There were quite a few story lines from the Australian GP, namely the attrition rate with only eight cars running at the checkered flag. While we expected unreliability and typical errors of a season opener, eight cars running at the end could not have been predicted. We saw first lap crashes, numerous cars going off track, and a handful of engine ‘kablamos’.
With all the chaos though, Lewis Hamilton had a drama free run with a good fuel strategy, timely pit stops to avoid safety car jumbling, and outright dead pace. If it weren’t for Timo Glock’s high flying off to bring out the safety car, McLaren would have easily secured P1 and P2, with a great debut drive for Kovalainen, who set the race’s fastest lap. BMW and Williams also had great races to start off the season. Following them on timing and scoring, they had impressive race day pace to validate Heidfeld and Rosberg’s podium finishes.
The biggest shock of the weekend easily goes to Ferrari’s pathetic reliability and embarrassing mistakes by both drivers. Massa effectively ruined his race almost immediately, with a senseless spin while exiting the first corner. Kimi stormed to the front on an amazing start, only for him to be halted by the surprising Honda for most of the first stint. Once in touch of the leaders after one of the many safety car periods, the Kimster threw all the hard work away by outbraking himself trying to pass Kovalainen, the second of his two off track excursions. At the end of the day, both Ferraris had engine failures, a fitting end to their Grand Prix.
Renault caught a break in the last stint and Fred collected a fourth place finish thanks to more attrition, a nice way to end a turbulent weekend. Meanwhile, Nelson Jr. never got to grips with the weekend and had an awful race, making Fred’s run even more rewarding for the Renault boys. Meanwhile, the Honda squad had a break in the other direction, disappointingly ending up with JB crashing out on the first lap and Barichello DQ’ing. There might be light at the end of the Honda misery tunnel though. As mentioned above, Rubens’ Honda was able to fend off Kimi’s Ferrari for most of the first stint and managed to contend for points. However, the ill-timed safety car period in the last stint caught Honda out on their final stop and ruined Honda’s day. On that disastrous final stop, Rubens managed to run over a few crew members and ignored a red light leaving the pits, which disqualified Rubens and negated an otherwise impressive run.
The most exciting run of the weekend easily goes to Sebastien Bourdais. After being dusted off by his teammate on Friday and Saturday, Bourdais had himself in position for an improbable fourth place finish, after starting seventeenth. Unfortunately, the Ferrari V8 let him down, another Ferrari engine failure. Fortunately, in suffering the issue with only three laps from the finish, Sebastien earned a well deserved point finish in P7.
With the Australian GP in the books, the 2008 season is officially underway. Without any layoff, the teams head to Malaysia for round two next week. Look for reliability to remain an issue and for Ferrari to already be desperate to keep pace with McLaren.