Champion six in Melbourne
ARECORD six World Formula One Championship winners will be on the grid at Melbourne’s Albert Park circuit tomorrow for the Australian Grand Prix.
Reigning champion Sebastian Vettel along with fellow German Michael Schumacher, Britain’s Jensen Button and Lewis Hamilton, Spaniard Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen (returning to F1 after driving in the WRC) are all competing.
For the first time there will not be an Italian driver on the grid. However, in yet another first, two Australian drivers will be racing.
Mark Webber (pictured) and F1 rookie Daniel Ricciardo will both be striving for victory tomorrow in front of a parochial home crowd.
Unfortunately, in reality it is unlikely that either will win. Webber’s best finish at the AGP is fifth.
“Any driver wants to win their home race. Any home race victory is special,” the former Canberra Raiders ball boy said.
“I am not going to Melbourne to make the numbers up. I am going there to get a good result and that means that we are leading at the end,”
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner is optimistic Webber will be in form.
“I think Mark has had a good winter. I think he has a good pre-season and I think he goes to Melbourne with a spring in his step, which wasn’t the case last year. He is in a good frame of mind and hopefully he can have a strong season,” Horner said.
In contrast, I believe Ricciardo will be happy just to finish. He will no doubt be trying to emulate Webber’s fifth-place performance in his maiden AGP, his equal highest placing in the event.
Webber’s Red Bull Renault teammate and current F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel won his second consecutive world crown and the AGP last year and is pre-race favourite.
FUTURE OF AUSSIE GP IN DOUBT
HOWEVER, the future of the Australian F1 GP is under a cloud with F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone saying that the AGP does not suit the huge Northern Hemisphere TV audience and he wants it to become a night race. The event is also unpopular with many Victorians who question whether its benefits justify its annual $50 million cost. Ecclestone has said he will honour the current contract, which expires in 2015. However this writer believes it will not be renewed.
FOURTH FASTEST IN INDY SWITCH
FORMER F1 journeyman Rubens Barichello, who holds a record 322 F1 starts, has shown his skill extends to Indy racing. He recorded the fourth-fastest time in practice last week prior to next weekend’s opening round of the Indy Racing League Championship.
Barichello was only 0.5 of a second behind Scott Dixon’s fastest time and only 0.1 of a second behind current IRL Champion Dario Franchitti. His fellow KV Racing teammate and good friend Tony Kanaan said: “He’s going to be right in the thick of things from the very first race.”
Queensland’s Will Power, who was runner-up in the championship in 2010 and last year, is looking to go one better in 2012.
SUPERCAR CONTRACTS RENEWED
WHILE they will not be racing for championship points, V8 Supercars are on the Australian GP program, with 888 Team Vodaphone announcing the renewal of driver and car contracts. Reigning champion Jamie Whincup and his runner-up teammate Craig Lowndes have both signed three-year contracts with Roland Dane, owner/manager of 888 Racing.
Dane has also renewed his contract with Holden for a further three years.
Whincup’s signing quashes rumours he was considering racing overseas, possibly in NASCAR. He has had great success with 888, recording 56 wins,
It is good to see police detecting drivers using mobile phones, ipods and other potentially fatal activities when behind the wheel. Concentration is one of the key requirements to avoid crashes, with driving being a “100 per cent” concentration activity. Drivers need to concentrate at a very high level and not indulge in other potentially fatal activities so as to
stay alive behind the wheel. three V8 Supercar championships and three Bathurst 1000 victories.
A delighted Whincup said: “It feels great knowing I am settled long term in an environment that I am happy with and that has the enthusiasm to set the benchmark.” However, following its one-two finish in Adelaide, Ford Performance Racing has thrown down the gauntlet to 888, saying: “Watch out, we’re coming to get you.” Bring it on!
IN THE CAFÉ
THE Speedcafe Annual 2011, Australia’s only motor racing season review book, is now available. The seventh edition of The Annual contains race reports, extensive results and interviews from Australian and international motorsport categories. This is the largestever edition of The Annual, containing 248 full-colour pages (rrp $29.95). V8 Supercars coverage has been significantly increased since past editions, as well as more on F1, NASCAR and Motogp. All national-level Australian motorsport is covered as well as speedway, drag racing, karting and bikes.