The Australian GP. Always the scrap of the season. Teams fight for dominance, hoping to be this year's break away story. Some want to be the underdog, while others fluff their feathers, showing they will be the alpha-team.
Mercedes, swaggered into the paddock with a self assured confidence, normally reserved for winners. Ross Brawn proclaimed loud enough for the world to hear, "Michael Schumacher was never gone, he just didn't have the equipment." Ross didn't know how right he was to be, as Michael retired with a failing car. His understudy, Nico, unable to get his tyres to work over the race distance, finished a distant 12th. Ross no doubt laid awake Sunday night in his room over-looking the Yarra, thinking about what should have been.
Renault, err, I mean, Lotus, pushed a familiar face in front of the cameras. It was F1's lost son, Kimi Raikkonen, in charge of ushering in a new Lotus, searching for former glory. As cool as his approach to life, Kimi failed at the first hurdle, qualifying just enough to sit at the children's table while his executive assistant, Romain Grosjean, was left to do all the work. Unable to play with others, Grosjean parked his car on the first lap with less tyres than he started with. Kimi was forced to make up for his partners lack of effort and finished his race in 7th. Happy for the points, Lotus rewarded Kimi with the ice-cream of his choice. He chose a local favourite, a Rainbow paddle-pop.
Sauber surprised everyone by finishing two cars in the top ten. We are all still surprised something so ugly can go so fast!
Despite Ferrari producing a car slower than the fast Sauber, world champ, Alonso, dragged his red speed bump to an amazing 5th in front of the two black and white Saubers! Massa, proving that Hungary '09 is still in his head, couldn't be bothered finishing the GP after a tussle with Senna.
At the pointy end, Red Bull were far from their dominating 2011 form. Qualifying 5th and 6th, a fast starting Vettel made up ground and was gifted the places he needed to finish second. First when Schumacher parked his unreliable Merc and then, through good fortune and a safety car, Vettel passed an angry Hamilton. Webber's cliché poor start meant he had it all to do. Finally through good fortune, Mark found 4th at the checkered flag. With favours and good fortune in short supply these days, Red Bull have much work to do before Sepang next Sunday.
Jenson Button claimed top step honours for the 3rd time in Australia. Powering into the first corner past a dumb-founded Lewis Hamilton, Jenson never looked like giving up the front spot. Even after a Petrov inspired restart, Jenson remained calm in the knowledge he has a fast car and a hot girlfriend. Despite having the most sane looking car on the grid, Lewis couldn't find the speed he needed to reward McLaren with a 1-2 finish. Unhappy with 3rd, Lewis returned to his trailer and whinged to his mum about the other kids not sharing.
The talk of Melbourne this weekend was Perth born Daniel Ricciardo waving the flag for Toro Rosso. Despite qualifying 10th, Daniel found himself driving under the Williams of Bruno Senna and limping into last place. An inspiring drive put him back behind his team mate going into the final lap. With others tripping over each other, Daniel found a way through, making the race for the last few points the most exciting of the race. With 4 corners left, Ricciardo moved 3 places and walked away from his 1st Australian GP with a courageous two points. His team mate, Jean-Eric Vergne, finished just out of the points, meaning he was required to report to his trailer where Dr Helmut Marko administered the compulsory Red Bull 12 lashes of failure.
Finally, Williams scared everyone by revealing a fast car. Teams held their breath watching as Williams declared it was back but fortunately, Frank William's outfit tripped spectacularly at the last hurdle, making a mess of Maldonado's car all over the back of the track. Yellow flags slowed but didn't stop the cars as they pushed the final lap.
The roadshow is on to Sepang, Malaysia, for the next round. The cars will be sizing each other up on Friday.