This race also marks the first race in which Pirelli is the tire supplier and I have to say that the tires weren't as bad as they were reported to be during pre-season tire tests. And back to super senior Schumacher, the punctured tire due to being tagged by J. Aguersuari during the first few corners caused damage to his car's floor causing him to retire after around 20 or so laps.
There was some surprise to see Lewis Hamilton coming in second when it seemed that the McLaren was slightly down in lap times during initial tests. He manged to keep Vettel in sight and exchanged fastest laps times with Vettel throughout the race. Of course it still wasn't enough for him to actually get absolutely close for neck to neck racing. But this is only the first race and things change really quickly in Formula 1. There was a slight problem for Hamilton during the race though, the front skid plate at the bottom of his car came loose and started scraping the tarmac. One important ruling after completing the race is that the skid plate has a certain level of thickness left in them and if it got too thin, the FIA stewards would have deemed the car was running lower than the prescribed ride height. So far, no news on this would mean that Hamilton is secure in his second place.
For me the man who had a heck of a race must have been Fernando Alonso of Ferrari. At the end of the first lap he was placed 9th. He managed to claw right up to 4th position at the end of the race with a pit stop jump in position over Red Bull's Mark Webber. He was only a second adrift of 3rd place Petrov and if the race went a few laps longer could have taken that position. The other Ferrari driver, Filipe Massa finished in 9th.
I suppose this was a decent start for most of the teams. Red Bull's victory is not surprise with Alonso of Ferrari stating that Vettel's driving was from another planet. What surprised me was the performance of the Lotus Renault. It also marked Petrov's first podium finish and a first podium finish for the Renault-Lotus team-up. It also looks like THIS Lotus team is the one I'd put my money on instead of the one that's now called Team Lotus, run by AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandez.
Oh yes, there was a disqualification for the Sauber team. Both cars were deemed to have run illegal rear wings causing a change in the final race results. Quite sad news as one Sauber finished 7th. I suppose sometimes the teams try too hard to interpret the rules and it falls flat on their faces.
This race also marks more use of the KERS energy recovery system for that extra push during overtaking and down on the straights as well as the use (by some of the teams) of something called the DRS or drag reduction system, which to my understanding is pretty simple technology. This is one of the big changes in Formula 1 this year whereby the cars can have an electronically movable rear wing that (obviously) reduces drag and theoretically will assist overtaking during the course of a race. The DRS utilized the on track electronic timing system at designated points on the circuit, when the trailing car is within one second of the car in front the system will be armed and the driver will have access to the DRS. He will not however be able to use the system until another designated point of the track around 600 metres before the next corner. The last point is subject to ongoing adjustment as the system is bedded in. There will be markings on the circuit to indicate the points where the timing assessment is made and where the driver may use the system to assist spectators and TV viewers. All for the sake of entertainment I suppose.
Whatever the case, the F1 circus moves over the Sepang, Malaysia. Race weekend is on th 8th, 9th and 10th of April 2011.
01. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1h29:30.259
2. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes + 22.297
3. Petrov Renault + 30.560
4. Alonso Ferrari + 31.772
5. Webber Red Bull-Renault + 38.171
6. Button McLaren-Mercedes + 54.300
7. Perez Sauber-Ferrari + 1:05.800
8. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari + 1:16.800
9. Massa Ferrari + 1:25.100
10. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1 lap
11. Sutil Force India-Mercedes + 1 lap
12. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes + 1 lap
13. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1 lap
14. Heidfeld Renault + 1 lap
15. Trulli Lotus-Renault + 2 laps
16. D'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth + 3 laps
Glock Virgin-Cosworth 50
Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 49
Rosberg Mercedes 22
Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 19
Schumacher Mercedes 19
Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 10
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull
2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren
3. Vitaly Petrov Renault
4. Fernando Alonso Ferrari
5. Mark Webber Red Bull
6. Jenson Button McLaren
7. Felipe Massa Ferrari
8. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso
9. Adrian Sutil Force India
10. Paul di Resta Force India
11. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso
12. Nick Heidfeld Renault
13. Jarno Trulli Lotus
14. Jerome D'Ambrosio Virgin
Sergio Perez Sauber 58
Kamui Kobayashi 58
Timo Glock Virgin 50
Rubens Barrichello Williams 49
Nico Rosberg Mercedes 22
Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 19
Michael Schumacher Mercedes 19
Pastor Maldonado Williams 10