Sebastian Vettel | Red Bull Racing | 3rd | 8/10
Vettel’s pace throughout the dry sessions sent an ominous warning shot to the rest of his rivals. But in the race this speed never materialised and although he bolted into the lead, he was quickly reined in by the Ferraris before being usurped by Alonso and the two stopping Raikkonen. The RB9 didn’t suit the conditions in Melbourne but he still claimed a podium.
Mark Webber | Red Bull Racing | 6th | 6/10
It was a disappointing day for Webber but he’s fortunate to salvage points from a difficult race. Telemetry issues, ECU problems and finally KERS failure combined to make his event pretty challenging. Lap times towards the end were strong although he was too far back to battle Hamilton.
Fernando Alonso | Ferrari | 2nd | 8/10
Alonso spent periods of the weekend in Massa’s shadow but come the second round of stops, Alonso asserted his authority and jumped ahead of both Vettel and his team-mate. His usual panache was evident at the start as he flirted with danger before jinking to the outside of Turn 1. Early move on Hamilton was important but second is a promising result to take to Malaysia. He was also a little fortunate to escape a late encounter with a Caterham.
Felipe Massa | Ferrari | 4th | 8/10
The Massa on show in Melbourne this season was far removed from the crumbling Massa of twelve months ago. The Brazilian drove with a verve and confidence throughout the weekend and his early hounding of Vettel showed his hunger. The strategy didn’t pan out favourably, but it’s an encouraging sign for Ferrari that Massa is back at the front.
Jenson Button | McLaren | 9th | 6/10
McLaren ended 2012 with probably the fastest car as the MP4-27 won the final two races of the season. The car was still getting better, while the stability of the rules provided promise for a season of championship contention. So how has McLaren turned up to the first race with a car barely capable of making Q3 that finishes 80 seconds behind the winner? Answers on a postcard please.
Sergio Perez | McLaren | 11th | 5/10
Baffling qualifying decision to change to slicks on a wet track left him stranded but he did make a good start to make amends. Pace was comparable to Button although the car was unlikely to be strong enough to vault up the field like he did in 2012. It’s the first time he’s finished outside of the top ten in Australia.
Kimi Raikkonen | Lotus | 1st | 10/10
It’s been a long time – nine years – since Car #7 won a Formula One race. Step forwards Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn qualified down in seventh place but a good start allied to consistent speed and tyre preservation sprung him into a lead that he retained until the chequered flag. A fantastic drive as he mastered Lotus’s strategy to absolute perfection.
Romain Grosjean | Lotus | 10th | 5/10
The good news is that he survived the first lap and brought the car home in a points scoring position. The bad news is that his team-mate won while he was almost a lap down in tenth. That’s not the Romain Grosjean that we know and he thinks something was wrong with the car.
Nico Rosberg | Mercedes | Ret | 6/10
Rosberg was rapid in Q1 but when it mattered he fell short and lined up sixth, a row behind team-mate Hamilton. In the race he was running at a similar pace to Hamilton and on course for a likely sixth or seventh place when the electrics packed up. Handily, it happened at the Turn 4 car park.
Lewis Hamilton | Mercedes | 5th | 8/10
It’s far too soon to declare Hamilton a genius for moving to Mercedes from McLaren, but the W04 showed encouraging pace to suggest that the Brit could be in the running for podiums this season. Race pace was good but switch to three stop strategy was vital in securing fifth.
Nico Hulkenberg | Sauber | DNS | N/A
Three times Nico Hulkenberg has made the long journey to Albert Park and three times he’s failed to complete a lap. This year was a new low as a fuel system problem left him stranded in the garage. A bitter disappointment, particularly as 11th on the grid gave him free choice of tyres. Next year Nico, stay at home.
Esteban Gutierrez | Sauber | 13th | 5/10
The man with the most Mexican sounding name in the entire world suffered a heavy shunt in qualifying but bounced back to finish his maiden race. Properly judging Gutierrez is difficult due to the lack of a benchmark but it’s certainly an encouraging start.
Paul di Resta | Force India | 8th | 7/10
The Scot drove a good race but felt he was held up by the three stopping cars on a couple of occasions and could have finished seventh. He appeared frustrated when talking to Sky Sports F1 after the race and felt he was on the wrong strategy.
Adrian Sutil | Force India | 7th | 8/10
His alternative strategy flattered the pace of the Force India but it was a hugely positive day for the returning Sutil. For the first time in his ninety-one race career he led a lap and drove with an authority and flamboyance that belied the fact he’s been away for a year.
Pastor Maldonado | Williams | Ret | 2/10
Maldonado rather unprofessionally publicly criticised his team and compared the car to the woeful FW33 after just two practice sessions. It’s all well and good doing that but you can’t then throw it off the road twice – the latter clumsily and terminally – and then be expected to command respect, especially after being outqualified in tricky conditions by your rookie team-mate. It was an extremely poor weekend.
Valtteri Bottas | Williams | 14th | 6/10
The man with the most frequently capitalised surname in the history of the sport was quietly impressive in his debut. While Maldonado evaluated the Albert Park gravel traps, Bottas’s pace was commendable while he was also assured in difficult qualifying conditions.
Jean-Eric Vergne | Scuderia Toro Rosso | 12th | 7/10
It was a strong showing for Vergne although he squandered a points chance at the end when he tried to pass Button but dropped behind Grosjean and Perez. Pace on the option tyres was average but the car was more switched on when the prime tyres were fitted to the STR8.
Daniel Ricciardo | Scuderia Toro Rosso | Ret | 5/10
Lady luck was not shining on the Australians at their home race as an exhaust problem ended Ricciardo’s race. The perma-grinning Ricciardo was always unlikely to score points as a disastrous start dropped him towards the back of the grid and he struggled with the option tyres. By the time he rediscovered his pace it was too late and his retirement compounded woes.
Charles Pic | Caterham | 16th | 6/10
Pic struggled with the option tyres but he managed to complete a two stop strategy to finish in sixteenth place. A KERS failure towards the end of the race hindered his progress but he achieved the maximum.
Giedo van der Garde | Caterham | 18th | 4/10
It wasn’t the greatest of debut weekends for Van der Garde as he came home in last place in the green and yellow machine. Suffered a slow puncture early on but pace late in the race was baffling. Despite pitting within a lap of Pic, he suffered a sudden pace drop off fifteen laps from home and was consistently a second or two shy of his team-mate from that moment.
Jules Bianchi | Marussia | 15th | 8/10
Arguably the most impressive rookie across the entire weekend. Bianchi was the best of the backmarkers during qualifying and was within a reasonable distance of the Williams drivers when he had to make a late stop. Marussia has made progress over the winter.
Max Chilton | Marussia | 17th | 6/10
Chilton’s progress on his debut was limited by a collision with Van der Garde that wasn’t captured on the live feed. He was nonetheless consistently slower than Bianchi but wasn’t the last classified runner and can take encouragement from his maiden start.