2013 Australian Grand Prix – The Review (featuring Senna)

The first race of the Formula 1 season is always a strange one, not least because for European viewers it happens ridiculously early on a Sunday morning. F1’s opening night tends to showcase who has potential for the year ahead and, more importantly, who has more work to do back at the factory. 2013’s edition was no exception, although the unexpected weather and split qualifying sessions meant Australia was possibly not the truest representation of where things currently lie.

The EngageSportMode team made a concerted effort to stay up and watch the rescheduled late-night qualifying session and the race itself live. Getting up at 6am is tough on the best of days, but a Sunday just seems to make it several times harder. Senna, ESM’s F1 canine correspondent, was dragged from her bed and made to watch also. Afterwards she spent the day chewing sticks, sleeping, and rolling in badger crap. But in between all that we managed to get her opinion on who performed best and worst Down Under.

Red Bull
Qualifying: Vettel – 1st, Webber – 2nd
Race: Vettel – 3rd, Webber – 6th

A front-row lock out should have yielded better results than this. Another awful start by Webber ruined his chances in the race. Vettel tried hard, but the car seemed to be struggling with tyres in the colder than expected condition. Sebastian still looks to be the man to beat, and you can guarantee he’ll be fired up for Malaysia.
Senna’s view: I could get an F1 car off the line better than Webber, and I don’t even have hands to hold the clutch paddle!

Ferrari
Qualifying: Alonso – 5th, Massa – 4th
Race: Alonso – 2nd, Massa – 4th

After the surprise of Felipe Massa outqualifying Fernando Alonso, the sardonic Spaniard looked deeply unimpressed at the end of Q3. Predictably it was Alonso who outshone Massa in the race, but the Brazilian’s form looks impressive even if he did fade later on. Fernando leapfrogged Vettel during the second round of pit stops and was able to build an effective barrier between himself and the Red Bull, securing second place.
Senna’s view: Still don’t like Alonso, or his eyebrows, but that Ferrari looks to be a contender already.

McLaren
Qualifying: Button – 10th, Perez – 15th
Race: Button – 9th, Perez – 11th
Oh dear. Despite having the strongest car at the end of the 2012 season, McLaren seems to have entered 2013 by completely forgetting everything they learnt in the closing stages of last year. Both drivers consistently struggled for pace in both qualifying and the race. The team made a colossal error to send Button and Perez out on slicks in Q2, and then furthered it by keeping the Mexican on them, thus destroying his qualifying. In the actual race things failed to improve, with Button scraping into the points and both cars not hugely far off being lapped.
Senna’s view: Somebody needs to be fired, probably Martin Whitmarsh.

Lotus
Qualifying: Raikkonen – 7th, Grosjean – 8th
Race: Raikkonen – 1st, Grosjean – 10th

I don’t think anyone really saw this result coming. An average qualifying session transpired into an epic victory for the Iceman, thanks to some superb strategy from the Enstone team. Only needing to stop twice, compared to other’s three stop strategies gave Kimi a compounding advantage, and the first win of 2013. Grosjean had a quiet race which, let’s be honest, is a good thing by his standards.
Senna’s view: Kimi is the only driver I’ve ever seen drink the champagne before spraying it!

Mercedes AMG
Qualifying: Rosberg – 6th, Hamilton – 3rd
Race: Rosberg – DNF, Hamilton – 5th

2013 could prove to be the season the Mercedes branded team finally gets the success it aspires to. Rosberg looked quick all weekend in practice and qualifying, with Hamilton showing good form in his first race for the team. An electrical error cut short Rosberg’s race, but it would have been interesting to see where he had ended up. Perhaps not title contenders just yet, but still a promising opening weekend.
Senna’s view: Having two drivers both with yellow helmets could be problematic for people like David Croft, who struggle to identify the right person at the best of times.

Sauber
Qualifying: Hulkenberg – 11th, Gutierrez – 18th
Race: Hulkenberg – DNS, Gutierrez – 13th

Not quite the weekend the Swiss team would have wanted. Rookie Gutierrez hit the wall in Q1 destroying his car’s nose cone and qualifying chances. Hulkenberg battled to a more respectable 11th, but then failed to start the race due to a fuel-system problem. Gutierrez fared little better come Sunday and finished a distant 13th, leaving the team with a distinctly average season opener.
Senna’s view: How many more Mexicans does Peter Sauber have lined up?

Force India
Qualifying: di Resta – 9th, Sutil – 12th
Race: di Resta – 8th, Sutil – 9th

After a year in the wilderness, Adrian Sutil proved Force India right in choosing him to partner Paul di Resta for 2013. Starting on medium compound tyres, compared to most of the field’s super-softs, Sutil was able to work himself into the lead whilst the front-runners pitted. A 7th place was the least he deserved and, had his tyres not faded so badly in the final stint, he should have found himself much higher up. On the other hand, Paul di Resta had a decidedly anonymous weekend and will need to get himself into the limelight if he’s to avoid being overshadowed by Sutil.
Senna’s view: If Sutil carries on like this he’ll actually give di Resta a reason to look miserable for a change.

Williams
Qualifying: Maldonado – 17th, Bottas – 16th
Race: Maldonado – DNF, Bottas – 14th

If McLaren thought they had problems, Williams find itself starting the 2013 season in an even darker place. The recent loss of Frank Williams’ wife cannot have helped the mood in the pits, and the performance on track did little to lift anyone’s spirits. Maldonado showed his inconsistent streak again, beaching his car on lap 24 after a spin and being forced to retire. Bottas didn’t exactly shine given all the expectations lauded upon him pre-season; a 12th fastest lap in what appears to be a uncompetitive car being the only minor positive for the weekend. Williams need help, and fast, if they’re to accomplish anything this year.
Senna’s view: I’m not bitter about them dropping Bruno Senna, honest. But Pastor hardly shows himself to be a team leader when he throws it off the track. Again.

Toro Rosso
Qualifying: Vergne – 13th, Ricciardo – 14th
Race: Vergne – 12th, Ricciardo – DNF

Will this be the season where one of Red Bull’s “junior” team finally proves themselves worthy of a major league drive? Most of the hype has been around Daniel Ricciardo, with expectations even higher for his home Grand Prix. It was, however, Jean-Eric Vergne who shined the brightest in Melbourne though. Strong in the wet qualifying sessions, he deserved to start and finish higher up the pack. His potential was at least highlighted by setting the second fastest lap in the race; less than 0.3 of a second of Raikonnen’s quickest. Ricciardo succumbed to the curse of the home race, retiring on lap 39 with a cracked exhaust pipe.
Senna’s view: Vergne proved his worth this weekend. Ricciardo just looks happy to be there; Paul di Resta he is not.

Caterham
Qualifying: Pic – 22nd, van der Garde – 21st
Race: Pic – 16th, van der Garde – 18th

All change for Caterham. Charles Pic joins from Marussia, Giedo van der Garde joins from time spent as Caterham’s test driver and GP2 racer. Melbourne gave little away in terms of what Caterham might be able to expect from the 2013 season, with unremarkable runs for both drivers. Giedo managed a big smash in qualifying, but other than that the green team featured little in events.
Senna’s view: I’ve been watching too much Jersey Shore, and I’ve decided I’m going to refer to van der Garde as ‘Guido’ all season.

Marussia
Qualifying: Bianchi – 19th, Chilton – 20th
Race: Bianchi – 15th, Chilton – 17th

Another backmarker team with another driver clear out in the off-season. Jules Bianchi was signed with only a couple of weeks to go, partnering Max Chilton (brother of BTCC racer Tom) for the beginning of the 2013 campaign. After Melbourne it would look like Marussia have a slight advantage over Caterham, along with real potential in Bianchi. His fastest lap in the race was only 0.045 seconds slower than that set by Sebastian Vettel; not bad given the huge performance differences in machinery.
Senna’s view: With HRT gone it’s all between Caterham and Marussia for last place. Right now, it’s the Russian team (from Oxford) who look best to avoid the wooden spoon.

There’s already talk of Raikonnen on his way to a second title, but after only one topsy-turvy weekend it’s still far too early to tell. Malaysia should hopefully be a more accurate test of form, providing we don’t more torrential rain. EngageSportMode will of course be watching and tweeting live again, followed by forcing Senna to make her opinions known afterwards. See you at Sepang!

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