't have the fastest car but we have a lot of irons on the fire. Developing a well-born car is certainly an easier task".
Also on the drivers Montezemolo says he is satisfied with the behavior of Felipe Massa, very fast in qualifying and author of a beautiful race.
"Fernando Alonso did very well and I saw him motivated and happy to have found confirmation of the first good responses from practice on the track. Now feet on the ground, there's a lot to work on".
More stops in the race, none outside. From Australia to Malaysia, Formula 1 starts right away. In seven days a new round of the carousel and according to many technicians, probable reversals. Because in Sepang we will have to deal with the torrid heat and the tires are once again a question mark. In 2012 it was Alonso who won in front of the surprise Perez with Sauber and Hamilton's McLaren, Vettel remained dry and now Ferrari dreams of the film repeating itself. Spanish focuses on continuity:
"Woe to make mistakes, always points, as much as possible".
Massa is looking for the feat, on a track where he has always been thrilled. Red Bull, surprised by the malfunctioning of their tyres, should be better off, but above all watch out for Lotus which has thrown off its mask. With Raikkonen, because Grosjean is more than ever in the crosshairs. They say he has a temporary contract (three races in three races) and a cumbersome ghost like Valsecchi behind him. For now, the Italian is on the sidelines. But anonymous competitions from the Swiss can only help him. Ferrari has already won the world championship of time zones and carnage travel: after the Australian trip to get to Kuala Lumpur, for the Malaysian Grand Prix, many technicians - including Pat Fry - went to Maranello to push fully on the accelerator of the development of the F138, as they explain to Ferrari. Thus arriving in Malaysia on Thursday - hopefully - with a few more magical pieces - while the other team members will leave between tonight and tomorrow morning towards the next Grand Prix. This little travel report says a lot about the pressure in Maranello in these hours because after the good result on Sunday we are certainly not resting on our laurels.
"It was a very intense race weekend for everyone, technicians, mechanics and drivers included, disrupted by the weather conditions, the long waits in the pits and the marshals' decisions to postpone qualifying to the Sunday morning before the race. It took a lot cold blood: both on Saturday, to cope with the hostile climate and the very difficult track conditions during the first phase of qualifying, and on Sunday, first during Q2 and Q3 to once again guess the correct choice of tires on a track in evolution, and then in the race, where traffic management, tire degradation, strategies and numerous pit stops made the first Grand Prix of the year extremely exciting.The final balance for the Reds is certainly positive in a chaotic weekend where it was easy to make mistakes".
All right, the team didn't do anything wrong, we agree on that. But the crux of the matter is that the race pace of the F138 is the best of the circus, an advantage that certainly cannot be thrown away without pushing for innovations that can further increase competitiveness. In fact, Red Bull will by now think like a wounded beast and God only knows what the track will bring to the next Grand Prix, while the recovery capabilities of McLaren - the historic strength of the Woking team - are also frightening. Not to mention the rocket Mercedes and the Lotus which in the hands of Iceman promises wonders. Apart from the technical aspect, however, in Maranello they know that race strategies and tire performance are increasingly important and therefore the good result in Melbourne proves that the work direction is the right one.
"On a tricky track like the Australian one, where some traffic-related incidents influenced Fernando's and Felipe's race, the decision to bring the pit-stops earlier and the three-stop option was the right decision, above all to overcome the cars that started outside the top ten with harder tires had managed to overtake the Ferrari drivers.And it was precisely in the tire change operations that the mechanics and drivers of the Maranello team started the season with the same excellent performance as in 2012, with average less than two and a half seconds for the six stops made".
He withstood the impact. Not only Massa on Saturday, who managed to stay inside qualifying after a terrible impact against the barriers, but the whole of Ferrari, aggressive in the race and capable with Alonso of beating the monster Vettel and bowing down only to Raikkonen. The first impact with the World Championship was positive, admits Stefano Domenicali, the team principal.
"We collected an excellent haul of points, but above all we understood that Ferrari is there, that the gap between us and our rivals is thin and can be filled. I foresee eight months of hard battle, often the tires will be decisive, we will see scenarios reversed from one week to the next, but our car is an excellent basis for achieving the objectives".
Call them dreams or hopes, they still have clear names: the return to the top of the world among the drivers with Alonso and the triumph among the constructors, where Ferrari is already in the lead. Goals towards which a refreshed Montezemolo looks with confidence. On the eve of the Ferrari president there was a little apprehension, you know what you did, but not how your opponents prepared, on Sunday he followed the Grand Prix with trepidation and now, the day after, he can free his anxieties. He had coined a name for the new car and he immediately plays on that:
"Hopeful is keeping hopes up. In Melbourne we ran a good race especially against Vettel, the strongest opponent. We were aiming for the podium and we achieved it, which is psychologically good for the mechanics, technicians and drivers. It was important to start off on the right foot, it hadn't happened in the last two years".
The president was satisfied with all the key moments, the start (Massa and Alonso overtaking Webber and Hamilton), the perfect pit stops, the strategy that made it possible to overtake Vettel. He now invites you not to give up.
"We don't have the fastest car, but we have a lot of irons in the fire and we have to make it work. We will be able to develop the car to a great extent. Faced with a car born well, the task is easier".
As for the pilots:
"Massa was very fast in qualifying and very good in the race. Alonso displayed his usual ferocity and I found him very serene, like after the tests. Now feet on the ground. If we want to win, we must never make mistakes".
The fact remains that the F138, an evolution yes, but only a distant relative of the previous car, appears better balanced, capable of a better relationship with the tires and above all, compared to 2012, has the comfort of data on the track in line with those of the tunnel Toyota wind. Now there's the Malaysian Grand Prix, scorching heat and three pit stops promised by Pirelli. Who knows what effect the more abrasive asphalt of the Sepang circuit will have on a Lotus which, through team principal Eric Boullier, has denied aiming for the title. Raikkonen's triumph, however, had an effect and now his final victory is paid only to 5 (Lotus 9 in the constructors). Instead, no confidence in McLaren. Which receives only good news: from 2015 Honda (which left F1 in 2008) will supply the engines. The hardest compound in the new range of Pirelli tires for F1 makes its debut in Malaysia with the new orange colour. The P Zero Orange was chosen for the Sepang race together with the P Zero White medium, which has already been on track in Australia. The two hardest compounds in the Pirelli range are ideal for the extreme temperatures and abrasive surface of the Malaysian circuit. Sepang is also well known for its downpours which make the use of wet tires (Cinturato Green intermediate and Cinturato Blue wet) extremely probable over the course of the weekend. This is the comment from Paul Hembery, Pirelli Motorsport Director:
"We could describe Sepang as a genuinely extreme race, both for the weather and for the track surface. It is one of the most demanding weekends for our tires. For the first time, our new hard rubber will take to the track, the color of which orange was chosen to make it more easily distinguishable from the white of the medium compound.The tire choice for Malaysia is the same as in 2012 but, this year, the same compounds offer more performance and their degradation is deliberately increased. last year the three pit-stop strategy proved successful for a race that was a little dry and a little wet, which saw an exciting final duel between Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez, fought entirely to the sound of tyres. pit stop, but the weather conditions could once again turn the tables around. Even in the absence of rain, the drivers can expect humidity in the order of 80% and ambient temperatures above 30 °C".