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Vettel takes maiden Melbourne victory

NEWS STORY
27/03/2011

Having out-qualified his nearest rival by over three-quarters of a second, and considering how well he performed on his last two outings, few would bet against Sebastian Vettel getting his 2011 championship off to the very best of starts today.

The youngster has been on scintillating form all weekend, and on learning that he hadn't used KERS on his qualifying run even Hamilton was left almost speechless.

Indeed, both McLaren and Red Bull look good thus far this weekend, though the Austrian outfit seems to have that little bit more in reserve.

Whether sections of the media were over-reacting - it has been known - or McLaren really has performed miracles since Barcelona, the fact is that the Woking outfit's pace on Friday was no fluke and Messrs Hamilton and Button look to have the makings of a good package beneath them.

Ferrari admits to being caught out by the pace of the Red Bulls, but even so, we expected more than fifth from Alonso, while it will be interesting to see how he deals with his Abu Dhabi nemesis, Vitaly Petrov, today.

Despite a strong final test in Barcelona, Mercedes clearly has work to do, while Toro Rosso and Sauber are both looking good at this early stage for points finishes.

Williams had a dreadful qualifying session but one race does not make a season, while at Force India Adrian Sutil looks to have his hands full with Paul di Resta.

Lotus and Virgin pick up where they left off last season, the Russian outfit admitting that the pace of its rivals has taken it by surprise.

Hispania, which at this stage appears to be the Rebecca Black of the F1 grid, misses this race despite the heroic efforts of its crew. Let's hope its owners can sort out the behind the scenes mess by Sepang.

However, the big question mark hanging over today's race - other than whether the DRS and KERS will 'spic up the show' is tyres. With the option (soft) tyres said to be good for 15 laps and the prime (hard) 15-20 we should be looking at a two-stopper today. However, there are many - including the Pitpass team - who have their doubts. While conditions won't be anything like we all expected this weekend, the Pirellis are facing a major test, the white heat of battle. What went before was nothing.

For the first time this weekend we not only have blue skies, the sun is actually shining… yes shining! While this will cause visibility problems - especially in Turns 1 and 3 - but more importantly raise the temperature which should also affect tyre wear.

Eager to get to work, Vettel is the first driver to arrive on the grid. The Red Bull crew immediately take their places around the all-important rear end of the car.

Fifteen minutes before the start of the race, in a move co-ordinated by the FIA and FOTA, the drivers assemble for a one minute silence in respect of the victims of the recent disaster in Japan. Sadly, no obvious reference to New Zealand even though, like Japan, it has played a significant role in the F1 story… think McLaren, Hulme and Amon.

With five minutes to go, as the drivers climb into their cars, the leading ten are all on the option (soft) compound. Schumacher, starting eleventh, is on a brand new set of softs.

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