Stefan Grand Prix Championship – Australian Grand Prix

Australian Grand Prix Start (c) Sutton

After all of the doom and gloom reports in the press following the disappointing Bahrain Grand Prix, today’s race at Albert Park in Melbourne did enough to silence those critics and to get them to put down their hammers and nails. A spectacular race all round with a thrilling battle up front and in the midfield. But what about our boys at the back?

Unsurprisingly, out of only two cars to finish, it was the green and yellow car of Hekki Kovalainen who led home the new teams to claim his second victory in the Stefan GP Championship, finishing 2 laps down on race leader Jenson Button.

After the race, Kovalainen said he’d had an enjoyable afternoon at the wheel of his Lotus. “I enjoyed it today and had good fun out there. Our target was to finish the race and from the start we were quite comfortably ahead of the new teams. When Timo Glock dropped out I just focused on keeping up a decent rhythm, not making any mistakes and bringing the car home.Now we go to Malaysia with a good feeling and we’re all looking forward to that.”

Team boss Tony Fernandes praised the efforts of his Finish driver. “Heikki did us proud – three places away from a point, and he was keeping pace with most of the other cars throughout the race. Maybe it would have been nice if three other cars had gone out so we could get a point, but, joking aside, it is good that at this stage of the season we’re already thinking about points. We’re in a nice position for Malaysia.”

Hekki also claimed an extra point for producing the fastest lap of the debutantes, recording 1:33.638 on lap 52.

Chandhok in the HRT garage

The biggest surprise of the race was the Hispania Racing Teams’ car of Karun Chandhok, completing the race and being only 5 laps down. Having only achieved a 9 lap consecutive run previously, today’s performance is one to be greatly admired and one that the team can take a lot of heart from and also a lot of data.

“To finish was very difficult today, and all the more satisfying because of that,” Chandhok said after finishing the race. “I dedicate this race result to all the mechanics and engineers who worked so hard since Bahrain, without any pre-season testing. This is a fantastic day for the team and a great step forward. I am proud to have ended our first race. We achieved the best result we could do today. We have to keep pushing and working and we will manage to finish even higher.”

HRT does Colin Kolles was also delighted with the cars performance in the race. “This result, having Karun ending up the race in 14th position is a great step forward,” said Kolles. “We reached the goal with one of the two cars in the finish. I’m sorry for Bruno because he did a good job all weekend. Karun drove the team’s first full race and finished in 14th position the first race for the team, what was really fantastic, especially with these difficult conditions. The team did a great job and brought two very competitive cars on the grid. Now we will keep on pushing and just focus on our preparation for Malaysia, where our season will really begin.”

Lotus  Chief Technical Officer also added his praise to Chandhok. “Congratulations to Karun Chandhok for getting a finish!”

Finishing third was Timo Glock, who must have been disappointed to retired after only 70% of the race with suspension failure. The German was very confident that he would have finished the race had the car not developed this problem.

Virgin Racing cars emerge from the pits (c) Sutton

“The start of the race was okay. After leaving the pit lane I was able to catch up Chandok and some other cars and we had a bit of fun fighting with Michael. The car felt reasonably good in the wet and dry conditions. I started to feel that there was something wrong with the way the car was feeling. I came in and we found a problem which we now know to be a camber shim having worked loose, and this was causing the suspension to move around on the left rear. Had we not had the suspension issue I think we would have been looking good for our first chequered flag.”

Up next was Lucas Di Grassi, whose Australian Grand Prix will be remembered for his great battle with Michael Schumacher in the first few laps of the race. Coming into turn 13, Schumacher over took Di Grassi only to run wide, allowing the Brazilian to muscle his way back through. Though it was inevitable that Schumacher in the Mercedes was going to overtake and pull away, it was nice to see a driver in the lower cars battling it out with the established teams, showing that the new boys are not going to be pushed over.

After the race, Di Grassi said “The early part of the race was okay for me. The car was behaving quite well at the beginning. Unfortunately, we didn’t time the strategy well to change to slicks but otherwise things were going okay. So it’s a shame that we were hit by another problem – a hydraulic problem – and we had to retire after 26 laps.”

Hydraulics were again the mice in the machinery for Bruno Senna, who could only manage 4 laps until his Australian Grand Prix was over. “I didn´t intend my second Grand Prix to end with an hydraulic failure, but that´s racing! I made a good start and was in 14th after the big crash in front. It’s fantastic for the team to make it to the finish and we have got a great deal of data to work from for Malaysia. I hope we can finish with two cars next race.”

Still, it must be heartening for Senna to see that there is potential for the Dallara Chassis to last a full race, following his team-mates excellent performance. Although he would probably wish this it was him, he must take delight in knowing that the potential is there for the coming season.

Rounding up the débutantes was Jarno Trulli who would not make it out onto the track following an unusual problem for Lotus F1 , that being the hydraulics. Mike Gascoyne explained the problem after the race. “Obviously a very disappointing start. Jarno had a hydraulic power pack fail on the grid, not something we’ve seen before and we couldn’t get it changed in time.”

Looking at the championship table, it looks like there needs to be some stellar performances to reel in the lead that Hekki Kovalainen is building up. Although the battle to decide who will do the chasing is developing very nicely, with the remain five drivers covered by just 2 points.

Lotus F1 are also stretching their legs in the constructors table while the F1 circus heads off to the teams’ home Grand Prix, Malaysia. Hispania Racing and Virgin Racing  will be hoping to close down the gap to it’s début compatriots,while the Green and Yellow cars will be dreaming of chasing the more established teams at their end of the grid.

Driver Standing

1st: Hekki Kovalainen 22pts

2nd=: Karun Chandhok 7 pts

2nd=: Jarno Trulli 7pts

2nd=: Timo Glock 7pts

5th=: Bruno Senna 6pts

6th Lucas Di Grassi 5pts

Constructor Standing

1st: Lotus F1 29pts

2nd: Hispania Racing Team 13pts

3rd: Virgain Racing Team 12pts

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