The first race of the new F1 season brought more show than usual on the circuit, but the increased expectations for overruns were overestimated. Even if the new Pirelli tires led to a diversification of strategies, Sebastian Vettel benefited from pole position on Saturday and made his debut with a victory in the 2011 season at the end of a race in which he kept constantly a comforting advance ahead Lewis Hamilton.
The big surprise of the race was, however was Vitaly Petrov, who obtained the best result of his career after completing on the last step of the podium at the wheel of Renault, even though at one point he was attacked by Fernando Alonso. Scuderia Ferrari driver finished fourth, even if dropped immediately after starting on the ninth position after being blocked by Jenson Button.
Jenson Button was part of an electrifying duel with Felipe Massa in the first 10 laps of the race, which also showed that nine adjustable rear wing really does not favor overruns. McLaren driver was penalized with a drive-through after he overrun the Brazilian by cutting a baffle, but eventually finished sixth, just behind Mark Webber. Left in the race in third place, the local crowd favorite was unable to fight for victory and finished only fifth, retaking the personal best performance obtained with Minardi in Australia in 2002.
The rookie with the best results in the first race of the season was Sergio Perez, the Mexican finishing seventh, and his teammate Kamui Kobayashi has held eight one filled with a very good result for Sauber F1 Team. Felipe Massa had a modest debut in the new season and won only nineth position, while Scuderia Toro Rosso has won the last point at stake by Sebastian Buemi.
Force India finished runners at the border points 11:12 by Adrian Sutil and rookie Paul di Resta, followed by Jaime Alguersuari (Toro Rosso) and veteran Nick Heidfeld (Renault). Jarno Trulli completed the top 15 with a place for Lotus, while last place went to another rookie, Jerome D’Ambrosio (Virgin Racing).
Mercedes GP had a disappointing start to the season, after both pilots abandoned the race after an incident. Michael Schumacher entered the pits in the first round after a collision with Jaime Alguersuari (Toro Rosso) and abandoned in the first part of the race because of a breakdown in suspensions and Nico Rosberg retired on lap 25 after being hit by Rubens Barrichello (Williams). A similar fate had Williams, after Pastor Maldonado abandoned the race and Rubens Barrichello retired the pit after being involved in a collision with Rosberg.
Australia – Race Rankings and overall standings
The Australian Grand Prix – Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia;
58 laps, 307.574km; Weather: sunny.
Fastest lap: Massa, 1:28.947
Pos / Driver / Team / Time
1. Vettel / Red Bull-Renault 1:29: 30.259
2. Hamilton / McLaren-Mercedes + 22.297
3. Petrov / Renault + 30.560
4. Alonso / Ferrari + 31.772
5. Webber / Red Bull-Renault + 38.171
6. Button / McLaren-Mercedes + 54.300
7. Perez / Sauber-Ferrari + 1:05.800
8. Kobayashi / Sauber-Ferrari +1:16.800
9. Massa / Ferrari + 1:25.100
10. Buemi / Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1 lap
11. Sutil / Force India-Mercedes +1 lap
12. Di Resta / Force India-Mercedes +1 lap
13. Alguersuari / Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1 lap
14. Heidfeld / Renault + 1 lap
15. Trulli / Lotus-Renault + 2 laps
16. D’Ambrosio / Virgin Cosworth + 3 laps
Driver / Team / Tour
Glock / Virgin-Cosworth 50
Barrichello / Williams-Cosworth 49
Rosberg / Mercedes GP 22
Kovalainen / Lotus-Renault 19
Schumacher / Mercedes 19
Maldonado / Williams-Cosworth 10
Liuzzi / HRT-Cosworth 1
Karthikeyan / HRT-Cosworth 1
General Rankings after stage 1:
1. Vettel – 25 1. Red Bull-Renault 35
2. Hamilton – 18 2. McLaren-Mercedes 26
3. Petrov – 15 3. Renault 15
4. Alonso – 12 4. Ferrari 14
5. Webber – 10 5. Sauber-Ferrari 10
6. Button – 8 6. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1
7. June Perez – 6
8. Kobayashi – 4
9. Massa – 2
10. Buemi – 1
Next Race: Malaysia – 8-10 Apr.