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GP Week : Issue 216
12 GPWEEK.com // 12 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: AnD So IT BEgInS AgAIn OPINION Another year, another Australian Grand Prix. The F1 circus makes its annual pilgrimage to Melbourne, the city of rhinos on skateboards, smashed avocado in everything, and jet lag of legendary proportions. Along the banks of the Yarra River – the south bank, at least – jets of flame roar into the skies at regular intervals, terrifying those tourists in town for the annual Food and Wine Festival. These spittoon- avoiders tend to overindulge in the wine offerings at their culinary event, and it is with sore and angry heads that they greet the roaring V10 of Paul Stoddart’s two-seater F1 car as it starts it hot lap offerings before 8am. Even the Central Business District is not immune from the Minardi’s aural assault - my early morning coffees on the hotel balcony were all drunk to the soundtrack of Formula One as it used to be, long before my time. It wouldn’t be Formula One without a little bit of scandal, of course, and last year ’s endless moaning about the astounding energy efficiency of the new V6 power units was replaced with legal headaches Mike Doodson has detailed elsewhere in the magazine. But endless scandal gets rather tiresome, and the highlight of the Australian Grand Prix weekend was the number of feel-good stories we were left with when the chequered flag fell on the first race of the year. First and foremost on the good news front was Sauber ’s strong performance. After a 2014 that was the worst season in the team’s 22-year F1 history, the Swiss racers saw both drivers finishing in the points, Felipe Nasr ’s fifth-place and Marcus Ericsson’s eighth combining to put Sauber third in the constructors’ standings as they leave Australia. Nasr ’s performance was also a good news story for Brazil. The rookie racer (right) collected a host of records on Sunday afternoon: the first Brazilian Formula One driver to score points on his debut; the first Brazilian F1 driver to finish in the points (the country’s previous best debut of P7 took place when points only went up to sixth); and the highest- scoring debut of any Sauber rookie, a record Nasr stole from Kimi Raikkonen. Sebastian Vettel’s podium may have seen the German racer cross the line 34.523s behind Lewis Hamilton, but the promise of a resurgent Ferrari is good news for Formula One as a whole. The sport’s most bankable brand has as many detractors as it does fans, but success for the Scuderia boosts F1’s profile around the world as it leads to additional coverage in markets who couldn’t tell the difference between a Toro Rosso and a bullfight, yet who yearn for a 458 or a California on the driveway. It wasn’t all good news, of course. As a race, the 2015 edition of the Australian Grand Prix was marginally more exciting than watching paint dry, while the fact that five of the 20 drivers entered for the race didn’t even make it to the grid is hardly like to earn us legions of new fans. Valtteri Bottas’ absence was obviously force majeure (force injure, if you will...), while Manor have escaped sanction from the FIA for being unprepared for the weekend’s competition. Daniil Kvyat and Kevin Magnussen both suffered power unit failures en route to the grid, and it doesn’t take a clairvoyant to predict the awkward conversations to be had between Red Bull and Renault and McLaren and Honda between now and round two in Sepang. OPINION KATE WALKER