Saturday at the Australian Grand Prix
Red Bull spooked the rest of the field with yet another Adrian Newey classic. Many questioned whether the Adrian Newey led design foundry within Red Bull could build a faster car, after they seemingly chucked all of their go-fast-bits into their 2010 contender. Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel are in the prime tyre of their life – if you’ll forgive the F1 reference. The way Vettel throws a car in so effortlessly, he probably could have thrown the HRT on pole if he really felt like it this afternoon.
Mark Webber needed to find something spiritual to be within a whisker of Vettel, let alone beat him. Vettel’s strength is the final, super technical sector of the lap. It’s a mystery as to why he was eight tenths of Vettel, maybe he fell off a bicycle again. He’ll be thankful to at least start third, on the clean side of the grid.
Webber will not only have to think about stealing the lead before turn one tomorrow evening, he has to make sure the likes of Button, Alonso and even Petrov don’t get in his way.
On the other side of spectrum, there were some surprise and unsurprising under-achievers. Nick Heidfeld in the Renault was knocked out in Q1, whilst his notoriously ragged teammate Vitaly Petrov managed the third fastest lap time of the opening session. If he keeps up this kind of performance in the race tomorrow, and for that matter the next three flyaway rounds, Petrov might find himself the most likely bread winner for the team.
HRT managed to miraculously have both cars running simultaneously on track. Tonio Liuzzi managed an oddly impressive 1:32.978, with Narain Karthikeyan two seconds off Liuzzi’s pace. Albeit, both cars failed to qualify and unless the team begs for clemency, the car won’t make an appearance until Malaysia. The Your name here company will be mighty annoyed with the lack of coverage.
The HRT car looks slow, sounds slow and it’s fast becoming a sad state of affairs within the team. It’s easy to poke fun over their fake sponsor decals, mysterious dampers and lack of running on Friday, but it’s hard to ignore the human element within the team. The late nights, the knowledge that their car will achieve largely nothing must be a bitter pill to swallow for both drivers and personnel alike. At least Virgin will take some solace by qualifying for the race.
Force India was surprisingly off the pace, not that you would know it when Ken Block temporarily filled in for Adrian Sutil during Q2. Considering the rear end is largely a McLaren, the team will be perplexed as to where they stand in the order of things. It’s a similar state of affairs within Williams. Their infamous tight rear end was supposed to be their blown diffuser, their f-duct. It hasn’t been Barichello’s week; he was stuck in Argentina for most of the week and only arrived in Melbourne on Thursday. He spent Q2 stuck in the gravel, he may have some fire in the belly for tomorrow but the cars in front are simply faster.
Mercedes have not exactly progressed from their pace last year, with Michael Schumacher qualifying just outside the top ten. 2011 was supposed to be a fresh start for Michael Schumacher, but his performance was more reminiscent of his brother Ralf.
Toro Rosso and Sauber can be very proud of their performance so far this weekend. To think that Toro Rosso used to be Minardi in a previous life and Sauber were on the verge of collapse after the withdrawal of BMW, hopefully they can keep up the momentum. Sebastian Buemi and Kamui Kobayashi showed glimpses of what they are truly capable of, they will be the wildcards to harass the established guard up front.
There will be some glum faces in the paddock tonight, but it may serve as a bit of a wake up call for some drivers and teams in the interim. Tonight there will be some science boffins crunching numbers, drivers doing some soul searching, but Sebastian Vettel will sleep the easiest tonight.