As opening races of a world championship defence go this one was near enough perfect. Sebastian Vettel has won the Australian Grand Prix with a cool, calm and collected swagger from lights to flag, looking untroubled through the 58 lap event. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton also drove a stellar race to claim runner-up spot, a tremendous result for the supposedly troubled team, whilst Vitaly Petrov took his first F1 podium after a fine drive to third in the Renault. Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber rounded out the top five with Jenson Button, Sergio Perez, Kamui Kobayashi, Felipe Massa and Sebastien Buemi completing the top ten. Here are Badger’s race highlights.

 

Photo: Red Bull Media

Flawless Vettel

It would have been easy to forget that Sebastian Vettel was even in today’s race had he not climbed on to the top step of the podium afterwards. The reigning world champion delivered a flawless drive to win down under, getting away well at the start and barely breaking a sweat afterwards. For his rivals this is a terrifying prospect – his car is working beautifully, he’s at ease with himself and he knows how to get the job done. Seb now travels to Malaysia leading the world championship for the first time in his career. He’ll be very difficult to beat at Sepang, a circuit he took victory on 12 months ago.

Vitaly’s Breakthrough Drive

When Robert Kubica suffered his season-spoiling rally accident one of the first questions asked was whether Vitaly Petrov could step up to the plate and deliver for Renault. The Russian answered that in today’s race with a stellar drive to third. The hard work was largely done at the start, where he leapt from sixth on the grid to fourth at turn one. Thereafter he kept pace with the leading cars whilst also dropping the Ferrari of Massa before using a two-stop strategy to nip ahead of Webber’s Red Bull. Despite a late charge from Alonso Petrov held on calmly in P3 to take his maiden podium finish in F1.

 

Photo: Lotus Renault GP/Lorenzo Bellanca/LAT Photographic

Sergio Perez: Megastar In The Making

As debuts go this was the sort that quickly sees a driver feted as a megastar of the future. Sergio Perez’s drive in the Sauber was perhaps the biggest highlight of this race, with the Mexican moving from 14th on the grid to seventh at the flag, mixing it with world champions and race winners along the way.

And he did it on one set of tyres, stopping on lap 23 and then running – with impressive pace – all the way to the flag. That’ll have the other teams scratching their head, with Alonso and Webber  both making three stops during the race. It was a positive day all round for the Swiss outfit with Kamui Kobayashi following Perez home in eighth, but it is the 21-year-old Mexican who has stolen the headlines.

However a few hours after the race it would all turn sour for the Swiss squad as their rear wings were deemed illegal and both drivers were excluded from the race. Does that detract from Sergio’s performance? We don’t think so – this was still one of the best debuts we’ve seen in years.

Photo: Sauber Media

DRS

(The’s the Dreary Racing Solution)

After a winter of talk about dozens of effortless overtaking maouveres we finally got out first glimpse of the new drag reduction systems today, and it was a quiet debut if ever there was one. There were just a handful of passes made using the device, which can be deployed when a chasing driver gets within one second of the man in front, with Button using the button to slip past Massa. However despite the lacking of DRS-assisted passing we saw today we shouldn’t write this one off as a begin addition to F1. Albert Park didn’t really lend to the system, and we should see far more of it in Malaysia.

Paul Makes His Point

Whilst both Sauber’s being booted out was a massive letdown we can take at least some solace in the fact that this promoted Paul di Resta in to the points at his maiden grand prix. The Scotsman was solid all weekend, doing a superb job to out-qualify team-mate Sutil and then driving a steady race to 12th. That became 10th a few hours later, and though he won’t be happy to have scored his first points in such a manner he can still leave Australia feeling positive about the season ahead. We’re pretty sure he’ll chalk up a top-ten finish on the road before too long.

Photo: Force India Media

And here are some of the less joy-inspiring stories of today’s race…

Massa Still Out Of Sorts

Felipe Massa’s 2010 woes look set to continue in to the new season, the Brazilian having run a muted race today in which he never had the ultimate pace of his team-mate. Massa did make a superb getaway, leaping three positions to fifth at turn one, and did a good job of holding Jenson Button up in the early stages. However after being passed by the sister Ferrari of Alonso he dropped back, eventually finishing the best part of a minute shy of his team-mate and behind the customer Ferrari-powered Saubers of Perez and Kobayashi. He’ll need to up his game if he’s to see a return to the heady days of 2008.

Double Disappointment for Williams and Mercedes

Having both traveled to Australia with high hopes Williams and Mercedes suffered nightmare grand prix today, with neither able to get a car to the flag. Merc’s day got off to the worst possible start when Michael Schumacher became embroiled in a first lap clash with Jaime Alguersuari, forcing him to pit and eventually park up. Meanwhile Williams lost rookie Pastor Maldonado early on, the Venezuelan parking up on lap ten.

That left Mercedes with Rosberg and Williams with Barrichello still on-track, but the former’s day would soon be ended by the latter. Rubens was showing impressive pace, cutting his way through the field, but made an poor judged move on the German that left the Mercedes terminally crocked. Nico’s race was over on lap 22, whilst Rubens was hit with a drivethrough before eventually pulling out ten laps from the flag. Plenty of work for both to do ahead of Malaysia.

Hispania

We’re not sure what Narain Karthikeyan and Tonio Liuzzi did today. What could they have done? Watching the race would have been a bit of a nightmare; leaving would have been a bit much (who wouldn’t want to hang about in Melbourne – nice city). It was an awful weekend for the Spanish team and one that they probably won’t be allowed to repeat too many times without risking extinction. Qualifying should be less of a challenge for Tonio in Malaysia – yes, we reckon he’ll scrape it – but it’s hard to see Karthikeyan making the grid.

The fastest machine Tonio sat in all weekend? Probably. Photo: HRT Media

Final Result

POSDRIVERTEAMLAPS 
1Sebastian VettelRed Bull/Renault581:29'30.259
2Lewis HamiltonMcLaren/Mercedes58
3Vitaly PetrovRenault58
4Fernando AlonsoFerrari58
5Mark WebberRed Bull/Renault58
6Jenson ButtonMcLaren/Mercedes58
9Felipe MassaFerrari58
10Su008ebastien BuemiToro Rosso/Ferrari571 Lap
11Adrian SutilForce India/Mercedes571 Lap
12Paul Di RestaForce India/Mercedes571 Lap
13J.AlguersuariToro Rosso/Ferrari571 Lap
14Nick HeidfeldRenault571 Lap
15Jarno TrulliLotus/Renault562 Laps
16J.D'AmbrosioVirgin/Cosworth544 Laps
24Timo GlockVirgin/Cosworth49Retirement
11R.BarrichelloWilliams/Cosworth48Retirement
8Nico RosbergMercedes22Retirement
7M.SchumacherMercedes19Retirement
20H.KovalainenLotus/Renault19Retirement
12Pastor MaldonadoWilliams/Cosworth9Retirement
7Sergio Pu008eerez*Sauber/Ferrari58
8Kamui Kobayashi*Sauber/Ferrari58