Welcome to Badger’s fickle barometer of Formula 1!  Top 5 from the Australian grand prix?  Top 20 more like.  After Bahrain we were all (quite rightly) seriously worried about the state of Formula 1.  Anyway, forget Bahrain… because Australia is REAL start of the 2010 season!

(c) Sutton, Autosport

In at number 1 in the Badgerometer chart is wheel-to-wheel overtaking.  Could the races at Bahrain and Australia have been any more different?  Bahrain overtaking moves = 0.  Australia overtaking moves = loads!  Where Bahrain made me fall asleep in the middle of the day, the race in Melbourne kept me awake and on the edge of my seat, despite having not actually gone to sleep that night before the race started in the wee hours.  The cars were achingly close to each other.  What could be more exciting?  I tried to pick out one move during the race that stood out, but the sheer VOLUME of overtaking warranted the top spot in this week’s Badgerometer.

At number 2 is Jenson Button, and this is the part where I get to say ‘I told you so’.  When everyone else was saying that Hamilton was going to whip Button by a hefty margin, it was pretty clear that things were never going to be so clear-cut.  Button has three major advantages over Lewis, namely maturity, a superb season last year, and (most importantly) a smooth driving style.  I know, you’re thinking ‘who cares about smooth driving’ apart from that evil driving instructor you had at 17?  Well, smooth driving means less tyre wear, and less tyre wear means fewer tyre changes, and with no refuelling this year tyre-wear is going to be a make-or-break factor in the 2010 season.  And it was in Australia.  Button had the wisdom and raw driver intuition to switch to slick tyres before the pits became as conjested as central London.  He then spent the race keeping his tyres in great shape to win, whereas everyone else was forced to pit for fresh tyres.  Expect a season-long battle of the McLarens.

Number 3 goes to Renault!  To say they’ve had a tough couple of years is frankly an understatement:  poor performances on-track, sackings, firings, accusations, cheating, the wrath of the FIA, the loss of Alonso (again), the loss of all sponsorship, a car that looks like an angry bumblebee… but in Australia they came 2nd.  2nd!  I know!  It’s amazing.  Hats off to anyone to predicted THAT outcome in the Fantasy Grand Prix.  Kubica is certainly not a looker, nor is his car, but boy can he drive.  With new parts destined for the car this weekend in Malaysia, Renault may well be able to claw some dregs of a reputation back from the F1-gutter this season.

Number 4 is Fernando Alonso.  He had comically bad start to the race, spinning himself 180 degrees on the first corner, and was forced to sit there while every other car went whistling past him.  But did he give up?  Of course not!  His team-mate Massa may have beaten him to the podium, but Alonso managed to climb his way back from almost certain defeat to take a stunning 4th.  And now he’s aloft on top of the driver’s championship table.  Massa won’t roll over for him, so Alonso will have to raise his game if he wants to recapture the championship.  If he can do that, Alonso could be untouchable.

At number 5 it’s the new safety car.  Thanks to the rain, and a smashing crash by Kobayashi, Hulkenberg and Buemi, the brand new Mercedes SLS 63 got it’s first outing of the 2010 season.  And what a stunner of a car!  Gone is the hairdresser’s Mercedes of recent years, and in comes the brilliantly retro new safety car.  I think I have a new crush.

This week, I’m pretty unimpressed by Lewis Hamilton.  Australia was only Lewis’ 2nd race without his dad Anthony Hamilton, who until this year was his manager and accompanied Lewis to every race on the calendar.  So like a petulant unsupervised child, Lewis managed to get himself in trouble with the boys in blue, and then … SHOCK HORROR… criticised the team.  To put this in perspective, Lewis doesn’t normally go one breath, let alone one sentence, without ‘thanking the team’.  If I could have a pound for every time Lewis has said ‘the team’ since his arrival in Formula 1, well, I’d be rich enough to fund a modest sized F1 team.  Renault perhaps.  Complaining about your own team gets you nowhere.  Look at Rubens Barrichello and his infamous ‘blah blah blahhing’ of last year.  Fernando Alonso’s short tenure at McLaren was probably not helped by his public criticisms of the team, such this line from Montreal, “we know that all the support and help is going to him [Lewis Hamilton] and I understood that from the beginning.”  Naughty little Lewis.