Race - invincible Vettel wins with ease in Melbourne 27 Mar 2011
Red Bulls Sebastian Vettel got his world championship defence off to the best possible start in Albert Park on Sunday evening. The German beat Lewis Hamiltons KERS-assisted rush as they had a drag race to the first corner, and thereafter that was all she wrote.
Vettel was 2.4s ahead at the end of the opening lap, and simply controlled the pace to win by 22.2s after a problem with the floor of Hamiltons McLaren caused an off-course moment in Turn One on Lap 32 and cost him some downforce.
At times the Englishman was able to match Vettels pace and he did a better job controlling his tyres in the first part, as both ran two-stop strategies in a race in which all the gloomy predictions about Pirellis tyres proved completely unfounded.
Behind them, Red Bulls Mark Webber originally ran third ahead of fast-starting Vitaly Petrov in the Renault, who benefited when McLarens Jenson Button kept Ferraris Fernando Alonso out wide going into Turn One at the start. As Webber faded after being the first to change tyres, Petrov moved into the third place he maintained throughout as he became the first Russian ever to stand on the podium after an excellent race.
In the closing stages he must have been thinking of Abu Dhabi as a recovered Alonso, who like Webber was on a three-stop strategy, began to haul him in. But as Petrov finished 8.2s adrift of Hamilton, the Spaniards Ferrari was still 1.2s behind by the flag.
Jenson Button had a miserable race for McLaren, unable to pass a tough Felipe Massa in the opening stages despite the drag reduction rear wing. He got by the Ferrari on Lap 11 after having to run off the track as Massa squeezed him, whereupon Alonso also slipped ahead of Massa. The race stewards later gave the 2009 champion a drive-through penalty for going outside the track limits, and that compromised his race completely.
At the end, however, he pushed ahead of three-stopping Massa at the end of the pit straight going into Lap 54, and brought the second MP4-26 home in sixth place behind an unhappy Webber, who pulled off the track immediately past the pits after crossing the line. Adrian Newey said later that he had no idea what was wrong with the Australians car during a disappointing race.
Saubers Sergio Perez was another sensation. Driving on his debut with the spirit of Pedro Rodriguez at his shoulder, the young Mexican drove an incredible race with just one pit stop (up to four had been predicted) and beat team mate Kamui Kobayashi for seventh place on a great day for Peter Saubers team. The Swiss cars pace was too much for Toro Rosso, who saw a resurgent Sebastien Buemi fighting with Massa for ninth place. The Swiss moved ahead on Lap 51, only to be repassed by the Ferrari three laps later.
Rookie Paul di Resta ran 10th in the opening stages after narrowly avoiding a Turn Three clash between Mercedes GPs Michael Schumacher and Toro Rossos Jaime Alguersuari. He was overtaken by Force India team mate Adrian Sutil, got ahead again after their first of two stops, and traded lap times with the German as they headed home 11th and 12th. It was a very strong performance from the young Scot.
Alguersuari recovered from the first-lap tag with Schumacher, which damaged his Toro Rossos front wing and necessitated an early pit stop, while Schumacher got his right rear Pirelli torn off and later retired his Mercedes on safety grounds after replacing the damaged tyre at the end of the lap. With Nico Rosberg losing his engine after damage from a strike by Rubens Barrichello's Williams, it was not a great day for the Silver Arrows
Nor was it for Nick Heidfeld, who was totally overshadowed by his Renault team mate and could not better an unimpressive 14th place ahead of Jarno Trullis surviving Lotus and Jerome DAmbrosios Virgin.
Barrichello hit Rosberg in Turn Three when an adventurous overtaking move went wrong, which was a shame as hes been flying in the early stages after losing ground in the opening lap traffic. Williams Team mate Pastor Maldonado was the first retirement when his FW33 stopped out on the track.
Timo Glock made several pits stops for attention to his Virgin, while Heikki Kovalainens Lotus succumbed to a water leak.
Following post-race checks, both Saubers were disqualified for technical infringments, so Vettel now leads the world championship with 25 points to Hamiltons 18, Petrovs 15, and Alonsos 12, while Red Bull lead the constructors title chase with 35 points from McLaren on 26, Ferrari on 18, Renault on 15, Toro Rosso on four and Force India on three.
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