Well, that was much better wasn’t it? Following on from the almost universally acknowledged snore-fest in Bahrain, Australia’s Albert Park provided some great racing and some cracking team mate battles. It just goes to show what a bit of rain and a half decent track will do for the quality of the racing.
- Qualifying: Button
- Race: Button
This was most certainly Button’s weekend – qualifying in fourth, comfortably ahead of Hamilton who struggled to eleventh place and didn’t even make it into Q3. To be honest, it didn’t matter all that much in the end as, with the combined effects of early rain in the race and a first corner accident, Hamilton passed Button and it began to look as though things were continuing from where they left off in Bahrain.
That, however, was just the start of the story. Both drivers’ races were defined by pit stops: Button’s early stop to change from intermediates to slicks and Hamilton’s mid-race change of tyres when hassling Kubica for second. Button’s move paid off brilliantly and Hamilton’s, well, simply didn’t. As Lotus’ Mike Gascoyne made clear when talking to the BBC commentary team, track position is the most important thing. Once Hamilton gave that up, even though he caught Alonso, Massa and Kubica comfortably, he was simply unable to get past. A subsequent tangle with Webber didn’t really help things, either. Hamilton’s barely concealed post-race anger with the team demonstrated a) his unrelenting will to win b) his displeasure that his team mate won through clever strategy and c) churlishness. It was telling to see Jakob Andreason, Button’s race engineer, praise Jenson for his “relaxed” and “mature” attitude in a BBC post-race interview. Would he have said the same about Hamilton? Unlikely.
Badger’s best: Button
- Qualifying: Kubica
- Race: Kubica
Cor blimey, guv’nor, that Renault’s got some pace, hasn’t it? Kubica’s quite brilliant drive to second place was obviously the talking point of the team’s weekend, but seeing as we’re very fair here in the Sett, let’s have a look at Petrov too. To have Kubica qualify ninth and get into Q3, Petrov’s failure to get out of Q1 looks even more damning. He complained he couldn’t get a clear lap but, in all honesty, that’s all part of the game. Things didn’t improve much in the race either, spinning out after nine laps; yes, he’s still learning and yes, Kubica’s quick, but the Vyborg Rocket really needs to up his game considerably. In contrast, Kubica drove a brilliant race, really making the most of his great start and managing to hold off Hamilton and the two Ferraris. You get the feeling he’s dragging the car round, which just makes it all the more impressive.
Badger’s best: Kubica
- Qualifying: Alonso
- Race: Massa
A touch disappointing for the Ferrari team this weekend, although after Alonso’s disastrous start and Hamilton’s general pace, both drivers are probably content with their eventual third and fourth places.
Massa clearly struggled for pace in qualifying, finishing 0.7 seconds from Alonso and generally looking a bit lost. Complaining of not being able to heat up his tyres or find any grip, a fifth place start wasn’t all that bad for the little Brazilian. Alonso, in contrast, qualified third by virtue of the fact that the Red Bull cars are really rather nippy and didn’t look like being anywhere other than the front row. By the time the race started a rather dramatic role reversal had taken place – Massa found oodles of grip off the line and powered into second place whereas Alonso found nothing apart from wheel spin and slumped to last place. While this obviously affected the result, the fact that Massa kept Alonso behind him for a large portion of the race will ease some of the pressure he must be feeling at having someone demonstrably quicker than him as his team mate. In contrast to Massa, we suspect Alonso wouldn’t have had any truck with his race engineer telling him how to drive and, even at this early stage of the season, it looks as though Massa faces an uphill struggle.
Badger’s best: Massa
- Qualifying: Rosberg
- Race: Rosberg
Well, well, well, well. This one’s turning into quite a story, isn’t it? Considering Ross Brawn acknowledged Mercedes weren’t as quick as the top three teams, fifth place for Rosberg is a good finish. That said, Schumacher’s performances (or lack thereof) must become a concern at some point soon.
There was nothing really to split the two drivers in qualifying, with Rosberg just edging in sixth it by 0.1 of a second from Schumacher in seventh. Rosberg’s race was fairly uneventful considering much of the mayhem going on around him and in complete contrast to Schumacher’s trials and tribulations. Caught up in the first corner incident with Button and Alonso, Schumacher dropped to the back of the field from where he singularly failed to impress. Watching him struggle to get past di Grassi and Alguersuari was quite frankly hilarious, if not a touch concerning for the seven-time world champion and his ego.
Badger’s best: Rosberg
- Qualifying: Sutil
- Race: Liuzzi
Force India again demonstrated the real the car’s made this year, with Sutil getting into Q3 to qualify tenth and Liuzzi being slightly disappointed to start thirteenth.
The race itself wasn’t terribly kind to Sutil, who only managed ten laps before retiring with engine problems and missing all the fun. Liuzzi had, by his own admission, a quiet race. Having lost a few positions at the start with the intermediate tyres, he managed to stay on the pace once he’d changed to slicks to finish seventh. With only two races gone, Liuzzi is proving those who doubted his ability (including, it must be said, your correspondent) wrong. Sutil must be hoping he can get a clean race together soon if he’s to lose his “quick but unreliable” reputation; otherwise, Liuzzi’s going to make himself the team’s presumptive number one.
Badger’s best: Liuzzi
- Qualifying: Barrichello
- Race: Barrichello
Barrichello looks good, doesn’t he? The evergreen Brazilian beat Hulkenberg, his young team mate, in both qualifying and the race to complete another shut-out, as our American cousins would say. Qualifying eighth, Barrichello was ‘the best of the rest’ and a long way in front of Hulkenberg, who could only manage fifteenth. During the race, Hulkenberg was crashed into by an out of control Kobayashi, leaving Barrichello to fly the flag for Williams. He did so in fine style, finishing where he started in eighth place. It could have been even better too had Williams not opted to bring Barrichello in from seventh place, with the expectation that others would also pit. Nevertheless, it’s clear Barrichello’s stamped his authority on the team during the first two races and will provide Hulkenberg with a real target to aim for over the course of the season. For his part, Nico needs to prove to the team why he came with such a high reputation and to start pushing Barrichello.
Badger’s best: Barrichello
- Qualifying: Vettel
- Race: Webber
Another race, another disappointing day for Red Bull. Fresh from qualifying first and second for the race, Vettel and Webber both had a day to forget.
Vettel got a good start and looked comfortable before suffering brake failure and ending up in a gravel trap. He should be sitting atop the championship table with fifty points by now but, instead, he has only one fourth-place finish to show for his (quite considerable) trouble. Webber, on the other hand, had a similarly frustrating but altogether more mental race. Brought in a lap after Vettel to change his intermediate tyres, he lost a significant amount of time and, after exiting in front of Felipe Massa, proceeded to slide wide and gift him a place. In keeping with the spirit of being a bit wild, having had an entertaining duel with Hamilton for much of the race, they collided while trying to find a way past Alonso. Webber was quick to apologise to Hamilton after the race which, for him, must have been the icing on a rather disgusting Australian cake. He’ll be looking to next week’s Malaysian Grand Prix to kick-start his stuttering season.
Badger’s best: Vettel
- Qualifying: Buemi
- Race: Alguersuari
A weekend in which Buemi’s twelfth place grid slot was probably the highlight, apart from the vicarious pleasure of watching Schumacher labour past Alguersuari.
Buemi comfortably outqualified Alguersuari again (five places and 0.4 seconds, in fact), but it all went a bit wrong in the race. He crashed at turn six on the opening lap, claiming he was hit from behind and so, for the second race in a row, failed to finish. As mentioned above, Alguersuari’s battle with Schumacher proves that the 21 year old can mix it with the best, even though Schumacher was, in all honesty, having a bit of a mare. Keeping the seven-time world champion behind him for twenty laps was a really good effort and will doubtless give him a lot of confidence going into the next race in Malaysia. That said, he still finished outside the points and was only one established car (if Pedro de la Rosa’s Sauber can be considered as such) ahead of the new teams’ finishers. Encouraging in parts, but a lot of work to be done.
Badger’s best: Alguersuari
- Qualifying: de la Rosa
- Race: de la Rosa
This Sauber team is, without doubt, one of the most uninspiring teams on the grid. They’re not that fast, their car isn’t particularly nice looking, their livery is dull and they even seemed to have managed to suck the life out of Kobayashi. We thought he’d be exciting and, while careering out of control and crashing into another car is exciting, it’s not really the sort of excitement we want. Such was the end to his Australian Grand Prix on the first lap; de la Rosa at least managed to get to the end, but was the last of the established runners to finish. Not really a place you want to be. F1 Badger’s tagline, Formula One isn’t boring, is true, but we suggest you don’t look too hard at Sauber. Good for insomniacs everywhere. Dull, dull, dull.
Badger’s best: de la Rosa
- Qualifying: Kovalainen
- Race: Kovalainen
Another good weekend for Lotus, a team quickly cementing its position as the best of the new teams.
When we say a good weekend for Lotus, what we really mean is ‘a good weekend for Kovalainen’. He out qualified Trulli on Saturday and then, by virtue of Trulli’s hydraulic problems meaning he couldn’t start the race, finished higher than him too. Still over two seconds down on the nearest ‘established’ F1 team in qualifying (Petrov in the Renault), Lotus can’t be expected to get too close to the bigger teams any time soon, but they’re certainly moving in the right direction. In other news, the sight of Jarno Trulli looking forlorn as all the other cars (well, most of them) whizzed round happily was enough to make your heart bleed.
Badger’s best: Kovalainen
- Qualifying: Senna
- Race: Chandhok
Good on them, eh? They’ve managed what Virgin so far hasn’t and completed a race, albeit five laps down. Never mind though, they deserve kudos for getting a car to the end, especially Chadhok, who only drove the car for the first time in Bahrain qualifying. Their qualifying pace was good, with less than 0.1 of a second between Senna in 23rd and Chandhok in 24th. The fact they were only 0.4 seconds behind di Grassi and a second behind Glock in the Virgins will surely be of great encouragement as well. All in all, a very satisfactory weekend, even despite Bruno Senna’s exit on lap four with hydraulic failure. Chandhok’s have-a-go attitude is rapidly making him a Badger favourite.
Badger’s best: Chandhok
- Qualifying: Glock
- Race: Glock
Not a good weekend for the Virgin team. Perhaps it would just be easier if they listed the things that were right with their car?
Not that far ahead of the Hispania cars in qualifying and with Glock and di Grassi exiting the action on laps 41 (suspension) and 26 (hydraulics) respectively, they’ve certainly got a long way to go. Probably less far than they want to though, given the size (or not) of their fuel tank. There’s no such thing as bad publicity, or so Richard Branson will be hoping. Glock will doubtless have come to Virgin expecting to lead the team – he probably didn’t bank on having such a hard task in front of him. If he’s lucky, it’ll be the making of him.
Badger’s best: Glock
Driver of the weekend
Kubica. Pulled his car round with extraordinary skill and was quick enough to hold off both Ferraris and Lewis Hamilton on his way to a richly deserved second place. Made all the more impressive by the fact his team mate went out in the first round of qualifying as well. The Pole is on a roll.