Vettel untouchable in Australian GP

Vettel carves out a lead at the start

Vettel carves out a lead at the start

Sebastian Vettel took a completely dominant victory in the Australian Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton made it to the flag in 2nd, after struggling with a damaged car, while Vitaly Petrov shocked the paddock by taking his first ever podium. Here is the report from the first race of 2011:

Vettel retained his lead at the first corner, while Hamilton came under huge pressure from Mark Webber. Vitaly Petrov and Felipe Massa made stunning starts to progress to 4th and 5th. Michael Schumacher and Jaime Alguersuari pitted for repairs at the end of Lap 1, while Sebastian began to carve out a huge gap to Hamilton behind.

Massa soon came under huge pressure from Button behind. Lap 3 saw the first attempt at a DRS overtaking move, but Felipe’s plentiful supply of KERS kept him ahead.

Paul di Resta, who leapt up to 10th at the start, was soon taken by Sebastien Buemi, and then pressurised by his team-mate Sutil. Button and Massa continued to tussle lap after lap, which allowed Fernando Alonso to catch up to the duo, after losing several places at the start. Pastor Maldonado became the first retirement on Lap 12, pulling over to the side of the track.

Button made a move on Massa, but cut a chicane and illegaly got past. However, before he was able to give the position back, Alonso overtook Massa as well, meaning the McLaren had to cede position to both Ferraris. However, he initially refused to give way, stating that he had track position.

Webber pitted for hard tyres, while Alonso stopped for softs. Up front, Lewis began catching Sebastian, as the Red Bulls tyres began to fade. Vettel pitted on Lap 14 in response, for the softer compound.

His actions soon caught up to Button, as he was awarded a drive-through penalty for failing to give way to Alonso and Massa. He took the lead during the pit stop battles, but was overtaken beautifully by Vettel, showing that his racing prowess has certainly improved over the winter. Hamilton pitted one lap later, but failed to jump the Red Bull.

Button eventually pitted on Lap 20, and soon came under pressure by the still-duelling Force Indias. Heikki Kovalainen,Timo Glock and Michael Schumacher all soon fell prey to reliability problems.

Rubens Barrichello, charging throught he field after his disastrous qualifying, soon caught up to Nico Rosberg in 8th. He failed to activate his DRS quickly enough, so he tried a KERS-assisted move at Turn 3. However, he braked way too late and hit the side of the Mercedes. Nico retired with sidepod damage, while the Williams pitted for a new front wing.

Onboard with Barrichello as he takes out Rosberg

Onboard with Barrichello as he takes out Rosberg

Button gained hugely from this incident, and progressed back into the points. He quickly made the first DRS-assisted pass of 2011, muscling past Kamui Kobayashi.

Webber surprised many by pitting early for the soft tyre again on Lap 27. Alonso followed him in on the next lap. Barrichello’s race was well and truly ruined when he received a drive-through for his accident with Rosberg. Hamilton’s pace in 2nd began to struggle, after his undertray became damage, and the McLaren started to lose downforce.

The race leader soon began to lose pace, and pitted for his final set of tyres, the harder compound. Petrov pitted also, but failed to pass Webber for 3rd.

Alonso soon got close to Webber, but wasn’t close enough to utilise his DRS. Mark soon pitted, confirming his use of the 3-stop strategy, and releasing the Ferrari into 3rd. Fernando soon pitted, and emerged ahead of the Red Bull.

Mark tried to fight back, but with the Red Bull not seeming to have a useable KERS system, he was unable to pass the Ferrari. His DRS kept him within range, but Fernando’s liberal use of KERS on the main straight kept him ahead.

Doubt over the DRS system was slightly allayed by Jenson Button passing Massa for 5th place using the device a few laps later. Sergio Perez, having only made one stop, soon began harassing the Ferrari for position.

Petrov fully deserved his first ever podium

Petrov fully deserved his first ever podium

Sebastian Vettel was left unchallenged all race to take the race win, 12 seconds ahead of Hamilton, who carried his broken undertray all the way to the finish. Vitaly Petrov held off Alonso to take his first ever podium, while Mark Webber pulled over after crossing the line, suggesting a problem with the car.

Button was 6th, while Sergio Perez had a wonderful drive to take points in his first ever F1 race. Felipe Massa took 9th ahead of Sebastien Buemi. Sutil and Di Resta just missed out on points for Force India.

While the DRS system didn’t have as big an impact as expected, it still allowed for several passes, and should be more effective in later races with longer straights. Vettel was in dominant form every lap of the race, and Petrov proved himself to be a huge talent with his podium finish.

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