Had not Michael Schumachers Mercedes succumbed to a gearbox failure on Sunday afternoon, we may have seen a very different pattern to the Australian Grand Prix and may prove an indicator for the early season.
That Mark Webber’s RB8 could be held up by Nico Rosberg in a Mercedes with graining tyres for so long should sound alarm bells at Red Bull. Had it not been for a chance safety car, Webber’s race may have been over despite turning in the fastest long stint of the race. Vettel was aware of this and made damn sure after turn one that he wouldn’t be staring at the feathered end of a Silver Arrow. Red Bull will need to qualify strongly in future if they’re to reap the rewards of their obvious race pace.
Rosberg is confident Mercedes can get around their tyre degradation issues, indicating that “with good set-up you can get around these things”. Possibly, but I’m suspicious their stella qualifying was in itself a compromise of race set-up. Not so with Lotus, with Raikonnen showing consistent speed – even after requesting “more front wing” on the warm-up lap.
The new safety car rule (allowing lapped cars to pass and rejoin the pack) will most certainly need to be reviewed. Charlie Whiting’s prediction that the process would take “one extra lap” fell short by at least three. Certainly we don’t want a restart situation with protagonists bring blocked by back-markers, but the talent on the grid negates this “necessity”.
The performance Fernando Alonso turned in on Sunday should not be underestimated. No offense to Pastor Maldonado, but I suspect the Williams at this stage is slightly quicker than Ferrari over a long stint. Fantastic news for Williams but bad news for Ferrari. I suspect Fernando is the only one who can hold his head up at Maranello right now – and he knows it. If Alain Prost (who was sacked for likening his Ferrari to a truck) was watching, I suspect he’s wearing a rather mordant grin right now…