Michael Bailey: Sebastian Vettel grows up and gets poetic with it
Becoming a world champion has clearly had a strange effect on Sebastian Vettel. “We keep on working, we do our thing, we are who we are,” said the 23-year-old over the team radio, in a rare moment of poetry from an F1 cockpit after he stuck his RB7 firmly on pole in Melbourne.
Good week, bad week
• GW – McLaren: After winter struggles, an overhaul of the car did the trick for Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton; Sebastian Vettel: Simply put, his Red Bull looked untouchable.
• BW – Nick Heidfeld: Keeping Robert Kubica’s Renault seat warm, but outclassed by team-mate Vitaly Petrov all weekend in Melbourne; Karun Chandhok: Crashed after just three corners of his first free practice with Team Lotus.
Not even Red Bull team principal Christian Horner could shed any light on what exactly the German star was trying to go on about on Saturday.
But what made a better impression was everything else Vettel did in Australia this weekend.
His approach to questions before and after each session, as well as the way he took almost a second out of his closest rivals in qualifying before dominating the opening race of the season oozed class.
It also showed a maturity that proving himself last year has obviously brought out. Nobody could touch him.
"I will sleep with this (trophy) tonight…I’m delighted to be on the podium, especially after the winter we had"
Add to that the fact Red Bull did not run the power boost system Kers on either of their cars, and a couple more weekends like the one in Australia will have the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso wondering what scraps will be left for the rest of the field this year.
Given the rather tortured relationship between Vettel and his team-mate Mark Webber last season, the images following Sunday’s chequered flag also said a lot.
Vettel was busy punching the air during his lap of honour – one which probably took about as much out of him as the preceding 58.
As for Webber, he pulled up his car at the end of the pit lane and headed pack to the paddock looking a rather lonely soul.
Watching a driver race off into the distance is easier to take if they are in another machine.
Watching your team-mate do it in effectively the same car asks a lot of difficult questions – ones Webber will hopefully answer when Formula One takes on the Malaysian Grand Prix, in Kuala Lumpur in 11 days time.
While there were ominous signs at the very front of the grid, a good old fashioned midfield shake-up seems to be going on.
Group Lotus-backed Renault – through Vitaly Petrov, if not Nick Heidfeld – picked up an excellent podium, while Sauber were the surprise package.
Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi took seventh and eighth – only to be disqualified because their rear wings broke FIA regulations.
Sauber are appealing the decision, as it did not “lead to any performance advantage” – but they will have to match their “dream start” in Malaysia to prove it.
• For Norfolk’s Team Lotus, it was not quite the opening weekend they had been hoping for.
I think most in Hingham – and outside – had been looking for the T128 to be much closer to the likes of Toro Rosso and Force India than they managed in practice and qualifying around Albert Park.
Chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne admitted it, tweeting after the race: “Everyone right to expect more from us in qualifying, up to us to deliver in Malaysia.”
The team were happier with the pace come the race, but in the end Team Lotus left with a 20th lap retirement thanks to a water leak on Heikki Kovalainen’s car and Jarno Trulli’s 13th place – two laps behind the rest of the field and two laps ahead of Timo Glock and Jerome d’Ambrosio in the two Virgins.
That is pretty much where they finished 2010 – and enough to disappoint some.
But these are still early days – and a far cry from where the new boys of last year found themselves after their trip to Melbourne 12 months ago. What was noticeable was the amount of coverage given to the ‘new’ teams over the weekend.
Obviously last year Hispania, Lotus and Virgin were as much a novelty as they were a talking point. People wanted to look into them, talk about them and what their futures could hold.
From this year’s opening race, it seems that appetite has gone and it will be performances on the track that earn them screen time and pundit chatter.
That is the way it should be, of course – but it may be some time before the trio make such an impact.
And for the likes of Hispania, who did not start the race in Melbourne because they qualified outside the reinstated cut-off time – 107pc of pole position – it could be the kind of situation that threatens their survival.
• So there was not quite the carnage predicted on the opening weekend of the season.
No sign of the new Pirelli tyres disintegrating before our eyes, bringing endless pit stops.
There was not the painfully easy overtaking brought about by the new moveable rear wing – or Drag Reduction System – to the point of appearing to be a gimmick.
And the dominant Red Bull in the hands of Sebastian Vettel did not even run Kers – something widely considered a must-have for the front runners.
It created an intriguing, if not heart-stopping race. But that does not mean the new measures failed. On the contrary.
DRS evidently made a part of the Melbourne track easier to pass at than usual, while the tyres successfully brought different pit stop strategies to the table.
All of which has seemingly made the driver absolutely key, rather than the car, and that is enough to make for a season that can compete with 2010.
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