News and views on motorsports

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Australian Grand Prix

An incident packed race brought about in no small part by the cool tempratures in Albert Park. I noticed prior to the race that the track surface seemed very slippery. And so it proved even at the start of the race on the warm up.

There's no doubting the world champion's pace this weekend. But perhaps, he should thank the Midland drivers for the victory. Kimi Raikkonen's race was hampered by a vibration from a flat spotted tyre that led to him losing his front end plates. Once replaced, Kimi set a blistering pace towards the end. At the final safety car period, he lost 5 seconds getting stuck behind the Midland of Monteiro. Had he been right behind Alonso, I would have thought he would be battling the world champion right till the end.

Still, props to Alonso for realising that the Midlands would delay the pursuit behind him and duly got the drop on them the moment the safety car dived into the pits. And of course you can't fault him for superb pace throughout the race. In fact, had there been no safety car period his margin of victory over Kimi might have been considerably larger than what it was at the end.

Perhaps it would have been wiser for Kimi to have saved his engine towards the end instead of attempting a futile attempt to catch Fernando. Or perhaps he was just trying to keep the Spaniard honest.

And how about that Taku? He did a great job at the start of the race making 12th and holding up Rubens Barrichello in the works Honda behind him. I'd say that deserves a mention here. Barrichello is having a torrid time here but its all rather mysterious. Just how can he be so slow in relation to his teammate. Even the infamous Taku was a lot closer than this.

Mysterious indeed was Ferrari's pace this weekend. At the early stage, Michael couldn't even resist the Toro Rossos. Vitantonio Liuzzi managing to find a way past the 7 time world champion. At that stage Alonso was happily lapping in the 1m 27s bracket whereas Michael was plodding on in the 1m 29s. Prior to his stop, he was then down into the 1m 27s and was up to fourth at one stage. After his stop, he was definitely catching Kimi at a tremendous rate of knots. However, you could tell that Michael was on the ragged edge. If I had to guess, I'd say that he was pushing the car way beyond its capabilities and he got caught out, slamming into the wall on lap 33.

Speaking of the Toro Rossos it was fantastic to seem them ahead of the "main" team. Scott Speed managing a points placing ahead of David Coulthard. I say, David, perhaps you should be worried about being replaced by Juan Pablo Montoya next year. Still, as Martin Brundle was saying, the Toro Rossos were so good at trying to appear to be slower than the rest that they ran into problems which only just have been sorted out. Today was the pace you would expect from them.

Giancarlo Fisichella got a very public and humiliating earful from his race engineer this weekend. Same car, same tyres, same strategy and he's more than a second slower. Of course the team would be irritated. In the end even Flavio had to get on the horn to tell him to just get on with the driving. I have a suspicion that despite the win last weekend, Renault is fast losing patience with Fisi. Its very surprising because here's the man who has destroyed his previous teammates and that list includes Heidfeld, Button and Ralf Schumacher.

Speaking of Ralf, it was a job well done by him and Toyota to get onto the podium ahead of the much fancied Jenson Button in the Honda. The folks in Japan must have been pleased. All this despite having to come into the pits for a penalty due to speeding in the pitlane. Of course, fortuitously, they were aided by the safety car periods.

Moving on to Jenson, his lack of pace is also surprising. It seems that he just didn't have the confidence to push his car. The low tempratures meant that everyone was having trouble with getting enough heat into the tyres. Nick Heidfeld noticeably having to weave on the straights after each restart to get the tyres up to temprature again.

Clearly though, the Honda team have a lot of work to do on the car. The race pace simply isn't there. So too, do Ferrari if they are to have any hope of seriously challenging for the world title. Irritatingly though, Ferrari are still third in the constructors and Michael still third in the driver's chase. All this despite both cars crashing out today.

It looks very much a Kimi vs Alonso battle for the championship at this stage. However, Alonso is having a great start to the season as he did last year. Whats more his driving and the car underneath him of course is an absolutely robust, dependable and solid performer. Not to mention, incredible consistent in its pace. It will be a hard pursuit.


patrick said...

I think Fisi's one of those drivers who appears to need a car that is absolutely right, and needs to be in the right frame of mind - or else he's nowhere.

He did outqualify Alonso, though.

Qwerty said...

Speaking from experience, you can't have a car thats perfect all the time. You somehow have to make do with what you have and thats what the better drivers manage to do. That is, drive around the problem. You can bet that Fernando is doing just that.