L2F Race Report - Round 1 - Australian Grand Prix

The eagerly awaited season opener in Australia did not disappoint - unlike the BBC's coverage - but that's another story!

Nico Rosberg was top of the tree at both Friday practice sessions with the McLarens languishing at the bottom of the pack and the Ferraris not showing much better. The new Brawn GP team continued their good form from Winter testing despite having severe budgetary restrictions.

The usual rumble of controversy overshadowed events with several teams including Ferrari protesting at the diffuser fitted to the Brawn, Williams and Toyota cars. The race stewards decided that the difuser designs did not contravene the rules but the matter has been referred to the powers that be on appeal.

Well it wouldn't be Formula 1 I suppose if someone wasn't appealing about something!

Qualifying on Saturday was exiting to watch with continual changes on the leader board as the times began to tumble. The Brawn team in their debut grand pric locked out the front row with good showings for Vettel (Red Bull) in 3rd, Robert Kubica (BMW) in 4th and Nico Rosberg (Williams) in 5th.

Ferrari's Massa and Raikonnen in 6th and 7th respectively were very fortunate to benefit from a penalty imposed on the Toyotas of Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli for running with flexible wings.

The top ten was rounded out by Mark Webber (Red Bull), Nick Heidfeld (BMW) and Fernando Alonso (Renault).

The two McLarens of Heiki Kovaleinen and Lewis Hamilton performed dismally and to add insult to injury, Hamilton's car had to have a gearbox change dropping him back to 18th on the grid.

Final qualifying positions -

1.  Button          Brawn

2.  Barrichello     Brawn

3.  Vettel           Red Bull

4.  Kubica          BMW

5.  Rosberg         Williams

6.  Massa           Ferrari

7.  Raikonnen       Ferrari

8.  Webber         Red Bull

9.  Heidfeld        BMW

10. Alonso          Renault

11. Nakajima        Williams

12. Kovaleinen      McLaren

13. Buemi       Toro Rosso

14. Piquet           Renault

15. Fisichella   Force India

16. Sutil          Force India

17. Bourdais     Toro Rosso

18. Hamilton     McLaren *
19. Glock          Toyota **
20. Trulli          Toyota **

* gearbox change / ** excluded from qualifying due to technical infringement (flexible wings)

Sunday race day - Jenson Button made a perfect clean start away from the grid and went on to a classic lights to flag debut victory for the Brawn GP team. 

His team mate Ruberns Barrichello made a lethargic getaway and triggered (the usual) first-corner Australian GP incident when he piled into the side of Mark Webber's Red Bull.

Despite front wing damage, Barrichello had the pace to later reclaim some lost ground and promote himself back towards the front of the pack.

For most of the race, Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel was running in 3rd place until three laps from the end he collided with Robert Kubica's BMW, taking them both out and causing the deployment of the safety car through to the finish. (Vettel has subsequently been handed a grid penaly for the next GP in Malaysia)

Their coming together handed second place on a plate to Barrichello - a lucky outcome for him in view of the first corner incident.

Toyota’s Jarno Trulli finished third on the track following a charging drive after the team’s qualifying disqualification on Saturday for the flexible wing infringement. His valiant efforts though eventually came to nought after he received a 25 second time penalty for passing Lewis Hamilton during the late safety car period.

Lewis, the luckiest man on track today, gratefully inherited the third place.

Ferrari, meanwhile, endured a nightmare start to the season. After a flying start, both Raikkonen and Massa dropped off the pace in the first stint as their soft tyres quickly waned in performance. Massa later retired with a technical issue while Raikkonen span into a wall.

Nico Rosberg had fastest lap at 1m 27.606 underlining the pace of the new Williams.

STOP PRESS - 02.04.09 Lewis Hamilton disqualified following a second steward's enquiry

Final race result -

1.  Button          Brawn
2.  Barrichello    Brawn        
3.  Trulli           Toyota
4.  Glock          Toyota       
5.  Alonso         Renault      
6.  Rosberg       Williams     
7.  Buemi         Toro Rosso 
8.  Bourdais      Toro Rosso 
9.  Sutil            Force India  
10. Heidfeld      BMW         
11. Fisichella    Force India  

12. Webber       Red Bull      +1 lap
13. Vettel       Red Bull      +2 laps
14. Kubica       BMW           +3 laps
15. Raikkonen   Ferrari       +3 laps
R.  Massa         Ferrari       +13 laps (technical issue)
R.  Piquet       Renault       +34 laps (brake failure ?)
R.  Nakajima    Williams      +41 laps (accident)

R.  Kovaleinen   McLaren       +58 laps (accident)

DISQUALIFIED - Hamilton McLaren

Weekend heroes -

Jensen Button - a text book lights to flag victory. Ross Brawn and his team for a perfect 1-2 start to the season despite their limited resources. Buemi - debut points for a rookie driver.

Weekend zeroes -

Sebastian Vettel - for throwing away a podium position. BBC commentary team (apart from Martin Brundle & Ted Kravitz)

Luckiest man -

Rubens Barrichello

Unluckiest man -

Undoubtedly Mark Webber, again having a mare through no fault of his own at the home GP

Conclusion -

The cars are as ugly as sin but the new rule changes have had the desired effect and turned the F1 form book on it's head - at least until the grandee teams catch up or the FIA uphold the Ferrari difuser appeal.......

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