It was anybody's race ahead of the season opener at Melbourne last week. McLaren lacked confidence and Red Bull were apprehensive, but Ferrari aimed to impress as they are allegedly '200 times better', and Mercedes could easily be a surprise contender.
Australian Grand Prix
Qualifying saw three time world champion Sebastian Vettel take pole with team mate Marc Webber in second for a Red bull one-two. Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, in his first ever grand prix race not in a McLaren car, took third followed by both Ferrari drivers Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso in fourth and fifth. Mercedes' number two Nico Rosberg was positioned ahead of both Lotus drivers in seventh.
Red Bull were favourites to take Melbourne by storm after dominating in qualifying. However, Webber's poor start saw the Ferrari, Mercedes and Lotus drivers overtake into the first corner. Vettel came under early pressure, having to make do with a three-stop strategy, finishing third overall. Webber had an electrical issue on the formation lap, and later lost his KERS but still managed a sixth place finish.
The first half of the race had up to six drivers competing for the lead: Raikkonen slowly worked his way up the grid from seventh to first half way through the race and the riskier two-stop strategy paid off. Ferrari made an impressive start with Alonso and Massa being extremely aggressive despite not competing for the lead later on, they made life difficult for everyone around them, finishing in second and fourth respectively. Force India's Sutil used the same two-stop strategy as Lotus, finishing a surprising seventh overall, but was undone after a late tyre change meant he was overtaken by the Ferrari and Mercedes drivers.
Late pressure from Ferrari saw Hamilton drop into fifth, a promising start, but the lack of power was a concern. Elsewhere, Williams driver Maldonado left the race sliding into the gravel trap after carrying too much speed on lap 25, followed two laps later by Rosberg, with an allegedly persistent electrical fault made him pull over after his car lost power.
Malaysian Grand Prix
The opening race had plenty of drama and competitive driving to kick off the season; Malaysia had less to shout about, although the race result had made the headlines.
Qualifying once again saw Vettel take pole position with Webber in 5th this time. Ferrari aimed to pile on the pressure with Massa in second and Alonso in third position followed by Hamilton in 4th and team mate Rosberg in 5th. Last weeks winner Raikkonen starts in the exact same position as last week in 7th and McLaren's Jensen Button in 8th.
Ferrari made a terrible error of judgement after Alonso collided with Vettel in the second corner resulting in a damaged front wing. But instead of pitting on the first lap he stayed out and spun out on the second lap. Massa's promising qualifying also seemed in vain as he seemingly went backwards at the start of the race and finished a disappointing fifth overall. Ferrari failed to impress after an excellent qualifying session the day before.
Vettel lead from the front for a most of the race, which looked like a return to form for the Red Bull driver. However, he also made the headlines for disobeying a direct orders from team principal Christian Horner to not overtake Webber who took the lead during the later stages of the race. Webber may of deserved to win due to an excellent drive from fifth to first, he instead made do second place but there was a noticeable rift between the two drivers.
McLaren's poor form carried over from last week: The team were holding out for rain, as their car is known to perform better in wet conditions, but the weather largely remained overcast with light showers. Button seemed to show signs of improvement with the new car staying in fifth for most of the race, but a wheel nut problem meant he left the pits too soon before the wheel was properly fixed and left the race three laps from the end. Perez finished in ninth with an overall disastrous start to the season for McLaren, with both drivers taking just two points each in two races.
One of the more interesting facts I can recall from the start of last season was that the winner of the opening Grand Prix will go on to win the championship at the end of the season. There have been only three drivers not to do this, with Jensen Button being one of them after winning last year at Melbourne. The last time Kimi Raikkonen won the opening race was in 2007, which oddly enough was the same year he won the drivers championship.
The opening two races see Red Bull lead with Vettel on 40 points, Raikkonen on 31 in second and Webber in third with 26 points. The opening races had plenty of talking points, and it's difficult to see how the newfound bad blood between Webber and Vettel will affect the team. Needless to say it's been an entertaining two weeks, which has made the three-week wait until tomorrow’s Chinese Grand Prix all the more irritating.