F1: Australian Grand Prix live blog

By Andy Darley

CalendarSunday, March 16th, 2008

 
 

It’s March, it’s silly-o-clock in the morning, and that means only one thing – F1’s back and it’s time for the Australian Grand Prix. Brits on Pole is here in front of the TV with a lot of tea and a laptop with a stuck ‘N’ key, ready to blog the action as it happens.

We had so much fun doing this with the final race of last season that we thought we’d see how it went doing it again. Latest action is always at the top, all times are GMT.

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Hamilton’s post-race comments: “We got away to a really good startin terms of managing my tyres, controlling my pace and confidence and being comfortable in the car, it’s the best race I’ve had so far.

“I had to keep cool and look after the tyres but I just paced myself and didn’t overdo it.

“I had plenty of time and used that to my advantage. The car was phenomenal, a dream to drive compared to the car we had last year.

“The teams look at all angles and analyse exactly what could go on in the race and plan for the worst. We have a great strategic team and putting me in early was great.” .

“The car was phenomenal compared to the one we had last year – a dream to drive. The team analysed exactly what went on in the race and prepared for the worst – fantastic strategy.

“I never thought it would have been physically as much of a breeze as it was out there. It’s great preparation for Malaysia. Bring it on.”

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Podium: These bloody colonials have got the Union Flag the wrong way up…

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Final classification:

1. Hamilton (McLaren: 10 points)
2. Heidfeld (BMW Sauber: 8 points)
3. Rosberg (Williams: 6 points)
4. Alonso (Renault: 5 points)
5. Kovalainen (McLaren: 4 points)
6. Barrichello (Honda: 3 points – possibly facing disqualification: if so Raikkonen gets a point)
7. Nakajima (Williams: 2 points)
8. Bourdais (Toro Rosso: 1 point)

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Lap 58: Hamilton wins easily and without fuss. Also on the podium are Heidfeld and Rosberg. Alonso fourth, Kovalainen fifth, possibly feeling a bit unlucky after losing his second place.

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Lap 57: Seat-edge duel between Kovalainen and Alonso sees the former world champion taken then re-taking. Jolly exciting stuff in a race that’s been full of incident.

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Lap 56: Poor old Sebastien Bourdais – his car lets go when he was in for a good whack of points. Barrichello’s chances of avoiding disqualification are thought to be poor. Commentators point out that Bourdais, like Raikkonen, was sitting on a Ferrari power plant.

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Lap 54: Raikkonen retires, pulled up at the pit entrance.

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Lap 53: Raikkonen lapping six seconds slower than Hamilton at the front – it’s increasingly clear that his engine is failing. Anthony Hamilton reportedly too nervous to stay in the McLaren garage.

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Lap 51: Hamilton, Heidfeld, Rosberg, Bourdais, Alonso, Kovalainen, Raikkonen, Barrichello, Nakajima survive, in that order. Lose one more and just finishing the race will be enough to get points. Will Raikkonen be the one to retire?

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Lap 50: Alonso fifth, Raikkonen seventh with rookie Bourdais in fourth for Toro Rosso enjoying the experience of being hunted down by two world champions. Kovalainen sixth after the safety car and pit shenanigans. Speculation over Ferrari’s best strategy for dealing with Raikkonen’s rough-sounding engine which is supposed to last him two races.

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Barrichello’s penalty is confirmed. Nakajima and Kubica unexpectedly into the pits – the Williams driver is missing his front wing while the BMW driver is out of his car. Only nine now running. Alonso passed Kovalainen for sixth but both have passed Kimi. Bourdais now fourth.

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Lap 47: At the restart it’ll be Hamilton, Heidfeld, Barrichello (pre-penalty), Rosberg, Bourdais, Kubica, Nakajima, Raikkonen, Kovalainen and Alonso.

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Lap 46: 10 cars left running. Safety car still out. Pit lane re-opens, discussion of possible 10-second penalty for Barrichello’s refuelling offence – he’s under investigation by the stewards, but apparently he was about to run out of fuel on the track so it was a case of swallowing the penalty in order to keep running. Kovalainen and Alonso stuck at the back of the safety car crocodile after pitting.

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Lap 45: Barrichello leaves the Honda pits with the fuel rig still attached and there’s a possible injury to a mechanic. Questions as to why he was refuelling because the safety car is out following Glock’s huge accident. He has been seen being led away from his car – winded, but thankfully under his own steam.

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Lap 44: A spectacular 150-mph crash for Timo Glock leaves his car in bits. He is conscious but slow getting out of the car.

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Lap 43: Hamilton pits, as does Heidfeld. Kovalainen currently leads. Raikkonen could not have timed his concentration lapse worse.

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Lap 42: Heidfeld is suddenly eating into Kovalainen’s lead. Raikkonen is stuck on Timo Glock’s tail and, trying to overtake, he spins. Ferrari, astoundingly, seem hobbled without traction control.

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Lap 40: Speculation that BMW has been hiding its light under a bushel during winter testing. Alonso, desperate to make progress, nearly hits the kerb and loses the car

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Lap 39: Lewis Hamilton is five and a half seconds ahead of his team-mate. Kimi Raikkonen is currently 11th and last.

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Lap 38: McLaren are one-two in a race which could see Ferrari scoring few points… we are reminded by James Allen that the last time there was a Schumacher-less grand prix, Lewis Hamilton was six years old…

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At the moment it’s Hamilton, Kovalainen, Heidfeld, Rosberg, Barrichello, Bourdais, Kubica, Alonso, Nakajima, Glock, Raikkonen and that’s it.

Sato dribbles to a halt just outside the pits… only 11 runners now.

Whooo! Kimi tries to take Kovalainen at the restart, manages it, but overshoots a corner into a gravel trap. Avoids the barrier by a foot but falls way down the field. Meanwhile, karma catches up with Massa and he coasts to a halt on the circuit – some way away from where DC’s waiting for him. Now, finally, they pit Kimi and fill him to the end. Unluckily for him, Massa’s car is being towed under double yellows – the Finn could really have used another safety car at this point.

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Lap 30: Much speculation as to why Raikkonen, presumably running on fumes and with tyres that are visibly wrecked, is not pitting. We’re now past half-way.

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Lap 29: Alonso is revealed to have been running on fumes when the safety car went in.

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Lap 28: Safety car still out after DC/Massa smash. Pit lane opens, Raikkonen will be in there pretty sharpish. A furious DC is interviewed by Louise Goodman – it’s a good thing it’s the middle of the night, because he uses some rather strong language: “If he doesn’t [take responsibility] I’ll kick the shit out of the little bastard…” Red Bull gives you wings, indeed…

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Lap 26: A dramatic moment as Massa hits DC and takes him out spectacularly, his car wrecked. Yellow flag. Massa, leading a charmed life, has got away with it. Martin Brundle says he thinks Massa was in DC’s blind spot. Safety car. Raikkonen tries to drive into the pits but swerves out again in order to avoid a penalty.

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Lap 24: The Kovalainen/Raikkonen duel continues with the first three opening up a gap to Kubica in fourth. Trulli is revealed to have quit after car overheating problems.

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Lap 23: DC has both pitted and emerged. Raikkonen is believed to be on a one-stopper and hasn’t been in yet. Alonso has also yet to pit.

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Lap 22: Hamilton has the race lead and Kovalainen comes out of the pits second, where he is having a job keeping Raikkonen behind him. He’s doing a fantastic job of acting as rear-gunner and slowing his countryman down.

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Lap 21: Rosberg and Heidfeld quarrel over who leaves the pits first – the BMW driver wins. They emerge in among the DC/Alonso battle and it’s all a bit messy and argumentative. Kovalainen pits, Raikkonen is now second.

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Lap 20: We witness the terrifying prospect of Sato duelling with Massa, minus traction control. Jarno Trulli’s car has let go. Alonso is ninth.

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Lap 19: Raikkonen and Massa have both popped out from behind the cars blocking them like corks coming out of bottles. Raikkonen now desperately trying to make up time – he’s 26 seconds off the race lead. He responds with the fastest first sector of the entire race – speculation that Honda took the strategic decision to let Raikkonen go because the battle was costing them time.

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Lap 18: The unaccustomed Ferrari views of other cars’ exhausts includes Felipe Massa who is gazing at the rear of Nakajima’s Williams, rather unexpectedly. Hamilton pits, rather early in the commentators’ view, and McLaren have him in for 9.2 seconds. Two-stop strategy, new hard tyres. Hamilton fails to take Heidfeld and slots in fourth.

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Lap 16: BMW pit crew are out and Kubica is the first in. A nicely-executed 8.6-second pit stop leaves him stuck behind the warring Barrichello and Raikkonen, now showing some frustration. Dare we suggest he’s not dealing too well with the lack of traction control?

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Lap 15: Hamilton has 10 seconds on Kubica and half a minute on Raikkonen.

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Lap 14: commentators reduced to discussing tyre beading. As you were…

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Lap 13: Hamilton is half a second quicker than anyone else in the field, including his team-mate. He now has eight and a half seconds on Kubica.

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Lap 10: Sutil in his garage. Still in the car but it looks like Force India’s race is over. Barrichello is holding Raikkonen, to the latter’s surprise and frustration.

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Lap 9: Hamilton puts in the fastest lap so far. Kubica’s performance seems to be dropping off, Kovalainen is eyeing him speculatively from third. Coulthard and Alonso duelling in 9th and 10th

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Lap 7: Hamilton’s lead over Kubica is 4.3 seconds. Button interviewed in the pits – talking about his good start, in which he passed Alonso, and how it was ruined when he bounced off Vettel. He tries to put a good face on things but sounds incredibly flat.

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Lap 5: Hamilton, Kubica, Kovalainen, Rosberg, Heidfeld. The ducks are now in a line for the race to stay like this for a while. Trulli in sixth, then the surprising Barrichello/Raikkonen battle. Hamilton starting to open up a bit of space as we go to commercials in the ITV coverage.

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Lap 4: Raikkonen is eyeing the back of Barrichello’s Honda. Vettel is shown walking down the pit lane after a very short start to his season.

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Two laps in and Hamilton leads from Kubica. Sato and Piquet have gained nine places each. No longer under safety car conditions. Raikkonen is in eighth.

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Massa seems to have just made a driving error and lost it – the lack of traction control hits.

Lots of people heading back to the pits with wobbly wheels – Davidson and Button – new nose for Massa – trouble all round and this safety car can only help Kimi. We’ve lost Vettel and Fisi and Webber and Davidson and Button already.

Hamilton holds the lead from Kubica – Massa’s evaporated and the safety car is out. Raikkonen very racy – ditto Rubinho.

‘Ere we go…

Parade lap. Massa to start on soft tyres – clever, or desperate? Come on, this is Ferrari we’re talking about…

Sounded like Nick Heidfeld may have some brewing mechanical problems – difficult to hear, as the crowds are gathering here where we’re watching the race, and coffee is flowing. Very strong coffee. Sutil’s starting from the pits, having changed just about everything including chassis.

Kovalainen is babbling, not making a lot of sense – and no-one else will talk to Brundle. And now Lou Goodman is discussing shoes with Dannii Minogue. We wouldn’t mind, but the Minog’s are supposed to be a bit special and we don’t even get to see them…

Martin Brundle is on his grid walk, it’s swelteringly hot, and he – like everyone, really – is predicting a lot of cars will have trouble getting away without traction control. Could be interesting. Now he’s found a starry-eyed Kelly Osbourne. What larks.

0400 – It’s all the pre-race stuff at the moment – biggest news from a British point of view is that Honda and Jenson Button are talking about a new three year contract. Nick Fry didn’t actually confirm it – but he stood there grinning and let Ted Kravitz announce it. Good news for Jense, as that Honda will become the hottest ride in town if Ross Brawn manages to work his magic.

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