Australian GP: The Ferrari Isn't The Dog It Promised To Be
The Ferrari isn’t quite the dog it looked like in testing
No, it’s not where they’d like to be, but after a qualifying session that ended with Alonso in 12th and Massa in 15th, things were looking pretty dire. Race pace was better though, and Fernando was able to tease fifth position out of the Fandango. Elsewhere in red, definitely-not-sponsored-by-Marlboro cars, Massa continued to do a fantastic job of proving that he no longer deserves a seat in a top level team. He’s not good enough to challenge Alonso and, rather shamefully, he’s not even good enough to be the team’s number 2 – rear-gunning for Fernando and nicking points off his rivals. 2012 will be his last year.
McLaren and Red Bull are the teams to beat
While this is hardly anything ‘learnt’ since it was pretty clear that the Bulls and the McLarens would head the field in 2012, the fact that the silver cars appear to be the faster of the two teams is new information. The Red Bulls excelled in qualifying last year, and it allowed them to capitalise on the key design features of the RB7 that allowed Sebastian to build a gap before DRS was enabled and scamper into the distance while the rest of the field tripped over themselves. McLaren appear to have neutered this advantage, and Jenson (having nipped round Lewis at the start) was able to easily control the race from the front and never looked in any danger from Vettel, even after the safety car.
The Williams Renault (I’ll never get tired of saying that) is looking like it might be the leader of the midfield
Lotus having another strong start to the year/Kimi still has it
I predicted that Kimi would get third-place on the grid for Sunday’s race. I was half wrong. An error of rust by Kimi in qualifying meant that he went out in Q1, while Grosjean was left to pick up the pieces in the top ten shootout. He ended up at the head of the second row and could have challenged for the podium had it not been for a silly mistake that put him out of the race far too early on. Kimi meanwhile fought his way up from 17th to 7th, proving that two years away playing in the mud has done nothing to blunt his race craft. If Lotus can give him the car, expect him to be a pain the arse of the front-runners all year long. Lotus had an eerily similar start to last year’s campaign, but early results didn’t last and they quickly fell off the pace, but that was largely believed to be due to their ill-fated exhaust concept that was too deeply ingrained in to the overall design of the car. Don’t expect the same thing to happen this year.
As a long-time fan of JB, I was very pleased to see him take a solid victory and set himself up for the 2012 WDC (which he will win, by the way), but by far and away the biggest smile of the weekend was thanks to Williams and Pastor Maldonado. Running in a genuine sixth place (up from eighth in qually); strong, consistent race pace; hassling Fernando Alonso, the Williams Renault (I’ll never get tired of saying that) is looking like it might be the leader of the midfield, which is genuinely fantastic news. Let’s hope they can keep up the development and Bruno Senna can do a better job in Malaysia. Oh, and Pastor can keep it out of the wall next time he’s so deep in the points. He'll enjoy being given the chance to prove the pay-driver naysayers wrong this year.
Despite all this, Australia could be meaningless
Ultimately, we don’t really get our first look at the proper pace of the cars until Malaysia this Sunday. The Australian GP is still held on a street circuit and there might be a couple more surprises in store for us when Formula One hits the first ‘proper’ circuit next weekend. Smoother, grippier tarmac, more overtaking opportunities, less walls. It’s usually a few races until the form book settles down anyway. Don’t expect too many changes at the sharp end (McLaren and Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes) but the midfield could be all change in the first third of the season.
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