Australian Grand Prix: Driver-by-driver

Posted on March 21, 2012

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With the first race of the season done and dusted, many sites have posted their assessment of the relative performaces of the cars and drivers. So here is the data-centric intelligentF1 take on it:

Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull-Renault): 2nd: Got into the mix with a good start and excellent pass of Rosberg. Lost out to the McLarens stuck behind Schumacher in the first stint until the Mercedes stopped. Had just about the pace of the McLarens, and hints of better tyre life. Lucked in with the safety car to claim second when Hamilton had supposedly sealed the place by stopping first. Couldn’t have hoped for more.

Mark Webber (Red Bull-Renault): 4th: Will leave Melbourne thinking that fourth place is a good save, and that the pace is clearly good. A bad start left him stuck behind Rosberg for the first half of the race. Once released by the Mercedes tyre woes, proceeded to lap faster (tyre/fuel corrected) than anyone else in the race – by some margin. The safety car got him ahead of Alonso, but on newer rubber and with the pace advantage, you had to fancy he would have been fourth anyway. Quietly satisfying.

Jenson Button (McLaren-Mercedes): 1st: Once into the lead from the start, proceeded to make it look easy. Had about three-tenths per lap on his team-mate in the first stint, and then matched the pace of those behind thereafter. Had to fuel save (costing about 1s per lap), from about laps 9 to 25 as far as can be deduced from the trace. Can’t do more than win.

Lewis Hamilton (McLaren-Mercedes): 3rd: Didn’t have the pace of his team-mate in the first stint, and lost out by stopping a lap later as he lost 1.5s on the inlap (and 1s on the outlap). Had similar fuel issues to Button (although not as bad on the traces) and lost a few seconds behind Perez (but not much). Had Vettel under control, especially once the second stop was made, but for the safety car. Can understand his disappointment.

Fernando Alonso (Ferrari): Never has a drive for fifth place been so good, although he was helped by Rosberg not having new tyres in the first stint. Jumped the Mercedes due to it’s horrible in lap at the first stops, and proceeded to have Rosberg continue to be a useful buffer against Webber and Maldonado in the second stint. The difficult nature of the car can be seen in the erratic nature of Alonso’s trace – there are quite a few laps in which he loses the odd half second, which is very unusual for him. Lost out to Webber at the safety car (but surely couldn’t have kept him back, could he?) and fended off Maldonado to the flag. Awesome drive.

Felipe Massa (Ferrari): retired: Made the Ferrari look as bad as it actually is. Great start allowed him to show that the Ferrari was slow, by proceeding to hold up the entirety of the midfield. Caterham couldn’t keep up, but the others all could, and they proceeded to get ahead of him once he ate his tyres quickly enough to ensure that three stops would be needed. Pretty much everyone was past him by the time the safety car arrived, and a clash with the recovering Senna saved him the pain of finishing horribly far back. It can’t get any worse, unless Caterham beat him.

Michael Schumacher (Mercedes): retired: Qualified well. Started well. Then it all went wrong. Over a second a lap from Button’s pace, he took more from his tyres than Rosberg, who began to catch him, and then lost the gearbox. All within ten laps.

Nico Rosberg (Mercedes): 12th: Fantastic start catapulted him into the lead positions on the first lap. Then it was a case of defending and tyre problems. First to stop for tyres, he did marginally better on the second set, but was still slow. The Mercedes was faster on the medium tyres, and was able to make them last better, partly due to the one-stopping Perez and his older tyres being ahead holding everyone to a slower pace. Stayed eighth until the last lap chaos when a puncture dropped him down the order. Fast car – can they sort the tyre issues?

Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus-Renault): 7th: A quiet start to his return took off once he passed Perez in the first stint. Suddenly the pace became very good, faster than Ferrari and Mercedes. Assisted by new tyres, and Massa needing to stop early, he proceeded to put in an excellently fast and consistent second stint. Somehow came out behind Kobayashi in the safety-car shuffle (despite having passed him and being way ahead) and didn’t get past again. Gained three places in the last lap drama (but not one on Kobayashi). Promising return.

Romain Grosjean (Lotus-Renault): retired: Stunning qualifying performance. Didn’t start the race well, and allowed himself to be barged out of the race by Maldonado’s Williams. Needs to show he can be quick again.

Paul Di Resta (Force India-Mercedes): 10th: Disappointing qualifying, and a reasonably dissapointing race saved by winning the KERS fuelled drag race to the line for the final point. In touch with Massa’s Ferrari in the first stint, but the second stint showed that the pace wasn’t really much better, although the tyre management was very good. Both Toro Rossos passed him in the final stint, and only a bit of racecraft in the last lap fun saved the day. Will be disappointed at the pace of the car.

Nico Hulkenburg (Force India-Mercedes): retired: Qualified much faster than his team mate. We will never know if that would have translated to the race to make him competitive, or whether he would have been another car out of position.

Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber-Ferrari): 6th: Overshadowed by his one-stopping team mate being four-tenths slower on each type of tyre. The safety car helped him get past Raikkonen (somehow) and gain almost a pitstop on Perez. Gained three places on the last lap for a remarkable sixth, which was way more than deserved. Lucked into that one.

Sergio Perez (Sauber-Ferrari): 8th: With Maldonado, the fastest car outside Red Bull/McLaren in the race. Pulled a one-stopper, but lost close on ten seconds before his stop trying to nurse the tyres to the one-stop window. The safety car didn’t help his cause, losing him the opportunity to get track position on Maldonado and putting cars with much newer tyres on his tail. Held them all off until he came across the stricken Williams on the last lap. Came eighth, but morally sixth was his. Seriously good drive.

Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso-Ferrari): 9th: Lost time in the first lap accidents, and went on to lap very quickly (about on a par with Raikkonen). Gained massively from the safety car, which put him in the same race as everyone else. Gained places from Maldonado, Rosberg and Vergne on the last lap to claim an unlikely ninth. Quick.

Jean-Eric Vergne (Torro Rosso-Ferrari): 11th: Quiet first stint on medium tyres, until you realise he was keeping up with Massa, who was on softs. Pace became evident (similar to team mate) in the second stint when he caught Di Resta embarassingly quickly. Lost time with an off, but got past Di Resta in the final stint, only to lose out on the last lap. OK, he was caught napping, but a strong debut performance.

Pastor Maldonado (Williams-Renault): classified 13th: That the Williams was quick in Melbourne was a joy to behold for the sport’s purists. Harried Alonso, went off, harried and passed Massa in the first stint. Was catching Alonso and Rosberg (and the trapped Webber) in the second stint – and had another off. The safety car made sure he stayed ahead of Perez, and then he chased Alonso to the flag. Well, almost the flag. One off per stint, and the last one cost him some really needed points. You just hope that the Williams will be up there again.

Bruno Senna (Williams-Renault): classified 16th: Anonymous. Apart from hitting Massa, you could be forgiven for not noticing him. After the first lap crash his pace was almost one second off Maldonado – hopefully this is down to damage. Started to show some better pace in the last stint, then hit his countryman. Expect better.

Heikki Kovalainen (Caterham-Renault): retired: Will be disappointed that the largest jump made by any team has left Caterham where the midfield were, not where they now are. Add to that Petrov jumping him in the first stops, and not finishing the race, and you have a bleak picture. Is there more to come from Caterham?

Vitaly Petrov (Caterham-Renault): retired: Kept up with his team mate in the first stint, and was ahead in the second. Not much more could have been expected. Should be happy enough with that.

Narain Karthikeyan (HRT-Cosworth): Did not qualify.

Pedro de la Rosa (HRT-Cosworth): Did not qualify.

Timo Glock (Marussia-Cosworth): 14th: Still marooned almost two seconds off the pace of anyone else. He was comfortably faster than his new team mate, though. The 14th place finish could yet be useful…

Charles Pic (Marussia-Cosworth): 15th: Did a reasonable unobtrusive job. Slower than Glock, and wasn’t involved in any racing.

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