• Mar 28, 2010

2010 Australian Grand Prix – Click above for high-res image gallery

You asked for it, you got it. After what was widely received as a rather dry (if intriguing) start to the season two weeks ago in the sand dunes of Bahrain, many were left clamoring for more exciting race action. And that's exactly what we got this weekend in Melbourne.

The 2010 Australian Grand Prix entered the history books today packed with spins and crashes, rain and dry, wheel-to-wheel action and leapfrog passes. By the end, a good third of the grid had spun out, and the order had been completely shaken up. Click past the fold to see how it unfolded.

Over the course of the two weeks between Bahrain and Australia, it seemed like drivers and team managers alike were falling all over themselves to admit how much faster the new Red Bull car was than theirs. And as if to drive the point home, on Saturday Vettel and Webber lapped Albert Park faster than anyone else to place their cars at the very top of the time sheet, securing the front row – pole and second positions – on the grid. Ferrari's Fernando Alonso added a splash of red to the blue qualifying "podium" in third place, with Jenson Button (McLaren) alongside him and Felipe Massa (Ferrari), Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), Michael Schumacher (Mercedes), Rubens Barrichello (Williams), Robert Kubica (Renault) and Adrian Sutil (Force India) rounding out the remainder of the top ten of the 24 cars on the starting grid.

Once the lights flashed green Down Under, however, all bets were off. Vettel managed to hold on to the lead, while Massa passed both Webber and Alonso to take second. The move left Alonso sandwiched between Button and Schumacher, the reigning champion (Jenson) sending the double champion (Fernando) into the returning seven-time champion (Michael). Alonso spun his car on the track and fell down to near the end of the order, while Schumacher's front wing was left damaged, forcing him into the pits.

Amidst the chaos on the wet track, Robert Kubica impressively managed to leapfrog from 9th on the grid to 4th place, a position on which he'd improve before crossing the finish line. Meanwhile Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi and Williams' Nico Hulkenberg collided, sending both back to their respective garages. They'd soon be followed by Toro Rosso's Sebastian Buemi and Lotus' Jarno Trulli, with HRT's Bruno Senna, Renault's Vitaly Petrov, and both Virgin drivers Lucas Di Grassi and Timo Glock joining them – with one other crucial DNF – before the race was through, accounting for 10 out of the 24 cars failing to finish the race in the wet conditions.

With the safety car deployed after the wreckage and pulled back in on lap 4, the two multiple world champions picked their way through the back-markers to get back up to the front of the field, taking turns along the way setting the fastest lap times. Lewis Hamilton, who had failed to advance beyond the second qualifying session to start the race in 11th, fought his way up the field as well, while Webber and Massa fought wheel-to-wheel for second place.

With the rain stopped and the track slowly drying up, Button played an aggressive strategy by pitting early on lap 7 for slick tires. The move seemed risky given the predictions for more rain, especially after the defending champion nearly lost it at the first corner exiting the pits. But by lap 9 the lion's share of the field went in for dry-weather tires as well, while Button's risky move paid off in spades.

A quarter of the way through the race, Vettel was still in the lead. Button followed in second, with Kubica in third place, followed by Rosberg, Massa, Webber, Hamilton, Barrichello and de la Rosa, while Schumacher struggled down-field to get back into the top ten.

A couple of laps later, more excitement followed as a three-way battle erupted for 5th place. Webber crept by Massa, but with Hamilton close behind, the Brit snuck past both the fighting Australian and Brazilian. Webber slid off the track, and Massa emerged in front of both to win the bout.

But that wasn't the end for these three. On lap 22 the fight resumed: While Hamilton passed Massa, Alonso closing in fast tried to leapfrog both, Webber managed to sneak by. Hamilton emerged in the contested fifth position, followed by Massa, Webber and Alonso. Never relenting, Webber stayed glued to Massa while up ahead Hamilton closed in on Rosberg.

Then the unthinkable happened for the race leader. After nearly half a race distance of leading straight from pole position, Sebastian Vettel braked late and sailed wide off a tight corner, winding up beached in the sand trap with no escape. And just like that, the race was over for the leader.

The slip-up on Vettel's part left Button in the lead, Kubica in second and Hamilton third as Rosberg. Massa, Webber and Alonso followed. Williams' Rubens Barrichello was in eighth, Force India's Vitantonio Liuzzi followed in ninth and Sauber's Pedro de la Rossa rounded out the top ten.

All the while Schumacher got held up again trying to get around Jaime Alguersuari's Toro Rosso. On lap 30, Schumi pitted for the third time – a particular rarity this season given the ban on refueling.

Two laps later Hamilton had gotten past Rosberg and stayed glued on Kubica's tail, but couldn't manage to get past the Renault. In a further gamble on strategy, Ross Brawn called in Rosberg from fourth for fresh tires, putting him back out in sixth place ahead of Webber. Hamilton would follow into the pit box shortly after for new rubber, while most of the rest stuck with a one-stop strategy as they followed the dry racing line around the otherwise damp track.

As the field closed in on the checkered flag, Button remained way out in the lead, while Kubica, Massa and Alonso remained close together waiting for the moment to pounce. Hamilton on fresh tires was closing in fast, but Webber stuck right on his tail in a white-knuckle five-car train.

On the second to last lap, Hamilton tried to get around Alonso, but his former McLaren team-mate wouldn't give an inch. With no room to maneuver, Hamilton collided with Webber, sending both cars spinning off the track. Hamilton's McLaren largely undamaged, he got right back into the chase, but Webber was forced into the pit to replace his front wing.

One lap later, Jenson Button claimed the checkered flag – waved by none other than John Travolta – for his new team at McLaren. Robert Kubica – who never managed to finish the Australian Grand Prix in his four years at BMW Sauber – impressed tremendously with a second place finish, the best result for Renault since Alonso in 2008. Felipe Massa rounded out the podium for Ferrari, his second podium in as many races so far this year. Fernando Alonso finally came in fourth, followed by Nico Rosberg in fifth, Hamilton in sixth, Liuzzi in seventh, Barrichello in eighth, Mark Webber in a disappointing ninth and Michael Schumacher, after a couple of unexpected final-lap passes, finished last in the points in tenth place. STR's Alguersuari, Sauber's de la Rosa, Lotus' Kovalainen and HRT's Karun Chandhok finished outside the points, no better off than the ten who didn't finish at all.

The results of the tumultuous race still leave Fernando Alonso in the lead with 37 points, Felipe Massa close behind with 33 in second, and Jenson Button just a heartbeat away with 31. Hamilton, Rosberg, Kubica, Vettel, Schumacher, Liuzzi and Webber round out the top ten in the drivers' standings. Ferrari, meanwhile, enjoys a healthy lead at 70 points in the constructors' standings, ahead of McLaren's 54 and Mercedes' 29.

With seventeen more rounds to go, tune in again next Sunday, April 4 for the results from the Malaysian Grand Prix.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      Great race. Throw a little rain into the mix and suddenly the racing comes alive. Poor Vettel has had the best car in the field for two races and has very little to show for it.
      • 4 Years Ago
      There is no significant proof that there was a failure on Vettels car other than him saying so. Also the person who wrote this article must not of watched the race. Webber crashed into Hamilton. Hamilton drove the hell out of that race.
        • 4 Years Ago
        My bad after listening to vettel I do remeber seeing sparks from the wheel.
      • 4 Years Ago
      not a big fan of F1 but was thinking it would at least be on the Speed (ahem, "redneck" ) channel, we'll I was wrong,

      it was... NASCAR (Non-Athletic Sport Centered Around Redneck), as usual,

      I'd just as soon watch curling than that hillbilly crap.
        • 4 Years Ago
        it was on on speed, like at 1230 am....
        • 4 Years Ago
        Actually the race was on speed...

        only it was during aussie local time so youd have to watch it between 2 and 4 am like i did to see it.
      • 4 Years Ago
      It was a much better race than the last one (Bahrain). But lack of refueling didn't help, in fact it still seemed to be hindrance.
        • 4 Years Ago
        In what way would refuelling have 'helped'?

        All it created was artificial situations where drivers who didn't deserve to be in front gained positions for a couple of laps, and then lost them while stationary.

        I dunno about you, but I watch to see the cars race, not park up at the filling station.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The drizzle made for fun watching... especially since it was on-off all afternoon, just enough to keep the track slick.

        Always fun to see news from one's back yard--almost literally. We watched this with the windows open to listen to the engines from Albert Park!
        • 4 Years Ago
        Races like these are what makes you realize just how amazing F1 is: In the wet or dry (no sissy race stopping when the discover the existence of water), most teams fighting for points and even podium, spins, wild power oversteer (did you guys see Massa at times?) and two guys going from back to front, Hamilton and Alonso. I mean, the guy gets sandwiched and left for dead, resumes the race dead last and ends up fourth! That's epic driving!
      • 4 Years Ago
      Was a great race. I can't help but feel that Hamilton got screwed at the end by Webber and I'm glad he is being reprimanded for his slide into Lewis. Racing is racing but Webber seemed careless out there today. Imo Lewis Hamilton and Alonso drove the best race. Shame for vettel but I think he will be a threat in Malaysia as well. I cannot wait.

      and I guess the top runners backed off big time after they knew they were going all the way on the option tires. But it just seemed to me that Massa's goal today was to just beat Alonso.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Did anyone hear them boo when the Premier of Victoria presented Jenson with the trophy? That was a funny little moment.

      Anyway, overall, this was an exciting Formula 1 race, and a lot of that was due to the weather. We saw what a lot of drivers can pull off.

      What I wonder for this year is when Michael Schumacher will take 1st place. That'll be something to watch.

      Also: Thank god for DVRs. After watching Suzuka last year and falling asleep half-way through (it was a pretty boring race too though), I never stay up until 4AM watching these races anymore. Can't wait until they move up to Europe to watch them live again.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Down Under you're suppose to boo all politicians, it's tradition lol
        • 4 Years Ago
        Now you know how we feel here in Australia. Most of the races are late Sunday night if not into Monday morning our time.

        Given the State's no tolerance policy towards motoring (they crush cars for similar displays as Hamilton's burnout while leaving the circuit), the Victorian Premier's presence on the F1 dias is seen by many as hypocritical.
      • 4 Years Ago
      New rule for 2011: FIA to announce specs for trackside sprinkler systems, capable of delivering everything from mildly moist to the 'full Malaysia'...

      ..either that or for the love of god, SORT THE AERO OUT

      Not every exciting race is down to the weather, but changeable weather almost always results in an exciting race.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Definitely a good race but the post fails to mention a several significant points:

      1) The track was wet at the start so everyone started the race on intermediates. This was largely responsible for the shake-up in the field as the teams read the weather differently. While some teams were coming in for slicks as a dry line started appearing, others stayed out thinking the rain would worsen.

      2) Vettel didn't miss his braking point and throw it off the track. In the replays you can clearly see there was some sort of mechanical failure. Vettel says it was the left front brake.

      3) Webber clearly misjudged that last passing attempt and blasted into Hamilton, damaging both cars. Webber was reprimanded by the stewards after the race for the incendent.
      • 4 Years Ago
      This was a seriously good race with great twists, such Vettel spinning out and Webber and Hamilton "meeting" close to the end. Also, I found it really funny, that Hamilton actually drove faster after almost knocking his front end off. Finally, yay, go Button!
      • 4 Years Ago
      If Kubica can race for a good team with reliable cars, he's got what it takes to be right at the top.
      • 4 Years Ago
      i feel sorry for Vettel, he's the best driver on the grid , but the car keeps failing. in Bahrain a spark plug died and today his front left brake disk exploded.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I think that Vettel's car has had issues with the front-left brake/wheel
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