2008 Australian Grand Prix report

by Ed Foster on 16th March 2008

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The Formula 1 World Championship certainly got off to an action-packed start – 9 cars taken out of contention by accidents, 5 breakdowns, a disqualification and only 7 finishers.

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Hamilton avoided the carnage that unravelled behind him and romped home to take the top spot on the podium. The British driver could hardly relax as his lead was constantly cut by safety car interventions, however, he kept his cool and never put a foot wrong.

As always he congratulated the team on how well the car was running and dropped a small line about the difference to last year’s McLaren, “the car was phenomenal, a complete dream to drive compared to last year.” Whether this was a loaded comment or not – it certainly made it clear that Hamilton backs himself without the ‘help’ of Alonso’s experience in car setup and development.

The real action though, took place behind the leading McLaren. The Ferraris had a dreadful day with both cars spinning and then eventually retiring with engine failures. Massa was quick to say that Ferraris shouldn’t have such problems but if I am not mistaken it was exactly this that gave Alonso a second title in 2006, when Schumacher’s car drifted to a halt.

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The Scuderia will no doubt be quick to sort the problem but it must be playing on their minds having come away from a Grand Prix weekend with only 1 point. Nowadays it is rare for even a single car to break down, unless of course you were driving a Red Bull last year, so for both to come to grinding halt… well it will be about as easy to stomach as their arch rival cruising to an easy victory, especially with their record at Albert Park.

Kovalainen was one of the unlucky, fortunate drivers of the day. Fortunate because he managed to avoid the various impacts happening around him but unlucky because a third safety car period meant that his pit stop left him well down the order. Ron Dennis was clearly pleased when the Finn overtook Alonso near the end but sadly Kovalainen accidentally hit the pit lane speed limiter button while removing a tear-off from his visor, letting Alonso cruise past with 1 lap remaining. The fact that he got the fastest lap of the race will be small consolation. Still, his debut for McLaren was certainly more successful than his opening race for Renault.

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Alonso showed just what a class act he is while carving through the field and pulling off great manoeuver after great manoeuver. Although the Renault was clearly off the pace, he managed to bring the car home 4th. Piquet’s debut was similar to Kovalainen’s first few races last season – the Brazilian spent much of the race running at the back and was eventually taken out of contention when his car was involved in an accident.

Honda had a similarly bad day as Button was involved in an accident at turn one on the opening lap and Barrichello, having finished in 6th was later disqualified for leaving the pit lane on a red light, giving Raikkonen the point.

Rosberg got his first podium with a solid third position and rightly so; he drove a good race and proved that this will be the first of many now that the car is competitive enough to occasionally trouble the McLarens, Ferraris, and BMWs. Heidfeld took second place and it was a shame that Kubica, after such a good qualifying, was involved in an accident which ended his race just over ten laps from the end.

I can’t believe that every Formula 1 race this season will be as chaotic as Albert Park – but it just may be that banning traction control was the sport’s best move in recent history. To see the likes of Raikkonen pushing it hard enough to spin while attempting to overtake someone was a reminder of just how difficult these cars are to keep on the straight and narrow when on the limit. The Finn shrugged off his erratic driving in typical fashion by merely saying that he “was a bit too optimistic.”

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It was the unlikely face of Nakajima that summed the day up though, after bringing the second Williams home in 6th place, he concluded that “to get to the end today was great.” How right he was, and long may unpredictable Formula 1 continue.

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Pos Driver Team Time/Retired Grid Pts
1. Hamilton McLaren 1:34:50.616 1 10
2. Heidfeld BMW +5.4 secs 5 8
3. Rosberg Williams +8.1 secs 7 6
4. Alonso Renault +17.1 secs 11 5
5. Kovalainen McLaren +18.0 secs 3 4
6. Nakajima Williams +1 Lap 13 3
7. Bourdais Toro Rosso +3 Laps 17 2
8. Raikkonen Ferrari Engine 15 1
Ret Kubica BMW Accident 2
Ret Glock Toyota Accident 18
Ret Sato Super Aguri Transmission 19
Ret Piquet Renault Accident 20
Ret Massa Ferrari Engine 4
Ret Coulthard Red Bull Accident 8
Ret Trulli Toyota Electrical 6
Ret Sutil Force India Hydraulics 22
Ret Webber Red Bull Accident 14
Ret Button Honda Accident 12
Ret Davidson Super Aguri Accident 21
Ret Vettel Toro Rosso Accident 9
Ret Fisichella Force India Accident 16
DSQ Barrichello Honda +52.4 secs 10

Manufacturer standings

Pos Team No of podiums Best Result Points
1. McLaren 1 x 1 1 x 1st 14
2. Williams 1 x 1 1 x 3rd 9
3. BMW 1 x 1 1 x 2nd 8
4. Renault 1 x 4th 5
5. Toro Rosso 1 x 7th 2
6. Ferrari 1 x 8th 1
7. Toyota 2 x Ret
8. Super Aguri 2 x Ret
9. Red Bull 2 x Ret
10. Force India 2 x Ret
11. Honda 1 x Ret

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