The second race of the new Formula 1 season is only days away, so what have we learnt from Australia's opening event?
The second race of the new Formula 1 season is only days away, so what have we learnt from Australia's opening event? Most obvious is that Red Bull, and Sebastian Vettel in particular, are on mighty form. The reigning champions took pole by a staggering 0.78 seconds and won the race by 22 seconds. This was despite being chased by Lewis Hamilton, who found that last minute upgrades to his McLaren made it unexpectedly quick.Another high-achiever was Vitaly Petrov who piloted his Renault to third. This spirited performance made him the first Russian to stand on an F1 podium, and suggests that Renault can expect strong results even without the injured Robert Kubica. However, not every team were as successful. HRT Cosworth failed to qualify for the race after both Tonio Liuzzi and Narain Karthikeyan failed to record times within 107% of the pole-sitter. So, in summary, Sebastian Vettel has the maximum twenty-five points. Lewis Hamilton eighteen, and Vitaly Petrov fifteen. Red Bull-Renault is leading the constructor's championship with thirty-five points, with McLaren-Mercedes hot on their heels with twenty-six. The provisional bronze medal goes to Ferrari, who earned eighteen points thanks to Fernando Alonso's fourth and Felipe Massa's seventh. The Australian race also produced a technical surprise. Sauber rookie Sergio Perez completed fifty-eight laps on a single set of tyres - and only pitted once. Every other car stopped two, three, or even four times as the tyres wore thin. Perez's rubber conservation is remarkable as the 2011 Pirelli tyres are supposed to degrade quicker than their 2010 equivalents. So, in the right hands, Pirelli rubber can clearly last far longer than predicted. It was also fascinating to finally see the new 'moveable rear wings' in action. These are designed, under certain circumstances, to reduce rear down-force and make overtaking easier - but it would be premature to definitively report on their success after only one event. That said, the early indications are not particularly encouraging. F1 fans will know more after the Malaysian race on April 10th. I can hardly wait.