MELBOURNE, Australia — After a preseason of expecting the unexpected because of all the rule changes and the unpredictable Pirelli tires, the season opening Australian Grand Prix didn’t serve up the forecasted thrills and spills.
Sebastian Vettel won just like he did when he dominated races last year. The new Pirellis didn’t behave erratically as they had in testing. The driver adjustable rear wing didn’t produce masses of overtaking. And KERS? Well, the Red Bulls didn’t even use KERS but Vettel still won the pole and the race.
The rear wing effect didn’t really do much because the Albert Park straight is not very long. That will change in Malaysia. KERS, as in 2009, can also be used as a defensive tool as well as on offensive one.
The tires did produce more pit stops, but many drivers still managed to get away with just two stops compared to the three or four that had been predicted. But the tires did add an extra element of strategy to the race that was interesting.
It is too early to pass judgment on the new rules. After all, after race one in Bahrain last year things looked bleak, but it turned into an exciting season.
A one-minute silence was observed prior to the race as a mark of respect and sympathy for the victims of the natural disasters in Australia, New Zealand and Japan. All the drivers had messages of support or Japanese flags on their cars and/or driving suits. And the drivers posed holding a Japanese flag.
Lotus reserve driver Karun Chandhok was the first driver out on the track as the 2011 season got underway with Friday’s practice session.
Moments later he was also the first driver to crash this season when the Lotus snapped to the right on cold tires and into a wall at turn three. Team Lotus, which had asked him to take it easy so they could do systems checks, was not amused.
A new season means new team uniforms. McLaren wins the prize for having the ugliest ones as team personnel had to wear jackets that looked like they were made out of black shiny plastic shower mats.
Rubens Barrichello had a nightmare journey to Australia after being stranded in Buenos Aires for more than 15 hours when the airport closed because of problems in the control tower. Barrichello made numerous phone calls trying to find an escape plan. “I called Mark [Webber] to see if he could help me with Qantas,” he said. “I called everyone I could possibly think of. They shut the airport. I couldn’t take my plane out, I couldn’t do anything, and that’s why I tweeted. I was going to go to Uruguay by boat for three and a half hours, then take a flight to Santiago, and then fly from there.” Eventually the airport opened sooner than predicted and Barrichello was on his way.
“There was never a chance I would miss the race, even if I had to swim over here!” he said.
Sebastian Vettel always gives his cars girl’s names. He has dubbed his new RB7 as “Kinky Kylie.”
The FIA has instigated a new registration system for all its world championship series, which it says will “preserve the safety and image” of said championships. Each F-1 team is required to nominate a number of senior team members to register with the FIA at the start of the season. These registered team members will be granted a formal
certificate and will be required to comply with the new FIA Code of Good Standing. In other words, the FIA will be able to keep the shady characters out of F-1, which has not been possible in the past, and it will be able to sanction senior team members who are involved in scandals such as Flavio Briatore and the race-fixing scam in the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.
Proving just how balanced and coordinated race drivers are is one Nico Rosberg who put out a YouTube video of himself riding a unicycle while juggling three balls.
Lewis Hamilton ruffled some red feathers when he said Red Bull Racing was a newbie team without the history and engineering background that McLaren and Ferrari have.
“For many, many years it has been McLaren and Ferrari at the front and now we have got a new team that has come and knocked us off the top,” he told The Guardian. “Red Bull are not a manufacturer, they are a drinks company. It’s a drinks company versus McLaren/Ferrari history. Our team is building to become a bigger manufacturer, like Ferrari, and I can only see our team being there for a ridiculous amount of
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner pointed out that “for just a drinks company we’ve beaten an engineering company with the resources that McLaren has had for the last couple of years.”