First off, there was some controversy over our decision to omit Sauber from part one of Badger’s post-race digest, what with the Swiss team and their exciting young driver pairing (expect that to be run in to the ground this season) showing superb pace in Australia.

But ultimately they didn’t have the pace of Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari or Renault, did they? And they weren’t even classified in the race, with both drivers booted out for technical infringements on their cars, so we think their place in part two is pretty fair. It’s worth pointing out at this stage, before you start hurling abuse at him, that regular Hot Dog writer Benson Jamichello is on holiday this week (he tells us the Bahamas are lovely), and that, as such, this is being penned by Jimmy von Weeks (who hasn’t taken a holiday in nearly three years). So with that cleared up, lets get stuck in to the inter-team battles at Toro Rosso, Force India, Lotus and, of course, Sauber.

Sauber

The story of the weekend both for their pace on the circuit and their subsequent woes in the stewards office. A frequent Hot Rod favourite last season, Kamui Kobayashi was superb in qualifying, busting in to the top-ten with the ninth best time in Q1. Team-mate Sergio Perez was back in 14th – but there was plenty to come.

perezBecause in the race it was the rookie Mexican who stole the limelight, with debutant Perez producing a stunning drive to seventh, stopping just once for tyres along the way. ‘Bravo,’ the world cried; ‘driver of the day,’ said Eddie Jordan. Then came the universally unpopular news that the Swiss squad’s cars had been excluded from the race for a technical infringement. Only Force India cheered.

Still it was a stunning weekend in which young Perez showed himself to be fully prepared for this F1 malarky, despite not siting in Grand Prix machinery until last November’s young driver test. If he can hook it up well in qualifying next time out Kamui will have even more to worry about. This battle between two talented young guns could become one of the most fascinating stories of the season.

Badger’s Best: Perez

Toro Rosso

The Italian squad’s car has some definite pace and with two hungry young drivers ( it could well spring a few surprises this season. Of the two Sebastien Buemi bossed the weekend, qualifying impressively in tenth and keeping his cool in the race to finish in the same position. That this became eighth following the Saubers’ disqualification was simply a bonus for the young Swiss’ efforts.

buemi

Team-mate Alguersuari meanwhile had a less impressive weekend, qualifying 12th before becoming embroiled in a first lap collision with Michael Schumacher that saw the youngest and oldest members of the F1 grid swapping paint and shards of carbon fibre. His race compromised, Jaime trailed home 13th, updated to 11th. It’s 1-0 to Seb in the battle to see who can avoid the sack this season.

Badger’s Best: Buemi

Force India

Pre-Australia Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta were talking down their chances of anything special at the season opener. Their car, which looks so aerodynamically basic that it was compared with a shoe at the recent Badger staff meeting, wasn’t thought to be up to much.

direstaIn the event they were surprisingly decent, qualifying 14th and 16th and eventually both taking points post-Sauber disqualification. In qualy it was Paul di Resta who starred, outdoing more experienced team-mate Adrian Sutil; in the grand prix the German got his own back, netting an 11th placed finish that later became ninth. Paul, however, was right behind him and thus took home points on his Formula One debut. By dint of that it is he who wins the inter-team battle this time.

Badger’s Best: di Resta

Lotus

We’re not 100% sure how Lotus snuck in here after a pretty uninspiring weekend. Essentailly they’ve beaten HRT (who couldn’t get a car to the grid) Williams and Mercedes (who couldn’t get a car to the flag) and then defeated Virgin by dint of Jarno Trulli having lapped Jerome d’Ambrosio in the race. Happy with that? If not please direct all complaints to Benson Jamichello, The Bahamas…

Anyway, in terms of the inter-team battle Heikki Kovalainen once again out-qualified his elderly team-mate, sticking his green machine 19th on the grid. Ah, progress! Jarno meanwhile was one place (and one-tenth) behind. In the race Kovalainen dropped out after 19 laps, the victim of a water leak, whilst Jarno ran to the flag, lapping d’Ambrosio’s Virgin but being lapped himself by the rest of the field. On the positive side they’re further ahead of Virgin than last year but still quite a way off the rest of the field. Trulli sneaks the inter-team dispute simply because he got to the finish which, for a man approaching 40 with a vineyard back home, deserves some credit.

Badger’s Best: Trulli

We complete our trawl through the drivers’ Aussie performance tomorrow, following which Mr. Jamichello will return from his island getaway and resume control of this column. Phew!

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