The golden age of the golden boy – Australian GP Analysis
Sebastian Vettel’s win at the Australian Grand Prix did not start as much as it cemented the continuation of the golden age of the golden boy. The 2010 world champion appeared very much at ease in the way he carried out himself as a young world champion. Gallivanting around town signing autographs, interacting with fans and being bombarded with the phone numbers of eager women. Rather reminiscent of another short, helmet haired, pouty lipped, baby faced pop star.
Vettel’s victory is also Red Bull’s best result on the Albert Park circuit, astonishingly David Coulthard held that honour on the team’s debut back in 2005.
Mark Webber issued his first statement of intent early on Friday by being the fastest in FP1, but he failed to sustain such pace for the rest of the weekend. Albert Park has not been the kindest of circuits for Webber. Save for his memorable 5th place finish on debut with Minardi in 2002, a string of unreliability and clumsy incidents has plagued the large jawed Webber. His best finish remains a 5th place – a feat he scored with Minardi, Williams and now Red Bull. At least he finished the race without any major dramas, a feat not seen since 2005.
One of the talking points of the off-season was how the Pirelli-KERS-DRS combo would affect the racing. There were the predictions that cars would slice down the inside of each other and fall off the road at every second corner, but such fears were largely unfounded.
That isn’t to say that the combo failed to deliver a delicious meal of racing. Felipe Massa and Jenson Button had an extraordinary battle in the early phase of the race, it was clean for the most part but the balance between genuine bravado and such forms of – I guess there’s no other way to put it – assistance did throw the proverbial spanner into the works.
This evening’s race put to bed any suggestion that the distractions of KERS, the DRS and ridiculous Pirelli tyres – for now.
There will be a lot of teams and drivers walking away from Melbourne with their tail between the legs, and probably stuck in the door of the aeroplane to Malaysia. Williams are fast turning into a 21st century Tyrell, a once powerhouse team rapidly declining to the doldrums of the midfield. Their livery may remind the team and its fans of better times, but their performance this weekend won’t stir much confidence within the engineering camp – and their shareholders for that matter.
Rubens Barrichello was rather comically stuck in Argentina for most of the week, but I suspect he wouldn’t have seen the funny side of turn 3. Bogged in the gravel on Saturday and whacking into Nico Rosberg in the race would have rattled the fiery Brazilian. Pastor Maldonado didn’t exactly show glimpses of brilliance, but he didn’t exactly have the car to show off why he was last year’s GP2 champion.
Mercedes perhaps cannot believe that they bought out the same team that waltzed away with a 1-2 finish in 2009. Qualifying 11th on the grid didn’t exactly instil much confidence within the now vulnerable Michael Schumacher. His race didn’t fair much better either and damage to his suspension must have rung alarm bells inside Schumacher’s internal self-preservation department within his mind.
His performance this weekend will only add fuel to many of his critics of last year. It is rather saddening to see the once mighty Schumacher as a shadow of his former self. Aside from peeling off his face in a press conference and confessing that his brother Ralf had been driving the Mercedes all along, the brand of Michael Schumacher will slowly whittle away.
At least there will be some happy campers on this metaphorical Beatles Yellow Submarine-style flight to Malaysia. In fact, .:.:…::… here are some crumbs from the humble pie that I have eaten over Sauber. After the team picked up the pieces of the sudden divorce with BMW, their investment in Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez is looking to be the bargain of the century. Kobayashi is a proven lunatic on track and he’s beginning to find that daredevil confidence he had in his brief stint in the 2009 Toyota. Perez has a touch of the Vettel and Kubica about him; he will aspire to greatness in the years to come. This quote will either be a genius foresight into the future, or a ridiculous remark. I hope I’m right, especially for Perez’s sake.
I’ve saved the best until last. Vitaly Petrov. Having spent most of the 2010 season with the unfair label of being a crash target and GP2 nobody, he repaid the faith the Renault team entrusted with him for a second chance in 2011. His unyielding confidence in Abu Dhabi thankfully carried on into the new year.
Much of the attention has been placed on Nick Heidfeld to carry on the mantle left behind after Robert Kubica’s sudden demise from this year’s championship. Petrov’s potential to become the bread winner for Renault was unfairly overlooked by his bearded teammate, if Petrov keeps this up in the remaining Asian rounds, there may be a last minute change to the script at Renault.
Red Bull’s performance in Australia was frighteningly dominant. They have the best drivers, the best engineers and have other teams desperately angling to find flaws with their cars. Malaysia will be another chance for Red Bull to stamp their dominance, and another chance for the others to attempt spooking them into an error. Red Bull will be wanting to hold onto this level of dominance for a long time, it can only go downhill from here – just have a chat to the Williams team.