F1 » 20 March 2013
Your views: 2013 kicks off
Lewis Hamilton attempted to shadow Raikkonen's strategy, but despite having started his second stint four laps later than the Lotus he ended it three laps sooner. He locked his tyres badly in a battle with Alonso on lap 31, forcing him to pit early and wrecking his chances of making it to the end without a third stop.
Nico Rosberg retired early on in the sister W04 with an electrical problem while running in third. Despite this, promising pace in practice allied with devastating speed in the wet means that the real potential of the Mercedes is still uncertain.
The comparatively disappointing pace of the McLaren, with Jenson Button and Sergio Perez finishing in ninth and eleventh respectively, means that at least one mystery of the 2013 season has been resolved, with Mercedes emerging as the initial winners in the game of driver musical chairs conducted towards the end of last year.
At Ferrari, the scene of Massa leading Alonso in the early stages was a welcome interlude from three years of Alonso dominance, but normal service was resumed after both came in for their second stops, with Alonso using the undercut to find his way past the trio of Sutil, Vettel and Massa. The Spaniard looked like threatening for the win at times, but his car wasn't able to do the race in two stops and he ultimately had to settle for second.
Despite not taking the victory, Ferrari come out of the weekend leading the Constructors Championship; a result that represents a vast improvement from 2012. Given that Alonso was able to take the title fight down to the final race last time round the pressure on Vettel this year is likely to be unrelenting.
Adrian Sutil was impressive in his comeback race for Force India. After a year on the side-lines, the German returned to the sport armed with a spanner, which he duly threw into the works during his exceptionally long first stint, finding himself in the lead of the Grand Prix on two occasions.
Although Sutil eventually dropped down to seventh following a disastrous final stint on the super-softs, his early long-run whilst fully-laden with fuel is the hallmark of a car that is easy on its tyres.
Force India appear to have found Sauber's blueprints on how to create a giant-killing midfield car, and Nico Hulkenberg will be praying that the coming races will still reveal his move to the Swiss-team to have been the right one, with fans having been deprived of a true comparison by the German's withdrawal due to a fuel-pump issue. With Williams appearing to have taken a major step backwards, how the midfield battle plays out will be a fascinating theme throughout the season.
In the battle of the back-markers, Jules Bianchi's impressive drive to fifteenth place cemented Marussia's new found superiority over rivals Caterham. Tony Fernandes, a hapless common-denominator in the plights of both Caterham and Premier League football team QPR this season will be hoping for a re-write of the draft of the next few races, whilst Marussia look to have stumbled upon a rookie that is more than a match for the pace of departed team-leader Timo Glock.
As with any good chapter, the first round of the 2013 World Championship answered the most burning questions, yet posed many more. After such an enthralling and exhilarating Grand Prix at Albert Park, the stage has now been set for another gripping race in Malaysia next weekend.
by Joshua Bonser
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