The Inside Line #92: Shiny, happy people

TILI Logo PrintIt’s rare to wander the back of the paddock at a Formula One weekend and see so many happy faces, but Albert Park last Sunday night was one of those occasions. Everywhere you looked, there were smiles on dials, backs being slapped and hands being shaken. The Australian Grand Prix was the most predictable and unpredictable race we’ve seen in a while, and for both reasons, its participants had plenty to be pleased about. [1]

At Mercedes, where a crushing 1-2 finish was always on the cards after it dominated pre-season testing, consider Sunday a case of box ticked. Sebastian Vettel was back to his amusing self of his younger Red Bull days as he joked with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in the post-race press conference after scoring a podium on his Ferrari debut [2]. Felipe Massa was pleased to finish fourth at one of his bogey tracks, while near-namesake Felipe Nasr was almost speechless after finishing fifth for Sauber, a year after the team went an entire season without a top-10 result. Even Daniel Ricciardo, chastened to some degree after finishing a lapped sixth in a dreadful first race for Red Bull for the season, had something to smile about [3]. Based on the rest of his weekend, the fact his Renault engine managed to last all 58 laps on Sunday was worth celebrating, even if those celebrations came with a rueful shake of his head.

A sun-drenched Albert Park provided the perfect backdrop to kick off the season last weekend, and even if Melbourne’s 20th Grand Prix won’t go down in the annals as one of the most gripping races of all time, it was a good way to start the season. Now comes the pack up of freight and crunching of numbers ahead of Malaysia, where some teams (this means you, Red Bull) will want to lift their game, and others (ahem, Mercedes) will be craving more of the same.

A comprehensive review of the season-opener in Australia is the focus of Episode 92 of ‘The Inside Line’ this week, where we look at the extensive pre-race build-up, some international sports stars forced to kick a football in the name of publicity [4], and examine the race from every angle. Well, almost every angle, but one of the most memorable features on this weekend doesn’t need reliving any more than it already has been … [5]

Check out ‘The Inside Line’ on Fox Sports 5 (9pm AEST Wednesday) and ESPN this week if you’re in Australia, and check local guides if you’re watching elsewhere.

– — —- —-

[1] OK, maybe not at Lotus. Pastor Maldonado’s almost inevitable first-lap crash did raise the biggest laugh in the press room all weekend, mind you.

[2] Rosberg tried his best to relieve Vettel of his title of ‘German driver with most English sense of humour’ on Sunday, but just came across as sounding a bit forced and trying too hard. Harsh, but true.

[3] It’s sometimes hard to tell between a Ricciardo smile and Ricciardo teeth being gritted, but Sunday was at least 70% of the former.

[4] Make it stop, please make it stop …

[5] Arnold Schwarzenegger. Well played, sir.

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