Australia analysis - expect the unexpected 18 Mar 2013
F1 fans look set for a thrilling 2013 season, if Sundays Australian Grand Prix was anything to go by. After dominating qualifying, reigning champions Red Bull found themselves playing catch-up to Lotus and Ferrari in a race which saw Kimi Raikkonen ease his way to victory. The podium featured three champions, but there were scintillating battles throughout the field, including among 2013s five rookie drivers, all of who finished their first Grand Prix
Kimi Raikkonen, P1
Romain Grosjean, P10
Lotus planned a two-stop strategy all along for Raikkonen, and he delivered a superb performance that made it pay off in spades. This was a finely driven victory that the team deserved even more than Abu Dhabis last year. While the Finn was doing his thing, Grosjean made a terrible start and got mired in the midfield en route to a disappointing 10th place finish.
Fernando Alonso, P2
Felipe Massa, P4
The Ferraris burst through into second and third places on the opening lap, with Massa leading Alonso, and looked initially to be Red Bulls prime threat. Alonsos crucial move was to pit early for his second stop, which allowed him to leapfrog Massa and Vettel, but he lacked the ultimate speed on his three-stop strategy to challenge Raikkonen for the win. Ferrari go to Malaysia, however, confident that the F138 is a competitive proposition.
Sebastian Vettel, P3
Mark Webber, P6
After the manner in which Vettel and Webber dominated Sunday mornings qualifying, a 1-2 appeared a shoo-in. But the RB9 ate its tyres at an alarming rate, and Vettel found that he just didnt have the sustained pace of the winning Lotus or the Ferraris. Webber, meanwhile, had an electrical issue on the formation lap, made a terrible start, and later lost his KERS, condemning him to a disappointing sixth place afternoon.
Lewis Hamilton, P5
Nico Rosberg, Retired lap, 26, electrics
Hamilton and Rosberg looked good early on, running longer than the other topliners on the supersoft rubber. Rosberg retired early with an electrical problem, but Hamilton kept pushing and though he was unable to live with the top four, he caught and passed Sutil for fifth in the closing stages to kick off his Mercedes career with 10 points.
Adrian Sutil, P7
Paul di Resta, P8
Force India were the other team to go for a two-stop strategy, starting Sutil on mediums from 12th place and planning a late switch to supersofts. The German drove an excellent race and led twice, at one stage fending off Vettel, Alonso and Massa. Sadly, the late switch to the option rubber proved his undoing as he slumped to fifth, then fell prey to Hamilton and Webber as graining slowed him down. Di Resta, meanwhile, did the three-stop strategy and was generally outshone, though he did begin to reel in his team mate in the final laps with some impressive speed. They were only a few seconds apart at the finish.
Jenson Button, P9
Sergio Perez, P11
McLaren had a disastrous race in which the MP4-28 proved outclassed. Button was the very first to ditch the supersofts, as early as the fourth lap, and thereafter he struggled in a midfield battle with the recovering Webber and Grosjean. He couldnt hold off the Red Bull, but kept the Lotus at bay to score two points. Perez looked quick at times on his McLaren debut, but couldnt better 11th. Clearly, there is a huge amount of work to do here.
Esteban Gutierrez, P13
Nico Hulkenberg, did not start, fuel leak
Saubers race fell apart when Hulkenberg was unable to start because of an obscure fuel leak, but Gutierrez at least achieved his goal of finishing his first Grand Prix.
Jean-Eric Vergne, P12
Daniel Ricciardo, Retired lap 40, broken exhaust
Both Vergne and Ricciardo had their moments and looked good, but the luck didnt run with them. Ricciardos exhaust broke late in the race when he was duelling with Webber and Button, while Vergne had to make a late stop and when a late lunge at Grosjean failed to come off he lost his chances of a point as he ran wide and lost a place to Perez.
Valtteri Bottas, P14
Pastor Maldonado, Retired lap 25, off track
Williams had a very disappointing outing in Australia, where they failed to unlock the FW35s potential. Maldonado had a needless spin which left him beached, but Bottas drove well on his debut to take 14th place. Theres a lot of work to do here.
Jules Bianchi, P15
Max Chilton, P17
Marussia had a great race, in which Bianchi finished well ahead of the Caterhams after a solid and generally impressive debut. Fellow rookie Chilton collided early on with Van der Garde and needed a new nose, but eventually he caught the Dutchman and grabbed back the place to make it a good afternoon for the Banbury team. Interestingly, Bianchi set the 11th fastest lap
Charles Pic, P16
Giedo van der Garde, P18
Caterham improved the CT03 for qualifying and the race, but Van der Garde had an early clash with Chilton which delayed him, and Pic lost a battle with Bianchi, so the lighter green cars ended up sandwiching the second Marussia and a long way behind the first. The balance of power here seems to have switched.
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