2006 Australian Grand Prix

Better late than never. Races don’t come much more action-packed than that. It’s just as well the race itself was good fun, because by the looks of it there isn’t going to be much of a championship battle this year. Renault and Alonso look as though they could race their cars backwards and still walk the championship in their sleep.

Just like qualifying, cars were falling of the circuit left, right and centre. Juan Pablo Montoya didn’t even wait for the race to start to go off on a spin. He looked like a bit of a funnyman. Lucky for him that Fisichella stalled and caused there to be a second warm-up lap! Montoya’s retirement in the end was possibly one of the strangest I’ve ever seen. If that had happened to me I would be pissed off, but Montoya in his post-race interview he was joking about it! “Haha, yeah, I had a few spins! Crazy old me, eh?” Fiery guy.

He went off in the same place as Michael Schumacher, and that really was weird. Schumi made several mistakes in the run-up to his retirement. It’s not unusual to see him run a bit wide every once in a while, but he just piled on mistake after mistake. James Allen said he was obviously wound-up big time because he ended up storming into the Toyota garage apparently thinking it was his Ferrari garage! Very odd.

Loads of folk were crashing though. Massa once again proved how much of an idiot he is. He took out Rosberg at the first corner, which is a shame for Rosberg. Klien had a funny accident near the start as well, and Tonio Liuzzi had a strange off after a restart. Must have been a tyre thing — loads of folk were complaining about grip.

Fisichella and Button were both complaining about grip. I think Fisichella is just making excuses though because he magically found a bit of speed when the boss got on the radio to tell him to pull his finger out (after having already been told, live on worldwide television, that he was being two seconds slower than Alonso for no good reason). He lucked into that 5th place due to Button’s problem, although he was pretty brave to drive straight into Button’s fire and oil. And given that Fisichella had to start the race from the pitlane I guess he has to take a bit of credit for getting that far up the field in the first place.

As for Button’s last-minute engine blow-up, it meant one of the most exciting ends to a race that I can remember. How unlucky must you be for your engine to blow up on the very last corner? Gutting. Button drove a smooth race yet again, but although he can get the odd pole position (and he didn’t seem to be too lightly fuelled) he is seriously lacking in race pace.

Honda’s decision to pull over to avoid getting an engine penalty is a talking point. I would certainly have gone for the points if I could. It’s a bit defensive to sacrifice two, three or maybe even four points for a measely grid penalty isn’t it? Are they really so scared of ten places on the grid? Pat Symmonds says it was the right choice — but he’s with the other team so I don’t know if I believe him! Whatever, if this was really about taking advantage of Button’s and Honda’s strength at Imola, surely this strength would only make the ten place penalty easier to swallow.

As for Alonso and Räikkönen, I am sad that Räikkönen wasn’t able to challenge Alonso more closely. By the end of the race Kimi wasn’t actually that far behind, but all sorts of things were conspiring against him. He had some kind of problem with his front wing which wasn’t a help. But the biggest factor was the restarts — the Midlands allowed Alonso to storm away and have a four second lead at the restart — twice. Alonso doesn’t even need to try with help like that. This really bunched up the field and some of the restarts were insane.

Alonso can take a lot more credit for what happened at the first restart. His overtaking move on Button was perfectly timed and got me very excited. Genius. It is moments like that that make you really appreciate why Alonso is World Champion.

Third place was Ralf Schumacher, and that is a real return to form for Toyota. A surprise after their fairly torrid first couple of races, particularly Bahrain where they really were in amongst the backmarkers. When you consider that Ralf had a drive-through penalty as well, Schumacher Jnr’s race was pretty good.

The BMWs were also fantastic. They look much stronger than I had anticipated, and I’m pleased for Heidfeld especially to get such a good result by finishing fourth. Williams looked like they were the stronger of the two teams in Bahrain, but Williams have some reliability issues that they need to iron out. I’m not a great fan of Mark Webber, but you really have to feel sorry for him to have that failure whilst leading his home grand prix (even although he was yet to pit).

Rubens Barrichello was lucky to finish as high as he did. He undoubtedly benefited from there being so many retirements. Given that he spent so much time being stuck behind Takuma Sato’s Super Aguri, you must wonder about his ability to get to grips with his Honda. To be stuck behind what is effectively a Honda B-team running a four year old car really shouldn’t happen. Whatever the problem with that Honda is — and both Button and Barrichello are complaining — it seems to be hitting Barrichello much harder. He said on the radio that he was struggling like a bitch. Button, on the other hand, seems able to battle on and make the most of what he’s got without getting into a mope.

Another controversial A-team versus B-team moment was with Red Bull and Toro Rosso. The Toro Rosso is controversial because of its V10 engines, and at the start of the season I decided that as long as it was behind the main Red Bull cars then everything was above board. But the Toro Rosso was ahead of the Red Bull on the track. How angry was David Coulthard after the race? Livid. And he took it to the stewards: Scott Speed overtook DC under yellows. Then Speed was given a penalty and lost his 8th place and first points finish. So he said a sweary word to David Coulthard. Come on lads. Aren’t you both racing on the same side? Do some in the Red Bull team feel threatened by the existence of Toro Rosso?

Okay, a three week break until the next race now so there’s plenty of time to reflect on it all. I’m off to watch the highlights programme — that was a race worth watching three times!

1 comment

  1. Definitely an eventful race. I wonder how Fisi reacted when he was told that the “you’re slow” comment went out to the world? His world championship is effectively over (if it had ever begun.) Surprised by how much faster Jenson is compared to Rubens. The question is whether Button is making the car look better than it actually is or is Rubens making it look worse? Can’t decide. Definitely something wrong with the package as far as tyre temperatures goes, I reckon.

    The other thing with the Midlands on the restarts was a bit of a shame I wonder whether it’s worth making the lapped cars start from the back of the queue in that sort of situation. They did spoii what could have been a good dice at the restarts. Alonso was faster overal but Kimi might have tried a do or die into the first corner. If he’d got in front, that’s have made it even more interesting.

    Top race though.