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GP Week : Issue 109
Email us Something to say? Email us at email@example.com Sebastian Vettel may have been untouchable around Albert Park, but there’s plenty to suggest the gap between the top teams is going to close fast. And I point, of course, to McLaren. Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button had less testing mileage than any other F1 team, apart from Hispania who basically arrived in Melbourne with some bags of bolts and threw them at a car-shaped slab of carbon, hoping they ’d stick. McLaren do things differently, of course, but during the winter the MP4-26 was looking like their most disappointing model since the 2009 car. The problems stemmed from an overly complex exhaust, which was both unreliable and ineffective. A simpler solution revolutionized their performance in the simulator, and the results were even more impressive once the drivers sampled the car for the first time in Australia. The key thing is they’re still getting to know the car, the exhaust and other features are still not optimized, and there’s still a lot to come. As Jenson said after qualifying, this is a much younger car than the Red Bull and Ferrari, which did zillions more testing miles. The MP4- 26 still has a lot of growing up to do, but is set to mature into something rather special. Vettel may have thought his closest rival on Sunday would be his team-mate, but he was wrong. Mark Webber was destroyed in qualifying. Lapping half a second slower than his team-mate is not the way Mark wanted his season to start, worse still in front of his home crowd, but we know he’s better than that. His car gobbled up its rear tyres with alarming speed, and Red Bull are looking into what caused that. Malaysia, in two weeks, is a circuit that’s been much more rewarding to Webber than Albert Park. His fifth place on Sunday is equal to his best ever result there, which is rather concerning for a multiple grand prix winner. When looking to nominate a Man of the Match I think most of you will agree with me that Sergio Perez and Vitaly Petrov should take a bow. I was bitterly disappointed to receive a note from the stewards saying the Saubers rear wings were illegal, and that the drivers would lose their points. Perez had already left the track by then, but I bet he was crestfallen when he heard the news. After the race, his beaming grin couldn’t have been any bigger if he’d won. Sauber may need to get their spirit level out and fix the wing, but they’ve obviously stumbled upon ingenious ways to manage their Pirellis, and rival engineers are going to be looking at its rear end very closely. Petrov is looking like a new man. The plaudits he received after Abu Dhabi opinion ADAM HAY- NICHOLLS GPWeek Editor Champ on top – but new boys win Man of Match This year will be the last of the 800cc MotoGP bikes. Few will be sorr y to see the back of them. Introduced in a misguided attempt at improving safety, they have taken the blame for all manner of racing ills. Most especially processional racing on exacting machines that have made different cornering lines and consequent overtaking a thing of the past. Some of this criticism is fair. The 800s came out of the box with a different character from their 990cc predecessors. Riders had to keep the wheels in line, and (so much for safety) corner speeds actually went up. But some is not so fair. The new generation of grand prix bikes coincided with a burgeoning of electronics. These were both rider aids – launch control, anti-wheelie, slide control and so on, and mechanical necessities, such as the programme monitoring use of the restricted amount of fuel. In point of fact, these same electronics had already started to exert a similar influence on the 990s: they were far less savage at the end of their five-year run than they had been at the start of it. The other reason was that they started with 26 litres of fuel, and ended up with just 22. Funnily enough, circumstances have also overtaken the 800s, in the form of a new generation of riders, who never did actually have to come to grips with the big bikes, and so never had to unlearn the technique. For example, nobody has ever told Ben Spies that overtaking is impossible on an 800. The result has been a general MICHAEL SCOtt MotoGP Editor opinion End of an unloved era 20