Well 2013 got off to a fun start didn’t it. The Australian Grand Prix wasn’t as chaotic as usual but still was entering and exciting. The question though is which driver did the best job?
5. Adrian Sutil
What a return for Adrian Sutil. I really like Sutil and was happy to see him back in the sport although I would have been very sorry if Bianchi didn’t get a seat this year. Thankfully they both got a seat for 2013 and Adrian looked straight away like a man who was on form. Adrian’s first stint on the medium tyres put him right at the front and he gave three world champions and one near champion a lot of heartache getting past him. Later in the race the super soft tyres faded and Adrian was quickly passed by Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber.
Adrian really showed his experience in his clean racing defending the way every driver should, giving just enough room while still making his car as wide as possible. I personally thought his defence on Webber towards the end of the race was particularly entertaining and impressive for a driver who has not raced for a year and a half.
4. Sebastian Vettel
The World Champion put his car on pole and looked set the run the race the way he usually does. Break free of the DRS range in the first couple of laps and try to control the race from there. Jenson Button noted when asked if he thought Vettel would run away at the start “you’ve obviously not seen his tyres, they’re knackered.” Vettel got off the line perfectly and pulled out 2 seconds over Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso. The two Ferrari’s quickly closed on him and everything wasn’t going to plan for Vettel as his Red Bull wasn’t amazing in race trim and struggled to take care of its tyres.
Vettel was helpless to keep Alonso and Raikkonen behind him through the pit stops but did a superb job to keep back Felipe Massa and made some amazing overtakes on Lewis Hamilton and Adrian Sutil. Overall a strong race for Vettel and he shouldn’t be too disappointed with his performance.
3. Felipe Massa
If anyone doubted that Felipe Massa would continue his upward performance trend from last year they were completely silenced this weekend. Massa looked on form throughout practice and narrowly out-qualified his team mate. Felipe jumped off the line into second and started showing everyone he would not play number two to Alonso this year by successfully fending him off while simultaneously catching Vettel. The leading three ran together for the first stint but nobody could make an move stick. In their second stint it was a similar story compounded by the fact that Adrian Sutil was ahead of them.
Felipe was caught out on strategy as Fernando pitted early for his second stop and jumped both Felipe and Sebastian. As Ferrari then kept Felipe out longer than Vettel he had no chance of jumping either him or Sutil in the stops so any pass would have to be on track. Although he finished behind Vettel and Alonso Felipe was on their pace and could have finished second if things had gone his way. For me it’s great to see he’s getting better and better and he deserved more than 4th place.
2. Fernando Alonso
Alonso had the best start off the line but had less space to utilize his lightning getaway than his team mate. An amazing overtake on Lewis Hamilton left him behind Massa and Vettel for the first two stints and the long running Adrian Sutil for his second stint. The genius calculating tactician in Fernando came out again when he pitted early and as usual pushed as hard as possible to pass Vettel and Massa in the pit stops. He then kept his foot in around the outside of Adrian Sutil who had just made his stop. 3 places made up by stopping and pushing at the right time now that’s vintage Alonso.
Fernando for the second third of the race still looked in contention for the victory depending on how Kimi Raikkonen’s tyres lasted but as the laps ticked away it became clear Kimi was near unbeatable that day. The typical Alonso combination of sheer determination, fantastic overtaking and pushing at the exact right time got him his first podium in Australia since 2007 and his championship prospects looked in better shape than this time last year.
1. Kimi Raikkonen
The winner did the best job, you don’t say? Well it may seem predictable but the driver of the day was Kimi Raikkonen. Starting 7th on the grid usually means it’s a tough effort to win. Only two winners in the last 17 races at Albert Park have come from outside the first two rows of the grid, the other winner being Kimi’s former teammate David Coulthard in 2003. The pace of the Lotus in qualifying is unclear but Kimi and Romain were close in times on Sunday morning so maybe Kimi did get the best out of the car. We will have to wait till Kuala Lumpa to see how good the Lotus is in qualifying but in race trim the car was mightily impressive. Kimi has had a number of impressive victories over the years but what made this victory special was how little he actually had to do most of the race.
Even though Raikkonen’s Lotus took care of it’s tyres better than any other car and was the fastest in race pace that did not guarantee victory. After all last year in Bahrain and Hungary the Lotus was probably the fastest car in the race and Kimi couldn’t get it onto the top step of the podium. What Kimi needed to do was make up as much ground as possible at the start after all look what happened to his team mate Romain Grosjean in the race after a bad start. Kimi’s Lotus flew off the line and was up to third by the first turn. He immediately looked feisty trying to get past Lewis Hamilton and quickly disposed of him. Apart from a brilliant overtake on Adrian Sutil all Kimi had to do was save his tyres and cruise ahead. For it being in his words “one of the easiest wins” he has to be the driver of the day.
Those who missed out….
A few drivers who did not make the list include Lewis Hamilton who drove an sensible race to 5th place and overall must have been pleased with his Mercedes debut. I would argue however that Sutil drove better than Hamilton and he just missed out on being in the top 5. Jenson Button also did the best job he could with his McLaren but did nothing spectacular. Mark Webber showed brilliant pace but his poor start and time stuck behind other cars meant an overall disappointing race. Di Resta was beaten by his teammate and took to long to clear other cars so can’t be considered to have done an amazing job.
Although I don’t think he deserves a place in the top 5 I think that Jules Bianchi has impressed everyone massively this weekend showing his natural speed but also consistency and no mistakes. Very impressive indeed.