For Lewis Hamilton, it was a walk in the park - Albert Park, that is. He managed to get a good start, not great, but enough to keep him in first place. From there on, he was lucky that all three safety car interventions did not ruin his pit stop strategy. The only moment when he had to push was during his second stint, in order to make sure that he would pit and return to the track ahead of a surprisingly fast Sebastien Bourdais, who was to have no more pit stops until the end of the race.
Heikki Kovalainen also did a very good job for McLaren, and posted the fastest lap of the race. He even would have a chance of challenging Hamilton for the win, if the safety car did not happen right before his final pit stop. He continues to impress, and the 5th place finish just does not show how good a driver he was during the race. His only mistake was during his fight with Fernando Alonso, to which I will get back later.
The weekend was full of surprises, but Lewis' win was very predictable after the strong performance in qualifying. Almost everything else was unexpected. Things that surprised me the most: Ferrari with 2 blown engines - plus another one on Bourdais' STR -, BMW's very competitive race pace, and the large number of retirements - even for round one of the season.
Problems for Ferrari
Talking about Ferrari, what a messy race that was! Everyone in the team made mistakes. The drivers were excessively aggressive. Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen had each one a couple of close calls. I do not blame Massa for the contact with Coulthard. At worst that was a racing incident, if not Coulthard's fault for not giving him enough room. On the other hand, he had to think about finishing the race that was not going well after he tapped the wall all by himself in the first turn of the race. Raikkonen also cannot be blamed for trying to overtake Kovalainen, but he was certainly too optimistic that he could brake so deep - in fact he could not, hence the drive into the gravel trap.
I was not able to understand Ferrari's strategy, either. Instead of calling Kimi to the pits under the safety car - as did Fernando Alonso and Robert Kubica, for example - they waited for the race to restart and 3 laps later he was in, under 'green flag' racing. It would not matter in the end, as he stopped with a damaged engine, just like Massa. Maybe the unpredicted hot weather in Australia caught Ferrari's engineers by surprise, but those engines were in their first one of the two mandatory races.
Bourdais and STR at a Surprising Pace
Sebastien Bourdais drove his STR like a Formula One veteran, although it was only his first grand prix. Team tactics were a big part of the fact that he was about to finish 4th when his engine blew up, but his pace was very good.
Complicated FIA Rules Take Points away from Honda
FIA rules continue to be way too complicated for spectators to understand. Rubens Barrichello received a 10-second stop-and-go penalty for refueling while the pits were closed. After the race, he was disqualified for leaving the pits while the red lights were on.
What was he supposed to do in that situation? He was running out of fuel, so there was no other option but to stop. The fact that he had to make the stop-and-go later already guaranteed that he got no advantage in that situation. What was he supposed to do at the pit exit? Wait for how many minutes before the green light? This rule never made sense to me, and it never will. And the fact that Rubens was allowed to finish the race shows that even the stewards do not know what to make of this rule.
A Wonderful Move by Alonso
Fernando Alonso did a fantastic job with the Renault and finished 4th. So did Hamilton, Heidfeld and Rosberg, but the reason that I will give him the Star of the Race award is because he managed to get by both Raikkonen's Ferrari and Kovalainen's McLaren at the same time. What a move that was! Two laps later he was passed by Kovalainen, but the Finn made a stupid mistake - hit the speed limiter by accident while clearing his visor - that allowed Alonso repass him and finish 4th.
Star of the Race
Shame of the Race
Ferrari. Nelsinho Piquet was a candidate for this award after his lousy qualifying run, but during the race he was fine, considering the fact that his car was damaged after he was hit from behind during the first lap.
This article is originally from my blog: Formula One Monday. Feel free to edit it here, especially if you find typos!