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This is as close as anyone got to Lewis  As I have said before, Albert Park is a great Grand Prix venue. Set in a park not far from Port Phillip Bay and around a pretty little natural lake with just a short stroll to plenty of bars and restaurants. The organizers go to extreme lengths to make sure there is plenty of entertainment on hand, both on and off the track to keep all amused with plenty of racing and a pretty good music gig on the Saturday afternoon so that those who show up feel they are getting good value for money. Many organizers around the world could do worse than to take note and lay on a bit more for the fans. I’ve been to Spa and Monza where apart from the GP, all you got was, at Spa a F3000 race and a Porsche Supercup race that was cancelled due to tyre problems, and at Monza there was a Lamborghini race. The rest of the time you sat in the sun, or in Spa’s case the rain, and waited.



  The problem with Albert Park is that as a RACE track it sucks, gags, and then blows chunks. It is as about as conducive to passing as a dehydrated kidney failure patient. When you left Spa or Monza you KNEW you had been to a Grand Prix and had usually seen a bloody good race. When you leave Albert Park you feel you’ve been to an amusement park that included a loud procession of colourful cars circulating for an hour and a half. And then there’s the price. For example, if like me you live in Sydney, it is cheaper to spend two weeks in Malaysia (including airfares) than it is to spend three nights in Melbourne. And Sepang always produces a vastly better race. But every year you keep hoping, vainly, for something better. I remember one year not long ago sitting there after about twenty laps thinking, “When’s this bloody thing going to end?”


  And so it was this year. OK we all knew after testing that the Silver Slings were unlikely to be troubled but the world of eagerly waiting fans were keen to see how the rest of the field would play out and hoped for a fierce battle for everything but the top two steps of the podium. If it was a better race track we may have even gotten that but as it was, once Lewis got the jump, Nico couldn’t get inside of two seconds because, well, that’s Albert Park. Third place was decided by a pit stop. With the exception of that change the top six was in exactly the same order on lap 58 as they were on lap 4. Snooooore. Even as I sit here now looking at the lap chart I’m finding it hard to spot any actual overtaking manoeuvres. There was a spirited 10 or so laps between Marcus Ericsson and Carlos Sainz for eighth place near the end and poor old Jenson displayed some fine elbows in his defence of second last place from the clearly quicker Perez but that was never going to last, what with the Honda engine barely turned on, let alone up, in the hope that Button would make the finish.


  And remarkably enough he did. In eleventh and last place. Two laps down. In a McLaren-Honda. But that was better than some. After a winter of discontent and swirling rumours of who would, or would not, have the readies to make it to Melbourne, ten teams with twenty cars showed up. Then Manor couldn’t get their IT set ups working on the cars as some burke in the administration company had wiped all the hard drives so we had eighteen cars for practice and qualifying. Then Valtteri hurt his back and we had seventeen for the race. Getting a bit thin this. But did we? No!! Magnussen’s Honda went pop in the most smokey and debris spewing fashion on the formation lap and we were at sixteen. No we weren’t. Kvyat’s debut for Red Rags also ended on his formation lap when his gearbox hydraulics gave up the ghost and just fifteen were about to take the start. Apart from the Indy tyre fiasco this was the lowest ebb for Formula 1 since the 1982 San Marino Grand Prix at Imola where, due to boycott by many teams just twelve cars started.


  Within fifty metres of the start it was clear that we would now only see fourteen as poor Romain Grosjeans Lotus refused to change gears and he would retire at the end of lap 1. Which was further than his team-mate Maldonado would get. Having not made the greatest start Vettel left his braking too late into turn one and virtually used Kimi as a turning aid. This pushed Kimi wide and onto the grass and he scrabbled back on just as Pastor was passing him. What neither Kimi or Pastor could know was that the very fast starting debutant Felipe Nasr was already between them. If two into one doesn’t work, then neither does three into one. They all bumped, not enough to cause real damage, but it did send Maldonado backwards into the wall. Scratch both Lotus’s and we now had just thirteen cars with 57 processional laps to sleep through. And apart from noting that all three debutants had very good weekends, not much else in that 57 laps is really worth wasting any writing or reading over so roll on Sepang next week. It’s where the season really starts anyway.




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Sam Snape