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GP Week : Issue 109
Team-By-Team: Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne Pre-season form suggested McLaren would be fighting with midfield teams like Renault, Sauber and Toro Rosso, but a late exhaust change allowed McLaren to fight at the sharp end of the grid throughout the weekend. While Hamilton got the maximum from his package to take second, although a problem with his floor did cost him time in the latter half of the race, Button was hampered from the start after getting stuck behind Massa. He illegally cut a corner while overtaking the Brazilian, costing him a drive-through penalty without which he could theoretically have finished third. Fastest lap was the only accolade that escaped Sebastian Vettel in Melbourne, after topping all three parts of qualifying, taking pole position and a comfortable race victory on Sunday. He was peerless throughout the weekend and never looked like getting beaten during the Grand Prix. Team-mate Webber had yet another disappointing home race, taking the chequered flag in fifth. The team will now set about analysing why he was so much slower than Vettel and also why his tyre degradation was so much worse. A dream start to his second season in F1 saw Vitaly Petrov become the first Russian ever to step on the podium after a strong drive to third. His start which saw him climb from sixth to fourth was key to the race, before pitting twice helped him leapfrog the three-stopping Webber. Team-mate Heidfeld had a torrid Renault debut after finishing a lowly 14th at the flag. A KERS failure put him back in 18th on the grid before he was hit on the first lap by a Toro Rosso, causing significant damage to the right hand side of his car. He continued to circulate but finished a lap down. It was a weekend to forget for Mercedes, after showing such promising form in the final pre- season test. Rosberg and Schumacher were both well off the leading pace in qualifying and both had retired by mid distance on Sunday after collisions with other drivers. Schumacher’s race was ruined by turn 3 on the first lap when he and Alguersuari connected. He continued for a time but later had to retire for safety reasons with the damage. Rosberg was hit by Barrichello at the same corner later in the race, with the resultant sidepod damage putting him out of action a minute later Like Mercedes, it was a nightmare start to the year for Williams, after failing to get either of their cars to the chequered flag. Transmission problems were to blame for Maldonado and Barrichello’s retirements, with Maldonado’s coming just 10 laps into the race and Barrichello’s after 49. Barrichello made good progress early in the race and was up to eighth from 17th on the grid when he crashed into Rosberg at turn 3. He was trying to defend from Kamui Kobayashi behind, whom he had just overtaken. He fell to the back of the field and earned a drive through penalty before retiring ten laps from the finish. Despite coming into the season as joint- favourite for the drivers’ title, Fernando Alonso had to battle hard to get fourth place on Sunday. He lost numerous places at the start after running wide at Turn 1 and was battling to regain lost ground thereafter. A cleaner start may have seen him finish on the podium, but he just ran out of laps at the end while chasing Petrov for third. Massa had a disappointingly slow race in the second Ferrari, finishing ninth at the flag after stopping three times. He overtook Buemi late in the race to rise from tenth, and gained two places post-race with Sauber’s disqualification. 34