McLaren, what happened…
There’s probably some awkward shuffling and staring at the floor back in Woking, as McLaren have made quite a clanger with the MP4-28.
The conditions at Albert Park on Saturday and Sunday will have played a part in their mediocre performance, but it’s clear to see that even without those mitigating circumstances, they have a lot of work to do to catch up. 10th and 15th in qualifying just isn’t good enough for a top-calibre team, especially when you’re being beaten by the likes of Force India and Toro Rosso. It must hurt to see all the hard work over the winter come to very little in terms of results.
9th and 11th for Button and Perez does suggest that race pace is a little better, and 2 points on the tally can be considered a good return despite everything. Besides, it’s only the first race of the season. There’s plenty of time yet to develop the car into an eventual race-winner.
Damage limitation for Red Bull
Words that will no doubt be a breath of fresh air to most fans. For now, at least.
Though for a lot of the weekend it was business as usual – a front row lockout in qualifying, Vettel making his usual bid for freedom in the first few laps, Webber having a poor start but doing a good job of catching up; everything was going to plan. And then the tyres decided to bite them.
The high tyre wear saw both cars pit earlier than expected, leading to Alonso leap-frogging Seb in the pitlane and keeping him behind for the rest of the race. As for Mark, slow pit stops and the KERS failure came back to haunt him yet again. That pesky monkey just won’t leave his back.
The hotter climate of Malaysia will bring a more level playing field to proceedings, and will show if Australia was just a one-off for Red Bull, or if they’ll actually struggle with tyre wear this year. For the sake of keeping the championship down to the wire, let’s hope it’s the latter.
Sutil’s back with a bang
Admittedly, this Badger was quite sceptical about Adrian Sutil’s return to F1. It wasn’t unreasonable to expect him to be rusty in the first couple of races, no matter how much he knows Force India inside-out. Well, erm, let’s take it back, because on Sunday he was mega.
Even Kimi Raikkonen didn’t manage to lead the race on his return last year, yet Sutil managed 11 laps at the front with ease before the super-soft tyres gave up the chase towards the end of the race. Had that not happened, we could have been talking about a very different result. His eventual 7th place was even more impressive when taking into account that he started 12th, behind Paul di Resta, who was none too happy about the tactics used to keep Sutil in front of him.
Another few performances like that, and there could be a serious inter-team tussle developing at Force India over the season. Di Resta will have to keep one eye over his shoulder for the foreseeable future.
He even made it to being our Top Dog for the Aussie GP!
Bianchi has serious potential
It’s a bit early to be judging the Class of 2013’s rookies, but it’s fair to say that they generally held their own despite the difficult conditions. There was one notable exception though. Step forward Jules Bianchi.
By all accounts his debut couldn’t have gone any better, helping Marussia to be first of the ‘new’ teams in qualifying and finishing a respectable 15th on race day. Not bad considering he only had two days of testing in the Marussia. Although, when he beats his team-mate in qualifying by nearly a second, laps him and both Caterhams in the race, and sets a fastest lap that’s 0.045 seconds off Sebastian Vettel’s best, you can’t help but think that Marussia have pulled a blinder in signing him.
If he carries on like he’s started, Bianchi probably won’t be at the team next year, but they’ll be much better off if he can help them grab 10th in the constructors or, dare we say it, a point. In the meantime, Ferrari must be wringing their hands with glee.
It’s close all through the field
Now we’re trying not to get too ahead of ourselves here (though it’s hard not to when you’re all excited about F1 being back), but if you’re hoping that this year isn’t going to be dominated by Mr Pointy Finger, you have hope at the moment.
At the front of the pack especially, things are looking tight now that McLaren won’t be in contention for the first few races. Provided they can find 50p for the electricity meter in Rosberg’s car, Mercedes could be outright quick, while the Lotus being smoothy-smooth on its tyres will be a big advantage when we get to the hotter temperatures that it loved last year.
It’s not just at the front of the pack either; both Toro Rossos looked more than comfortable before Ricciardo’s exhaust failure soured their weekend, and Jules Bianchi’s outing showed that Marussia have the potential to catch up to the tail end of the midfield.
All very exciting, and that’s only after one race. F1 is definitely back!