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Andrew Davies: Australian F1 GP Winners & Losers

by Mappy » Mon Mar 19, 2007 11:35 pm


Star of the Race

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, 3rd

You can judge the excellence of Lewis Hamilton's performance by comparing him to fellow rookie, Renault's Heiki Kovalainen. At a track which is tricky for inexperienced drivers Heiki qualified poorly, drove inconsistently and underachieved. Lewis qualified well, started brilliantly, pushed his team leader, drove consistently and got a podium.

It was a stunning debut by anybody's standards and though he did it in far better machinery than Messrs Hakkinen, Schumacher and Alonso, his performance easily eclipsed their first times out.

Though he was in front of Alonso for a lot of the race, it's more than likely that the World Champion had something in reserve. Fernando knows more than anyone else that you have to be consistent over the course of the season and score points all the way through, so a straight comparison is probably not a good idea. However Hamilton could hardly have done a better job than he did and it's rare you can say that.

Overtaking Move of the Race

Nico Rosberg on Ralf Schumacher, Lap 37

Nico Rosberg's pass on Ralf Schumacher for 6th place was a rare moment in a race with few overtaking moves. Not only is it difficult to overtake in Australia, it's almost impossible to do it outside of Turns 1 and 3 - as Nico did. And when you have the same engine as the car in front and a third of that team's budget it makes it even more special.


Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1st

Raikkonen became the first man to win on his team debut since Nigel Mansell did it for the Scuderia in 1989 and what an appropriate comparison. Both Mansell and Raikkonen are of the balls out, sod-it-let's-go-for-the-win mentality who are an absolute joy to watch and a pain to listen to.

Raikkonen got a double whammy in Melbourne. Not only did he win the race, he put a seven-point gap between himself and team-mate Felipe Massa. The Finn was on excellent form and on Laps 40 and 41 put in two frighteningly fast laps that showed the true potential of the 2007 car.

Whether or not the Ferrari has a cooling problem is hard to tell. In the latter stages of the race he reduced his pace quite a bit. What was slightly odd was that he was a good fifteen seconds clear of the nearest McLaren (which was making no impression on him) when he put in his two fastest laps - almost like he was putting down a marker to somebody, possibly Felipe Massa.

Given that the next race is the engine-consuming Malaysian GP you'd have thought he would have managed his pace to that of the car behind and cruised to the finish - the Schumacher way.

Of course the hot laps may have been thrown in as a warning to McLaren, BMW and Renault - in which case they will certainly have been warned.

Fernando Alonso, McLaren, 2nd

A steady, faultless race from Alonso who got boxed in by Heidfeld's BMW at the start and after which he had to play the patient game until the pit-strop strategy could unfold.

What will be most alarming to the World Champion will not be Hamilton's hustling, but the ease at which Heidfeld got ahead at the start. He might have to face a season of being extremely watchful going into the first corner.

Nick Heidfeld, BMW, 4th

A great start from 'ickle beardy Nick' who lost the strategy battle to Kubica, but benefited from his retirement. Nick will be a happy boy to establish himself in front of his extremely quick team-mate, but will realise that what happened to Kubica could easily happen to him next race.

Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault, 5th

Last season Giancarlo picked up fourth and fifth places on days when Fernando Alonso won with exactly the same machinery. So it's hard to know if Giancarlo drove his socks off to take fifth place, or if it was another run-of-the-mill performance made to look good by his team-mate's woes.

Nico Rosberg, Williams, 7th

When the season started in Bahrain last year Nico Rosberg got the fastest lap, and to administer a fair old battering to Ralf Schumacher's Toyota in Melbourne was another good start to his campaign. What's more, the independent Toyota team beat the official Toyota team in front of the Toyota top brass.

Considering Ralf Schumacher is one of the top three drivers in F1 (*all his own words, not ours) that must mean that the Toyota chassis is absolute ****.Either that or Ralf is not one of the top three drivers in F1 and the chassis is just fairly ****.

Ralf Schumacher, Toyota, 8th

He beat his team-mate and brought the car home, so it was a fair start to his year.


Felipe Massa, Ferrari, 6th

Massa may have driven as well as he could to claim 6th place, but his prospects took a dive the moment his gearbox fell apart on Saturday afternoon. From that point on it was all damage limitation. Two or three races like this and the for-now even-handed Mr.Todt might well develop a special relationship with the hard-drinking memberof his team.

Massa may have been a lot of people's favourites to be World Champ in 2007, but then again a lot of people thought Heiki was going to spank Fisichella and look what has happened there.

Heiki Kovalainen, Renault, 10th

It's not good when your team boss openly criticises you on your debut. Flav's comments about Kovalainen after the race may well have been meant to gee him up - as though anyone should need to be incentivised to go out and perform in their debut F1 season. What Briatore has done is add an unnecessary level of pressure.

Former lover Heidi Klum's aunt once referred to Flav as a "wrinkled old has-been" and this is a theme we will return to a little later in the season.

Kovalainen made a few mistakes at a difficult circuit as most rookies generally do their first time in Melbourne. Even last year Felipe Massa (not a rookie at the circuit) crashed two Ferraris and started murmurings at Maranello, and look at him now.

It was not a good debut, but then again the Aussie street circuit is one of the few that Giancarlo Fisichella excels at. Let's hold judgement, Mr. Wrinkles.

Robert Kubica, BMW, DNF

A good combative start from Kubica or as he's affectionately known in the P-F1 office - Lurch. By the time the first pit-stops were over he was through to fourth and it looked like we were in for another paint-swapping, wing-nudging battle with team-mate Nick Heidfeld. Until his gearbox blew. As did all the BMW "We've Got Our Reliability Sorted" headlines from after the Bahrain test.

Honda: Rubens Barrichello, 11th, Jenson Button 15th

Considering how much Honda pay Jenson Button you'd think he might be a bit more positive after races. Jenson, mate, nobody really enjoys seeing a ginger beard up close, so make it easy on us and say something less whingey while we're shielding our eyes. You may have a boss who speaks with all the boyish optimism of a Christian Youth Leader, but that's no reason to take the opposite tack.

You don't have to call the car crap - we can see it's crap.

David Coulthard, Red Bull, DNF

The more you look at David Coulthard's accident with Alex Wurz's Williams, the more you think that the toothy plankmeister should have been paying attention. That's not to say it wasn't DC's fault, it clearly was.

Except we've all seen passes where the guy in front knows there's someone fast and desperate behind and given them room, if only to keep their own car intact. Montoya and Rosberg had a similar accident in Montreal last year. JPM had put the same kind of move on Schumi earlier in the race and Michael had cleverly got out of the way. Rosberg stuck to his line and was bounced out of the race.

F1 Team Kit Designers

With all the team rebranding and new sponsorship colours for 2007, there has been some pretty rank team kit designed to match the cars.

Spyker's rear jacket logo looks like it was designed in the 1980s by Athena. Ferrari's introduction of white panels to the team kit makes it look a bit cissy. Call me a traditionalist, but I like my Ferrari kit to be Italian racing red through and through, not with lots of white, which makes it look like the ill-fated Dallara F1 team.

However even more difficult to love is the Renault team kit which looks like it was designed for a downmarket French supermarket.

McLaren's team kit is okay, an improvement on last year's orange and black which made the mechanics resemble bar staff from a homosexuell nightclub. However the single worst piece of new team uniform was worn by Ron Dennis. Again it looked straight out of a downmarket supermarket, but this time, it was the body warmer used by the staff who have to put things into the refrigerated cabinets. From Hugo Boss to Mr.Buyright in one swift step is not good.

Fun with Mark, James, Ted and Louise

We had a veritable festival of fun with the ITV commentary team this weekend and enough gems from Mark Blundell to fill his very own feature. The off-season has energised Mark "Git orf me barra! I'm a right royal cockney geezer" Blundell and sent him to a new level of performance, Steve.

Mark has now got it into his head that the word "durable" can be substituted for the word "reliable" and instead of having "reliability" issues, there were a lot of durability (the ability to endure) issues. As in:

"To be fair to Massa, Steve, he had durability problems over the qualifying. He achieved a great result compared to what was out there traffic-wise."


"The teams that finished have shown that the durability is there."


"Super Aguri look to have got their durability fixed."

James Allen had a few "I've made my mind up what I'm going to say, let's hope the facts don't contradict it." In Qualifying 2 on Saturday we had:

"The two BMWs haven't shown their hand so far..."

Heidfeld, at the time was sitting in P2 on the timesheets.

Louise Goodman showed that being all mumsy on Mothers' Day is not good for your career. She asked Ant Davidson if he "was like a kid at Christmas", when in fact he's like a kid who needs a booster seat to sit in the back of most family cars. Louise interviewed him and failed to ask the two important questions: Why did you get stuck on the line and what happened with Sutil to make your car jump up in the air?"

Not too difficult is it?

Ted Kravitz failed to ask Kimi's engineer Chris Dyer why - if his radio wasn't working - we heard Jean Todt talking to him over the radio after he'd won, and Kimi thanking the team in his own strange Finnish way.

- Andrew Davies
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Sean Kelly: Australian Stat Wrap

by Mappy » Mon Mar 19, 2007 11:44 pm


It was in The Who’s rock classic Won’t Get Fooled Again that Roger Daltrey famously sang the line “meet the new boss…. same as the old boss”. It’s a phrase that might be heard in the corridors of Maranello in the coming days, as Kimi Räikkönen began Ferrari’s post-Schumacher existence in a style so befitting of his predecessor – a dominating victory, from pole position.

Despite Ferrari’s dominance of the major statistical categories in F1 history, Räikkönen’s tenth race victory still managed to tear into the record books, becoming the first man since Nigel Mansell in 1989 to win on his first appearance for the Scuderia, and staggeringly, the first to take a debut Ferrari pole since Juan-Manuel Fangio, 51 years ago!

It was Kimi’s first win since his stirring drive from 17th on the grid at the 2005 Japanese Grand Prix, when he passed Giancarlo Fisichella on the last lap. His fastest lap was a full second quicker than anybody else, and was his fourth in Melbourne in the past six years. It gave Räikkönen the first hat-trick weekend (pole/win/fastest lap) of his career, making him the 38th driver to record such a feat.

By leading 52 out of the 58 laps, Ferrari became the first team to lead 12,000 laps in championship history (over 3,000 more than anyone else). An ominous sign for the rest of the field is that every time Schumacher won for Ferrari at Albert Park (2000-02, and 2004), both he and Ferrari ended those respective seasons as champions. It’s a good return to form in Australia, as since locking out the front row every year from 2001-04, the team hadn’t qualified any car higher than tenth on the grid at this track.

In spite of Kimi’s dominance of the weekend, Lewis Hamilton stole many of the headlines with a sparkling debut performance, including an audacious pass around the outside of double world champion teammate Fernando Alonso at the first corner. Third place made him the first British driver to score a podium in his maiden F1 race since Mike Parkes finished second for Ferrari in the 1966 French Grand Prix.

A surprisingly high total of 16 drivers have finished in the top three at their first attempt, although the list consists mainly of obscure names (Perdisa, Arundell, Wisell and Serafini rank alongside Alberto Ascari in this category). Jacques Villeneuve is the only driver in the past 36 years to have been on the podium first time out – at the same Albert Park circuit back in 1996. The Canadian was also the last driver to lead on his maiden start.

Sandwiched between Räikkönen and Hamilton was Fernando Alonso, who ensured that both Mclaren drivers were on the podium for the first time since 2005. He’s now scored a podium finish in the last four Australian GPs, despite having never started on the front row at this track before Sunday, his first race using anything other than Michelin tires.

A top three consisting of 27-year-old Räikkönen, 25-year-old Alonso and 22-year-old Hamilton initially seemed as though it would be the youngest in history (as our initial calculation suggested in our race broadcast), but on further examination, it is merely the second youngest ever, behind the Alonso-Räikkönen-Montoya podium at Budapest in 2003.

The confusion stemmed from the various ways an average age can be calculated. For instance, using a years/months/days calculation for Hungary ’03 gives an age of 24y 07m 12d. By using only days, you end up with 24y 347d, a difference of four months. The average age of the Melbourne ’07 podium was 25 years 29 days, which is either 7 weeks or 5 ½ months older than Hungary ‘03, depending on which calculation you compare it to!

As in 2006, Nick Heidfeld ran as high as second in Australia, before slipping back to finish fourth. In his last seven Albert Park starts, Heidfeld has three 4th-place finishes, and four DNFs. With or without BMW, Sauber are Melbourne specialists, having put a car in the top four on the grid here three times in the last five attempts, their best record at any track. Including Mika Salo’s disqualification in 2000, a Sauber has scored a top six finish in 7 of the last 10 Australian GPs.

Heidfeld’s fortunes were in contrast to teammate Robert Kubica. Having qualified in the top ten for the sixth time in his seven-race F1 career, the Pole suffered his first ever retirement when his gearbox failed on lap 37.

The reward for Anonymous Drive Of The Day went to Renault’s Giancarlo Fisichella, who took fifth place largely as a result of Kubica’s retirement. Fisichella was best of the rest on a day where Mclaren, BMW and Ferrari were clearly quickest.

Speaking of the pace of Ferrari, Felipe Massa had a sterling drive from stone last to finish sixth, despite running a one-stop fuel strategy. This marked his first points finish on this circuit, with Ferrari proving their gamble to start him on the grid rather than in the pitlane was justified – Massa crashed out of this race in a first corner pileup twice in the past five years.

He was able to make headway thanks to Ferrari’s continued supremacy when it comes to top speed. Both Ferraris could be found at the top of the speed traps during qualifying, as was the case 11 times in 18 races last year.

By finishing seventh as he did in last year’s season-opener (in Bahrain), Nico Rosberg scored his first points since the Nurburgring, 14 races ago. All three of the German’s points finishes have now been for seventh place, and the Toyota-powered Williams team had the satisfaction of outperforming the works Toyota outfit, along with former driver Ralf Schumacher, who took the final point.

Both Toyota drivers celebrated the 10th anniversaries of their F1 debuts on Sunday, but both Schumacher and Jarno Trulli had a rather average weekend. That said, it’s entirely possible they will improve as the season progresses. Jarno Trulli was ninth on Sunday, just as he was two years ago – but he followed up that 2005 result with back-to-back podiums in Malaysia and Bahrain.

If Toyota thought they had problems, they will no doubt be put into context by the nightmare suffered by arch-rivals Honda, for whom the best news was Rubens Barrichello edging Super Aguri’s Takuma Sato by 4.5 seconds in the battle for an uninspiring 11th place.

Despite winning that particular battle, the qualifying pace of the Honda-powered Aguris put the manufacturer team to shame. Super Aguri were the only team never to get a car through to the second period of qualifying in 2006, a statistic which both Sato and Anthony Davidson erased this weekend, with Sato sensationally making it through to the final ten, in a session where the Aguris outqualified both Hondas.

While Lewis Hamilton’s debut was sublime, Heikki Kovalainen’s first Grand Prix was more toward the ridiculous. Driving for the defending world champions at Renault, he eliminated from qualifying in the second period, and indulged in several off-track moments on the way to a forgettable tenth in the race. A combination of Friday morning rain and afternoon mechanical trouble severely limited his dry practice time on a circuit he had never previously driven on, and perhaps he never truly caught up.

Mark Webber has never been outqualified by a teammate on his home circuit, and he survived a spin on the entry to the pitlane on his way to 13th place, seven seconds ahead of stablemate Tonio Liuzzi’s Toro Rosso – a surprising result, given that the Australian was 2.7s quicker than Liuzzi in qualifying, and started 12 places ahead of him on the grid.

Despite his coming together with Adrian Sutil on the opening lap, Anthony Davidson survived to take his first F1 finish in four attempts with 16th place, with Sutil ensuring that all three Melbourne rookies saw the chequered flag, albeit in 17th and last place. The number of finishers equaled the track’s previous record, set in 2005.

With retirements few and far between, the most entertaining was David Coulthard’s proof that Red Bull does indeed give you wings, as a collision with Alex Wurz sent him momentarily skywards. Not since 2002 has the Scot failed to score points in an Australian GP, traditionally one of his best circuits of the year.

Christijan Albers took the dubious award for first retirement of 2007, when his Spyker found its way into the same gravel trap as Coulthard and Wurz were to sample later in the race, while California’s Scott Speed had a quiet time of things, retiring with a puncture at half-distance. He can at least take comfort in having made it into a second season of F1, something no American had managed since Eddie Cheever, 26 years ago.

- Sean Kelly
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by Madman » Tue Mar 20, 2007 10:50 pm

Mappy, do you have nothing better to do?
signature removed irredeemably by court order for being massively overloli. have a nice day. :)
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by Atory » Tue Mar 20, 2007 10:51 pm

Do you want the long answer to that?
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by Mappy » Wed Mar 21, 2007 2:31 am

Madman wrote:Mappy, do you have nothing better to do?

What, you think I have the energy or time to write this stuff? 8)

Atory wrote:Do you want the long answer to that?

I could respond to this by posting all the stats mails I get from the various F1 mailing lists I'm on.... But I won't. Forwarding these is more than enough, I'm sure. 8)
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