Albert Park offers antidote to Bahrain bore

Race of excitement and incident spells end for mooted knee-jerk rule changes, writes David Tremayne
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The Independent Online

If the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix was dull enough to make television viewers across the globe reach for the off switch, what was it that made the Australian Grand Prix so special? Why could one event offer virtually no overtaking, and another a plethora of it?

There is no doubt that the rain shower shortly before the start yesterday was a major factor. Any time the grip level drops as dramatically as it can in such conditions, the racing tends to get better. So much so that people regularly joke in the paddock that there should be a synthetic sprinkler system at every track that can be activated randomly.

The other factor, however, concerns the tracks themselves. The Sakhir Circuit in Bahrain, designed by Hermann Tilke who has responsibility for the majority of new Formula One tracks, is a characterless place which features stop-go corners where drivers cannot develop the decent rhythm and momentum that you need before you can build up to an overtaking attempt.

Melbourne's Albert Park, by contrast, has some more flowing curves, in particular on the run from the first corner down to the braking area for Turn Six, where a lot of passing gets done. It is possible to get a run on the man in front, and then to challenge him under braking.

"I don't think there's any getting away from the fact that we probably all thought that the last race was not the most exciting and what were we going to do about it," the Australian Grand Prix race winner Jenson Button said. "But I'm glad that we haven't really jumped to too many conclusions or ideas, because I think this race was a great race. I had a lot of fun; obviously when you win you have more fun than any other position but overtaking cars on the circuit and watching on the big television screens I could see that there was a lot of action going on.

"I hope it's not just because of the weather conditions. I hope that we can have races like this because this is what we love and hopefully these sort of races are here to stay. You are going to have races that aren't the most exhilarating experience for us but that's the way it is. Not every football match is fun to watch. It's got to be a bit of a balance, I think.

"One thing that was pretty tricky in this race was the light. I had a clear visor and at the end of the race I was struggling to see on the last few laps. It seemed a lot darker than last year. I suppose it was because there was no sunlight, it was all behind clouds, so that might be something we need to look at a little bit."

Ideas suggested in the post-Bahrain gloom, such as success ballast which is used in other racing series, where weight is added to a car as a handicap according to how well it has done in a previous race, or making the choice of tyres at each race weekend between supersoft compound grooved tyres and hard compound slicks, which would offer very different driving characteristics, are now likely to be shelved.