March 28, 2010
*LIGHTS OUT: To say that the start of the race was frantic might be understating the case. Mark Webber, who has never had much luck at his home race, had a miserable start from the second spot on the grid, somehow managing to stay in third as the likes of HWMNBN and Jenson Button were breathing down his neck while scrapping with each other. Meanwhile, Felipe Massa looked like he had a rocket strapped to the back of his Ferrari as he leapfrogged to the rear wing of polesitter Seb Vettel as they closed in on Turn 1. It was there that the scrap between Button and HWMNBN was joined by Slappy Schumacher. Button was inside of the Ferrari, and Slappy tried to go around the outside of the two just as HWMNBN attempted to close the door on the reigning World Champion. Unfortunately, he attempted this despite Button's nose being equal with the Ferrari's cockpit. HWMNBN got punted into a spin, which also collected Slappy, breaking the Mercedes' nose in the process. As the Ferrari pirouetted gracefully down the track, the field immediately jammed up behind him as they tried to pick their way around the red car. Renault's Robert Kubica found the narrowest hole it was possible to sneak through and jumped up to 4th from 9th on the grid in the process.
*AND THEN: In the run down to Turn 6, the Sauber of Kamui Kobyashi shed its front wing for no reason that anybody could say. He wasn't tangled up in the mess at Turn 1, and came through the start cleanly. Still, the wing came off unbidden and went right under his front tires. The car reacted by getting slightly airborne, which had a detrimental effect on the Sauber's traction and steering ability. It then whipped into the inside wall at high speed, at which point it continued following the wall until the barrier made the turn. Unfortunately, Kobyashi's car, most of its right side gone, couldn't even steer, let alone turn. Bouncing over the curb at Turn 6, it plowed directly into the side of Nico Hulkenberg's Williams, climbing overtop of it in the process. Both cars ended up dead in the kittylitter on the outside of 6, Hulkenberg looking rather surprised to be there. Seb Buemi's Toro Rosso was also involved, ending his race there as well. The Safety Car was called out immediately, bringing an end to a rather crazy first lap.
*CHANGING SHOES: Early in the five lap Safety Car period, the drizzle ended and the guessing game began. What team would bring their men in for slick tires first, and would it be the right choice? There was still weather in the area and any moment could see the rain return, but a rapidly drying race line would render the Intermediate tires useless in short order. On Lap 6, the first hot lap after the safety car pulled in, Jenson Button felt his tires going off and quickly came in for soft tires on his own hook. Returning to the track, it looked like he made the wrong call as he immediately did some agricultural racing, but by Lap 9, he had set fast lap of the race. That was enough for all the other teams, and the call went out: pit for new rubber. Everybody but the Red Bulls and Button piled into the pitlane, with Vettel going in on Lap 10. When he came out on the softs, he remained in the lead, with Webber and Button behind him. Webber pitted on Lap 11, losing 5 places in the process, from which deficit he would never recover. At this point, the standings were Vettel, Button, Kubica, Nico Rosberg, Massa, Lewis Hamilton, Rubens Barrichello, Pete Rose, and HWMNBN, with Vettel pulling away rapidly.
*NOT AGAIN: The lead was up to five seconds when, on Lap 25, Vettel saw sparks shooting up from his left-front brakes. Too late to pull into the pits, he continued on while informing his crew of the problem. There were also increasingly heavy vibrations in the car under braking, never a good sign. And then, it happened. Touching the brakes for Turn 13, something important broke and the Red Bull was thrown headlong into the kittylitter, beached and out of the race. Button, gifted first place, swept by, Kubica and Hamilton following.
*CHOICES, CHOICES: Suddenly, the question stopped being "will anybody catch Vettel" and became "does anybody dare to do the whole race on one set of soft tires?" The requirement of using both compounds of dry tires was removed with the use of the Intermediates, so nobody had to stop. But could the soft tires last 50 laps, or 52 in Button's case? Only time would tell, but nobody felt confident about it. Slappy was the first to stop for a second set of soft tires, and immediately turned in fast lap of the race. That was enough for pretty much everybody to swing in... everybody but Button, Kubica and the two Ferraris. The standings at this point was Button, Kubica, Massa, HWMNBN, Hamilton, Webber, Rosberg, and Vitantonio Liuzzi. Suddenly, McLaren looked to be in the catbird seat. They had the leader of the cars that were trying to go with one stop in Button, as well as the leader of the two-stoppers in Hamilton. If the tires of the one-stoppers failed completely, Hamilton looked to be perfectly positioned for the win. As the laps counted down however, it began to look more and more likely that Hamilton, who had been driving an absolutely brilliant race, had been scuppered by the decision to get new tires. On Lap 56, unable to get past the defense-minded HWMNBN, his frustrations boiled as he keyed the mic: "Whose idea was it to bring me in? It was a horrible idea." Then it all became moot as Mark Webber missed his braking point and plowed into the back of the McLaren, sending them both into the kittylitter. Both were able to continue, but Hamilton was dropped to 6th as his teammate cruised across the start/finish line with a 12 second lead over Kubica, having made his soft tires last a seemingly-impossible 52 laps.
*DRIVER OF THE RACE: Jenson Button has always been called a smooth driver, easy on his tires and his car in general. With this race he showed exactly how smooth he was, keeping his soft tires intact for basically the entire race without costing himself much in speed. That his teammate Lewis Hamilton was complaining that his second set of tires had gone off after 16 laps points out the skill involved in protecting the rubber. An amazing drive, with a wonderful dose of driver-inspired strategy on top of it to boot.
*TEAM OF THE RACE: Ferrari showed that they've got to be considered the favorites for the Constructor's Championship by finishing 3-4 in a race that HWMNBN was truly lucky not to finish sixth or seventh. That both drivers were able to go the whole race on one set of softs will not be lost on the rest of the pit lane, either, particularly in that neither driver is known as being gentle on their tires.
*MOVE OF THE RACE: Lewis Hamilton had already passed his teammate, Mark Webber, Rubens Barrichello, and Felipe Massa at one point or another during the race, and he was staring at the back end of Nico Rosberg's Mercedes, sitting in 4th place. The two silver cars are pretty much evenly matched, with very little to choose between them on the whole. That fact made what happened next even more impressive, as Hamilton charged around Rosberg on the outside of Turn 11, a place where nobody ever passes. He had the inside line for Turn 12 and made the pass stick, ending an amazing move in 4th place. Pity it was all for naught in the end. Honorable Mention goes to Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton (again) and Felipe Massa for their Lap 16 shenanigans: Webber passes Massa at Turns 1 and 2. An opportunistic Hamilton follows Webber past the Ferrari, then powers past the Red Bull driver. Going into Turn 3, Webber is overoptimistic and blows the turn, taking Hamilton with him off-track (though with no damage to either), and Massa drives past them both to reclaim 5th place. Just a fun sequence.
*MOOOOOOOOO-OOOVE OF THE RACE: Red Bull's Mark Webber was having a terrible race, all told. On Lap 57, it just got worse. Desperate to get past the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton, he made the sort of rookie error that even Yuji Ide would have cringed at. As he approached the braking zone for Turn 12, Webber was apparently distracted by something bright and sparkly and forgot to apply pressure to the left pedal until it was much, much too late. The Red Bull plowed right into the rear of Hamilton's McLaren, punting them both into the kittylitter with all the grace of a monster truck on ice skates. Hamilton was able to return to the track with no visible damage, though a place lower than he had been, but Webber left his front wing in the gravel. He wound up finishing 9th, and lucky to do so. Good job, mate! Here's your Moooooooo-ooove!
*SELECTED DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE:
"A Grand Prix win in a McLaren. Sounds good, doesnâ€™t it? Right now, I just want to run around and scream. Itâ€™s just the most amazing experience.â€ - Jenson Button (note: real quote)
"I jumped Massa in the pits, thanks to my team breaking the rules and the stewards not noticing. Good job, guys!" - Robert Kubica (note: Renault let Kubica out of his stall with another car coming down the pit lane within the FIA-mandated "exclusion zone," meaning that it should have been considered an "unsafe exit", and should have had at least a drive-through penalty handed to him as a result)
"I think it's safe to say that, after two races, I am back, baby!" - Felipe Massa
"For sure, after an exciting and action packed race like this, I donâ€™t think weâ€™ll hear much more talk about boring races!" - HWMNBN (note: real quote. Don't be so sure about that, HWMNBN...)
"I have no idea how I ended up in fifth. I'm not knocking it, though!" - Nico Rosberg
"This was probably one of the drives of my life. Okay, itâ€™s possible that the decision to make a second tyre stop wasnâ€™t the right one, but my team are a brilliant bunch of guys and they usually get it spot-on. I guess things canâ€™t always pan out right every time, but thatâ€™s motor racing." - Lewis Hamilton (note: real quote. Hamilton then went out and attempted to kill everybody in the McLaren pit lane)
"Force India is for real, and I'm fabulous!" - Vitantonio Liuzzi
"Not a great result, but at least I beat that damned Schumacher." - Rubens Barrichello
"First, I apologize to Lewis. I was stupid, but it was so shiny..." - Mark Webber
"Did you really think I'd be winning races from the start? Really? Oh, and Rubens? Give it time." - Slappy Schumacher
"I'm quite happy as I had a long fight with Slappy, which was nice. I was under a lot of pressure, but I was able to keep him behind me for many laps, which might tell you how far he's fallen." - NKOTT
"I pretty much killed my tires and was lucky to keep the car on the track." - Pete Rose
"Two races in a row we've finished now. At this rate, we might even make 'mediocre' by the end of the season." - Heikki Kovaleininninninnie
"Sure, I was five laps down when the race ended, but who cares? We finished the race! Kalyani Black Labels for everybody!" - Karun Chandhok (note: for HRT, simply finishing is like a podium)
"They say it was my suspension breaking that took me out of the race. Don't believe it, it was fuel, pure and simple. Oh, and to the wife of Vaucaunson's Duck, I say 'take me back, please!'" - Timo Glockenspiel
"Hydraulics failure. It's one thing after the other." - Lucas di Grassi
"AIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEsobEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" - Seb Vettel (note: after the race, he was interviewed, and his quote was "It is massively infuriating and in my mind Iâ€™m using the â€˜sâ€™ word.")
"Those guys in the pits are such kidders... they replaced my V8 with the engine from a Tata Nano. At least, that's what it felt like when four cylinders stopped working." - Adrian Sutil
"Oops. Kittylitter. Dosvidanya, race." - Vitaly Petrov
"I didnÂ´t intend my second Grand Prix to end with an hydraulic failure." - Bruno Senna (note: real quote. Dude, you drive for HRT, you're lucky your car even started...)
"I have no idea how I got wrecked. Or what day it is. Who are you people, and why are you in my living room?" - Seb Buemi, showing some signs of wear from the accident
"AIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEwowsothat'swhattheundersideofaF1carlookslikeEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" - Nico Hulkenberg
"AIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" - Kamui Kobyashi
"I never even left the garage today. Why are you interviewing me?" - Jarno Trulli
So that's Australia, and a fun race indeed. Next weekend we go to Malaysia, home of Lotus and monsoons... which might be their only chance to score points this season. See you then!
BRAVO!!! Great job, as always!
Now I know what I slept through at 2:00 a.m.
Posted by: Mallory at March 28, 2010 02:24 PM (WJ2qy)
That quote from Hamilton makes clear that he's still a class act. It's easy to be gracious in victory; but he is also gracious in defeat.
It is simply astounding that Button was able to make one set of tires last so long. That's got to make all the other teams fear him. But it also show that he wasn't a one-season fluke. McLaren didn't make a mistake by hiring him.
Kobayashi has got to be pissed off, though. Someone better be looking into why that car can't hang onto its front wing. (If the team won't do it, you gotta believe the stewards will; that sucker is dangerous.)
Posted by: Steven Den Beste at March 28, 2010 04:49 PM (+rSRq)
The Stewards already have had one talk with Sauber regards their front wing, after the incident on Friday. No question they'll be taking a much closer look after THIS one. The first time it fell off, well, hey, he hit something. That happens. The second time, though, the mounting pylons that attach the wing to the nose failed for no good reason, and that generally doesn't happen. This time was under race conditions, and maybe he bumped someone, maybe not, Kobyashi doesn't know, but it sure looked like a repeat of the second incident.
Posted by: Wonderduck at March 28, 2010 05:55 PM (mfPs/)
Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at March 28, 2010 07:47 PM (/ppBw)
In other words, Dad kept his son reined in. You just know that Lewis has to have a gigantic ego... heck, I'd be concerned if he DIDN'T, considering what he does for a living. Maybe the elder Hamilton was able to control it, and his current manager can't.
Whitmarsh said exactly what he had to say. It also happens to likely be true. But he probably had quite the heated conversation with his driver about it, too.
Posted by: Wonderduck at March 28, 2010 09:04 PM (mfPs/)
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