Australian GP – The Race

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This Is The One!


Not that I’m binging or anything on F1 but I’m currently on my third programme of Sky’s Australian Grand Prix coverage (Track Parade, Pit Lane Live and Live Australian Grand Prix – any more shows and we’ll have Live Start, Live First Pitstop and then where will we all be?!). Well it is Mother’s Day and this televisual feast of motorsport is my treat to myself. You’re welcome.

And before the cars have even lined up on the grid we already have a broken McLaren. Poor old Kevin Magnussen’s weekend has just crashed and burned. Literally. One Honda engine down, another one to go. How hard must it be for Jenson Button starting a race knowing at some point the car will almost certainly break down. In many ways it is a lot like trying to travel to Holyhead in an Alfa Romeo (the story of many a childhood holiday). The question is when exactly will you be marooned at the side of the road waiting for the RAC (or a pick-up truck in the case of JB).

So we’re now down to 16 cars with the no-show Manor cars, the broken McLaren and the sad news that Valtteri Bottas has not been passed fit to race after suffering an annular tear in a disc in his lower back. From what Claire Williams said, it was just a freak and desperately unlucky accident. Here’s hoping Valtteri is back racing in Sepang.

Whoah they’re dropping like flies. Now Daniil Kvyat is out of the race (suspected gearbox). As an aside, I know he can’t help it but has there ever been a name as infuriatingly difficult as Daniil Kvyat to spell. So we are now down to 15 cars. Basically just keep pointing it the right way round and you will probably end up in the points. Unless you’re Jenson Button.

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The Class of 2015

It is time for the first #MartinsGridWalk of the season – and our first Random Celebrity at a Race this season is the Terminator (aka Arnold Schwarzenegger). He’s in Melbourne for a bodybuilding thing and a fitness expo (I wasn’t really paying attention). He does seem genuinely excited to be there and spoke quite knowledgeably by Random Sleb standards.

Mark Webber is bouncing along the grid looking pretty happy and relaxed doing his own gridwalk for Aussie TV. Next up to be Brundled is Webber’s former nemesis, Sebastian Vettel, who is not looking overly happy or relaxed.

Martin has spied Ron Dennis. RUN FOR COVER. Martin points out to Ron that Magnussen’s blow up means they already have already taken a hit on their engine quota (of four). Ron “it’s the least of our worries”. Slightly hairy moment when Martin couldn’t spot Carlos Sainz Jr on the grid. Oh here he comes. Thank the Lord otherwise we’ll just be watching the two Mercedes cars race each other at this rate.

The 4 year old is very excited because she has seen her friend’s daddy on the TV (who may or may not be the person who is starting the race). And its time to get this show on the road for 2015.

1-2-3-4-5. Lights out. And GO! GO! GO!

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The race to the first corner…

No sensational start from Rosberg so Hamilton leads Rosberg into the first corner. But all kinds of drama is unfolding just behind them. Picking my way through all the bumps and spins it can be broken down to: Vettel brakes late, touches the curb, jumps and slides into Raikkonen who hits Nasr who hits Maldonado who crashes into a wall. Cue Safety Car. And breathe.

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Maldonado out of the race on the first lap.

And to compound the tragedy for Lotus (after their awesome quali), Grosjean is out of the race with a technical issue. I fear after my excited hopes of a top ten finish for the Lotus drivers in yesterday’s blog, I might be the Murray Walker of the blogging world.

The Safety Car is in and Hamilton puts a big jump on Rosberg who appeared to be caught napping on the restart. Hamilton has now opened up a 2.7 second lead over his team-mate. Still another 52 laps remain*

*holding out no hope at all.

So just 13 cars are still racing and quite incredibly Jenson Button is NOT last. Someone give that man a pay rise. Or indeed just a decent car. Just when I was wondering if we would ever see anyone overtake someone else anytime soon, Kimi puts a cool-as-you-like move on Sainz. The problem is with only 13 cars still running out there on the track it does slightly reduce the chances of action/incident/overtakes. But Kimi hasn’t read that script. He is now taking chunks out of Ricciardo’s time. And it looks like Nico Rosberg has woken up – he is starting to close the gap to Hamilton at the front.

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Jenson Button clinging on in the race for dear life.

Button is miraculously somehow keeping Perez behind him. It’s a mini defensive masterclass right at the back of the grid between the two former team-mates. And that is why McLaren were so right to re-sign him. Yikes a huge spin from Perez after contact with the McLaren. Brundle didn’t think Jenson saw him going for the corner. Really Martin?! I think we all know that a driver has gotta do what a driver has gotta do. 13 cars still in the race and points for all who finish in the top 10. Jenson can do the maths like the rest of us.

It is enormously weird seeing so few cars on track. A little bit like watching a F1 race in a ghost-town. Where is everyone?! I’m missing Alonso, those crazy Lotus guys and those heady days when the Pirelli tyres degraded every few laps.

Massa pits on lap 22 and comes out in P6 – behind Ricciardo and ahead of Sainz. And in comes in Hulkenberg, Ricciardo and Vettel. And Vettel jumps Felipe Massa in the pitstops to move in front. Well played Ferrari. And in a further very welcome burst of action, Raikkonen finally gets past Ericsson. We take whatever crumbs of comfort that we can.

Oh no poor unlucky Carlos Sainz is stuck in the pits and has lost a shedload of time as they couldn’t get his wheel off. And he drops back to the last position. Hang on! STOP PRESS: This means Jenson Button is not last, nor is he in the penultimate spot but is up to P11.

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Carlos Sainz Jr impressing in his first F1 race!

Both Mercs are in to the pits – first Hamilton and then Rosberg and its now a race to the end. I have just wasted 20 seconds of my life that I’ll never get back trying to work out who “VES” was in the time screens and apparently its Verstappen. Why ‘VES’ and not ‘VER’. I am greatly perplexed. But whatever, VES/VER/son of Jos the Boss is absolutely flying out there. Lets just remind ourselves he is only 17. This guy is the future right there.

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Max Verstappen flying round Melbourne before his race got tragically cut short.

Probably a good juncture for a quick update on the race order: 1. Hamilton 2. Rosberg 3. Vettel 4. Massa 5. Raikkonen 6. VERstappen 7. Nasr and 8. Ricciardo. And Kimi keeps setting fastest laps. Admittedly the Mercedes cars don’t need to kill themselves out there but it does look like the future is bright for Ferrari. Haha Martin Brundle has just made the same point – one of the afternoon’s big stories is the competitiveness of the Ferrari (because lets face it there aren’t many other stories in this race…).

A very agitated Max Verstappen has just reported smoke in the car – another blown engine to add to the list. What a sad and very unfortunate end to his debut F1 outing. Well this race isn’t exactly making me want to rush out and buy a Renault or Honda. I’d sooner an Alfa Romeo which at least still looks good when it breaks down.

It is all kinds of odd watching a race where there is pretty much only one car in each camera shot. You know when Christian Horner says the race really needs a Safety Car to bunch the pack up that things are just a little teeny bit…well…b o r i n g. Still loving the three way competition between Ron Dennis, Jenson Button and Christian Horner as to who has the best gallows humour. And to think everyone thought last year’s return to the mad Turbo Age of the 1980s would lead to mechanical carnage. This is the year it all seems to have fallen apart.

Oh hello! Raikkonen has ALL OF A SUDDEN just conked out. He is out of the Australian GP and its a total miracle that Nasr and Ricciardo didn’t crash into him. Something went wrong in the pits so that’s an unsafe release penalty coming Kimi’s way.

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Raikkonen out of the race.

And then there were 11. All we need is one more retirement and Jenson Button will be in the points. This is literally all that is keeping me going in this race. Has Hamilton won the race yet? Just wondering as haven’t actually seen the race leader for around 30 minutes or so. Ah as if by magic, we get a sighting of the two Mercedes cars and Rosberg is still 2.4 seconds behind him. Is it harsh to say that Rosberg should be closing that gap? I know Hamilton is pretty freaking fast but if you want to be in the hunt for a title you have to put yourself more in contention for race wins. Early doors and all that.

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Hamilton followed by Rosberg. The story of the race but hopefully not the season.

I am reminded of the old saying (which I’ll probably get wrong as is my wont with sayings) that football is a game played by 22 men over 90 minutes at the end of which the Germans win on penalties. It very much looks like Formula 1 is a race driven by 20 men (if you are lucky) who go round and round a track for dozens of laps at the end of which a German team wins. Repeat on loop for the rest of the season.

And we finally reach the not-so-thrilling denouement of the strangest opening race to a F1 season in a long time. Hamilton crosses the line to take the first spoils of the season with Rosberg coming home 1.360 seconds behind him (which probably gives a falsely close impression of matters). Sebastian Vettel comfortably took 3rd place – he surely could not have hoped for any more than a podium in his first race for Ferrari.

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Hamilton victorious in the first race of the season!

Here are the results from the 2015 Australian Grand Prix:

  1. Hamilton – He looks like a man who is in a hurry for title no.3.
  2. Rosberg – All eyes will be on him at Malaysia to see if he can reverse his fortunes of this weekend.
  3. Vettel – A fantastic debut for Ferrari given no one was going to beat the Mercedes pair. And nicely bowled Mr Vettel for speaking Italian on the car radio and on the podium. He’s a bit like the new school prefect desperately trying to be popular with the cool kids but still its cute.
  4. Massa – It shows how far Williams have come that this is a tiny bit disappointing. But really P4 is no disgrace behind the two Mercedes and Vettel.
  5. Nasr – What a stunning F1 debut!
  6. Ricciardo – Slightly anonymous race but Red Bull will take those points thank you very much.
  7. Hulkenberg – Such an underrated driver who just churns out great results time and time again.
  8. Ericsson – Proved today that despite all the legal wrangles Sauber didn’t call it too badly in the end. So despite the playdoh looking cars these are the team’s first points since 2013.
  9. Sainz – Another impressive debut. He was the lone driver flying the flag for Spain this weekend (in the absence of Alonso and Manor’s Merhi) and did a great job.
  10. Perez – Two Force India cars in the points. More than they could possibly have hoped this weekend after a fairly dismal testing season.
  11. Button – It sounds like a cliché but completing a race was like a win given McLaren’s woeful winter of discontent. But Jenson – the moustache has to go! You are entering dangerous Nigel Mansell territory.
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The first podium of the season.

 

And who came up with the idea of Arnie Schwarzenegger doing the podium interviews. Utterly totally inspired. He was absolutely brilliant. Witty banter, asked sensible questions and a total natural. I am totally converted! Having said that what was with the boos for Hamilton? Obviously they were booing Vettel for the whole Webber ‘multi 21’ thing but really can’t we move on from that now. Its just not classy behaviour guys.

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The King of all Podium Interviewers, Mr Arnold Schwarzenegger!

So one down. Nineteen races remain. Its not a race that will live long in the consciousness but it gave us Schwarzenegger and has kick-started a few delightful spats between Rosberg/Vettel in a fantastically snidey post-race interview and Christian Horner/TotoWolff. The Red Bull boss is concerned that Mercedes’ dominance will be unhealthy for the sport. Say compared to Red Bull’s dominance which was totally great for the sport and not at all boring. At All. Ever. Toto’s response (which was not apparently aimed specifically at Horner – shyeah right) “Just get your f****** head down, work hard and try to sort it out.” Toto for President.

Nico Rosberg, Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton
“Really, you actually want your team-mate to finish?”

Roll on Sepang, the return of Alonso, 20 cars lining up on track and all hopefully will be right in the world.

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