HE FINISHED off the podium, but Fernando Alonso is still leading the championship after a thrilling Australian Grand Prix, Sunday evening, Melbourne time.
Rendering 'Bore-rain' stories to history, the dark and drizzly skies contributed to an exciting Melbourne race, but it was a decidedly bad event for the previously dominant Red Bulls.
Local hero Mark Webber had a scruffy race to ninth and had to apologise to Lewis Hamilton for a late collision, while Sebastian Vettel once again had reliability trouble from the lead.
A spark plug had foiled his race two weeks ago, while in Australia he skidded into the gravel with a brake failure.
Among his first comments to the German-speaking press was the well-known curse "Scheisse", while to the English reporters Vettel said the frustration "breaks my balls".
"It's nobody's fault, but we need to get on top of it and make sure that we see the chequered flag in Malaysia," the 22-year-old said.
Also unhappy was McLaren's Hamilton, who, while his winning teammate Jenson Button made an excellent early strategy call to pit for slicks, was heard on the radio to criticise the decisions made for him.
"The strategy was not right," said the Briton. "Everyone else in front of me did one stop and I did two."
Team boss Martin Whitmarsh acknowledged that McLaren "made a team call which disadvantaged" 25-year-old Hamilton.
Aus Thriller Was 'Lesson' After Bahrain Criticism
JUST TWO WEEKS after the global condemnation of the processional season-opener in Bahrain, Australia's Albert Park on Sunday hosted a thrilling second round of the 2010 world championship.
Ahead of the Malaysian race in just a few days, F1 team bosses had organised to meet to discuss the apparent rules crisis, with rafts of proposals on the table to ward off the problems of Bahrain-type boredom.
But although the occasionally drizzling skies played their role in the exciting race, Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost said the 58-laps in Melbourne were "a lesson to those who seem to want to change the rules every five minutes".
Michael Schumacher finished a disappointing tenth in Australia due to an early wing change and a long scrap with Jaime Alguersuari.
But he had been initially critical of the new rules formula in Bahrain, and after the Australian race commented, "For the fans it was a great race after a little bit of criticism, quite rightly, for the first race.
"But here, today, I think we made up for it a little bit," the seven-time world champion added.
Raikkonen To Partner Vettel At Red Bull In 2011 - Report
KIM RAIKKONEN is set to replace Red Bull's Mark Webber ahead of the 2011 season.
A report in Germany's Bild am Sonntag said the return of the Finn to Formula One, to become his friend Sebastian Vettel's teammate, is already being arranged.
Raikkonen, 30, is already under contract to the energy drinks company, having switched from Ferrari to world rallying for 2010 with the Red Bull-funded Citroen Junior Team.
RBR team boss Christian Horner recently admitted that hiring Raikkonen for 2011 is an "interesting idea", and speculation about Webber's expiring contract was re-fired this weekend when Lewis Hamilton tipped the Australian to retire.
Horner said on Saturday: "We are very happy with our drivers. Mark is driving very well, and he is not old, as Michael has demonstrated.
"The average age (of F1 drivers) has dropped, but as long as Mark is motivated, competitive and quick, I don't think that he has any thoughts of stopping just yet."
Vettel told Bild am Sonntag, "Kimi and I are good friends, but in the end I don't care who sits in the other car because I still have to beat him."
He would not confirm that the Raikkonen deal is close to being finalised.
"I don't know what the team is planning. And in the end, it is of course Kimi's decision. He needs to see how he feels."
Vettel Defect Revealed - Wheel Damaged By Loose Nut
IN DARKNESS at Albert Park very late on Sunday, Red Bull technicians identified the problem that ruined Sebastian Vettel's charge to victory.
A simple spark plug cost the 22-year-old the Bahrain win two weeks ago, and now it is confirmed that a damaged wheel mounting due to a vibrating wheel nut was the cause of another foiled run from pole position.
Germany's Auto Motor und Sport said the left front wheel nut worked loose and damaged the mounting, which then speared Vettel into the gravel and retirement under braking.
The report said the garage inspection of the RB6 took just 15 minutes, involving Head of Engineering Ian Morgan, designer Adrian Newey and their boss Christian Horner.
Suspecting a problem with the fitting of the wheel in the pitstop, Horner said, "In 6000 kilometres of testing nothing like this happened."
That is small comfort for Vettel, who is now 25 points behind Fernando Alonso's early title lead.
"Of course it is annoying. Yet another defect," he said. "I could be going to Malaysia with 50 points."