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F1 Hamilton dominates the Australian GP

  Well after so many thousands of miles of testing the 2008 F1 season finally kicked off and some of the questions have been answered. Yes, the McLaren is fast. Yes, the BMWs were sandbagging in testing and are actually fast. No, the Ferrari pace in the last few tests was not sandbagging, they are not quite as fast as they thought they were and Yes, the Williams and Red Bulls are at the front of the chasing pack. Oh, and Yes, Massa’s depth perception is not all that good under pressure.  

    Just how long this will remain is the ongoing question. Undoubtedly Ferrari will be busting their nuts to get back on terms with McLaren as soon as possible but uncle Ron and his squad will be working just as hard to make sure that doesn’t happen. Wouldn’t they enjoy THAT after last year.

   In the end, Hamilton in the McLaren dominated practice, dominated qualifying and dominated the race, stating as he hopped from his car after an hour and a half of racing in almost 40 degree temperatures “It was a breeze”. And to prove his point he sprinted up the stairs to the podium. And an odd podium it was too, as there was no red in sight. Nick Heidfeld had brought the BMW-Sauber home in second ahead of Nico Rosberg in the Williams. One had to feel a bit sorry for Kovalainen who would have finished in second had it not been for some awful timing as the safety car came onto the track after Glock’s big moment just as Heikki was due to pit for fuel. As it was he had to stay out until the pits were opened and this dropped him to the tail of the field. He then stormed back up to fourth place getting past Alonso with just one lap to go. Pity about that last lap, because the McLaren slowed unexpectedly as they crossed the line to begin the last lap and Alonso powered back past, and try as he might, Kovalainen could not repeat his previous laps efforts and Alonso claimed fourth place on his return to Renault. That probably pleased him too, after last year.

   Ferrari had a shocker. Intermittently fast, they never seemed to have everything heading in the same direction at the same time. And then all their engines went pop. Massa could only manage fourth on the grid and had his first brain fade at turn one when he proved that some drivers do need traction control and spun  unaided into the wall. He then drove well to get up to the rear of Coulthard’s Red Bull, but there he stayed. Unable to find a way around, you could see the frustration rising until he attempted a dumb-arsed lunge up the inside of turn one launching a furious Coulthard into the air and out of the race. “If he doesn’t appologise, I’ll kick three colours of shit out of the little bastard.” Was DC’s reaction to this crass bit of driving. Can’t imagine him saying that in his McLaren years, can you? Fortunately for Massa his Ferrari engine then died on the other side of the track so it was quite a bit of time before DC got to have a word with him.

    Raikkonen’s race wasn’t much better. Ferrari claimed a fuel feed problem put him out of qualifying, he ended up starting 15th, problem was, on the on-board camera you could quite plainly hear the engine revving away like mad. Just not going anywhere. Helped by the first lap carnage he leapt up to eighth by the end of lap one and was then stick there behind Barrichello’s Honda until getting by on lap 18. Some mesmeric laps then saw him catch Kovalainen and Kimi was battling him when the safety car came out to clean up the debris resulting from Massa’s brain-fade. Kimi got the run on the McLaren on the restart but did not get his braking right going into turn 3 and chucked all his hard work into the kitty litter. He would repeat the manouvre a few laps later and may still have finished fourth had his engine not lunched itself with just a few laps to go.

   This seemed to be the story of the race for anyone with Ferrari engines, Torro Roso debutant, Sebastian Bourdais, would have finished fourth had his engine not gone pop as well. His team mate, Vettel didn’t make it past the first corner undamaged, nor did Giancarlo Fisichella in the Force India-Ferrari. His team mate, Sutil only managed nine laps so there were some long faces in the Ferrari paddock.

   Some long faces at Red Bull too. Mark Webber looked a sure top ten qualifier until his right front brake disc exploded on his first run in Q2. Mark had set second fastest time in the second practice session on Friday and was showing consistent pace until that disc went south. He managed to avoid the first corner carnage but was given the gentlest tap on the left rear by Anthony Davidson’s Super Aguri Honda coming out of turn three and that was his race done after about twenty seconds. Gee, don’t some guys get all the luck.This is starting to become a bit (Chris) Amon-esque.

 Then Massa monstered DC. In the second squad as stated, Vettel got caught up in turn one and Bourdais’ Ferrari sprang a leak just two laps from home. Mind you, with all the chaos, Bourdais was still classified seventh and scored a couple of points. One more than Ferrari got for Raikkonen’s non-finishing eighth. 

  Williams had a very good day with Rosberg driving quickly and consistently into an excellent third place and Kazuki Nakajima finishing sixth. And Kazuki didn’t even run over any of his mechanics. He did launch it off the road a couple of times but that’s what you really expect of a guy in his second race. Lewis Hamilton had made it VERY hard on new drivers these days. Speaking of new guys, Nelson Piquet Jr had a weekend he will be happy to relegate to the history books. Problems in practice saw him qualify the Renault down in 21st place and he also

suffered a rear end problem in the race which saw him plod around slowly until pulling out on lap 31. Things can only get better for Nelson, we know after all, he does know how to drive a car quickly. 

  Poor old Rubens Barrichello also had a race to forget. Or about two minutes to forget as his race was rather quite good. He was about to relegate last year to the history books and claim his first points for Honda until he had to pit for fuel while the pits were closed due to Glock’s wrecked Toyota. Not only would that stop give him a ten second penalty, from which he would recover and finish sixth on the road, but it also saw him exit the pits against the red light, and this would eventually see him disqualified from the race results.The quicker Ross Brawn takes control of the race team the better for all at Honda.

 For full results & times, see the entry in the database. 

Pos  Driver        Team                      Time 1.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes      (B)  1h34:50.616 2.  Heidfeld      BMW Sauber            (B)  +     5.478 3.  Rosberg       Williams-Toyota       (B)  +     8.163 4.  Alonso        Renault               (B)  +    17.181 5.  Kovalainen    McLaren-Mercedes      (B)  +    18.014 6.  Barrichello   Honda                 (B)  +    52.453 7.  Nakajima      Williams-Toyota       (B)  +     1 lap 8.  Bourdais      Toro Rosso-Ferrari    (B)  +    2 laps 9.  Raikkonen     Ferrari               (B)  +    3 laps Fastest lap: Kovalainen, 1:27.418 

Not classified/retirements:

Driver        Team                      On lapKubica        BMW Sauber            (B)    50Glock         Toyota                (B)    44Sato          Super Aguri-Honda     (B)    33Piquet        Renault               (B)    31Massa         Ferrari               (B)    30Coulthard     Red Bull-Renault      (B)    26Trulli        Toyota                (B)    20Sutil         Force India-Ferrari   (B)    9Webber        Red Bull-Renault      (B)    1Button        Honda                 (B)    1Davidson      Super Aguri-Honda     (B)    1Vettel        Toro Rosso-Ferrari    (B)    1Fisichella    Force India-Ferrari   (B)    1  

World Championship standings, round 1:                

Drivers:                    Constructors:              1.  Hamilton      10        1.  McLaren-Mercedes       14 2.  Heidfeld       8        2.  BMW Sauber              8 3.  Rosberg        6        3.  Williams-Toyota         8 4.  Alonso         5        4.  Renault                 5 5.  Kovalainen     4        5.  Honda                   3 6.  Barrichello    3        6.  Toro Rosso-Ferrari      1 7.  Nakajima       2      

 8.  Bourdais       1 



 Sam Snape  18-3-08