On-song or gone-wrong? – Australian Grand Prix

From a nation’s expectations, to a Force India surprise package – we take our picks of the highs and lows in Australia.
Monday, March 18, 2013

Melbourne, March 17th, 2013 (F1plus/J. Polychronis).- On-song or gone-wrong? is a segment provided after the completion of each race weekend. It is predominately dedicated to assess the surprise performances within he field, whether it be for the better or worse.

Adrian Sutil: On-song

Many were left utterly surprised when Adrian Sutil was witnessed in a fight for the lead during much of Sunday’s race. So much was the astonishment, that even marshals were incorrectly issuing the blue flag to the number 15 car, suggesting he allow the usual suspects through. Even Sutil felt surprised of his competitiveness, saying:

“No I wasn’t expecting that (leading the race). I came back to do better and it was a great feeling to be straight up there. So I just tried to keep concentrating and use my chance. I was amazed that we could actually be competitive at the front and I could gain my 1st position back after my pit stop.”

The 2-stop strategy allowed Sutil to gain an advantage over many competitors in front, however, it was out-racing his team mate than could be seen as an extra highlight. Despite qualifying 5 positions lower than his team mate, Paul Di Resta, Sutil managed jump one position ahead of the Briton, despite the pair both running a 2-stop strategy.

Home-nation hopes: Gone-wrong

Once again, the hopes of a nation were dashed at the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday. Australia, having hosted the event since 1985, has never seen home-nation victory at their Grand Prix.

Mark Webber was poised to end the 28-year drought after both Red Bull vehicles were strong during practice, and claimed a front-row lockout in qualifying. The drought extended to a 29th year though, as Webber, in what initially appeared to be another lacklustrestarting performance, suffered an ECU issue. Team principle, Christian Horner, explained:

“Today had nothing to do with Mark. – “That ECU issue shut the KERS down as well. So, by the time we’d reset the system, he’d lost the start and lost early ground.”

Australian, Daniel Ricciardo was unable to salvage any hometown joy, after his Toro Rosso suffered an exhaust issue. The issue was something that was unrepairable, forcing the Western-Australian’s retirement on lap 4:

“We tried to fix it, well, I tried to fix it from in the car with a few functions but it wasn’t happening.”

Felipe Massa: On-song

Felipe Massa had another strong driving display. 

Felipe Massa signalled his return to competitiveness on Sunday, after finishing in 4th place. Massa was steady throughout the race, finishing comfortably ahead of Hamilton by 12 seconds, and also comfortably behind Vettel by 11 seconds.

Not only has there been improvement in Massa’s performance, he is also personally far more relaxed and confident.

“I feel much better in the car – much more comfortable and also much more relaxed. I think the situation is much better, much morepositive. I was happy with the start of the season.”

Most impressive from Massa on the weekend was his out-qualification of teammate, Fernando Alonso. Massa started on the grid from 4th position, with a time of 1:28:490. This was better than Alonso, albeit by only 0.003 seconds. Nonetheless, Massa’s ability to match the two-time world champion for pace over a single lap wasimpressive, even if he was comfortably out-raced by the Spaniard.

Williams F1 Team: Gone-wrong

Williams F1 quite simply had a disastrous season-opener. This was without exception, as neither vehiclesperformed at any stage of the weekend, from P1, to Pastor Maldonado’s turn one retirement. Williams had qualified in the unsatisfying positions of 16th and 17th for Valtteri Bottas and Maldonado respectively. In the race, Bottas climbed to 14th, however, Maldonado retired after adriving error at turn one.

Perhaps the most alarming problem at Williams is not the lack of performance, however, the surprise at the lack of performance. Speaking to the media after Friday, Maldonado stated how the team were “a bit surprised” at their lack of performance. Upon race completion, Maldonado seemed baffled once again:

“We must do something, the car is not working, there is something wrong.”

Should Williams wish toretain their status as a mid-field team, dramatic improvement is required, which is something Maldonado is confident for.

“I am quite confident. We have good engineers, good guys, we are all working together, trying to fix it, and I think we will.” 

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