2013 Australian GP Review

The main talking points throughout the weekend had been Red Bull’s likely domination of proceedings, Mercedes providing the challenge and McLaren struggling. But Lotus and Kimi Raikkonen were not many people’s tip for victory and in hindsight it was pretty clear the car had pace in testing and the only thing that suprised me is that the E21 made it home without any issues. 7th on the grid was sort of where many pundits were placing them pre-season but i thought they would be Red Bull’s main competition in qualifying but the circumstances of this weekends qualifying is a rarity and so not too much can be read into it apart from that Red Bull have good one lap pace. Kimi and the Lotus were the only ones who could have worked a two stop stratergy for a podium result, nevermind a victory! Even in the graining phases he was still able to push and produce competitive lap times which obviously suggests the Lotus is very easy on this year’s Pirelli tyres as they were with the 2012 construction Pirelli’s. This was amplified further in the last ten laps as he was able to pull away from Alonso who had tyres that were five laps younger and i think the E21 has at least a further five laps to play around with before Alonso would have been able to reel Kimi in. This will give them great flexibility in the future. Sutil probably played a small part in Kimi’s victory in ruining Vettel’s race and Ferrari made a sound stratergy call to bring Alonso in for his second stop while he was at the back of that four car group and it subsequently gained him three places. Alonso was always going to be quick here but a few eyebrows were raised as he easily pulled away from Vettel; once Sebastian finally made his way past Sutil with one of many of the great overtakes in the race. Once he had a 1.8 sec lead in the opening laps; everything pointed towards the typical sort of race in which Vettel leads away from pole to an easy victory. However; this time the Ferrari’s of Massa and Alonso were able to reel him back in rather quickly with Massa 0.6sec behind Sebastian in the middle part of the opening stint. Perhaps this was down to Vettel ruining his Super-soft rear tyres in qualifying which may suggest a potential limitation for Red Bull in the future. They may have to comprimise their first stint in comparison to everyone else for pole position or vice versa.

I was very impressed by Massa’s pace this weekend too. He had the measure of Alonso in qualifying and in the opening stint of the race. He also has the measure of Vettel too as he kept him very honest throughout the race. He might have took third if Ferrari hadn’t kept him out three laps longer than Vettel on the second stint but the raw pace is no doubt back for Felipe which he showed flashes of last year; and Ferrari will be able to mount a proper challenge in the Constructor’s Championship in 2013. Hamilton had an unusual race with Mercedes attempts on a two stop stratergy that was never going to work as well as it did for Lotus. The problem was Hamilton was having to deal with the likes of Alonso and Vettel when their tyres were at their best while his were in the graining phase. The ensuing battles ruining his tyres and so putting him on a three stop in the last quarter of the race. I think the two stop might have worked a little better if Mercedes kept Hamilton out a few laps longer in the first stint on the Super-soft tyres and maybe a few more laps in the second stint with the Medium tyres. That might have given them fourth at best. Choosing the three stop stratergy from the out-set may have given Hamilton a podium as he would have been able to push quite hard on the Mediums, especially when Sutil was holding Vettel and the Ferrari’s after their first stops. Either way it’s encouraging for Hamilton and Mercedes as he ended up fifth. Webber in sixth has unlucky to have no KERS for the first twenty laps of the race thanks to an issue with the ECU that also ruined his launch at the start. Scrapping with the Force India’s and McLaren’s meant he wouldn’t recover in sixth. The Force India’s had a great day and really proved themselves against the best. Sutil’s choice of the Medium compound tyres was great and meant he became a fixture at the front, holding off Vettel and even pulling away from him despite Vettel’s newer tyres at that stage. They could have went later with the their mandatory switch to the Super-soft tyres to try and hold Webber off perhaps but it was always going to be hard to do that. Di Resta had to start on his Super-soft tyres as a result of qualifying in the top ten and then went on to the Mediums for his next three stints and clearly had the better of the McLaren’s and made life difficult for Webber to secure eighth behind team-mate Sutil in seventh.

McLaren might have picked up an extra point or two if they hadn’t messed up Qualifying for both Perez and Button. But the fundamentals are they dont understand the Pull-rod front suspension and not evolving last years car is hurting them at the moment with the MP4-28 about the sixth fastest car today and that was with Sauber out of the equation too. Nonetheless McLaren scored forty points after last years race while this year they scored two. They need to make some season changing choices very soon. Grosjean’s poor start defined his race as he ended up stuck behind the McLaren of Button which killed his race and that ruined his stratergy as did his battles with Perez and Vergne. He didn’t have some of the upgrades Kimi had today but tenth is still very poor at the moment when he and the E21 is capable of much better. Toro Rosso ran a stong race on the fringes of the points which Vergne frustrating missed out on for the second time here in the closing stages; with an off after passing Grosjean but they have some good, solid pace. Sauber had a dismal day as Hulkenberg failed to make the start with a fuel feed issue when he could have picked up several points. Williams had a bad weekend in general with a car that has become too complicated after the upgrades applied between the second Winter test and Friday Practice in Melbourne. Maldonado’s frustration with the car lead to his spin while Bottas brought the car home at least. But the Williams needs simplifying back to it’s launch spec which was pretty quick and then they car develop the car from scratch again. Marussia will be pleased with their perfromance against Caterham but particularly with Bianchi who wasn’t a million miles off Bottas in fifteenth and was able to out-do the likes of the Williams, Ricciardo and Guitierrez in the opening stint. Rosberg might have stuck to his two stop race so he might have been in the fight with Massa but even copying Hamilton would have got him sixth or seventh depending on how he fared with Webber. I think it was the ECU that struck again for Rosberg as he retired complaining about an electrical issue cutting the engine.

Malaysia will be much hotter so those who struggled with tyre deg in the cool conditions in Melbourne should have an easier time there with the smoother surface too. However Lotus should qualify better so who knows how strong they will be in Sepang? Red Bull should be there still as should Ferrari but Mercedes might be able to have a better race pace in seven days time.

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