Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix proved to be an exciting return for the sport. The race saw an unexpected win from Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen who has made his intentions clear- he is one of the contenders for the 2013 championship. I take a look at how each team faired at the first Grand Prix of the 2013 season.
Lotus secured an unexpected win in Australia, with Kimi Raikkonen managing a two stop race. The Finn had only qualified seventh but Raikkonen kept out of trouble and over the race dispensed of those in front of him to take home the 25 points and lead the drivers championship. The day was of a contrasting nature for Romain Grosjean. He qualified in eighth behind his teammate but he found himself battling with Jenson Button for much of the race in the lower midfield. Grosjean took the final point of the day with 10th position and this sees Lotus sitting in second in the constructors championship, four points behind Ferrari. One thing is certain after the race- Raikkonen has asserted himself as a championship contender.
Sunday was a positive day for Ferrari with Fernando Alonso securing second and Felipe Massa finishing fourth. Massa outqualified Alonso and stayed ahead of him at the start of the race until an ill-timed pitstop saw him fall from leading the race to seventh position. Alonso stayed with race leader Kimi Raikkonen in the latter stages of the race to secure a podium for Ferrari. The team leave Australia with 30 points and lead the constructors championship. All round a good weekend for Ferrari who will be confident heading to Malaysia.
Heading into the race weekend Red Bull looked strong and some wondered if they would be unstoppable, topping FP1 and FP2 and qualifying first and second. However the race was a different story. Whilst Sebastian Vettel led from pole, Mark Webber lost numerous places at the start falling from second to seventh. Vettel pitted on lap seven surrendering the lead and eventually went onto finish third, securing his first podium of the season. Mark Webber had a contrasting day but fought back to secure sixth and eight valuable points. Overall an average weekend for Red Bull who sit in third place in the constructors championship.
Mercedes had a mixed weekend. Lewis Hamilton qualified third and Nico Rosberg sixth and both were in contention for podiums and points in the early part of the race. Rosberg found himself having to retire on lap 26 with an electrical issue despite having earlier led the race. Hamilton survived to the finish but had to resort to ‘Plan B’ and three stops after attempting a two stop race. He eventually went on to finish fifth, over ten seconds behind fourth place Felipe Massa. The performance overall was good from Hamilton but the team will want to eradicate mechanical issues to have any hope of challenging in the constructors championship.
The Force India drivers qualified 9th and 12th respectively with Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil and it was Sutil who benefitted from exiting in Q2. The German, making his F1 return after a year out, started on the Medium compound tyre and stayed with the front runners before taking the race lead. Sutil kept stayed ahead of Vettel, Alonso and Raikkonen until lap 21 when he pitted. Sutil would later lead the race again before having to pit for the Supersoft tyre and end up finishing in seventh place. Behind him teammate Di Resta finished in eighth place, taking Force India’s points total to 10 and fifth in the constructors. Di Resta said after the race he felt he had been ‘robbed‘ of seventh as the team had asked him to stay behind Sutil.
McLaren struggled over the weekend with Jenson Button only qualifying 10th and Sergio Perez a lowly 15th. The race didn’t get much better with Button having to pit on the fourth lap to change his Supersoft tyres for Mediums and he only ran in the midfield for much of the race. Ninth position is all Button could manage with Perez finishing 11th. McLaren will want to improve their performance since scoring just two points from a Grand Prix does not bode well for the rest of the season. They will hope to rectify this next weekend in Malaysia.
Jean-Eric Vergne finished in 12th for Toro Rosso whilst Daniel Ricciardo failed to finish at his home Grand Prix after an exhaust issue. Vergne was in contention for 10th, battling Sergio Perez and Romain Grosjean in the late stages of the race but could only finish in 12th after a failed overtake attempt on Grosjean. Overall a disappointing day in the office for Toro Rosso and it looks as if they may struggle to score points in the opening races of the season. They will hope for better in Malaysia.
Sauber only had one car start the Grand Prix after the team decided not to race Nico Hulkenberg because of issues with the fuel system. Hulkenberg has not had any luck in his three races at Albert Park, failing to make it to the end of lap one with Williams in 2010 and Force India in 2012. Esteban Gutierrez made his F1 debut as the sole Sauber driver and put in a good performance. The Mexican kept out of trouble and was the top rookie finisher with 13th place. The team will want to take steps to prevent issues with the car and make sure both cars do actually start the race in Malaysia.
Valtteri Bottas was Williams sole finisher in Australia after Patsor Maldonado beached his car in the gravel following a trip over the grass. Bottas put in a strong performance and finished 14th on his debut in F1. The FW35 brought to Melbourne seems to be a step back from the promising times seen in pre-season testing. The team will hope to be more competitive in a week’s time in Malaysia.
Sunday proved to be a good day for rookies drivers Max Chilton and Jules Bianchi. After 58 laps Bianchi beat Caterham rival Charles Pic to 15th and Chilton overcame Van der Garde for 17th. Both drivers looked impressive on their debuts and Marussia look set to be taking the battle to Caterham for 10th in the constructors.
Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde finished 16th and 18th respectively as they battled with the Marussia drivers to lead the back of the grid. The two backmaker teams looked much closer during the race and this should prove to be a good battle for 10th in the constructors.