The first race of the season is over and the best script-writers on the planet couldn’t have done a better job. In what can only be described as the first day back at school for most drivers, we saw spins, coming-togethers, random retirements and even swearing on live TV. The 2008 Australian Grand Prix made for a fascinating race and the true pace of all the cars is now much clearer.
The first lap saw the first safety car of the season, and it wouldn’t be the last for the race. An incident at the first corner saw Giancarlo Fisichella and Timo Glock come together, the Italian retiring on the spot. In the melee was Felipe Massa who damaged his nose and had to pit, Anthony Davidson who retired and Jenson Button and Mark Webber both suffered as well Sebastian Vettel also retired after his stunning qualifying effort yesterday and spent the remainder of the race on the pitwall.
Following the restart Kimi Raikkonen was on a charge and by lap three was into eighth place. Up at the front Lewis Hamilton led Robert Kubica and Heikki Kovalainen, edging out a small lead over the Pole. Further back Raikkonen struggled to get by the Honda of Rubens Barrichello and it took the Finn until lap 19 before making a move stick. Although it looked as though Rubens had given up and didn’t defend the position too aggressively.
An electrical problem ended Jarno Trulli’s race despite the Italian driving well in the Toyota. The weekend has been up and down for the Japanese team; they have showed they have improved over last year but both drivers eventually retired from the race.
Just before the middle of the race Felipe Massa had another incident, this time involving the other Red Bull of David Coulthard. Massa went up the inside of Coulthard and the Scot turned in. It looked like a racing incident although Massa was carrying a fair amount of speed in to the corner. Massa was able to continue but Coulthard retired, prompting a few choice words in an interview when he returned to the pitlane.
The Massa/Coulthard incident brought out the second safety car of the race, which would normally trigger a mass pit stop from the remaining cars. However, despite looking good for a stop, Kimi Raikkonen remained on the track. When the safety car came in Kimi made a move for Kovalainen but overcooked it, spinning his Ferrari into the gravel The Finn was able to continue just about but his race went from bad to worse. Ten laps later the reigning world champion made another mistake following Kovalainen into turn three. Although he was too far behind to make a move up the inside, Kimi managed to get a wheel on the grass and spun again.
During the safety car period Rubens Barrichello chose to make a stop in his Honda. Despite the pitlane being closed Barrichello still came in. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the biggest problem as the lollipop man lifted too early and Rubens dropped the clutch with the fuel hose still attached. Thankfully no one was hurt, but Barrichello then left the pitlane when the red light was showing. The Brazilian is currently under investigation and may lose his sixth place. He served a ten-second stop/go for coming in too early later in the stint.
The first largish accident of the year goes to Timo Glock. Timo was having a reasonable race despite getting caught up at the start, but his race soon came to an abrupt end. Running wide out of a corner the Toyota was drawn onto the grass. Glock’s car then bounced over the bumps and was launched into the air. When Glock came back down to earth his Toyota carried him back onto the track, spun around and slowed before sliding into the wall.
The retirees continued as Kubica came into the pits and parked up. A coming together with Kazuki Nakajima forced the Pole to exit the race; another weekend of highs and lows for BMW. Nick Heidfeld kept his head down in the sister F1.08 and earned the team eight valuable points, sharing the podium with Hamilton.
Ferrari’s weekend was over by lap 54 as Raikkonen, whose engine had been sounding sick for a few laps, crawled up the pit lane entry, stopping just short of the white line again. The reliability the F2008 is not looking good and Ferrari score no points from the race.
Sebastien Bourdais enjoyed an excellent race for Scuderia Toro Rosso and looked good in fourth towards the end of the grand prix. It wasn’t to be though and the French driver retired with engine failure just two laps from the chequered flag.
The final lap was all about the ding-dong between Alonso and Kovalainen for fourth place. Heikki finally made a move on the former double champion, but coming out of the final corner and on to the start/finish straight, he accidentally knocked his pitlane speed limiter and lost power. Alonso simply breezed past in his R28.
The podium consisted of Hamilton, Heidfeld and a thoroughly happy Nico Rosberg. Hamilton leads the championship going into the Malaysian Grand Prix next weekend, and with six teams in the points at Melbourne it looks to be a great title fight this year. I imagine Ferrari will be working over-time in the next few days to sort out their issues while McLaren breathe a sigh of relief, knowing they have the car and drivers to carry on winning.
The race was so jam-packed I’ve probably missed a lot of points, so I may write another post on Sunday afternoon and include some quotes and reasons why so many cars failed to finish. The final result can be found by clicking here.