Race Two: Australia

See? All it takes is a little rain. The Australian GP turned out to be a corker, all the way to the very end, simply because a few drops of H2O hit the track before any racing even started.

As the teams sat on the grid, they all took note of the darkening skies and the dropping temp. when the skies opened up, it wasn’t anything like a downpour, but it was enough of a steady trickle to ensure that all drivers started on intermediate tires. What this meant for the race is that if it dried out, the drivers wouldn’t be obligated to put on both compounds of tires. This would prove critical to more than one person.

On the front row, it was Sebastian Vettel, followed by hometown favorite Mark Webber. Then came Alonso, Button, Massa and Rosberg. As the red lights dipped and went out, Vettel and Massa made blistering starts, while Alonso and Webber spun their tires on the greasy surface and got swallowed up. Into the first corner it was Vettel, followed by Massa (up from fifth), Webber and Alonso, though he was being hoarded by Button on the inside and Schumacher on the outside. As he turned into the corner, his back tire clipped Button’s front and sent him spinning into Schumacher, who ended up with a flapping front wing. Alonso was spun 180 degrees, but luckily for him he was not clobbered by any of the other drivers. Normally this type of incident (being spun at corner one and having to try and charge through the field) would spell doom and the end of the day for the driver, but rain changes everything.

Australia is known as a race of contrition. If you can survive down under, your car is pretty stout. On the first lap, an incident between Kobayashi, Hulkenberg and Buemi took place wherein Kobayashi’s front wing detached from his Sauber, slid under the front wheels and turned him into a flying spear, which he quickly proved to be as his car first speared the wall, then went on to crash into both Hulkenberg and Buemi, ending all three of their races.

Then, on lap 7, a driver made a bold move. Jenson Button came into the pits to make the switch to full slicks. All the teams would now watch his times like the hawks they are, and see if that drying line would hold out. As it happened, the line did hold, and a couple of laps later, all the teams dived into the pits to make the switch. All of the teams, that is, except Red Bull, who were 1-2 at the time. Maybe they were banking on more rain or to try out some strategy, but it didn’t work and both cars came in a few laps later, having lost more time then they gained. But Vettel was still out front and running strong after the stop. The race, once again, seemed to be his. However, another part of the car that he had no control over (this time the front brake disc) broke on him and he flew off the track, only to become beached in a gravel trap, ending another bid for a win from pole.

This left the McLaren of Button out front, and with a comfortable lead too. Behind him was the Renault of Kubica followed by Massa and Alonso. Toward the middle-end of the race, the other McLaren of Hamilton came into the pits for fresh tires, while the front runners stayed out on their old ones. What this meant was that he could be significantly faster in the closing stages of the race, but at the expense of his tires. While the front runners were all lapping pretty consistently around the 1:32 mark, Hamilton was on a charge and taking up to two seconds out of the gap to Alonso per lap. With just six or seven laps left, he (and Mark Webber behind him) caught up to the train of Alonso, Massa and Kubica. This proved to be vital as Hamilton tried to juke, duck and dive his way around the slower Alonso, only to find that in the process of catching him up, he had run all the good rubber off his tires and could not find the grip he needed for the maneuver.

But he was persistent and went to try a move on the inside, was blocked by Alonso and then pummeled from behind by Webber and they both ended up taking a trip through the gravel trap. This left Alonso home free for fourth, and that is how the order finished. Button, proving his decision for slicks at the right time was the correct move, came home in first, followed by Kubica, Massa, Alonso and Rosberg.

Once again, the story that makes this race all the more entertaining was the addition of rain. I’ve written about how wet weather turns any of these races into a blend of mass hysteria, chaos and perfect driving skill, and this race proved just hta tonce again. If not for the rain, there is no way that either Kubica or Alonso finish where they did, let alone Button winning. Without the rain, Australia would probably have been just like Bahrain, which is to say boring and predictable to a fault. But it wasn’t, and thank goodness for that. If it were up to me, all new tracks (and older ones for that matter too) would have mandatory sprinkler systems built into them. This would add that little extra excitement factor that no other racing series enjoys. These guys HAVE to race in the rain and the racing is always the better for it.

See you in Malaysia next week.

As for how I did this week with my predictions, I was pretty close on a few of them, but more often than not, I was completely wrong. Oh well, lots of time left in the season still. Here is the top ten after the race.

  1. Jenson Button
  2. Robert Kubica
  3. Felipe Massa
  4. Fernando Alonso
  5. Nico Rosberg
  6. Lewis Hamilton
  7. Vitantonio Luizzi
  8. Rubens Barrichello
  9. Mark Webber
  10. Michael Schumacher

What this does mean though, is I had eight of the top 10 finishers in the top 10, which is decidedly good I think! Now I just need to work on getting them in the correct order.

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