F1 Power Rankings: Australian Grand Prix

This weekend marks the start of another championship campaign. Since 1996, the Australian Grand Prix has been the first race of the Formula One World Championship season. Once again, the roads around Albert Park in Melbourne, Australia, will feature the stars of F1 turning their wheels in anger for the first time in a season.

So to kick off 2012 World Championship, we take a look at the best and worst of Formula One in our F1 Power Rankings.

#1 Sebastian Vettel
The twice defending World Drivers’ Champ notes that the two first races are back-to-back and at very different tracks: “Australia and Malaysia are different circuits so they are hard to compare. Australia is not a permanent race track, it’s quite bumpy and it’s tough for the car. Malaysia is smoother, as it’s a permanent race track with fast corners, but both are good tracks and Australia is one of the best places we go to. It’s good to know we’re going racing again, I can’t wait to get on the flight and get down under.”

#2 Jenson Button
Jenson would like to detail all his favourite memories from running through Albert Park: “There are lots. My first grand prix was here way back in 2000 – it was just a buzz to be in Formula 1: it was pretty intense, the whole weekend just flew past pretty quickly. I had pole here in 2006 – another good memory. But I think the two most significant memories for me were, in 2009, winning from pole for Brawn GP. It was a momentous race for the entire team and it felt so sweet to give them such a reward.”

#3 Lewis Hamilton
Old Louise Hamilton (the first of many David Hobbs-isms to come this season) is more ready than ever before after testing: “I actually feel more relaxed and ready for the new season than I think I’ve ever done. Everything has gone smoothly with the car – which is more than we can say for last year! – and it just seems to be a responsive and reliable package. My final day in the car – with the aero package we plan to run next weekend – also felt good: the car was a useful step forward.”

#4 Fernando Alonso
Let’s take this opportunity to remind you that there are a record six World Drivers’ Champions on the grid to start the season. Among those six champions are 14 World Drivers’ Championships or almost one-quarter (actually about 22.6%) of the 62 World Drivers’ Championships (since 1950) awarded are represented on the grid this year. Whoever wins the title will definitely have earned it against top flight competition.

#5 Mark Webber
Not surprisingly, @AussieGrit is excited to kick off the season at home: “This will be my eleventh Australian GP and I can’t wait to get started. The Grand Prix is one of the best sporting events that we have in Australia. It’s great to see the support and Australian flags in the crowd. I’ve incorporated more of an Australian theme into my helmet, which I’ll be using for the whole year, not just in Australia… There’s always a huge amount of interest in the first race; this year is no different and there’s no better place to have it than Australia.”

#6 Kimi Raikkonen
Two seasons off and Kimi doesn’t see a massive difference in life on the track: “It’s still racing and more is the same as before than has changed. With the DRS and the KERS they are just buttons to press. In testing, sometimes you press it too late or too early but it’s not going to change an awful lot. Pit stops are a bit shorter than before but nothing really different; you stop the car and then you go.”

#7 Felipe Massa
Old Phil Massa doesn’t think he should be judged based on a couple of pre-season tests: “I won’t hide the fact that we are not 100 per cent satisfied with what we have done in these three test sessions in Spain and I would have preferred to be a bit quicker. We have a totally new car and we must still learn about it and get all its potential out of it. I have a very strong team and I have lots of faith in their capacity to be able to develop the chassis during the season. The truth is we will only discover the situation in Australia when we are all in the same conditions: little fuel in the tank and the softest tyres on the car.”

#8 Nico Rosberg
Nico’s eyes are on qualifying when all the cars will be on relatively equal terms: “I’m really looking forward to the start of the new season in Australia next weekend. I had a perfect winter break with plenty of rest, a good training camp and a successful pre-season test programme where we were able to put a lot of mileage on our F1 W03 car. So we are really ready for the first race… After all of the hard work, and all of the speculation, it will be really interesting to see where we are on Saturday afternoon after qualifying.”

#9 Michael Schumacher
It figures that Seven Time would sum the pre-season up the best: “Finally, we can stop trying to read the tea-leaves from testing and actually go racing. Melbourne is a perfect location, and the ideal place to start the season. The city loves Formula One, the fans create a great atmosphere and obviously, as drivers, we feel that too. And because we’ve already got a buzz about what’s to come, it just makes you want to get out there and start driving.”

#10 Daniel Ricciardo
After a comparatively successful (to his teammates) half-season with HRT, Ricciardo gets the call up to F1 full-time with the Red Bull junior team. Ricciardo is another of the seemingly endless Red Bull development drivers brought into the Red Bull B-team. It’s assumed that he’s being groomed this season to replace Mark Webber should the Aussie not come back to RBR in 2013. The interesting thing is that Toro Rosso is supposed to be for F1 rookies according to Red Bull exec Helmut Marko. Danny Boy is actually nine months older than one of the men he replaced in Jaime Alguersuari. Just one of those strange F1 facts.

#11 Romain Grosjean
Grosjean isn’t nearly as interesting as teammate Raikkonen: “My target is to give my best every time I’m in the car; to get the best from the car and to get the best from myself. I want to make the least amount of mistakes possible. I want to get points at every opportunity. I don’t set myself a target of a particular position, I just want to do my best and do my job as well as I can so I can bring some good points to the team.”

#12 Jean-Eric Vergne
I have to wonder about the smarts behind the Red Bull driver development ladder that brings drivers from Formula Renault 3.5 straight to F1. It basically jumps the otherwise successful feeder series of GP2 and GP3. Most teams accept the fact that GP2 is a proper training ground for future driver as it runs on the same ciruits in similar cars to the F1 boys. Jaime Alguersuari was deemed a failure by the Red Bull bosses and he was the last man they brought up straight from FR3.5. I hope they haven’t hung Vergne out to dry.

#13 Paul di Resta
The only thing that Dario’s cousin can predict for the start of the season is that it will be unpredictable: “I don’t think anybody can say they know for sure. All the teams around us look strong and have been consistent in testing, so we just have to wait and see. Also, I think almost every team will have some new parts on their cars so it really is too early to make any judgements. To begin with our goal is simply to try and pick up points at every race.”

#14 Kamui Kobayashi
For Kobayashi Maru, the 2012 season is about the team getting some consistency after some consistently inconsistent seasons: “For me the main target is that we are more consistent this year. In 2010 we had a difficult first part of the season, and only recovered in the second half. In 2011 it was vice versa – we had a great start but struggled later in the season. If we can consistently display our best potential, we could score consistently. It must be like this.”

#15 Nico Hulkenberg
Nico knows that a season off from racing might slow him a little bit at first: “The testing has gone pretty well and it’s been crucial for helping me get prepared. But I know testing is very different to racing because you don’t have the same pressures of a race weekend. I think the true test will be qualifying when you have to deliver right away and you only get one chance.”

#16 Sergio Perez
Checo Perez feels as though having settled into the routine of Formula One will help him improve this season: “Now, with one season in Formula 1 under my belt, I feel physically and mentally capable of doing the job. One year of experience isn’t that much, but even this will allow me to focus more on performance than I was able to last year. I got used to a variety of circumstances which come along when you are a Formula 1 driver. This goes for procedures and communication inside the team, but it also includes that I found a good personal life balance with all the travelling.”

#17 Bruno Senna
Bruno’s back in F1. It’s only with Williams but it beats the hell out of HRT: “Getting into the car on Friday will be very exciting, and I hope we can be competitive from the very beginning. I know the Albert Park circuit, having driven there for HRT in 2010. I’ve also had success, winning three of the four Formula Three races supporting the Australian Grand Prix in 2006, so I have good memories of the place. Pre-season testing was promising, but you never know exactly what everyone is doing. It is certainly very close, so it is going to be very tight this year.”

#18 Pastor Maldonado
Pastor’s driving and PR quotes will both put you to sleep: “Albert Park is a nice track. I really love that kind of street circuit, so I hope we will have a good weekend. I know the track this year and I’m more confident with the team and the car, so that will also help. The whole team have been pushing so hard all winter to improve, and I’ve also been pushing myself. It’s exciting to get back racing and to see what speed everyone has when the weekend gets underway.”

#19 Heikki Kovalainen

#20 Vitaly Petrov

#21 Timo Glock
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s the return of Tim O’Glock: “I couldn’t wait to try the MR01 for the first time last Monday. Even though it wasn’t in representative conditions, it has been a long wait to get my hands on a car that I’m hoping will be a good step forward from the past two seasons. It has been a frustrating winter for sure, but you have two choices and the only thing to do was to focus on everything we could be doing off-track to make sure we were as prepared as possible for when we did run the car.”

#22 Pedro de la Rosa
I don’t think Pedro’s actually driven the car yet. That’s going to be a problem: “After a long winter of hard work, we’ve finally made it to Australia and are really looking forward to trying the car out and continue learning. We need to try and make the most of our time on Friday and Saturday morning to make it to qualifying and the race in the best possible conditions. We would have liked to have come with more mileage but I think it’s an achievement to have made it with a 100 per cent new car and a practically new team.”

#23 Charles Pic
Chuck, have you even driven the MR01 on track? “It is true I would have preferred to have more track time before my first grand prix but I have been working on the simulator so we will do the best we can. Australia will be very special for sure and I will have a lot of support around me. I’m looking forward to getting into the routine of a race weekend and continuing to build the relationship with my engineers. The team have been a great support for me so I know I can count on them.”

#24 Narain Karthikeyan
I don’t know how much money he’s bringing but it’s clear that Narain is one of the best backed drivers in F1. That’s the only logical explanation for his re-employment with HRT this year after being dropped mid-season in 2011: “I’m feeling positive ahead of the Australian Grand Prix after having completed 10 laps with the new F112 last Monday. Of course this was only a first contact and we didn’t push it to the limit but the important thing was to get the ball rolling. It’s not ideal to miss testing but we must look forward now.”

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