This would be the last time Herr Vettel would smile at the 2010 Australian GP. Just as two weeks ago in Bahrain, his Red Bull car would give up the ghost and cost the talented Teuton another race win. This time though, his RB6 car also robbed him of any points, as a brake failure would send him into the gravel, rendering him unable to finish. Red Bull looked set to dominate this weekend’s Grand Prix with Vettel and Webber qualifying 1-2. The usual suspects of Ferrari’s Alonso (Q3) and Massa (Q5) and McLaren’s Button (Q4) and Hamilton (Q11) were also near the front of the grid. Another strong contender was Renault’s Robert Kubica, who found himself on the top of time sheets in practise Friday, but stumbled in qualifying into 9th on the grid. After a tumultuous start to the race that saw Schumacher’s front wing damaged, Kubica jumped up to 4th and Alonso and Hamilton were sent further back. Kubica would finish the race is a solid 2nd.
The race started with a wet track, but warm weather was on the way. Button used his gut feeling to pit early on lap 7 for dry tires and used this strategic manoeuvre to vault past other cars still on wet tires. Using his characteristically smooth driving style, he didn’t need to pit again and would go on to win the Australian GP for the second consecutive year – also marking his first win with McLaren. Hamilton used a two-pit strategy and made for a very interesting second half of the race as he closed in on the two Ferraris ahead of him who were on older tires. Hamilton closed a 20+ second gap in no time but couldn’t get past the cunning Fezzas. Massa and Alonso would stay ahead of Hamilton for the duration of the race and finish in 3rd and 4th, respectively. Naturally, Hamilton started whining over the radio to his pit crew about how Button had only pitted once and he had pitted twice. Boo hoo. Hamilton ended up in 6th despite a late race spill with Mark Webber’s Red Bull. Webber would finish in 9th.
Away from the drama at the front of the pack, both Virgin cars, Sutil’s Force India, Petrov’s Renault, Senna’s HRT, Buemi’s Toro Rosso, Hulkenberg’s Williams, and Kobayashi’s Sauber all failed to finish the race.
Schumacher snagged a 10th place finish after spending about 30 very frustrating laps stuck behind Toro Rosso’s Alguersuari. Mercedes GP teammate Nico Rosberg finished in 5th, once again ahead of his 7-time World Champion teammate, proving that he isn’t afraid of a challenge.
It was also a big day for Force India, who secured crucial Constructor’s Championship points after a 7th place finish by Vitantonio Liuzzi.
Those who were concerned that the 2010 season would lack drama and excitement quieted down after this morning’s race. It turns out that it was the Bahrain event itself that was lacking. All the season needed was a little rain.
The full gallery of haps, mishaps, and candid driver moments is below.
[Photo credit: Iceman Forever/Flikr]