Notes from the Television Screen: F1 @ Albert Park, Australian Grand Prix

Editor’s note: I cover the entirety of the Formula 1 on-track action at Formula1Blog throughout each race weekend. This is just a taste of those session and race recaps. Follow the links to read the full story, as posted immediately after each session.

Jenson Button won the 2012 Australian Grand Prix in dominating fashion, having taken the lead from pole sitter Lewis Hamilton into the first turn and only giving it up for a pit stop. Hamilton would finish third, as second place finisher Sebastian Vettel pipped him in a pit stop during a Safety Car period caused by Vitaly Petrov’s Caterham stopping on the front straight. Mark Webber finished fourth, having lost positions on the start then retaking them through the race. The Australian was very close to Hamilton in the closing stages but remained unable to make a move on the Briton. Fernando Alonso rounded out the top five, having heaved his Ferrari up from a twelfth starting position. Read the entire Grand Prix Redux at Formula1Blog…

Saturday’s qualifying session added to the newly mixed-up 2012 field, as Hamilton (1:24.922) won pole with a 2011 Vettel-style lap. Only Button came close to the former world champion, making a McLaren front row on the starting grid. Grosjean showed that Lotus’ pace in testing was no fluke, though a mistake from his new teammate Raikkonen meant that the Finn qualified only eighteenth. The biggest mistake, however, came from Alonso. The Spaniard beached his recalcitrant Ferrari in the gravel halfway through Q2 and was only twelfth quickest. Still, he fared better than Massa, who went out after Alonso’s red flag and was also knocked out in Q2. Back up front, Schumacher qualified to start next to Grosjean in the mad dash to fast laps in Q3 while Webber and Vettel managed only to qualify fifth and sixth, respectively. The Australian out-qualified his reigning champion teammate, despite yet another KERS failure. Despite usually winning an appeal to the stewards despite qualifying times outside 107% last year, neither Pedro de la Rosa nor Narain Karthikeyan started the race, presumably due to their extensive balking of other drivers as moving chicanes during qualifying itself. Perez also had issues with his gearbox that forced Sauber to change it and resulted in a five place gird penalty from his qualifying position of seventeenth. Read more about qualifying for the Australian GP at Formula1Blog…

Both McLarens also showed good pace in the practice sessions, with each driver posting the fast lap for a session. Button (1:27.560) led the team 1-2 on the wet Friday morning, with Schumacher, Alonso, and Webber joining them as the fastest five. Hamilton (1:25.681) had his turn on the dry and sunny Saturday morning session, leading Grosjean, Webber, Button, and Rosberg as the quickest. Both Schumacher and Vettel had trips through the gravel in the sunshine, though no driver crashed out of either wet Friday practice. Schumacher (1:29.183) was the shining driver Friday afternoon, leading Hulkenberg, Perez, Alonso, and Kobayashi in that session as the track dried quickly in the final minutes.


F1 Malaysia: Quali; Webber on Pole in Rain-Stopped Session, Hamilton & Ferraris Out in Q1

What Happens When the Rain Becomes Difficult

5:27am EST — Mark Webber took pole over Nico Rosberg, Sebastian Vettel, Adrian Sutil, and Nico Hulkenberg.  Michael Schumacher will start the Malaysian GP eighth.  Both Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, along with Lewis Hamilton were knocked out of Q1 with bad strategy for the rain-impeded qualifying session.  They will start nineteenth, twenty-first, and twentieth, respectively.  The session was stopped for fifteen minutes in Q3 as Red Bull continued their dominance of qualifying for the 2010 season.  Will the cars make it to the end of the race?  More importantly, will the weather hold for the cars to actually complete the race?

A very rainy qualifying for the Malaysian GP got started after a third practice session that saw Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel bring some Red Bull speed to bear on Lewis Hamilton’s dominance at the end of an occasionally rainy practice.  Webber posted the fastest time of the session and weekend (1:33.542), with Hamilton second, Vettel third, with Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher rounding out the top five.  All were in the 1:33s range.

With the rain falling, the field, barring McLaren, Mercedes, Red Bull, and Ferrari, was on-track immediately.  The track was both wet and dry in places and some spins and trips through the gravel de rigeur.  Four minutes into the twenty-minute session and everyone was out and setting some sort of time but Lucas di Grassi. With eight minutes left, Kubica leads de la Rosa, Vettel, Petrov, and Kobayashi while Button had beached his 13th-fastest McLaren in the gravel with Kubica flyingn off just after but continuing on as Button had to be craned out.  Most started the session on intermediates, but Schumacher made the switch to wets with five minutes left.  Thirteen and a half seconds cover the field, with di Grassi finally attempting some laps as the field struggled to stay on-track in the wet.  The weather report suggested that the rain should clear up for Q2, but would likely rain again for Q3.  With two and a half minutes left, Trulli, Massa, Alonso, Chandhok, Senna, Hamilton, and di Grassi were in the knockout zone.  Alonso spun on his second to last lap, but managed to start another in time, as did Schumacher, Rosberg, and those in the knockout zone (barring Trulli) attempted one last flyer.  In a bit of a shocker, both Ferraris and Hamilton did not managed to post a fast enough time to move forward.  Massa spun quite dramatically right at the end, and Ferrari offered this pithy response to the session on Twitter, “it was a very bad session.”  Later, during Q2, the team would say, “there is not too much to say, we waited too long in the garage and, together with others, we made a mistake which was paid highly.”

Knocked Out at the End of Q1:
18. Trulli
19. Alonso
20. Hamilton
21. Massa
22. Chandhok
23. Senna
24.di Grassi

With the rain appearing to have stopped, nearly every car was immediately on track in Q2.  Some teams were still using wets, with Virgin Racing quite excited, “Blinking flip! This is nerve racking.”  With ten minutes to go, it was Schumacher, Petrov, Kubica, Hulkenberg, and Rosberg the five fastest, with Sutil, Liuzzi, Barrichello, Kovalainen, Buemi, Glock, and an as-yet not running in Q2 Button in the knockout zone.  WIth five minutes left, the Williams’ had moved up to second and third fastest, then ahead of Schumacher, only to be knocked back to 2nd and 3rd by a fast lap by Vettel, then Kubica.  Three minutes to go, and no one surprising was in the knockout zone: Kobayashi, de la Rosa, Glock, Alguersuari, Kovalainen, Buemi, and a still not running Button.  Then Kobayashi moved up to sixth.  Two mintues left and the rain began to reassert itself (after not quite stopping) again.  One minute left and Webber was down in the knockout zone as teammate Vettel was fastest.  Then Webber moved to seventh with a fastest of the session sector one.  At the end of the session, Veteel led Kubica, Sutil, Hulkenberg, and Rosberg, with Schumacher just moving forward from tenth fastest.  Despite being knocked out in Q1 and Q2, Virgin Racing was a bit cheeky with Timo Glock’s 16th place start, “I guess we can’t complain about being ahead of button, massa,alonso and Hamilton! ;-)”  The circiut had continued to be dry in some places and quite wet in others.

Knocked Out at the End of Q2:
11. Petrov
12. de la Rosa
13. Buemi
14. Alguersuari
15. Kovalainen
16. Glock
17. Button

The Force Indias of Adrian Sutil and Tonio Liuzzi, on wets, were the first to line up, but Kubica managed to sneak out first, with everyone else close behind.  The circuit remained wet, with much spray clouding the visors of the drivers attempting to sit on pole, a very important position for the likely very, very wet race Sunday, as Q3 looked to be the wettest of the three qualifying sessions.  The beginning of Q3 was about an hour into race time, as the session was red flagged with just over seven minutes left and no times posted, as race control decided that conditions were too wet to run, as standing water littered the circuit, and an “indefinite delay” would be in place.  Ten minutes later, the rain looked to have stopped and the session restarted fifteen minutes after it was stopped.
The Force Indias again were at the head of the queue to leave the pits, but side by side so as to keep any line-cutting to a minimum.  Sutil posted the fastest of the first flying laps, over Kubica, Hulkenberg, Barrichello, and Schumacher.  Vettel and Webber were sixth and ninth with a minute and a half left in the session, with heavy rain threatening yet again.  They moved up to Webber (on inters) fastest and Vettel third with time for one lap each left in the session.  Webber then beat his own time, by over a second, to claim pole.

Final Qualifying Positions for the 2010 Malaysian GP:
1. Webber 1:49.327
2. Rosberg 1:50.673
3. Vettel 1:50.789
4. Sutil 1:50.914
5. Hulkenberg 1:51.001
6. Kubica 1:51.051
7. Barrichello 1:51.511
8. Schumacher 1:51.717
9. Kobayashi 1:51.767
10. Liuzzi 1:52,254

F1 Malaysia: Friday Practice 2; Hamilton Fastest Again, Vettel Improves, with Mercedes Also Fast

What Happens When No Rain Makes For Long Runs

2:52am EST — Lewis Hamilton continued his dominance of the 2010 Malaysian GP weekend, with a fastest time of 1:34.175 in the second practice session.  He led Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button, Nico Rosberg, and Michael Schumacher, a remarkably similar top five to the first session.  Mark Webber suffered an odd loss of power that removed him from the session after only running for thirty-plus minutes and left him twentieth fastest.  Fernando Alonso recovered some time after a number of long runs to post the seventh fastest time, with teammate Felip Massa fifteenth fastest in a session marked by decently clean driving and high numbers of laps posted by nearly all the drivers.

A half hour into the session, the timesheet looked remarkably like that at the end of the first practice, with Hamilton leading Rosberg, Button, Schumacher, and Sutil.  The fastest time was just two tenths faster than that of the first session, as Schumacher moved past Button and teammate Rosberg into the second fastest position.  many of the drivers had begun longer runs, even as the session began two hours before the scheduled starts for qualifying and the race.  Also at that point, Hamilton was the only driver to post a time in the 1:34s range.  The weather was, as Mercedes put it, “After a brief rain shower, the sun is back out in Sepang and it is hot!!!!”

Thirty-four minutes into the session, Mark Webber seemingly pulled off directly into a gravel trap from the fifteenth fastest position.  Nothing appeared to go wrong on the car, though pulling into the gravel and requiring track workers to hoist the car away seemed quite an odd way to go about leaving the circuit.  At that point, Webber was the fastest of the Red Bulls and Ferraris, who were in fifteenth through eighteenth positions (Alonso, Vettel, Massa).  According to the team’s official Twitter account, “Officially? It’s a loss of power in Mark’s car.”  It would be the end of his session.

Halfway through the hour and a half session, Hamilton remained fastest, as Rosberg and Schumacher traded the second fastest time between themselves.  Button was fourth fastest, and Sebastian Buemi completed the top five.  Renault teammates Kubica and Petrov were sixth and seventh, with Sutil, Kobayashi, and de la Rosa the rest of the fastest ten.  Two seconds covered the top ten, as Hamilton and Schumacher began setting some faster times with the latter becoming the second man into the 1:34s for the weekend.  Hamilton responded by setting a 1:34.175, as Button moved into second, also in the 1:34s.

Timo Glock gained distinction as the first new team driver to set a lap time below 1:40, as 10.3 second cover the entire field, three seconds more than in the first practice.  With thirty-five minutes remaining, Vettel finally posted a competitive time, moving up to fifth fastest, with a 1:34.863, despite radioing back about some power steering issues.  He had been working on long runs, as had Webber and Alonso, whose 23 laps were the most posted to that point in the session.  Hamilton, meanwhile, had not been doing long runs and appeared to be focusing, along with teammate Button, on qualifying runs.  Might be a good strategy, with race-day weather seeming to be similar to that last year.  That, you’ll remember, ended the race early and brought in only half points.

Jaime Alguersuari had a moment that ended up with a trip through the gravel and grass, though he continued on with a half hour left.  Vettel had a similar, though not through the gravel, moment at the same corner just after.  Hamilton still led, now with Vettel, Rosberg, Button, and Schumacher as the top five.  Seventeenth fastest Alonso, according to Ferrari, “is happier with this type of tyres (soft).”  With twenty minutes left, nearly half the field was in the garage, preparing for a final run or two.

Back on the same set of softs as before, Alonso moved up to seventh fastest, as Button radioed back to McLaren that the “back end was moving around a hell of a lot” in turn seven and eight.  His best lap was fourth fastest.  Many of the teams were taking advantage of the session as a test session, with some high numbers of laps run.  For example, the Toro Rossos posted thirty-one laps, the Ferraris twenty-eight, and other teams in similar amounts with ten minutes left.

With five minutes left, Ferrari announced, “fernando back on the track with hard tyres. felipe’s crew is try to solve a small issue on the rear.”  He soon returned to the circuit on soft tires, leaving only Webber and Petrov in the garage with three minutes left in the session.  No dramatic times were set at the very end, leaving the standings generally as they had been for the previous ten or twenty minutes.  Afterward, Ferrari noted, “There is a lot of work to do to prepare the race: we can foresee a very difficult weekend.”

Final Times from FP2 for the Malaysian GP:

Driver Time Gap Laps
1. Hamilton 1:34.175 27
2. Vettel 1:34.441 +.226 28
3. Rosberg 1:34.443 +.268 30
4. Button 1:34.538 +.363 24
5. Schumacher 1:34.674 +.499 30
6. Kubica 1:35.148 +.973 34
7. Alonso 1:35.581 +1.406 34
8. Buemi 1:35.660 +1.485 39
9. Petrov 1:35.872 +1.697 20
10. Sutil 1:35.957 +1.782 32
11. Kobayashi 1:36.018 +1.843 38
12. Liuzzi 1:36.221 +2.046 34
13. de la Rosa 1:36.325 +2.150 33
14. Alguersuari 1:36.325 +2.150 39
15. Massa 1:36.602 +2.427 30
16. Barrichello 1:36.813 +2.638 26
17. Hulkenberg 1:37.415 +3.240 19
18. Trulli 1:38.454 +4.279 34
19. Kovalainen 1:38.530 +4.355 32
20. Webber 1:38.786 +4.611 13
21. Glock 1:39.061 +4.886 23
22. di Grassi 1:39.158 +4.983 29
23. Chandhok 1:41.084 +6.909 27
24. Senna 1:41.481 +7.306 32

F1 Malaysia: Friday Practice 1; Hamilton Quickest as Mercedes & Renault Step Up

What Happens When Practice Still Means Little

11:51pm EST — Lewis Hamilton posted the fastest time in the first practice of the Malaysian GP weekend, with Nico Rosberg just beating Jenson Button to second fastest at the end.  The battle of the teammates continued with Michael Schumacher fourth fastest, and Robert Kubica rounding out the top five in a thoroughly routine practice session in the South Asian heat.  Red Bull drivers Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel were sixth and ninth, respectively, while Ferrari teammates Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa ended the session eighth and eleventh fastest.

Two reserve drivers made their Formula1 debuts during Friday’s first practice, as first of all runners on-track was Fairuz Fauzy at home in Malaysia for Lotus (taking Heikki Kovalainen’s place) while Paul di Resta took Tonio Liuzzi’s place at Force India.  After a half our of the hour and a half session, Jaime Alguersuari had posted the fastest time (1:37.849), leading the other six posted times of di Resta, Fauzy, Trulli, Chandhok, Senna, and de la Rosa.  At that point, all the teams had run at least one lap, though the leading teams had not yet returned to the circuit, presumably waiting for it to rubber in.

Halfway through the session, Hamilton led Button with the fastest time (1:34.921, seven tenths off the circuit lap record set in 2004 by Juan Pablo Montoya).  Kubica, Rosberg, and Webber rounded out the top five, no more than a half second slower than Hamilton.  With thirty minutes left, only Michael Schumacher had not posted a time, and had only completed one lap.  Meanwhile, the teams had closed up some of the times, with the slowest runner (Karun Chandhok) now only seven seconds behind the still-leading Hamilton.  Force India’s di Resta and Sutil were complaining of tires graining quickly.  Ten minutes later, Schumacher posted the third fastest time of the session, four tenths off of Hamilton’s time.

When fifteen minutes remained, Red Bull decided to post a bit of a (quite correct) rant on Twitter, “Sunny and 29°C. This bears so little relation to what we’ll get for the race, we might as well hold the practice sessions at Silverstone.”
In truth, the practice sessions are notoriously difficult to use as a marker for the rest of the weekend.  Better analysis will be available after the second practice session, but the real test will be in qualifying on Saturday.

Final Times from FP1 for the Malaysian GP:

Driver Time Gap Laps
1. Hamilton 1:34.921 19
2. Rosberg 1:35.106 +.185 19
3. Button 1:35.207 +.286 25
4. Schumacher 1:35.225 +.304 14
5. Kubica 1:35.402 +.481 22
6. Webber 1:35.479 +1.034 22
7. Sutil 1:35.955 +1.038 20
8. Alonso 1:35.959 +1.122 20
9. Vettel 1:36.043 +1.179 19
10. Buemi 1:36.100 +1.530 20
11. Massa 1:36.451 +1.451 22
12. Kobayashi 1:36.503 +1.582 28
13. Alguersuari 1:36.645 +1.724 18
14. Petrov 1:36.712 +1.791 9
15. de Resta 1:36.891 +1.970 25
16. de la Rosa 1:36.899 +1.978 24
17. Hulkenberg 1:37.802 +2.881 27
18. Barrichello 1:38.278 +3.357 18
19. Trulli 1:39.460 +4.539 21
20. Glock 1:39.755 +4.834 17
21. di Grassi 1:40.159 +5.238 25
22. Fauzy 1:40.721 +5.800 19
23. Senna 1:41.832 +6.911 27
24. Chandhok 1:41.966 +7.045 24

F1 News: Drivers Frolic, Brembos Didn’t Fail Vettel but the Suspension Suspicion Continues, Lewis’ Remarks Storm the Press

What Happens When Two Flyaways Are 7 Days Apart

12:12am EST — After a bang-up race in Australia, the F1 news focused on Lewis Hamilton’s frustrations, Sebastian Vettel’s formerly broken brakes, all while the drivers had a fun time in Australia and Malaysia, with only a week between the flyaway races.

The Drivers Frolic:
On the other side of the world, and with only four days between one race and the next race’s first practice session, the drivers have been doing a bit of off-track frolicking.  Karun Chandhok and Bruno Senna have been hitting up the mall and tennis courts (see mainly Chandhok’s Twitter and Twitpic accounts), Rubens Barrichello and Heikki Kovalainen the golf course, though that was sort of work, what with the Bridgestone guys in attendance and all (see also Kovalainen’s Twitter and Tweetphoto accounts, and an official Williams Twitterpic account), and Jaime Alguersuari’s take on life with his mom, dad, girlfriend, and trainer through his Twitpic account.

Brake Failure Didn’t Knock Vettel Out of the Lead, Suspension Legality Sill Up in the Air:
Despite Vettel and Red Bull announcing loudly over the radio and after the Australian GP that a brake failure caused the crash that took the German out of the lead, it simply was not so.  Instead, brake supplier Brembo released the following relatively short press release,

With regard to the retirement of the Red Bull Racing’s driver Sebastian Vettel during the Grand Prix of Australia, Brembo communicates that the cause of his exit in Turn 13 was not caused by the braking system supplied by Brembo, as some publications have reported. Red Bull Racing has confirmed that Sebastian Vettel retired from the Australian Grand Prix after the torque drive between the front left axle and wheel was lost. Post race investigations revealed the wheel nut was correctly tightened at the pitstop as well as other possible causes of the fault. The team has communicated that it’s studying a number of solutions at present, which can be implemented for the Malaysian Grand Prix.

This was the second retirement from the lead for Vettel and Red Bull in two races.  Still, team principal Christian Horner cautioned in an Autosport article that, “Don’t panic – it is a long season. We know we have got a fast car and I would far rather have a fast car than a slow car…But there is still a long way to go and the season will have many different twists and turns.”  This is not the first time that an Adrian Newey-designed Red Bull went a bit haywire.  Last season saw reliability issues for the team, as well, though Horner correctly notes that the season is long.  Whether is is long enough is the question many are asking.
Meanwhile, a fuss is still being made over what Autosport calls “Rival outfits suspect that Red Bull Racing is doing something clever with its suspension – perhaps through the use of gas-filled dampers – that helps give the team a lower ride-height in qualifying for an extra boost of speed.”  This is, of course, not allowed.  However, Horner also noted that, “McLaren has made a lot of comments recently, be it about our fuel tank size or the future of our drivers and now supposed systems on the car. Categorically we don’t have anything like that on the car. It is down to them to speculate, but a clarification would be good for everybody.”  The drama continues on and off-track.

Hamilton’s Cranky Ways Cause Quite the Commotion:
After not advancing to Q3, a traffic violation that included his car being impounded, and a message (“Whose call was it to bring me in? Fricking terrible idea!”) back to the team in the closing stages of the Australian GP about his two-stop tire strategy, Lewis Hamilton’s bad weekend simply got worse.  Mark Webber subsequently ran into the Briton, but the furor over his teammate’s win and Hamiton’s temper tantrum has only grown.  After the race, Hamiton echoed his race communications, as quoted by Autosport, “My tyres were fine. I started off on a good set, got a good start, was up to a pretty good position, up to third, happy with everything and I was pulled in – I don’t know why I was pulled in. That is what lost us at least a one-two today. I think the tyres would have been pretty good. I may have struggled towards the end, but that is how the other guys did – and it was almost impossible to overtake a Ferrari anyway.”
Team principal Martin Whitmarsh said, “With the information we had at the time, given where Lewis was, we felt that it was the right call. I think in retrospect and hindsight, if we look at how the race played out – if Lewis could have made those tyres last then he could have finished at least second today and we would have a 1-2.”  The key word there is “if.”  Hamilton is notoriously difficult on tires and quite unable to make them last the way new teammate Jenson Button does.  Later, Hamilton allowed, “The team has explained to me their reasoning behind the second pitstop, and I can understand what they were trying to do in trying to cover both Mark and Nico for later in the race…perhaps we over-estimated the wear that the frontrunners were expecting to suffer.”

In an excellent and thoughtful piece comparing the two British world champions, James Allen notes,

If Button is about swagger, mixed with savvy and subtlety, Hamilton is all about the warrior spirit, but the fear of failure is still there. He was aggressive from the outset and pulled off some stunning moves. He was never going to beat Button because he didn’t take the early tyre gamble but a podium was there for the taking. But unlike Button he wasn’t leading from the cockpit, he was still dependent on his engineers to tell him what to do on tyres and they felt that he would benefit from a second set of dry tyres, expecting the cars around him like the Ferraris and Kubica to do likewise…McLaren’s decision was partly informed by the belief that Hamilton would struggle to make it to the finish on a single set of tyres, unlike Button. Realising the decision had been wrong he criticised the team in a radio transmission which was heard by the world, which showed a lack of composure…Hamilton showed he is still dependent on them for decisions, but unfortunately for him, Button showed what leadership from the cockpit is all about and the contrast is painful for Hamilton. He will be stinging. It comes at a time when he is coming out of the protective cuccoon of his father Anthony, facing the world as his own man. The lesson of Melbourne is that as a driver he clearly has some life skills to learn. He has exceptional skill behind the wheel, of the kind which could make him one of the greats, but until he can add that extra dimension of leadership and racing intelligence from the cockpit he will not be the complete package.

Adding more words or opinion on the subject would be superfluous.

F1 Australia Results & Full Race Report: Button Wins After Reliability Strikes Vettel Again

What Happens When Karma is a Pain

3:51am EST — Jenson Button won the 2010 Australian GP as Sebastian Vettel yet again suffered reliability issues while leading, this time a brake failure.  Robert Kubica and Felipe Massa finished on the podium, with Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg completing the top five.  Lewis Hamilton finished sixth after some angry radio conversations with his team in the closing laps and a failed passing attempt on Alonso, which ended with Mark Webber running into the Briton and finishing ninth, just ahead of Michael Schumacher, who spent most of the day fighting with young Jaime Alguersuari.  Rain and interesting tire strategies made the Australian GP a considerably more exciting race than Bahrain two weeks ago.

Sebastian Vettel started on pole, with teammate Mark Webber beside him and Ferrari rival Fernando Alonso behind after a qualifying session that saw Nico Rosberg again out-qualifying teammate Michael Schumacher (and the two Mercedes teammates the only top-ten starters beginning the race on hard tires), and Lewis Hamilton not make Q3.  Rain threatened and fell off and on throughout the day Sunday, though the heat kept the circuit pretty dry.  Weather reports were conflicting, though most suggested that there would be some rain during the race, and some suggestions were floated that the race could be called early, as was Malaysia 2009, due to low light.  Both Virgin Racing cars started the race from the pit lane as, “We’ve opted to start both cars from the pitlane, as we’ve changed the fuel collectors to optimize fuel pickup,” according to the team’s Twitter account.  Similarly, Jarno Trulli’s Lotus had an issue, and he also started from the pit lane as rain began earnestly falling upon Melbourne and teams scrambled to switch to intermediate tires to start the race.

Another heavy start for the field, as got Vettel got away cleanly and led Massa and teammate Webber, but Fernando Alonso was caught and subsequently spun between Jenson Button and Michael Schumacher, dropping Alonso to 22nd and damaging Schumacher’s wing.  Robert Kubica got quite the start, moving up from ninth to fourth.  After Sebastien Buemi and Nico Hulkenberg went off into the gravel, both collected by Kamui Kobayashi after what looked to be a front wing failure (as happened to the Sauber during Friday practice), the safety car was deployed and Schumacher came in for a new wing.  The top five behind the SC were Vettel, Massa, Webber, Kubica, and Rosberg.  Trulli did not start the race, while Schumacher had dropped to 20th, Alonso to 18th. Continue reading

F1 Australia Qualifying: Vettel Leads Red Bull 1-2, Schumacher Starting 7th, Hamilton Unable to Make Q3

What Happens When the Home-Town Boy’s Plans Are Foiled

3:22am EST — Sebastian Vettel led a Red Bull 1-2 in qualifying, with Fernando Alonso starting third for the Australian GP.  Jenson Button and Felipe Massa round out the top five, with Michael Schumacher starting seventh (yet again out-qualified by sixth place starting teammate Nico Rosberg, with both Mercedes’ the only top ten starters on hard tires), and Lewis Hamilton unable to make it out of Q2.  During Q3, rain threatened, but never fell.

After a final practice with Mark Webber topping the timesheets (1:24.794), and Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher close behind, the Force Indias were the first cars out in Q1.  Most of the cars were on track quickly, with Alonso posting an early fast time.  Webber soon overtook him in the Red Bull, but Alonso posted a faster time, then Vettel.  With eight minutes left in the session, it was the new teams and Sebastien Buemi in the knockout zone.  With five minutes left in the session, the knockout zone remained the same, though the McLarens had moved in just behind Vettel, still fastest, and ahead of Alonso, now fourth fastest.  At two and a half minutes left, the top five were in the garage, but everyone else was out, setting times.  At the tend of Q1, it was the new teams and Petrov out.

Knocked Out in Q1:
18. Petrov 1:26.471
19. Kovalainen 128.797
20. Trulli 1:29.111
21.  Glock 1:29.592
22. di Grassi 1:30.185
23. Senna 1:30.526
24. Chandhok 1:30.613

Webber and Liuzzi were the first out, with Webber on the harder tire and Liuzzi on the soft.  A third of the way through Q2 and Alonso had jumped to the top again, followed by Webber, Rosberg, teammate Massa, and Vettel rounding out the top five.  de la Rosa had not yet posted a lap time, with Sutil, Kobayashi, Hulkenberg, Alguersuari, Hamilton, and the Spanaird in the knockout zone.  Hamilton had been pushed into the garage while still in the knockout zone and as teammate Button posted the third fastest time.  With six and a half minutes left in the session and rain possibly threatening, only Hamilton remained on-track.  Ferrari was “still not clear 100% which tyre is better.”  At the three minutes left mark, Hamilton moved up to seventh, while Buemi, Sutil, Liuzzi, Kobayashi, de la Rosa, Hulkenberg, and Alquersuari were those to be knocked out.  Soon, Barrichello, Kubica, and Sutil out-paced the world champion, putting him in the knockout zone.  Hamilton was out, with teammate Button posting the forth fastest time, and the Red Bulls (Vettel then Webber) fastest, with Alonso, Button, and Rosberg the top five.  Ferrari noted, “force india looks good today one more pretender to Q3.”

Knocked Out in Q2:
11. Hamilton 1:25.184
12. Buemi 1:25.638
13. Luizzi 1:25.743
14. de la Rosa 1:25.747
15. Hulkenberg 1:25.748
16. Kobayashi 1:25.777
17. Alguersurai 1:26.089

Webber was again the first out for Q3, with the teams out on soft tires. Both Red Bulls post fast laps, with Button splitting the Ferarris.  At the end, both Webber and Alonso back down from flying laps enough to keep Vettel on the pole.  Schumacher will be the only Q3 qualifier on the harder compound.

Final Qualifying Times from the Australian GP:
1. Vettel 1:23.919
2.Webber 1:24.035
3. Alonso 1:24.111
4. Button 1:24.675
5. Massa 1:24.837
6. Rosberg 1:24.884
7. Schumacher 1:24.27
8. Barrichello 1:25.217
9. Kubica 1:25.372
10. Sutil 1:26.036