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GP Week : Issue 109
28 S ebaStian Vettel finished the australian grand Prix eight seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren. that might suggest there had been a reasonably close race. but the reality was nothing like it. Vettel decimated everyone – including his team-mate, Mark Webber. Having maintained his lead from pole, he just cruised and maintained a safe gap from Hamilton. McLaren’s form was much better than expected from pre-season testing and even with a damaged floor Lewis was producing impressive laptimes. Let’s hope that means we can have a decent scrap for the title, as we were treated to last year. but the truth is we haven’t seen the full potential of the Rb7 yet. Vettel only drove as fast as he had to. its downforce advantage was clear when, on Lap 16 after pitting two laps earlier and chasing after the lost lead, came up behind Jenson button. Vettel took Jb around the outside of turn 4, which shouldn’t really be possible between two similarly-matched cars. instead, this was like taking candy from a baby. Sure, he had newer tyres on, but still. the differing tyre degradation made for quite a lot of passing in the race. it was responsible for more of it than the Drag Reducing Systems. the front-runners had few opportunities to really use it. at the start, Vettel made good use of the clean side of the grid while Hamilton got wheelspin off the line. Webber was unable to challenge. the big winner at lights-out was Lotus-Renault GP’s Vitaly Petrov who slid up the inside of Fernando alonso, who went wide onto the grass, and button. the Russian was promoted to fourth. Massa moved up too, from eighth to fifth ahead of alonso and soon passed button with a ballsy move. then the brazilian drove defensively, much to Jenson’s frustration. On Lap 12 he attempted to pass at turn 11 but the Ferrari pushed him wide and he used an escape road. While he should have given the place back immediately, the situation was complicated when Ferrari slyly had alonso pass Massa, meaning button would have to let them both by. While the McLaren pitwall radioed Charlie Whiting to get a clarification on what to do, Ferrari brought their cars in. that buggered button, basically. He was handed a drive through. Webber complained his rear tyres were going off on Lap 11 and was the first to pit. Vettel, however, hung on for another few. He continued to pull away from Webber. by half distance, Vettel was nine seconds ahead of P2 man Hamilton, who by this stage had sustained damage to his undertray On Lap 37 Vettel, Hamilton and Petrov, who was now promoted to third, made their second and final stop, this time for the hard compound that would see out the 58 lap race. button passed Massa for P6 on lap 48. Meanwhile Mexican rookie Sergio Perez was on pace with the leader despite only having changed his boots once. the Sauber, it appeared, was unbelievably gracious to its rubber – sadly, the team was later found to be running illegal rear wings and their results were thrown out. the biggest cheer on the podium went to Petrov, who drove immaculately. the Renault is clearly the best car enstone has produced since it last won the title in 2006, but we were all left dreaming what just may have been possible had Robert Kubica been at the wheel of the black and gold car. Well, he wouldn’t have troubled Vettel though. “i don’t really like the word dominant at this stage to be honest,” complained Seb in the press conference afterwards. “it is a long, long way to go.” it certainly is for his rivals.