Formula One is a world sport. An expensive one. And it does get affected by what is happening in the world today. The first race of the year supposed to take place in Bahrain. On March 13. But that did not happen. The Bahrain people have a future to fight for. F1 could well be the last thing in their minds right now. So, this season, F1 starts in Australia instead. Cars have stickers saying “We Pray for Japan”. The Australian crowd together with 100 million viewers observed a minute of silence, in memory of the recent Japanese earthquake. In front of the TV, I too was silence for a minute, praying for Japan.
Each year, the brains behind F1 introduce something new to the sport. This year sees the return of KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) and the new DRS (Drag Reduction System). KERS works like a power booster and it is powered by a battery that gets charged up during braking. Drivers are allowed to press that turbo button for up to 6.67 seconds per lap. That translates to up to a 0.4 seconds boost per lap. That is not a lot, you may say. Well, take the Australia race as an example, the time difference between the 3rd place Petrov and 4th place Alonso is 1.04 seconds, over 58 laps. One stood on the podium. The other did not. Every millisecond counts, when it comes to F1.
I loved watching KERS in action 2 seasons ago. KERS was banned last year. This year, cars like Ferrari and McLaren that have invested in the KERS technology previously (and suffered from it back then) seem to have made it works. Red Bull has KERS installed, the batteries were all charged up, but apparently, neither of the two drivers pressed that magic button during the entire race. Vettel, the ever so mischievous young dude (cocky may be a better word) wanted to keep the press guessing on whether or not he has used that magic button during the Australia race. Words are out that the 2010 constructor champion Red Bull is still trying to make KERS work. Or the more diplomatic statement is that right now, without KERS, the car is optimal. Whatever the case, Vettel’s Red Bull seems to have dominated the race, like last season. They may have the best F1 engineer today. And looks like Vettel is a force to reckon with. A legend in the making? We shall see.
To the viewers, Vettel’s drive to first position may well be a forgettable race. He was so far ahead that there was nothing much to report, really. If not for Hamilton’s car near to falling apart in the final laps, his race to second position would also have been forgettable (except the first lap when he regained the track position from Webber). Hamilton was in the middle of nowhere. Not fast enough to touch Vettel. Not slow enough to be touched by Petrov. The more exciting part of the race goes to the fight between Button, Alonso, Massa, and Petrov. When DRS first kicked into action, I was so excited that my heart nearly popped out. Here is how DRS works.
In a designated section of the circuit, if a car in pursuit is within 1 second to the car in front, the DRS green light on the steering wheel will light up. The driver will be able to open the flap on the rear wing to reduce the drag and give a little speed boost so as to attack the car in front. This is to facilitate overtaking. The F1 stewards by the magic of modern technology decides when DRS can be used for which car. It is not a sure win battle, otherwise it would have been too trivial. Some drivers claim that DRS has helped them in some ways. Perhaps time will tell.
Below is a video narrated by Mark Webber on KERS and DRS.
We could only imagine what a race this could be had Robert Kubica been able to drive for Renault this season. That serious injury he suffered from the rally race, I doubt if he is returning to F1 any time soon, if at all. His teammate, the Russian rookie Petrov, has made it to the podium taking the third position. Renault is looking good this year. It is refreshing to see a new face at the podium. The result of this Australia race looks hauntingly similar to the last race of previous season held in Abu Dhabi. On top of that, it looks as though Petrov is Alonso’s Achilles’s heel. The same person who denied Alonso the 2010 championship is now denying his podium celebration for the Australia race. What is going on? What happens to Ferrari? And what happens to Mercedes and their drivers Schumacher and Rosberg who both DNF (did not finish)? One thing for sure. I am looking forward to watching the next race on TV. Destination Malaysia.