Thoughts on F1: 2013 Australian Grand Prix

F1 is back! I’m so glad the waiting is over. Apparently not glad enough – I slept through the first 15 minutes as I’m an idiot who can’t abandon a race in progress, I’d started following Sebring so I couldn’t stop, I had to see the end! At 2.45am. Not ideal when F1 started at 6am. I really did intend to watch F1 after a short sleep then go back to bed afterwards, but it didn’t happen.

Never mind. I watched the extended highlights instead. The name ‘highlights’ does it a disservice, there wasn’t much cut out of the Sky show I watched and even less from the BBC show I watched just minutes ago before writing this post. I do think the BBC version was superior in every way, but Sky’s show only had half the time to prepare it as it went out at 11am rather than the BBC’s 2pm. We have an interesting choice between speed and quality, and I do like competitive choice.

Was the race any good?

It wasn’t a classic race but it wasn’t boring by any stretch. It was interesting, in the same way I said Sebring was interesting – for racing geeks like us there was enough to think about. For casual fans it might’ve been easy to think it was just cars going around, but for the rest of us, if you followed what was going on it was a very interesting race. Races can be very interesting without being nail-biting and this was one of them.

There was passing too, in the early phase of the race, through the midfield during the race, and not only on the victims of the current supplier’s tyre degradation.

When Vettel and the pair of Ferraris scampered away into the lead I thought the race was already over. Oh, ye of little faith. Within a few laps, the Lotus of Kimi Räikkönen closed in on them. It turns out at this track in these conditions the Red Bull wasn’t a match for the Ferrari on tyre degradation and both were outclassed by the Lotus, specifically that Lotus because the other one wasn’t anywhere to be found. I was so pleased Kimi started reeling them in because then I knew we’d have a decent race.

Felipe Massa had a great day. If he is able to carry this on in to the next races, suddenly we might have two Ferraris in contention for regular podium finishes if not wins and that’ll transform the Constructors’ battle too.

Adrian Sutil was the other man I was very impressed with, I’d never rated him highly and I’ve been proven wrong. To take a year out and then not only put in a solid drive but also race hard, fair and professionally with those around him – a good drive slightly ruined by the red supersofts suffering higher degradation than the team expected on a rubbered-in track at the end of the race.

Finally a word for Jules Bianchi, the man I thought should’ve been in that Force India seat was easily the class of the ‘young teams’.

Early Form

Sam Collins of Racecar Engineering mentioned in the RLM F1 preview that he was very impressed with the Lotus and they’d not only win races but the Championship, too. I scoffed at such ideas and I still think a title, either title, is a long shot. I’m not scoffing any more at the thought of multiple race wins – sure I thought one or two, but now.. unless RBR and Ferrari get a handle on tyres Lotus could bag a few more at the other street-based venues. We must wait to see the form on a permanent race track.

The McLaren seems to be a dog of a car, for a McLaren. I’m astonished they turned out a car this bad. Early indications are that the Mercedes is pretty good relative to last year and Hamilton seems very comfortable with his new team – I bet that’s aided by seeing his old one struggling so suddenly.
The Force India is looking promising as well, they just need to sort out the tyre strategy. Sauber seemed to be nowhere but we only have one car to guide us after Hülkenberg’s DNS, all we can say is Gutierrez received practically no TV attention at all. Toro Rosso seem to have a strange car, Ricciardo was dreadfully slow early on but then he and Vergne both set Fastest Lap later on, again we’ll have to see how it behaves on a more normal track. Williams really are in the deep doo-doo.

We have to be careful, though. This was only one race and Albert Park is a famously unreliable barometer of performance. This weekend is the vastly different challenge of the Sepang circuit, a very fast, wide, flowing circuit in the damp heat of Malaysia with the potential (certainty?) of wet weather in late afternoon, when the F1 sessions will be running.
Even at Sepang we may not get a true picture, it’ll be clearer than now but we’ll have to wait until China for a true picture, perhaps not until Bahrain, then when the teams get to Europe there are usually a host of upgrades in time for Spain and Monaco before the real order is established.

Next Up

The Malaysian GP at Sepang is this weekend. Don’t forget the opening round of IndyCar also this weekend.

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