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GP Week : Issue 145
He astutely timed his throttle burst – on the exit of the penultimate corner - just early enough for Seb, holding steering lock, still to be on tiptoes. Even then, Jenson kept his advantage. Lewis let Seb have some air, then closed, pushing the World Champion hard. When Lewis pushes, though, the rears resist. He brakes later and thus leans on them more than Jenson prior to rotation; and, when it comes to squeezing the right foot, Lewis can be a tad impatient, knowing that he can always rescue the moment – Alonso-style – if he needs to. Jenson, by contrast, is much more diligent. Jenson thus won his 10-point advantage over the man that is most likely to be his closest championship rival. And, conversely, this was the way Lewis lost a bunch of points to the driver who could be his nearest rival. That’s making two big assumptions, of course – to wit, that Sebastian Vettel isn’t going to be right up there, or that Ferrari won’t soon be able to give Fernando Alonso a decent package. Seb Vettel, to my mind, gave an answer in Melbourne to everyone who has ever asked, “Yes...but can he overtake? What’s he like in a bad car?” The RB8 wasn’t bad in Melbourne – but it wasn’t a dead-set McLaren-beater, either (even if Seb’s straight-line speeds at last look to be on a par with McLaren’s). Seb was out-qualified by his team-mate but made a Button-like start from the dirty side of the grid. In the beautiful, ‘free’ style that he has made his trademark, he was thereafter always there, always tenacious, always looking for gaps, as per his nice pass on Nico early in the race. He even made a nonsense of the first chicane on lap six without losing momentum. This was a strong second place for Sebastian Vettel – one that could be said to have been More Driver, Less Car than has perhaps previously been the case with the RBR/SV package. Fernando, meanwhile, just wrung the absolute maximum from the Ferrari F2012. A major mistake in qualifying left him sitting embarrassingly in the sand trap but Fernando, like Kamui Kobayashi, lives effectively only for Sundays. The new Ferrari has its good points – overall grip levels can be high – but, as Craig Scarborough, our technical expert on The Flying Lap, predicted even before the car had turned a wheel, finding a sweet spot, keeping the balance under control for a full stint, was always going to be an issue. Fernando awoke on race day knowing that he had a huge mountain to climb from P12 on the grid but climb it he did: P5 was an excellent result under the circumstances. Other highlights: Romain Grosjean’s P3 in qualifying. He looked to be completely in harmony with the Lotus E20 and for sure would have been right up there but for an early-race tangle with Pastor Maldonado. Kimi Raikkonen’s recovery from a nervous, mistake-blighted Saturday: looking almost like the Kimi of Ferrari, he finished seventh. (He shouldn’t though, have been zapped on lap 42 by Kamui Kobayashi.). Sergio Perez’s drive up to eighth place from last (Sauber were penalised for a gearbox change) and Kamui Kobayashi’s equally combative run from 13th to sixth, disintegrating rear wing and all. The Sauber, produced by James Key and Willem Toet, is a very, very good car. (Shame Kamui again made too many mistakes in qualifying.) The speed of the Williams FW34-Renault, confirming what we first saw back at the Jerez test at Turn Five, even when overall lap times were slow: Pastor Maldonado in Melbourne was on the Ferrari pace, and not far from Webber’s RBR, and would have finished sixth but for a massive shunt on the penultimate lap when he lost the back end on a quick left-hander. Put it down to the effect of turbulence and probably a loss of concentration with the end in sight. Both Torro Rossos were also fast – and Daniel Ricciardo can leave Melbourne believing that he may have had a top six finish but for first-lap skirmish. He will have enjoyed passing his team-mate, Jean-Eric Vergne, on the final lap. And Michael Schumacher out-qualified Nico Rosberg by 0.3 sec, confirming what was evident in the first Barcelona test, when MercedesAMG used the 2011 car to explore the 2012 Pirellis: the seven- times World Champion is much happier on the new constructions and compounds – relative to 2011. Overall, though, the Mercedes still seemed to eat into their tyres at a higher rate than the McLaren or Red Bull drivers. All is still far from perfect for Herr. Schumacher. That adjective – much over-used, but inevitably so in his case – must currently be reserved exclusively for the performance of Jenson Alexander Lyons Button. F1 >>> AUSTRALIA 21 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: