A weekend defined by the weather. Thanks to the rain we had a scrambled grid and all the fun of the fair in sorting it out. However, once the faster cars had done all they could from the back, it turned into a bit of a procession. Nevertheless, there were some great performances all the way through the field, so let’s see who was hot and who was not.
- Qualifying: Weber
- Race: Vettel
The weekend went rather well, didn’t it? Imperious from start to finish, the team really showed why it’s the one to beat at the moment – having the cars in one piece at the end helps tremendously, of course.
During a crazy qualifying session, Webber’s gamble in Q3 to put on a set of the intermediate tyres paid off handsomely, going 1.3 seconds faster than second-place Nico Rosberg to claim pole. Vettel would doubtless have been a touch disappointed to start third but, in the end, it didn’t really matter too much. During the race, Webber’s wheelspin off the line allowed Vettel to dive down his inside into the first corner. That was really the only time the result looked in doubt and, from then on, Vettel never looked like letting anyone past. Webber is certainly a very quick driver, but it’s clear that Vettel’s just that little bit faster and, when your only rival for pace is your team mate, that really matters. Vettel looks ready, willing and able to be World Champion.
Badger’s best: Vettel
- Qualifying: Rosberg
- Race: Rosberg
Another good result for Mercedes, and yet another weekend during which Nico Rosberg produced the goods all the way through. As he said during the post-race press conference, with Petronas as the team’s main sponsor it’s not a bad race to get a podium.
Rosberg’s second place during qualifying made him the quickest on the full wet tyres, beating not only Vettel but his team mate as well. Schumacher could only managing eighth, 1.1 seconds adrift of the young German. A real opportunity existed to push ahead while Ferrari and McLaren foundered, one that the Schumacher of old certainly wouldn’t have passed up. While it’s certainly too early to be sounding the death knell for his hopes this season, he’s bound to be asking what he’s let himself in for. Not really much happened during the race for either driver. Rosberg lost a place at the start to Vettel, but that was probably going to happen anyway. He then drove in splendid isolation to finish in a richly deserved third place. Schumacher had another race to forget – retiring on lap nine thanks to a missing wheel nut. About par for both drivers at the moment.
Badger’s best: Rosberg
- Qualifying: Kubica
- Race: Kubica
Following up Kubica’s great drive in Australia, this was yet another strong race for Renault. Along with Mercedes, the team have a driver split, one producing the goods and one finding it hard going at this stage of the season.
Kubica got himself into Q3 again, battling the conditions to start in sixth place. Petrov had an improved performance, especially in such difficult weather conditions, to start eleventh. While he’s made strides and should get better, it’s becoming clear that the Russian isn’t going to seriously push Kubica this season. During the race, Kubica passed Hulkenberg and Sutil on the first lap to rise to fourth, a place he never looked like losing. Petrov had a much more interesting, if short lived, race. While racing with Lewis Hamilton, he was passed, but then hooked up the slipstream down the pit straight and zinged it impressively straight back past the McLaren driver. The same thing nearly happened a couple of laps later, with Hamilton resorting to moving across the track from side-to-side, madly trying to shake the persistent Russian from his tail, something that Renault obviously weren’t happy about. Petrov couldn’t make the move second time around and was then left to mix it with the Toro Rossos, both of which passed him before his eventual retirement on lap 32 with gearbox trouble. He’ll finish a race sooner or later.
Badger’s best: Kubica
- Qualifying: Sutil
- Race: Sutil
Another great weekend for Force India, who certainly made the most of Ferrari and McLaren’s troubles to qualify and race well.
Sutil managed to qualify fourth, six places and 1.3 seconds ahead of Liuzzi. Traditionally, Sutil’s problem has been making the most of promising positions, whether through his own fault or not. Although Kubica managed to jump Sutil during the race, the German managed to bring his car home in a very solid fifth position. Holding off Lewis Hamilton on fresh tyres towards the end of the race was a great effort as well, proving that the team’s aero package is obviously quite nifty, especially given the ease with which Hamilton was able to mug a number of other cars along the main straight. It probably doesn’t hurt having all those Mercedes bits bolted onto your car, though. By contrast, Liuzzi’s race was one to forget, retiring on lap 12 with a throttle problem and having to crawl ever so slowly back to the pits, only to be promptly wheeled straight into the garage. Irritating, as he was just beginning to get some top ten momentum going.
Badger’s best: Sutil
- Qualifying: Button
- Race: Hamilton
Another pretty good race for McLaren, considering the hand they were dealt in qualifying. Both drivers seemed happy with their efforts and, as a damage limitation exercise, it was fairly successful.
Hamilton’s qualifying ended early again as the team’s gamble to watch the weather in Q1 backfired spectacularly, putting him in 20th place. Button had a slightly more successful day, starting 17th, making it into Q2 but not being able to take part thanks to spinning into a gravel trap in Q1. Frustrating. During the race, Hamilton again showed why he’s regarded as one of the best, if not the best, driver on the grid. He had a great start, making eight or so places off the line to put himself in a good position to get solid points. After fighting his way up to sixth and narrowly avoiding a pit exit collision with his team mate, he came up behind Adrian Sutil and got rather stuck, not able to get close enough down the straights or stay with him in the corners. Another triumph for aerodynamics. Button got stuck behind the Ferraris at the start, passing Alonso before pitting to get some clear air. Going 46 laps to the end of the race on one set of tyres was never going to be easy and it was clear he was struggling at the end. Even Massa passed him. An eventual 8th place finish wasn’t too bad, all things considered.
Badger’s best: Hamilton
- Qualifying: Alonso
- Race: Massa
Similar to the McLarens, the weekend turned into a salvage operation for both Ferrari drivers.
Caught out in qualifying by the tempestuous Malaysian weather, Alonso and Massa started 19th and 21st respectively, split by Hamilton’s McLaren. Neither of their races went swimmingly, with both of them caught up behind the Toro Rossos in the first part of the race. Massa’s inability to get past them must be a matter of concern for the team, as was Alonso’s ability to stick with him while driving a car with a broken clutch (good job on that, Fernando). It wouldn’t be surprising if Ferrari started moving Felipe out of the way to allow Alonso through as, put simply, he’s not as fast at the moment. Massa managed to get past a very slow Jenson Button towards the end of the race to finish seventh, and while attempting the same feat Alonso’s engine gave out and he ended up being classified 13th. Although Massa was catching Hamilton at the end and only finished three and a bit seconds adrift, in reality their races were of a completely different standard, with Hamilton looking as though he actually wanted to, you know, race people.
Badger’s best: Alonso
- Qualifying: Buemi
- Race: Alguersuari
Much better from the junior Red Bull team. After last week’s success in holding Michael Schumacher behind them, this week saw similar escapades with the Ferraris and a first points finish for Alguersuari. Job very much done.
Both cars got into Q2 and put in solid performances to finish 13th and 14th, with Buemi out qualifying Alguersuari by 0.2 seconds. The race went well for both drivers, with Alguersuari coming out on top to finish 9th and Buemi 11th. Close to a point in Australia, this marks a big even for young Jaime, not only beating his team mate but also getting into the top 10. Result. Indeed, this battle looks to be shaping up as one of the closest on the grid, with Buemi consistently out qualifying Alguersuari, but Alguersuari getting the better of things in the races. Interesting, and worth keeping an eye on.
Badger’s best: Alguersuari
- Qualifying: Hulkenberg
- Race: Hulkenberg
Another strong, if not fully realised, performance from the Williams team. Strong in qualifying, they seem to have problems converting that pace into good finishes.
Fresh from the call in last week’s column for Hulkenberg to start pushing his experienced team mate, lo and behold, he’s only gone and done it. Maybe he’s a reader. We don’t know he’s not, so by a process of extrapolation, it’s clear F1 Badger is responsible for his improved showing this weekend. By qualifying fifth, half a second and two places clear of Barrichello, he ensured he’d given himself the best possible chance in the race. He managed to maintain the two place gap to his team mate, but sadly they both went back five places (Barrichello’s very very slow start probably helped with that as well), meaning a tenth place finish for the young German and his first F1 points. A big step and one he’ll doubtless hope to build on.
Badger’s best: Hulkenberg
- Qualifying: Glock
- Race: di Grassi
A pretty good weekend for the Virgin team in the grand scheme of things. Yes, their fuel tank is still too small and yes only one car finished (just about) the race, but in Virginland that has to go down as a success.
Glock solidly out qualified di Grassi, starting 16th to his team mate’s 24th. He was only just behind Kovalainen in Lotus and ahead of both the Ferraris and McLarens. Moving into race, as expected, that particular situation didn’t last too long and, as another problem, Timo found himself retiring from the race on the second lap after an ill-executed passing move on his former team mate Jarno Trulli. Not a weekend to remember (and to think he looked so cool in his shades before the race as well). Di Grassi had an altogether more successful run than in qualifying, finishing ahead of both HRTs and actually making it to the end, despite having to preserve fuel in the latter stages of the race. Well done to him – now all he needs to do is out qualify his team mate and he’ll be well on his way.
Badger’s best: di Grassi
- Qualifying: Chandhok
- Race: Chandhok
Another good weekend for the HRT team, getting both their cars to the end of the race and generally continuing to be nice chaps.
They didn’t qualify last! Result! That dubious honour went to di Grassi from Virgin, with Chandhok and Senna starting 22nd and 23rd respectively. The only time their cars were featured on the television coverage during the race was when they were leaping out of the way of faster cars, a task they perform with no little aplomb. That’s really by-the-by though, as they managed to get both cars to the end and not hold up the faster cars, thereby making everyone else hate them. Those tiny mirrors must work surprisingly well. In terms of the team mate battle, Chandhok seems to have had the measure of his more famous team mate all weekend but, in reality, it was all about getting the cars to the end.
Badger’s best: Chandhok
- Qualifying: Kovalainen
- Race: Trulli
Not quite the race they’d have wanted during their ‘home’ GP, but still ok for a new team.
Kovalainen’s doing a very good job in qualifying at the moment, solidly the best of the new teams again and making it (just) into Q2 to start 15th. Trulli, by contrast, would doubtless have been a bit miffed to miss out on Q2 after being nine thousandths of a second shy of Kovalainen’s time. The race was a story of collisions with Virgin cars, with Trulli tangling with Glock and Kovalainen with di Grassi. Not ideal for your home race, or coming off the back of encouraging performances in the preceding two races. After the first three races, Kovalainen really seems to have the upper hand, but we at Badger think you should never count Trulli out. He’s seen it all before and will doubtless pick up as the season progresses.
Badger’s best: Kovalainen
- Qualifying: Kobayashi
- Race: Kobayashi
A weekend that was encouraging in parts sadly fell away at the sharp end, when it really mattered.
A strong qualifying performance, with Kobayashi making it into Q3 to start ninth and de la Rosa starting 12th provided a welcome boost. Sadly, in the race, two Ferrari engine failures meant that their combined total of laps was eight, all of them completed by Kobayashi. Indeed, de la Rosa’s engine failed on the lap to get to the grid, which was doubtless a touch embarrassing for the team. Kobayashi will be happy to have out qualified his team mate for the first time this season, but apart from that there’s not much to see here, really.
Badger’s best: Kobayashi
Driver of the weekend
Vettel. Got to go back to basics with this one – simply imperious at the front and looking for all the world like a World Champion. Red Bull really needed a Brawn-esque start to the season to make things easier further down the line, but if there’s a man to make up for that it’s Vettel.