It’s a new year and with it, a new season of Formula 1. After months of designing, prototyping and testing, the teams were back at Albert Park for the Grand Prix of Australia.
Here are a few takeaways from today’s race.
On the back of last year’s biggest story, Lewis Hamilton made his Mercedes debut and it was a fine one indeed. Despite finishing 5th overall, Hamilton was on pace with the leaders and surpassed the expectations held by most. The Silver Arrows looked quick all weekend, but as the season moves forward, keep an eye on their reliability. Nico Rosberg’s race was cut short due to an electrical failure on lap 26.
McLaren struggled all weekend and it quickly became apparent that the MP4-28 is not on par with the rest of the front runners. Jenson Button started 10th and a bad tire strategy had him in the pits well before the rest of the grid. Sergio Perez’s debut with the team wasn’t memorable and he failed to score a single point. It’s still early and Perez may be working out some growing pains, but McLaren aren’t the kind of team to give a driver too many opportunities to get up to speed, as we all saw with Heikki Kovalainen. It was a disappointing weekend and after the loss of their top driver, technical director and title sponsor, they have some major work to do in Woking.
Mark Webber got off to another shockingly bad start after qualifying 2nd overall. It’s a trend that plagued most of his 2012 season and it’s not a good sign to see it happening again at the start of 2013. His teammate Sebastian Vettel built an early lead but fell back as the race progressed. Despite Vettel’s 3rd place finish, expect Red Bull to pull away from the rest of the field in the coming races.
Ferrari looked strong all weekend with both drivers doing well in qualifying and in the race. Felipe Massa has done a complete 180 from where he was at this time last season and even out qualified his teammate Fernando Alonso. Massa is driving with a newfound confidence that we saw glimpses of at the end of 2012 and it appears to have carried over into the new season. Alsonso had a few brilliant moments this weekend including a fantastic battle with Hamilton. Romain Grosjean should watch and learn how to execute proper wheel-to-wheel racing.
Alonso finished 2nd and Ferrari are well on their way to another successful Championship run in 2013.
Despite lots of good performances, there were 3 that really stood out. The first didn’t even get a podium finish and that was Force India’s Adrian Sutil. I’m not a fan but you have to respect a driver who spent a year away from the sport, only to come back and lead a good chunk of the Australian Grand Prix. In the end it was the tires that kept Sutil back but I doubt we’ll be seeing the last of him at the front of the pack in 2013.
Then there’s Kimi Raikkonen, today’s race winner. Could the Australian Grand Prix have ended any better? The Iceman finished the race by telling his engineer “I told you the car was fast”, it was classic Kimi through and through. Lotus is everyone’s favorite underdog team in Formula 1 and with this strong of a start to the season, there will be more race wins to come. Expect Grosjean to improve his pace in the coming months and Kimi to keep being Kimi.
Finally, hats off to NBC Sports. We all wondered what would happen to Formula 1 in the United States after SPEED lost their broadcast rights. I think it’s the best thing to happen for American fans since Circuit of the Americas broke ground in Austin. Formula 1 deserves a proper home on American television and the guys at NBC did an absolutely brilliant job all weekend. The continuing race coverage during commercial breaks, the broadcast of delayed qualifying sessions and a fantastic post race show are just a few examples of just how seriously NBC is taking Formula 1. Well done!
Things are just getting started and it’s only going to get better! The Malaysian Grand Prix is less than a week away!
Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.