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F1: Dominant Vettel Paced Himself In Australia Photo:
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Mike Stevens | Mar, 29 2011 | 0 Comments

Sebastian Vettel did not play the RB7's full hand of cards in Melbourne, according to Red Bull motorsport consultant Helmut Marko.

Reigning World Champion Vettel got his 2011 defence off to the best possible start at the weekend by easily strolling to pole position and the win.

But some rivals, notably McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, took heart in the fact that he was able to finish just 22 seconds behind the young German while nursing a broken floor.

"I can win in this car. I can go for the title. We'll close the gap on them, no doubt about that," Hamilton said before leaving Albert Park.

But Marko said Vettel, a vast eight-tenths ahead of Hamilton in qualifying 24 hours earlier, had paced himself in the race.

"Sebastian based himself on his opponents, setting his pace according to the competition - especially Hamilton," the Austrian told German broadcaster RTL.

"We just wanted the gap for a pitstop or in case the safety car came out," added Marko. "In the end he was just protecting the tyres.

"We still have some more in it (the car)," he said.

Hamilton's teammate Jenson Button seemed to acknowledge the possibility that Vettel sandbagged in Australia.

"I don't know if we are quick enough to challenge the Red Bulls. I don't know if they were holding something back here," he told the Guardian.

Niki Lauda told Germany's Bild newspaper he suspects Vettel will indeed dominate the entire World Championship.

"Let's see what happens next, but I fear it might be boring for us," said the famous triple-World Champion. "I see no reason why Malaysia should be any different."

Ferrari, however, is banking on a surge of form following a disappointing opening salvo in Australia.

"I'm convinced that things will change," said Felipe Massa, who finished almost a lap behind and was derided as being "so slow" by Button after their long duel.

"Not at any of the winter tests did we go so badly," he is quoted by Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport.

(GMM)

 

Horner Jokes After Mercedes' Melbourne Struggle

Christian Horner poked fun at Mercedes after the German team's bad start to the 2011 season.

As the paddock took shape last week in Melbourne, Michael Schumacher predicted the W02 car might be Red Bull's closest challenger this year.

But the Brackley-built car was in fact two seconds off the pace in qualifying before the seven-time World Champion retired "for safety reasons" with a damaged floor.

"The team said 'stop, it makes no sense, it's too dangerous'," Schumacher told Bild newspaper.

Teammate Nico Rosberg also stopped after being struck by Rubens Barrichello's Williams.

"Mercedes was lucky to have failed cars, so that nobody could see how slow they were," Red Bull team boss Horner joked to the German newspaper.

Schumacher admitted that Mercedes lacked speed in Melbourne.

"I can't tell you how good we would have been in the race because my car was damaged in the third corner. But it definitely would not have been easy.

"After the encouraging winter tests we came here with very different expectations," he said.

Mercedes also had problems with its KERS units in Australia, but competition director Norbert Haug urged calm.

"To panic or to rush would be the ideal recipe for failure," Welt newspaper quotes him as saying.

(GMM)

 

Boss Criticises FIA After Button Penalty

Martin Whitmarsh criticised FIA officials after Jenson Button served a drive-through penalty in the Australian Grand Prix.

The British driver took a short-cut on the inside of Albert Park's high-speed chicane on Sunday as he passed Ferrari's Felipe Massa.

"I feel a bit harshly treated," boss Whitmarsh is quoted as saying by British newspapers.

"As the incident happened we asked race control for their advice, what we should do. They explained they would come back to us and they didn't," he revealed.

"The next thing we knew it had gone to the stewards, Massa had stopped and we were unable to do anything about it. When they say 'We'll get back to you', you expect, to be honest, that they'll get back to you.

"It's frustrating and its annoying," he added.

At the same time, Button admitted to suspecting that Ferrari called Massa in for new tyres immediately after the incident so that he would not be able to simply let the Brazilian back into position.

"I don't know if Ferrari pitted Massa on purpose so I would get a drive-through, fair enough if they did. That's the way it is," he said.

"Maybe it was done on purpose, maybe not. I just don't know why he was so slow. It screwed both of us," added Button.

Overall, however, Whitmarsh admitted he was happy with the pace of the MP4-26 in Australia, with Lewis Hamilton finishing second after a dire winter season.

"Two weeks ago I would have snatched your hand off for that result," he said.

(GMM)

 
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