2008 Season - Melbourne
Another caveat: I will focus mainly on the "big 5" (Kimi, Massa, Lewis, Kubi and Nando). I will mention other drivers when they do something particularly brilliant, but otherwise I can't compare them all. So when I say "X had the best setup" I will be thinking of those 5. Maybe Trulli was better, considering the mechanical differences, but for simplicity's sake I will not get into such subtleties. I will also mention amateurish mistakes because this season was all about them, in fact, there were so many I will just mention them as AM.
To put things into perspective, I will try to always mention which team had the strongest package at least from what I can tell. This will give a parameter on how much others really performed against said package. As the car has huge impact, it will obviously switch between a McLaren or a Ferrari.
In Melbourne, even if the Ferraris looked menacingly fast, it was clear that the Maccas had the advantage, as reliability gremlins plagued the red team. It started with Kimi at the Qualy with a fuel pump problem which demoted him to the back of the grid.
Vettel made it to Q3, something I thought it was more a product of sheer luck than anything else (the Ferrari engine didn't seem to have much impact until later into the season) Retrospectively, it was a flash of things to come. The kid is really good!
P1 Lewis: no surprises there. Best package at the front. Fastest in Q2 and Q3. The guy didn't only drive fast. He also had found the best setup for the race and it showed in the pace he could deliver. Setup award goes to him!
P2 Kubica: Kubica showing both his potential and the car's.
P3 HK: Not bad for a first race. Close enough to RK and LH to prove that the Maccas were strong here.
P4 Massa: Already showing something we will see during the course of the season: the car was fast, the driver was fast, but he just wasn't on the same league as a well balanced Macca and an inspired Lewis. What I mean is that the best Ferrari with the best Massa was inferior to the best Macca with the best Lewis. Not many times during the season all 4 factors were together at the same race. In this case, Massa seemed still unsure and Ferrari seemed fragile. But that doesn't mean that Lewis didn't deserve P1.
P12 Alonso: He was obstructed during qualy (by Glock) but anyways it was obvious that he and Renault didn't seem like they would be a threat to the front runners any day soon. He said (and will repeat it during most of the season) that 8th was the best they could aim for. And he wasn't even close to that.
P16 Kimi: he was driving fast as usual, but the car gave up.
Great start from the top 3. Massa makes his debut in the top AM list crashing against the wall 15 seconds after the start on the very first corner, all by himself. It is interesting to note that Heidfeld got ahead of Rosberg at the first pitsops round, only because the crew released him right in front of Nico. That kind of moves will be suddenly become dangerous and penalized later in the season when there was much more at stake. In this case, nobody noticed. Well, that's race stewards for you.
Second AM of the day is a shared achievement between Massa (again) and DC. It doesn't matter who was right (I think DC had the priority) butu both should have known better. As it was, both collided and DC's car simply disintegrated. It was the second SC of the race (the first one was deployed after a big pile up in the first stages of the race)
Massa's car finally couldn't take up more of ze punishment and he had to abandon the race. Kimi was doing one of his "look how fast I am...and look how I ruin it!" as he was up to 3rd, only to overdo it at a corner while passing Heikki, and going off track. Back of the field again for him.
Accidents, mishaps, Safety Cars and mechanical failures mixed up the whole field. Rubens was 5th at some moment which shows that even a Honda could climb up the field in such conditions. Meanwhile, Kimi was darting again up the field...only to spin when he was chasing Timo. Hardly a WDC's driving to remember. Timo, by the way, was responsible moments later for the last SC deployment while trying to put his Toyota into orbit after hitting a bump in the grass. That also ruined the chances of Rubinho making him pit under the sc which will cost him a penalty, a pitsop blooper with his mechanics and a disqualification for exiting under a red light after having finished in the points. That sucks!
Kubica also had his race ruined when Nakajima touched his car ruining his suspension. A shame.
SC also ruined HK's chances, he was poised for a 2nd place. Meanwhile, overtook both HK and Kimi when they were battling for position. The weak Renault was suddenly 4th! Of course, it was more due to retirements than actual car pace or driver's skill. Nothing to write home about yet. Kimi's Ferrari also gives up and scares the s##t out of the Ferrari mechanics which saw both cars retiring due to mechanical failures.
In the last laps, Heikki blasts past Alonso on a much stronger Macca. Justice was served? Well, he earned the AM award of the day moments later at the main straight when he pressed the pitstop limiter granting Nando a place he could never have won on his car.
You might have noticed I didn't mention Lewis. That's because he managed to stay out of the mayhem and drove flawlesly to the finish line. A skill that he will find helpful at some other races in the season.
I think the only one who got an undeserved position was Kubi, which retired with no fault of his own while doing a good race. Lewis was a worthy winner and the star of the race. Nando stayed out of trouble and benefited of others mistakes, mostly. Kimi and Massa were abysmal and their cars didn't help. Heikki earned the AM award so no tears for his 5th place. Nick and Nico did both a great job (2nd and 3rd) but they would not do much more during the remaining of the season. Rubinho was another star of the race for me along with Lewis but he had bad luck (and missed a red light, his fault)
Ok, stay tuned for Sepang!