The post-race column that dissects the drivers’ performances is back and it’s bigger and better than ever before. Ok, maybe not bigger and better, but definitely not any worse and, to be honest, it was pretty good to begin with.

We’ve named our driver of the race, but what about the rest of the runners and riders from the Australian Grand Prix? In part one of the first Hot Rod or Hot Dog of the 2011 campaign we’re looking at the front-runners, better known in these parts as the Top Dogs.

Red Bull

  • Qualifying: Vettel (1st) Webber (6th)
  • Race: Vettel (1st) Webber (5th)

A new season, a new Red Bull car, but still the same old story.

What a pleasure it must be to be Sebastian Vettel at the moment – the current World Champion, driving the fastest car in the grid (by quite some margin, it seems) and with a team mate who can’t get close to him.

Mighty (is this the new ‘For Sure’?) in qualifying, he finished a full eight tenths of a second ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber. Obviously it doesn’t matter how far ahead you finish as long as you’re ahead but to do it in such style doesn’t bode well for the rest of the field. All this as well without KERS. Mind boggling.

vettelThe race was a stroll in the park and, in his only moment of drama with Hamilton closing in and needing to get past Button, he simply drove round the 2008 world champion. Easy when you know how. He even had time to engage in some japes with David Coulthard after the race.

Webber, in contrast, endured another awful home GP. Out qualified, out raced and much harder on his tyres, he simply couldn’t unlock the car’s potential in the same way as his young team mate, even going so far as to say he “was in a different race”. Then again, so were all of the field, so it’s not a total disaster.

Badger’s best: Vettel

 

McLaren

  • Qualifying: Hamilton (2nd) Button (4th)
  • Race: Hamilton (2nd) Button (6th)

Well, well, well. That may well have been one of the only occasions when a team sandbagged themselves.

After stripping off their (by all accounts) hideously complicated exhaust system and fitting one similar to the models sported by Red Bull and Ferrari, the car simply came alive. If they can do that with the least amount of testing (bar Hispania, and who counts them anyway?) and a lack of knowledge about the car, think what they could have done had they got it right first time.

hamiltonAfter qualifying second and fourth, and with Button saying that he didn’t have a good Q3, there’s clearly a lot to be happy about. Yet again though, it seems Hamilton has the upper hand. He is consistently faster, more agressive and able to drive around problems than his older team mate.

The race itself for Hamilton was fairly standard. start second, finish second. Apart from a brief moment at the start when it looked like Webber might slip past and a slight problem with a falling off floor, there weren’t any problems at all for the man who looks as though he’s had his teeth done and has a particularly stupid beard.

Button’s race was far more eventful. After slipping behind Petrov and Massa at the start and then having to serve a drive through penalty for passing Massa off the track, it all got a bit complicated for the man from Frome. In true Button style though, he drove a very good recovery race to finish sixth. Not brilliant, but not as bad as it could have been.

Badger’s best: Hamilton

 

Renault

  • Qualifying: Petrov (6th) Heidfeld (18th)
  • Race: Petrov (3rd) Heidfeld (12th)

Right, well, this is awkward. After slating Petrov last season for being (mostly) utter tosh and arguing against his retention as a Renault driver, he goes and does something like qualifying and racing very well. Thanks Vitaly, thanks a bunch.

petrovAlthough Petrov qualified sixth and finished third, there wasn’t really much drama at any point in his weekend. In fact, the question most people seem to be asking is “how fast would this car be in the hands of Robert Kubica?” The answer is probably “faster”, but having seen the manner in which the Russian dealt with the first race of the season, it might not be as much faster as you’d think.

Heidfeld, as a way of complete contrast, endured a nightmare weekend. Out in the first round of qualifying with the “new” teams and then damaged in a first lap collision, he wasn’t able to show why Renault brought him back in from the cold. There’ll be more to come from quick Nick as the season progresses. We at Badger still think he’ll beat Petrov overall, but it seems as though it will be closer than expected.

Badger’s best: Petrov

 

Ferrari

  • Qualifying: Alonso (5th) Massa (8th)
  • Race: Alonso (4th) Massa (7th)

Ah. Ferrari have had one of those rude awakenings where everyone tips you for glory, only for you to turn out to be less than competitive. After being touted as the main rival to Red Bull, both Alonso and Massa looked off the pace and unable to compete with them and the updated McLaren.

Massa endured a long and fruitless weekend, deperately in search of something resembling form. It might arrive eventually, but we’re not sure. He looked off the pace, slow, limited and with no capacity to push forward, although an honourable mention goes to his defensive tactics while keeping ahead of Jenson Button.

alonsoOn another note, did we see the first time this season that he’ll be asked to move over for Alonso? Oh to see the gradual compromising of a once proud driver – 2008 was his time and he missed it – will he get another go?

Alonso wasn’t that quick either, but at least managed to look as though he was getting the most out of the car and, in the grand scheme of things, fourth isn’t a complete disaster. It would have been even better had third place not been taken by a Renault.

Badger’s best: Alonso

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