SILVER STREAK

McLaren
Photo by Michael Shaw
It’s all silver and red for the front row of the Qantas Australian Grand Prix with LEWIS HAMILTON/Vodafone McLaren Mercedes taking the pole position and flanked by his teammate, JENSON BUTTON. The weather was warm and sunny, cloudless blue skies and a crisp breeze. And most importantly … dry.

Hamilton’s lap was a 1:24.922/139:686 mph/224.803 kph. He said ‚ÄúToday we showed that we not only have the most beautiful car in Formula 1, but also the fastest!” The sleek silver car has the lowest sloping nose of all the cars, and some are saying it won’t be long before other teams start adopting the profile.

Making it even sweeter was the uptick in the crowd count. This year’s Saturday drew 70,500 compared to last year’s 68,700. So far, all three days have exceeded the 2011 figures.

ROMAIN GROSJEAN/Lotus F1 team was third fastest. He had led at one point.

Fourth was MICHAEL SCHUMACHER/Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team. Aussie veteran driver, MARK WEBBER/Red Bull Racing beat his teammate, SEBASTIAN VETTEL for fifth position.

At the other end of the grid, the hapless HRT F1 Team finally had both cars on course but were unable to make the field due to speeds outside the 107 percent rule. Although they applied to the Stewards for an exemption, it was denied. So the team – which said the AGP was its test period – will lick its wounds and move on to Malaysia for the second round.

Salt in the wound for HRT drivers. Both were called to the principal’s office after the session for a hearing regarding impeding other drivers. PEDRO DE LA ROSA on HEIKKI KOVALAINEN/Caterham F1 Team; and NARAIN KARTHIKEYAN on FERNANDO ALONSO/Ferrari.

PDR wasn’t the only one visiting the Stewards. Others receiving summons were Schumacher and DANIEL RICCIARDIO/Scuderio Toro Rosso regarding the veteran impeding the young Aussie.

Alonso
Photo by Ron Searle

Alonso didn’t have a good time of it. He spun out and beached it in the gravel close to the barrier in Turn One. Despite hand signals to be pushed out, Alonso had to abandon ship and take a lift from the Boundary Rider. The car was deemed to be in an unsafe location, which caused a Red Flag, and the penalty for that is losing the lap. Alonso will start twelfth.

Young SERGIO PEREZ/Sauber F1 Team will start 17th, five slots down the grid from qualifying, as he had to change a gearbox after qualifying.

Earlier in the afternoon, the V8 Supercars race got off to a bad start and had to be red-flagged after there was a spectacular pileup in Turn Three. No one was injured, but there was massive fluids and amounts of debris to be mitigated. The track wasn’t pristine for the start of F1 Qualifying.

XXXX Angels
Photo by Ron Searle

The crowds were large, the overhead shots of the track showed full grandstands and large clusters of fans on the viewing mounds. Near Pit Lane and the Paddock Club, Pete’s Bar was in full swing, complete with scantily clad go-go table top pole dancers. A good time was being had by any on this Saint Patrick’s Day. There were all kinds of attractive bands of roving females representing varying sorts of sponsors, mingling, posing for shots, and generally causing mutual enjoyment for many.

Overhead, the RAAF Roulettes and F-16’s put on satisfying aerial demonstrations.

Sunday’s 17th running of AGP at Albert Park will start at 5pm local time.

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