The second appointment of the 2010 Formula 1 World Championship will take place in Melbourne at the Albert Park on Sunday, 28th of March. As many of you know, Albert Park is a street circuit: indeed, the drivers will race on public roads that surround the artificial Albert Park lake. With an amazing start in Bahrain that showed how challenging this season will be for the top four teams, many drivers feel the eager to win and the eager of redemption from a controversial first Grand Prix. One of those is surely Vettel, who saw his first victory of the season slipping away from his hands due to a mechanical problem. Nevertheless, this showed the potential of Red Bull:
"The Red Bull is ridiculously faster than anyone else's car. It's insane. The downforce they had on their car last year was at some points just about double what we had. Even at the end of the year they had so much more than us, even though we had won a couple of Grand Prix".
Turning attention to upcoming race, Lewis Hamilton doesn’t hide his excitement:
"The racing in Melbourne is always great. And it should be better there than it was in the opening round. It’s an extremely special circuit: unique. I love street circuits, it’s a great place to race on, and the fans are fantastic".
Despite a very challenging first race that saw him finishing on the podium after a hard comeback, the Briton is optimistic for the upcoming race:
"I’m looking forward to Melbourne. I like the circuit; I think we’ll go well there, and I don’t think we’ll have the same problems that slowed our progress in Bahrain".
Although what happened in the Australian race last year with Jarno Trulli, he is looking forward to Saturday and Sunday. Indeed, the Briton is enjoying his days prior the race. On Wednesday, Hamilton found himself behind the wheel of the America’s Cup yacht Spirit and he skippered the vessel around Sydney’s harbour, together with the world champion yachtsman Iain Murray:
"Today was my first time in Sydney, and there’s been no better way to mark my stay than by getting to see the famous sights from the waters. I had a great time skippering Spirit today - it’s huge fun, but it’s nothing like a Formula 1 car. Nothing is like that".
His teammate Jenson Button is fully focused for this weekend, which brings him back good memories: his debut in Formula 1 where he was running fourth before retiring, the 2006 edition where he took pole position although he had to retire during the race, and finally last year where he managed to grab pole position and victory. Coming to this race weekend, Button expresses all his excitement to come back racing here:
"Looking ahead to this year, I think we head to the Albert Park circuit feeling more confident of our overall pace. It’s quite a contrast to Bahrain: no tight, low-speed sections and plenty of faster corners. We think the track configuration should suit our package. We learnt some very useful lessons about MP4-25 in the opening race, and the whole team is keen to put them into practice this weekend".
"I've been in Australia for a couple of days already. I came directly here from Bahrain to relax a bit before the two consecutive races in Melbourne and Malaysia and now I'm ready for the season's second race. I stayed in contact with the team these days and I know that they worked hard in Maranello to get ready for the race. The one-two win in Sakhir gave us confidence and was a great result for the hard work during the winter on the track and at the works, but we can't take anything for granted. We have to stay with our feet on the ground, keeping calm and staying concentrated: in Melbourne we're starting from square one. Nothing has changed for me: there are four teams and eight drivers who can fight for victory and we have to give it our all to stay ahead of everybody else".
He also admits this is a track that he particularly likes:
"I like the Albert Park track. It's quite a technical circuit with some pretty interesting corners. Overtaking has never been easy and what is even more important now, like on all city circuits, is the result in the qualifying. We have to see how the tyres behave with different fuel loads and temperatures, which will be different from the ones we had during testing and in Bahrain. The weekend in Melbourne is one of my preferred ones for the atmosphere at the paddock and in the city. It's really special and it seems that everybody is following the event. There's lots of action on the track and it's good to see so many people on the grandstands. Let's hope we can provide a good show to our fans, for more great satisfaction".
Finally, he gave his opinion about the new regulation that FIA introduced for this year:
"I think that many of us have given some hot-headed comments immediately after the race in Bahrain. It's true that the race in Sakhir wasn't especially spectacular - although for us Ferraristi it was great and exciting - but it's too early to talk about changing the rules. We have to wait and see different races and check the situation, without being emotional. Something that confuses the fans is changing the rules all the time".
His teammate comments again his performance in Bahrain:
"I did not take the first corner very well and my speed wasn’t right, which cost me time, so Fernando managed to pass me, it’s also true that it was the first braking point with a very heavy car and I had Hamilton very close to me, so I braked very much over to the right of the track, I did the best I could in the circumstances and, overall it was a very good weekend thanks to a perfect job from the team".
He is aware that Bahrain hasn’t been a thrilling race as the overtakes were lacking, but as he explains:
"Definitely with a heavier car, in a formula that depends so much on aerodynamics you really need clean air ahead of you to overtake. On top of that, when the car is heavy you have low grip and if you get close to the car in front you have even less grip, which means that when the cars are very heavy in the early stages, it is very difficult to overtake".
"We have already said that it would be good to bring the race forward by at least an hour or half an hour, but nothing has changed, running the race so late means visibility gets worse towards the end and I remember that last year, it was almost impossible to see the white lines on the track as the sun was setting".
Many drivers complain about it, admitting that racing during the sunset it’s very difficult. Indeed, it seems like a dazzling blade that penetrates through the helmet. But at the same time, Felipe understands the reason of this decision:
"The commercial side of the sport is important too and that is why the start time stays the same".
Meanwhile, also the two Mercedes drivers are looking forward to racing in Australia, hoping to get a better result compared to the last race and possibly to finish on the podium. Nonetheless, it has always been a successful race for Nico Rosberg, as he managed to finish in the points for three years in a row and got his first ever podium finishing third in 2008. He also adds:
"Melbourne is a great city, so I really enjoy visiting and the Albert Park street circuit is exciting. It's quite a challenging track as the public roads are always dirty to begin with and there are a lot of bumps to negotiate. With the change in the time of the race last year, the low sun was one of the most difficult things due to the late afternoon start".
Schumacher gives his opinion about the race in Melbourne as he comments:
"Australia has always been one of the highlights on the Formula One calendar and this has never changed for me in all my years of competing. As in previous times, I arrived on the continent quite early and have spent some nice days training, adapting and relaxing in order to be fit and rested for the race weekend. I have a lot of good memories from Melbourne and most of the time, we saw interesting races there".
Surely, he still needs some time to get comfortable again in a Formula 1 car, but overall he seems happy with the outcome of the first race:
"I am very happy with the outcome of the season opener in Bahrain. Sixth position was good for me, especially considering how few times I have driven an Formula 1 car since my retirement. I am sure that Melbourne will help me to get into the rhythm even more and I am looking forward to it".
While preparing for the race, Schumacher is attending a media event, organized by Bridgestone for the Make Cars Green program together with the Australian Automobile Association. The tyre company just launched Bridgestone Ecopia that utilizes a low-rolling resistance tyre technology to lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
"Whilst our car is fundamentally strong, we have a development plan in place for the next few races which should bring the required performance improvements to compete at the front".
Coming to the new teams, the outcome of the first race showed the amount of work they still have to do. Certainly, this was already clear for HRT team, since they didn’t attend the winter testing and they came to Bahrain and had their proper shakedown during the first race weekend of the season: a fight against time. This didn’t appear to be an obstacle for them as they were able to start the race. However, the goal for the upcoming race is to take chequered flag, as Chandhok confirms:
"I am really looking forward to my second Formula 1 race this weekend. I have never driven in Melbourne, but I am a very quick learner. I was able to work on a team’s simulator before the Grand Prix so that will help my familiarisation a little bit. Our next step with the team’s engineers is to make the car reliable for the race. The secret of good racing preparation is to complete as many laps as possible on Friday to see where we are with the car. Finishing the race would be a fantastic achievement we will strive for".
As for HRT team, also Virgin admits they want to have a fresh new start this weekend after a very disappointing race in Bahrain which saw both cars retire. In that occasion, the team suffered from hydraulic and transmission problems, but they are bringing new parts to solve the issues. Nick Wirth, the technical director, confirms the positive attitude:
"It was disappointing to end our debut race with two retirements, but we take a lot of encouragement from knowing that our issues are specific and isolated, which means they are easily addressed. No one said the first few races would be easy, and Bahrain was grueling to say the least. But far better to flush out the problems early on and deal with them and that is exactly what we have been doing in the two weeks gap between these two races. We have some new parts which we hope will provide a robust solution to the new hydraulic problem and transmission issue we experienced in Bahrain".
On the other hand, after a great opening performance, Lotus is hoping to continue being the best between the three new teams:
"Since Bahrain we’ve been working very hard back in the factory, pushing further on the new package for Barcelona, so the guys have been working hard in the wind tunnel as well as focusing on the expansion of our drawing office. On top of all that we’ve been looking at some of the problems we had in Bahrain and how we can fix them, so overall we’ve been very busy".
Comments Mike Gascoyne, who is Lotus chief technical officer.
"Obviously doing all that and then coming straight to Australia, having to deal with the jetlag, the distance and the time difference isn’t easy, but it is part and parcel of the job and you just have to get on with it. The circuit in Melbourne is not often used for motor racing, there are some bumps around the track and it’s pretty hard on brakes. We know the changes in setup we need to make, and we have a couple of aero updates here which should bring a tenth or two, so overall we’re looking forward to the weekend".
Grip levels will continue to build throughout the session: that’s the main reason why teams are currently struggling to get important data. Everybody has now been on track at least once. However, halfway through the session, Kobayashi has banged his front wing on the kerb and the session has been stopped in order to clean the track. First drivers back on track are the two teammates Vettel and Webber. After an intense battle between Rosberg and Button for the fastest lap, the Briton has come up on top before a second red flag of the session. Looks like Kobayashi’s new front wing broke off again and the track is again full of debris. The marshals have removed the car from the turn 3 run off and the session can restart.
With only approximately 20 minutes to go, it should be a busy conclusion of the first session as the drivers will want to get the best out of the set of tyres they must hand back. At the chequered flag, Robert Kubica comes on first with an impressive fastest lap of 1’26"927. The Renault driver is followed by Rosberg, who is 2 tenths slower. Third is Button (1’27"482), followed by Massa (1’27"511), Vettel (1’27"686) and the other Ferrari driver Alonso (1’27"747). Hamilton comes only 7th being more than 3 tenths slower than his teammate. Buemi (1’28"014), Petrov (1’28"114), Liuzzi (1’28"192) complete the top ten. Michael Schumacher comes only 12th with a lap of 1’28"850. Meanwhile, the new teams have all successfully completed few laps. Lotus drivers find themselves very happy at the end of the first session, as Kovalainen confirms:
"First session was good - pretty much how we were planning to do it. We had a little problem with the differential, but we managed to work around it. It meant that the car wasn’t quite performing 100% but it’s no big deal, and we were able to put some good laps in and check the car, the balance and the tyres and we’re pretty happy about it - all in all I feel very comfortable in the car".
At the same time, FIA has permitted to Virgin F1 to increase their fuel tank size: their fuel tank capacity has been marginal especially during the first race in Bahrain. They will introduce this change in the early part of the European season. In the afternoon, drivers will experience mixed weather as the forecast is announcing few showers in the middle of the FP2. It seems that at the start of the session the track is not wet enough for inters, but not dry enough for slicks: the conditions are tricky. Indeed, few drivers are now starting to hit the track, but they can’t manage to do a proper lap time. Halfway through, the conditions get better and Rosberg is able to set the fastest lap of 1’27"464. Meanwhile, Hamilton and Button are going for a first fasted sector.
"I was quite happy with the way things went, even if the weather was not so good. Unlike Bahrain, I managed to complete all the sessions which is positive. Now we have to analyse the data from FP2 as it should give us a good picture of tyre behaviour in all conditions - wet, dry, high and low fuel - working mainly in race trim. We are quite confident that we can be well prepared for qualifying and the race. A good day’s work".
Force India drivers Sutil and Liuzzi takes chequered flag respectively 7th (1’26"834) and 8th (1’26"835). Barrichello (1’26"904) and Rosberg (1’26"959) complete the top ten. It hasn’t been an outstanding performance for the German, even though the conditions weren’t optimal:
"The first session was ok this morning and we learnt some good things. This afternoon was a bit frustrating with the weather interruptions, but we were still able to learn a good amount on the tyres which gives us some preparation for tomorrow. There are still some set-up issues to look at and improvements to make on the car so we have plenty of work to do overnight".
The two Ferrari drivers come only 15th with Alonso (1’29"025) and 17th with Massa (1’29"134) as the Red Bull driver slides between the two in 16th (1’29"134). As it has been mentioned before, Vettel had an excursion at turn 6 which compromised his last push lap:
"I had a drift off track at the end of the second session; obviously it wasn’t ideal, but it happens - that’s what practice is for. It was my mistake; I was a bit too far to the left when hitting the brakes. It meant I missed the most important time on the track at the end of FP2, but the car feels good and Mark showed that we are right there. It looks very close between the top cars".
Ferrari couldn’t manage to complete what they have planned for today, but the situation was very similar for everyone and this is a fact that has been confirmed by Stefano Domenicali:
"We tried to get through all our planned program, which centered on finding the best set-up for the race and on evaluating the two types of tyre Bridgestone has supplied for this Grand Prix. Obviously, we would have preferred to have been able to do more laps in consistent conditions, but this applies to everyone, so it’s not worth complaining about. All in all, from what we could see, the situation is similar to the one in Bahrain. Tomorrow, it will be vital to have a good qualifying: in order to do that, it will be very important to manage the timing to find the best moment to go out and do a time, especially in the first two sessions".
With 20 minutes to go, Alonso manages to beat Lewis lap time, with a lap of 1’25"559. Schumacher is in his flying lap, setting the first two purple sector. He finishes the lap and comes on top, being less than 1 tenth faster than the Spaniard. After 3 minutes, P1 changes again as Webber sets a time of 1’25"309. With only 5 minutes to go, everybody is now back on track for a last try. Webber improves his time and he is the first one to break into 1’ 24"719, followed by Alonso (1’24"929) and Schumacher (1’24"963). Chandhok has caused a yellow flag as he has pulled to a stop at turn 7, causing an early start of the session.
Fourth is Vettel (1’25"122), followed by Rosberg (1’25”366) and the two McLaren drivers Button (1’25"399) and Hamilton (1’25"505). Sutil (1’25"525), Massa (1’25”549) and Liuzzi (1’25"782) complete the top 10. It looks like we will have a frantic battle for the first positions on the grid. It is now time for the most important appointment of this Saturday: qualifying time. Track conditions will most likely change due to a major crash that occurred at the start of the GT support race an hour ago. Indeed, this left oil and debris on the circuit, especially at turn 1 and marshals have been busy cleaning up ever since.
Green light and the first session of qualifying gets underway. The top teams are likely to run several laps on the harder tyres as they are quite confident to escape Q1. Liuzzi is the first one on track and he is followed by the teammate Sutil. Felipe Massa hits the track too with Chandhok and the two Mercedes. Liuzzi sets the first lap time of the session (1’28"848), but he is immediately beaten by his teammate Sutil (1’28"031). Meanwhile, Felipe Massa is the quickest man in sector 1, but Alonso has had a clean tour and manages to top the sheet with a lap time of 1’26"162, whilst Sebastian Buemi goes fourth and Robert Kubica second. Webber now takes P1 with 1’25"951, but this time is immediately beaten by Alonso again (1’25"522).
Schumacher is third behind the Spaniard and the Aussie. The McLaren drivers are now going for the first time out on track: Lewis Hamilton goes fastest in the middle sector, but only manages to set the seventh time. There is an intense battle between Webber and Alonso as they keep beating each other’s lap times. Sebastian Vettel now tops the time sheet with the other Red Bull with an incredible lap of 1’24"774 and it’s the confirmation of the fact that the RB16 is flying today. He is followed by Button, who takes second fastest lap and his teammate Hamilton is up to third.
Meanwhile, Massa is currently trying to find some pace as he is only 6 tenths to the elimination zone in 14th due to troubles on warming up the tyres, but he manages to bring his Ferrari to the 6th position. Nico Rosberg sets second quickest time on a late push lap with harder tyres. Petrov is the first one out of Q1, he is now on his last try, but the effort is not good enough as he loses out by two tenths. Indeed, he doesn’t hide his frustration on missing out the opportunity to get a better starting grid position for tomorrow:
"I’m disappointed not to make it out of Q1 because the car has been competitive all weekend. Qualifying is a new experience for me and I’m still learning: it’s very busy out on track, it was difficult to get a clear lap and I didn’t put my three best sectors together when it counted on my final run. The times show I had the pace to be in Q2, so of course I’m disappointed not to have reached my potential. The car didn’t not feel as well balanced today, either, in the different track conditions. It will be a tough race starting so far down the field and the track is narrow so it’s difficult to overtake, but I will try my best to get a good result tomorrow".
The other 6 eliminated in this first part of qualifying are: Kovalainen (1’28"797), Trulli (1’29"111), Glock (1’29"592), Di Grassi (1’30"185), Senna (1’30"526) and Chandhok (1’30"613). Lotus is very proud about maintaing the record of the best new team in qualifying, as the team principal Tony Fernandes confirms:
"Once again Lotus Racing has done us proud. Consistency and reliability are still our key aims, and the whole team has successfully maintained our quiet progress. Next step is to take the fight to Toro Rosso and BMW Sauber and we’ll keep on fighting to achieve that. As you know Australia is an important place for me, and I - along with all our fans and Clive’s lucky cap - am very much looking forward to seeing Lotus once again on the grid in Melbourne".
Second part of qualifying is starting now under grey skies as it seems there will be some showers during the session. Almost every driver is now heading straight to the track since the chances of rain are very high. First two are Webber and Liuzzi, followed by Ferrari and McLaren drivers. The two Mercedes drivers are out now too. Alonso is currently setting purple sectors and tops the sheet with a lap of 1’24"459 in front of Webber (1’24"797) who is running on hard compound. Meanwhile, Rosberg goes third with 1’25"245, but Massa goes fastest and gets his place. A minute later, Rosberg is back in front of Massa, but Vettel goes faster and gets third place. Nevertheless, Webber is actually quicker, on a tyre that is expected to be half a second slower than the soft one.
Lewis Hamilton is currently on a softer compound and he is 3 seconds away from 10th. However, he is now improving and gets the seventh place (1’25"251), whilst Schumacher manages to get only 8th. With 2 minutes remaining, Vettel improves to second quickest (1’24"312), meanwhile Kubica and Schumacher improves respectively to ninth and to sixth. As Q2 comes to an end, Vettel is on top with his teammate right behind in second place and Alonso is in third.
Hamilton has dropped to 11th while everybody in front of him has improved the lap time: he becomes the first eliminated of Q2. He really faced a difficult end of the session, since he even had to come back to the pits as he didn’t have enough fuel for another attempt. The other eliminated 6 cars are Buemi (1’25"638), Liuzzi (1’25"743), de la Rosa (1’25"747), Hulkenberg (1’25"748), Kobayashi (1’25"777) and Alguersuari (1’26"089) who made a mistake at turn 14. Nevertheless, Toro Rosso team principal is quite happy with the overall performance of today:
"Both drivers did a good job, even if Jaime made a mistake at Turn 14, which he is unhappy about, but I'm happy that he's unhappy about it! We have introduced a few changes to the car since the last race and it has made a difference today. It is too early to talk about an improving trend, but if we can repeat this type of qualifying performance in Malaysia, then that would be a confirmation that we are moving forward".
"I’m disappointed with qualifying and expected more. The target was obviously to get into the top ten, but I didn’t get the lap together and this is the result. This is my first qualifying here; it’s not an easy circuit to learn and it’s very narrow and quite bumpy. It will be difficult to get into the points tomorrow from P15, but you never know what could happen if the weather turns".
Same feelings for Liuzzi, who is disappointed to miss out the chance to go through Q3 as traffic seems to be the main reason:
"Really disappointing today. There was so much traffic - it was just impossible. Pretty much every lap I had some problem, particularly with the Williams of Hulkenberg and the Sauber of de la Rosa who don't seem to be able to use their rear view mirrors. In all the sessions, on all of my runs, I struggled to finish a proper lap. I had green on the first two sectors but then got held up in the last sector, sometimes in the last corner. It's a shame as I definitely think the pace was there to make it through to the top ten. I think we need to find a solution to this as there are so many cars and too many different speeds. If it's like this here, I don't know what it will be like in Monte Carlo, which is even tighter".
It's time for the last session of this Saturday, which will decide the top ten for tomorrow. The teams need to decide if they prefer to do a longer stint tomorrow during the race and qualify with the hard tyres or have a better grid position and put the softer compound on. The battle for pole position gets now underway as the Ferrari pair are the first ones out on track, followed by Webber (who for the first time is running with the soft compound), Barrichello and the two Mercedes. Indeed, they are all going out now to cover the threat of rain. First to set a time is Alonso (1’24”606). Meanwhile, Webber is the quickest in the two first sectors. Indeed, he cuts the finish line and gets P1 (1’24”035). Schumacher comes third in front of Barrichello.
Here comes Vettel with an amazing fastest lap of 1’23"919, currently topping the time sheet. Rosberg comes up to fourth (1’24"884) and Button gets P5 in his first attempt. With 4 minutes to go, most cars are now back in the pits, except for Button. He tries again to improve his time benefiting from a clear track and manages to get third fastest. Nico Rosberg is currently leaving the pitlane on the harder compound and same for his teammate, whilst Massa takes fifth place after his second attempt. The teammate Fernando Alonso is improving each sector, but he remains third. In the meantime, Webber is in a flying lap, but his effort is not good enough to take P1 away from his teammate Vettel. With one minute to go, nobody seems to be improving and as they take chequered flag, Vettel become the pole sitter for this Australian race weekend. A great effort from the team, having secured the first row and amazing job from Vettel that has taken the second consecutive pole position.
"We will show them".
Says Vettel, coming back to the pit, already looking forward to the race.
“A great result for the team".
He says to the press conference, and he adds:
"It’s obviously Mark’s home race here - but he got pole in Germany, so it’s kind of a revenge (laughs). But, it’s a long race tomorrow. I think we made a good step with the car ahead of today’s qualifying. The final session was all about if it would rain or not, so we waited a little bit at the start. My first lap in Q3 was the quickest and it was spot on until the last three corners. I was on the edge through Turn 14, but then I lost a little bit in last corner going on to the main straight. It was a very good lap up until that point though and the result says it all. I’m looking forward to tomorrow".
Second place for the Aussie driver in his home race, but he doesn’t hide the fact that he would have wanted to be on pole:
"I would prefer to be on pole position of course, but second is still a good result and it’s great for the team to have a one-two. It would be nice to be one place further up, but Seb did a good job. It was a good battle - with about 800ths between us in the end. I wasn’t mega-concerned about the weather today, as it’s the same for everyone and whatever happens, happens! I think tomorrow will be enjoyable - but I would prefer a dry race, as the track can get slippery with intermittent conditions".
To complete the top ten, Alonso is third (1’24"111), in front of Button (1’24"675) and Felipe (1’24"837). Alonso is quite satisfied with his third place as he admits it’s very difficult to be in front of the Red Bulls:
"It was a positive qualifying session. We know it would have been difficult to be in front of the Red Bull cars, and we did the best we could to maximise our potential. Third place is an amazing result! The race is long, we want to finish on the podium keep scoring points. It will be a long race with safety cars, accidents and problems. That’s why our priority is to finish the race".
On the other hand, his teammate is not very happy as he only qualified 5th:
"This is not the qualifying I was hoping for at the beginning of this race weekend. When the temperature dropped, I struggle to warm up the tyres".
The two Mercedes drivers Rosberg and Schumacher are respectively sixth (1’24"884) and seventh (1’24"927). They tried the hard compound, which didn’t help on getting a good grid position. Rosberg is not very happy with how this last session went:
"It was a disappointing qualifying today as I had made really good progress during practice with my engineers but didn't do the best job when it mattered. I made a couple of mistakes on my best lap on the option tyres which cost me three or four tenths. There was more in the car today so it's always frustrating when you don't get the most out of it. It's not typical for me to make such mistakes in qualifying. But that's the way it goes sometimes, and sixth position is still a good place to start. We should be stronger in the race and anything can happen tomorrow".
Schumacher blames his poor performance on the traffic:
"We had a reasonable qualifying session today and I am ok with the outcome even if I was a bit handicapped by traffic, especially on my final quick lap. We made some changes with the car after the practice this morning which did not work out perfectly. But in general, I would guess the ranking that we see now reflects the situation well and our performance is probably the maximum for our car at the moment. Anyhow, we still have a lot in hand for tomorrow's race, and I am on the clean side of the grid for the start. As we all know, a lot can happen over the course of a race".
Barrichello (1’25"217), Kubica (1’25"372) and Sutil (1’26"036) complete the top ten grid.
The drivers are now going to the grid: they may also pass through the pits again and make a second reconnaissance lap to check the conditions on track as there is no need to conserve fuel anymore. Indeed, the Ferrari pair are opting for a run through the pits and an additional lap to the grid. With 15 minutes to the start of the race, it has started to rain on track: this complicates the strategy as now teams need to decide which tyre strategy is best to start the race. Intermediate tyres look like the best possible choice, with further rain approaching the circuit, and like this the dry tyre rules of using both compounds will not apply if wet tyres are used at the start.
The pole sitter is the first one to go for the inters tyres and most of the other drivers are following this decision after the track has declared wet. Drivers are now concluding the formation lap, and the start of the race is imminent. The five red lights go out and the Australian Grand Prix gets underway with a good start from Vettel. Jarno Trulli has failed to start the race as he encountered a hydraulic pump failure. Webber is already under pressure from Massa, who managed to pass Alonso and Button. Indeed, these last two drivers had a collision as Button touched the right rear wheel of Alonso.
The Spaniard is now facing the wrong way after he spun and reeked Schumacher’s front wing. Meanwhile, Massa overtakes Webber for P2. Kubica is incredibly fourth, after having overtaken the two Mercedes. Buemi is currently in the gravels, as well as Kobayashi and Hulkenberg. In fact, he lost the front wing and lost control of the car taking out the other two drivers from the race. That’s the reason why the safety car has been deployed. Schumacher is taking advantage of it and goes into the pits to change his front wing, meanwhile Alonso is currently 18th.
On lap 5, the safety car gets back in and Vettel has another good start, with Massa keeping his second place. Webber is under pressure from Kubica, but he manages to keep his position. One lap later, there is another retirement as Bruno Senna stopped out on track. Lewis Hamilton completes a good overtaking on his teammate Button at Turn 3. On the same lap, Massa seems to be very slow and Webber is able to demote him to third. On lap 7, Button is asking to his engineers to pit for slick tyres as the track seems to dry out. He goes to pit and makes the change and he rejoins in 19th place. He is straight out turn 3 as it’s probably too wet for this early change. Meanwhile, Alonso is engaged in his comeback and he is currently 13th.
Two laps later, Hamilton’s pace is poor and Rosberg passes him. The track is currently drying and Button is the fastest one on track. Indeed, every drivers, except for the two Red Bulls and Luca di Grassi, are going to pit. One lap later, also Vettel decides to change for slick tyres, whilst Webber is losing a lot of time in the inters. Petrov is the new retirement of the race as he spun away at turn 14 into the gravels, followed then by Sutil who is out of the race. On lap 11, Webber finally pits, but he resumes behind Massa.
Three laps later, few drops are now falling on track, but shouldn’t last long. Alonso is currently eight after having overtaken Barrichello: his next target is Hamilton. On lap 16, Webber passes Massa at turn 1, and Hamilton goes through as well. Now, it’s fight between the Aussie and the Briton into turn 3 as they go wheel to wheel, but Webber goes off track into the gravels and gets past by Hamilton and Massa. The Aussie has dropped to 8th. The battle is currently between Massa and Hamilton as Massa takes back his position, with Alonso who is closing up to them. In front, Vettel is now 4.1 seconds ahead of Button.
Massa has a huge slide and Hamilton passes him down the inside at turn 1, taking fifth. On lap 23, the Briton is right behind Rosberg, but he is not able to pass him. At the same time, Liuzzi overtakes the Sauber of de la Rosa at turn 13. Few laps later, Hamilton concludes an amazing move on Rosberg, but at the same time something has happening at the front: Vettel misses the corner, locks the rear brakes and gets stuck into the gravels. Button is now leading the race and Vettel is out of the race. Bad luck for the German as this is another miss opportunity to win a race. The first three are currently Button, Kubica and Hamilton, meanwhile Webber gets past Massa for fourth. Lucas di Grassi has come into the pits, due to some problems on his car and it looks like he will retire from the race.
Halfway through the race, Lewis is battling with Kubica for the second position, but he fails to outbrake the Renault driver. Meanwhile, also Alonso continues to tail Massa, who seems to be struggling to find some grip. On the same lap, Webber is stopping for fresh tyres. The Aussie is followed by Rosberg who puts fresh tyres on and he comes right behind Webber. Hamilton decides to pit as well, resuming ahead of Webber. A lap later, the Briton is setting first and second fastest lap, however Webber is very close and tries an overtake without any success.
With 20 laps to go, he is 20.5 seconds behind Alonso and it seems that the Ferrari pair are not going to pit. Button continues to have a large advantage of 12 seconds on Kubica. Hamilton clocks the fastest lap at 1’28"591, closing now to 17.5 seconds on Alonso. Two laps later, on lap 42 Hamilton manages to gain another 5 seconds to the group in front, whilst Massa goes well wide through the final sector in his attempt to pass Kubica. This brings Lewis Hamilton even closer, with a gap of 9 seconds.
On lap 45, Massa has been told from his engineer that he needs to pass Kubica in a very short time or he will lose his position on Hamilton. Webber is also currently finding back some pace as he follows the McLaren of Hamilton: he is only one second behind. Meanwhile, Liuzzi in eight is losing some pace and de la Rosa is now closing the gap to him, with Barrichello, Alguersuari and Schumacher following him closely. Timo Glock pits, but he is parking his Virgin car in the box. After just 5 laps, Hamilton is only over a second behind Alonso as the Spaniard is struggling with the tyres. Indeed, Hamilton will also have a straight-line speed advantage thanks to McLaren’s F-duct.
Hamilton is right behind Alonso, with Webber right behind the McLaren. On lap 53, Hamilton communicates to his race engineer that his tyres have gone off as he got stuck behind the dirty air of Alonso. He is now regretting his second pitstop as he was battling for second before the stop. In the same lap, Barrichello overtakes Pedro de la Rosa for the ninth place, chasing now Tonio Liuzzi in eight. With 3 laps to go, Hamilton still struggles to get Alonso and Rosberg is now behind the group too. One lap from the end, Alonso closes the door and Webber, who was trying to get an advantage too, bumps into Hamilton, sending both into the gravels. Hamilton ends up in sixth, while Webber is forced to pit for a new front wing. On lap 58, Schumacher gets past de la Rosa to grab the final point.
It’s chequered flag as Button takes the win for this Australian Grand prix, after a superb call to pit before anyone else. Robert Kubica finished second in his Renault, with Felipe Massa taking third and completing the podium. Fernando Alonso is fourth with Rosberg in fifth. Lewis Hamilton is able to finish only 6th, ahead of Liuzzi, Barrichello, the Aussie Webber and Schumacher. The first out the points is Alguersari, together with Pedro de la Rosa, Kovalainen and Chandhok.
It’s time for the celebrations on the podium as the top three finishers are going to get their trophies. The new Grand Prix winner of this 2010 season and former 2009 World Champion Jenson Button is over the moon for his sensational performance:
"What a fantastic weekend! From the first lap here, I felt comfortable in the car. Qualifying was good - we weren’t on the pace of the front guys, we were five or six tenths off - but our race pace was better. And in these tricky conditions, I think we made some very good calls and we came away with a victory. You might say we were lucky in some ways, but I think we just made the right calls - and that’s so important nowadays. It’s not just about speed, it’s about making the right calls, being consistent and conserving the car".
On the gamble about the pit stop, he comments:
"It was a necessary move to pit for slicks. I was struggling for grip on the Inters, and the rears were destroying themselves very quickly, so we figured it must be time for dries. As I drove down the pit lane, I could see it was soaking wet and I feared it was a massive mistake on my part. When I left the pits, I went off the circuit and just thought: Oh no. But I got to grips with it pretty quickly, and soon started to feel really good in the car. I caught up behind Sebastian, I conserved the tyres, I built a useful gap and I want to say a massive thank-you to the whole Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team: they’ve done a brilliant job".
This win really means a lot for the Briton, as he thinks will be very important for the overall season:
"To not only be on the podium, but to be on the top step, after just two races, is amazing. It’s crucial to get the big points when perhaps we don’t have the out-and-out pace: these are really important points to us. Now we’ve really got to get our heads down and hopefully turn up in Malaysia next week with an even better car. This victory means so much to me. A Grand Prix win in a McLaren. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Right now, I just want to run around and scream. It’s just the most amazing experience".
It was a very good call to pit Jenson very early and keep him out. However, the team probably overlooked the risks of a second pit stop for his teammate Lewis Hamilton, which costed the driver to finish behind the Ferraris and Rosberg:
"The strategy was not right. I drove my heart out and I deserved better. I probably had one of the drives of my life, but unfortunately due to the strategy I was put further back and then I got taken out by Mark Webber. I am happy with the job that I did. Everyone else in front of me did one stop and for some reason I did two. I'd already stopped once and my tyres were fine. I went for the second stop and worked my backside off to catch the 20-second gap. I didn't question it because I always trust the team. I had the pace to overtake Kubica and we could have had our first one-two, which would have been great for the team. But unfortunately that wasn't the case".
"Second place today is a fantastic result for the team after all the hard work we have done over the winter. It was a difficult race to call in terms of strategy and I pitted to change my intermediates for slicks as soon as we saw Button’s pace. I managed to jump Massa in the pits and I came out ahead of Button, but it was my first lap on slicks so I could not hold him off. I thought I would pit again later in the race, but the team said we didn’t need to if I could look after the tyres until the end of the race. I tried to take care of them as much as I could, which wasn’t easy because I had Hamilton behind me and then Massa, but in the end my tyres lasted and we managed to get this great result. We have put in so much hard work this winter, and we know there is still a long way to go before we are really competitive with the fastest teams, but this is a brilliant boost for everybody in the team".
Second race of the season and second podium for Felipe Massa, who is very happy for this result as he couldn’t hope for a better finish today:
"I am very happy with this result, for myself and for the team. Given everything that happened, rain at the start, the safety car, the switch to slick tyres when the track was still very slippery - we did a great job. These points are very important for the classification: I have never been very lucky here and in the past, I have often struggled in the early part of the season. The key to getting on the podium was the start. I managed not to spin the wheels, while other drivers struggled for grip and I managed to move up to second. Then I lost some places in the early stages, when I had a few problems with grip, but thanks to the strategy, I then managed to make up some. I was able to close on Kubica, but I never had a real chance of passing him, while behind me Fernando got very close on more than one occasion, making the most of a few errors. I think the spectators in the grandstands and in front of their TV screens had fun today: you could hardly call it boring".
His teammate Fernando has had a great comeback after an eventful start of the race. He also thanks his team for the great one stop strategy that brought him from 18th to 4th at the chequered flag and comments:
"I am pleased with this result. I got an awful start, because I had wheel spin on a white line and was last after the first corner following a collision with two other cars, so to finish fourth is very significant, especially given what happened to some other drivers, meaning we have increased our lead over some of our closest rivals in the title fight. Thanks to the strategy, we managed to get this result. The car was perfect and we were able to run a very long stint with the soft tyres. When I found myself behind Felipe, maybe I could have gone a bit quicker, but we know it’s very hard to pass in Formula 1 and between team-mates, one should not take any unnecessary risks. If we had managed to get past Kubica, then it might have been a different story, but it wasn’t possible, apart from the fact I also had to defend my position against Hamilton and Webber, who were on fresher tyres than us. For sure, after an exciting and action packed race like this, I don’t think we’ll hear much more talk about boring races".
"Fifth place is a good result after a mixed-up race today. I had a bad start in the wet and after that we lacked pace and I struggled with the option tyre. The rear degradation was pretty bad so we decided to go for a second stop and get some fresh tyres to try to attack the group ahead. Even with the tyre advantage, it would have been difficult to pass once we caught up and therefore it was good to make up a couple of places when Mark and Lewis had an incident, so I'm pleased with that. We need to keep on taking the points whilst we improve the car so overall it was a decent weekend".
On the other hand, Michael had a very unlucky start as he has been force into the pits for a front wing change after the collision with Fernando Alonso:
"I could have had a good race today so it was a pity that I was hit right after the start. That incident decided my race obviously. But things like that happen and you have to just say: That's racing. I had to take the remainder of the race from last position but I have to say that I was still having fun as our pace today was promising and for part of the race, we were going quicker than the top group. It was nice to pick up a point and we can take that good feeling into the next race where we will look forward to another challenge".
The Red Bull team fell from heaven to hell today. After a brilliant qualifying which saw them starting from the first row, they haven’t been able to keep their positions during the afternoon race. It’s another victory that Vettel could have secured, but another problem with the brakes occurred and he was forced to retire:
"I felt that something was wrong one lap earlier than I went off. I had some sparks coming up from the front left wheel; we didn’t know what it was and so wanted to pit. Then, a couple of corners before, I had huge vibrations building up and as soon as I touched the brakes, I had some sort of failure going in to Turn 13 and ended up in the gravel. There was nothing I could have done, I lost the car and that was it. It’s a shame as I think we had the race in total control at every stage, even though the conditions were difficult. But to win you have to finish. It breaks my balls not to get the win, but there’s still a long way to go in this Championship. We’re working hard to get on top the reliability issues and we hope to have a solid race and see the chequered flag in Malaysia".
"My start was tricky with a lot of wheel spin, but I was happy to get away with third. After the safety car, the race was going well. I wanted to get in on the lap that Sebastian pitted to change to dry tyres, but obviously whoever’s ahead has the call so I had to do an extra lap on the intermediates, which lost me a lot of time. Leaving the pits I couldn’t get second gear and went wide. I knew I had to make the moves on track. We then decided to pit which worked out okay. At the end of the race we caught the leading guys, but then we had the incident. I apologize to Lewis about that. I lost all down-force in the front of the car when I got close to them, the car lifted and I slid into the back of him. Unfortunately it had looked like a good finish, but it’s still very difficult to follow in these cars. I went down fighting, I wasn’t happy with sixth place and wanted to get a podium, but in the end it was a tough day for the team. We’ll be back".
It was the first HRT race finish this weekend as Chandhok has been able to take chequered flag. He celebrated it as a victory, since the team have been fighting against time to have the car reliable to finish the race:
"A great thank to the team. To finish was very difficult today, and all the more satisfying because of that. I dedicate this race result to all the mechanics and engineers who worked so hard since Bahrain, without any pre-season testing. This is a fantastic day for the team and a great step forward. I am proud to have ended our first race. At the start, I could see a big accident developing ahead of me and tried to keep to the inside to avoid trouble. I was able to avoid getting caught up in the aftermath and was in 16th position. I pitted on my 8th lap like the Ferraris and it was comfortable until mid-race where I was 15th. Later I changed tires on my 51st lap, only 7 laps before the end. We achieved the best result we could do today. We have to keep pushing and working and we will manage to finish even higher".
After a relatively boring race in Bahrain, the Australian race weekend has finally brought back some good overtakes and unexpected turns of events due to the constant rain showers. Whoever affirmed that this year the Formula 1 World Championship could be boring, has received a provisional answer. Let’s see if the upcoming races can keep up the high expectations everybody has after today’s race. The next appointment of the season is exactly one week at Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.