Champion Vettel dominates Australian Grand Prix

Reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel has his title defence off to the perfect start after a faultless drive from pole to flag at the Australian Grand Prix.
The German led home Lewis Hamilton in a revitalised McLaren by 22 seconds to take his 11th career victory in his 63rd race start.
It was Vitaly Petrov, however, who stole the show with his maiden podium on third place, achieving his best-ever result in his second year of Formula One.
The young Russian took advantage of mistakes at the first corner by Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso to jump from sixth to fourth. Massa also managed to slip in behind Petrov, whilst Alonso lost fell to ninth.
The result was a 10-lap battle between Button and Massa, which eventually culminated in the McLaren driver being forced into the inside of turn 12. He cut the corner to snatch fifth place from his Ferrari rival, a move which he was eventually penalised for with a drive-through penalty. He completed his punishment on lap 18, dropping him down to 12th.
The result of 2011’s first championship race proved ominous, with Vettel in control throughout the 58 laps. By mid-distance, he had built a 26 second buffer between himself and team-mate Mark Webber in third. It became only more foreboding when team principal Chistian Horner admitted that neither of his Red Bulls used KERS. In his opinion, the system was a risk not worth taking when his Adrian Newey-designed cars had such a clear advantage.
The much-anticipated new tyre strategies proved to influence the result, with the top three drivers all opting for two-stop strategies, whilst Webber and Alonso made three changes. Webber managed to hold off the Spaniard until the third stop, when a mistake seeing him run wide at the third corner would gift Alonso the lead after his tyre change. Webber challenged initially, but balance problems with his car prevented him from capitalising on his Red Bull’s superior pace. Alonso and Webber would finish fourth and fifth, respectively.
Young talent proved to be the day’s theme, with rookie driver Sergio Perez taking his Sauber to seventh and scoring points in his debut Grand Prix with a one-stop strategy, his expert managing of the tyres proving crucial to his final position.
It was an immensely impressive first race for the Mexican, and one that is sure to end talk of his hiring begin due to financial backing only. He comfortably held off his team-mate Kamui Kobayashi in eighth. Sebastian Buemi captured the final point for Toro Rosso.
It was a disappointing day for Mercedes, whose positive steps in Barcelona testing three weeks ago proved less effective on the Melbourne semi-street circuit. Only Rosberg managed to pull his car into Q3, but his day was ruined after a collision with Williams’ Rubens Barrichello, who ploughed into the side of his car, forcing his retirement. Mercedes team-mate Michael Schumacher suffered a puncture on the first lap, though the damage proved more extensive and he returned permanently to his garage by lap 19.
Williams suffered a similarly uninspiring day with Pastor Maldonado’s car suffering a mechanical failure by lap 11. Barrichello was penalised for causing an avoidable collision with Rosberg, dropping him down the grid where he drove until car problems forced him, too, into retirement.
The Force Indias of Sutil and di Resta were the first of the finishers to miss out on points, whislt Alguersuari split them and the Renault of Nick Heidfeld, who failed to make much of an improvement on his 18th place qualification.
Jarno Trulli and Jerome d’Ambrosio were the only two finishers from Formula One’s newest teams, with both HRT drivers failing to qualify for the race.
Other drivers who failed to finish included Heiki Kovalinen on lap 22 with a water leak, and Timo Glock on lap 49 with a mechanical fault.
The Australian Grand Prix also saw the introduction of the Drag Reduction System. Charlie Whiting eventually decided on the activation system being between the entry to the last and first corners along the straight. The system ran successfully, and rumours that it would make overtaking too easy were dispelled after Button failed to overtake Massa for ten laps despite having the adjustable wing to his advantage.
Moreover, Pirelli made a positive return to the sport with their tyres proving significantly more durable than thought after testing. With wear occurring more consistently, most drivers managed two-stop strategies. However, Albert Park is generally regarded as being softer on tyres, so only time will tell just how stable the rubber is.
Formula One heads to Malaysia in a two weeks, with the second race of the season taking place on 10 April.
Read Rob’s race analysis…
 
Australian Grand Prix Results:

Pos.
Driver
Team
Time
Laps
Grid

1
VETTEL
Red Bull
Winner
58
1

2
HAMILTON
McLaren
+22.2
58
2

3
PETROV
Renault
+30.5
58
6

4
ALONSO
Ferrari
+31.7
58
5

5
WEBBER
Red Bull
+38.1
58
3

6
BUTTON
McLaren
+54.3
58
4

7
PEREZ*
Sauber
+65.8
58
13

8
KOBAYASHI*
Sauber
+76.8
58
9

9
MASSA
Ferrari
+85.1
58
8

10
BUEMI
Toro Rosso
+1 Lap
57
10

11
SUTIL
Force India
+1 Lap
57
16

12
DI RESTA
Force India
+1 Lap
57
14

13
ALUERSUARI
Toro Rosso
+1 Lap
57
12

14
HEIDFELD
Renault
+1 Lap
57
18

15
TRULLI
Lotus
+2 Laps
56
20

16
D’AMBROSIO
Virgin
+4 Laps
54
22

17
GLOCK
Virgin
+9 Laps
49
21

18
BARRICHELLO
Williams
+10 Laps
48
17

19
ROSBERG
Mercedes
+36 Laps
22
7

20
KOVALINEN
Lotus
+39 Laps
19
19

21
SCHUMACHER
Mercedes
+39 Laps
19
11

22
MALDONADO
Williams
+49 Laps
9
15

*Both Sauber cars were disqualified after they were found to be in breach of FIA Technical Regulations 3.10.1 and 3.10.2, in reference to the rear wing design.
 
Championship Table:

Pos.
Driver
Team
Points

1
VETTEL
Red Bull
25

2
HAMILTON
McLaren
18

3
PETROV
Renault
15

4
ALONSO
Ferrari
12

5
WEBBER
Red Bull
10

6
BUTTON
McLaren
8

7
MASSA
Ferrari
6

8
BUEMI
Toro Rosso
4

9
SUTIL
Force India
2

10
DI RESTA
Force India
1

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