Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Australian Opener

Now while most people consider the 1st of January to be the start of a new year, for those of us into Formula 1 the new year starts somewhat later than this, in mid March. It's a long wait, considering the end of the F1 season is typically in November, and thus we have nearly four months of 'no man's land'. Thankfully, we've made it through the winter (although for us fans in the UK, we still seems to be in the middle of an ice age) and last weekend the new F1 season began.

2012 was an amazing year for F1. We didn't have a single boring race - even though we only had one race in the wet (I guess that kills Bernie's ideas about sprinklers on the side of the track). The first seven races saw seven different winners, and towards the end of the year we had an amazing battle between Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel, with the latter clinching the title after the most exciting race I've ever watched. So, with this in mind, we were all waiting to see what 2013 had to offer.

Pre-season testing was the usual affair: F1 journalists tried to tease out little details to give us an indication of things to come, teams were tight-lipped over just what they'd done to the cars, and F1 nerds (like me) realised that there was little point in paying much notice to the times that were posted. Really, the first indication we got of who was placed where came in the first qualifying session of the year.

Australia is a great opening race, however it does have the downside that European fans have to sacrifice a weekend's sleep to watch it. This was fine, if a little painful. So, on Saturday I woke up at 4:45 ready for the hour programme before qualifying and the 6:00 start. Unfortunately, what greeted me was a screen saying 'We apologise for the technical difficulties that we are experiencing'... That's right. A four month wait, to be met with technical difficulties. This wasn't the fault of the broadcaster - a quick delve into the F1 Twitter community informed me that there was a worldwide outage of F1 because of a powercut caused by heavy rain. Thankfully, things were fixed in time for the start of qualifying, and finally we were ready to see the 2013 pecking order.

Well, that's what we thought anyway. Turns out, the rain was so heavy in Albert Park that qualifying was postponed. After a bit of a wait, Q1 was underway, with the six slowest cars eliminated. Then, it rained again. And again. And again. Q2 was postponed by 10 minutes, 20 minutes, restart at 6:50 GMT, cancelled until Sunday morning. Yep. A four month wait, a 4:45am start, and no idea which team was quickest.

So, on Saturday night/Sunday morning, when most students would still be out partying, I got up at 11:45pm to resume qualifying. Thankfully, this time there were no problems, and we discovered that Sebastian Vettel was the fastest man on the F1 grid. Again. Being a die-hard Red Bull/Vettel fan, I was rather pleased at this, however I couldn't celebrate for long as I needed to get a few more hours sleep before the race.

Four hours after qualifying, I was up again (4:30am for those of you wondering just how insane I am). The build up to the race was heightening the tension, and at 6:00 we got going with the 2013 season. Luckily, the race itself showed that we were most likely going to have another thriller of a season. Overtakes, many different race leaders (including the Force India of Adrian Sutil - pretty good comeback from him!), and an unexpected race winner - Kimi Raikkonen. What more could you ask for?

Annoyingly, I've noticed a trend for F1 journalists to predict who is going to win the championship as soon as the chequered flag falls. While Kimi undoubtedly has had the best start (25 points all in all), let's not forget that Alonso and Vettel are right behind. With 18 races left to go, it seems to me that anyone from the top three teams (which are apparently Lotus, Red Bull and Ferrari) has a great shot, although I would expect that Mercedes are chasing hard, and McLaren will sort out whatever problems are plaguing them in order to give Button (or even Perez) a chance. So, 18 races, 9(ish) months... It's going to be an interesting one!