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Top Gear Philippines

Australian Grand Prix

You'd be forgiven for thinking that Formula 1 is rather elitist. It thrives, after all, on pushing the boundaries of automotive design, mechanical mastery, physical fitness and wide-scale logistics. Tires hammered down to the core. Engines on full whine hitting 18,000rpm through all seven cogs of the gearbox. Cockpit temperatures and lateral forces of up to 50 degrees and 6 g. Team personnel and equipment traveling by land, air and sea to 19 different countries in the space of nine months.

F1 is therefore expensive for organizers, teams and fans alike, because all that on-the-limit stuff takes millions of dollars to sustain. Why is it worth following? Precisely for all the things that appear to make it extreme and wasteful. The human element figures strongly in it, too--there's always adrenaline where speed is, and in the high-pressure environment of motor racing, the combination can be as destructive as it is rewarding.

Speed, technology, drama: These three make up the sport's formula at such great levels as to render it intimidating. If that has held you back from giving the world's premier racing series a try, our F1 coverage for 2013 will make it fun and funny. Basically, we'll be making five predictions for each race based on the Friday free practice (FP) sessions, and given the unpredictability of motorsport, we're bound to get some of them completely and hilariously off the mark. (Which is why we'd like partial points for guesses we get somewhat correctly.)

To start off, let's head to Melbourne for the Australian GP. Also, be sure to check out our F1 primer in the March 2013 issue to get you set for the season.

1. Red Bull, Ferrari, Lotus and Mercedes are the current top four. This is something that will be reflected in qualifying, but not necessarily in the race. The defending champions and the Maranello squad are right up there again, but McLaren has been leapfrogged even by midfielders Williams and Sauber at the moment. How bad is it for the British team? With less than 30 minutes left in FP2, Jenson Button's car was undergoing a rear suspension change.

It's likely that one of the Maccas will sneak past some of the leading cars on Sunday, though. Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull exhibited a KERS problem during practice, while teammate Mark Webber had a half-spin late in FP2, apparently caused by "something wrong" in his machinery. Over at Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton ended up in the gravel after likewise reporting a problem, and Nico Rosberg stopped with a gearbox issue.

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2. The newcomers will prevail over their teammates. Among the experienced drivers, Hamilton and Adrian Sutil (Force India) are joining teams whose second drivers have been there for at least two seasons. Both practice sessions show them as having better pace than their teammates, and we expect this trend to continue throughout the weekend.

3. Giedo van der Garde of Caterham will be the worst-faring rookie. To be honest, we initially pegged it to be Marussia's Max Chilton, whose name makes him sound like a rich British schoolboy with a father who'd bought him an F1 seat. Wait--that's correct, even if teams in lower formulae insist there's talent to go with the funding. Whatever. Fellow rookie Jules Bianchi in the sister car registered better trial times.

Why pick van der Garde instead? Well, he ended Friday dead last on both timetables, and he beached his car in FP2. Other first-timers Valtteri Bottas (Williams) and Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber) are driving better cars, so while their experienced teammates are likely to leave them behind, they won't be bringing up the rear if they're careful enough.

4. We won't see rain on Sunday, and there will be three to four pit stops on average. That prediction comes courtesy of our motorsports editor Mikko David, who is in Melbourne right now for the race weekend. "It will be sunny all day long, with some clouds shading spectators," he says. "However, it won't be cool enough to benefit teams that have traditionally struggled with tire wear, like Mercedes and McLaren. Expect the hot weather to burn through the tires and make the teams stop more than usual."

Official weather forecasts are actually saying it will rain, but since Mikko has spent a fortune to get himself trackside, we might as well stand by his opinion.

5. Defending champion Vettel will be on pole, but Fernando Alonso will win the race. No love lost between this pair, who've contested two out of the last three title battles. We don't want Red Bull's triple champion to make this year 2011 all over again, so we might as well pick Ferrari's number one driver to win. Besides, Vettel's car has that failing KERS, and his poofy-top haircut doesn't look aerodynamic.

Photo from Red Bull Racing


AUS Free Practice One Free Practice Two
Pos Driver (Team) Time, +Gap (Tire) Driver (Team) Time, +Gap (Tire)
1 S. Vettel
(Red Bull)
1:27.211
(M)
S. Vettel
(Red Bull)
1:25.908
(SS)
2 F. Massa
(Ferrari)
1:27.289, +0.078
(M)
M. Webber
(Red Bull)
1:26.172, +0.264
(SS)
3 F. Alonso
(Ferrari)
1:27.547, +0.336
(M)
N. Rosberg
(Mercedes)
1:26.322, +0.414
(SS)
4 L. Hamilton
(Mercedes)
1:27.552, +0.341
(M)
K. Raikkonen
(Lotus)
1:26.361, +0.453
(SS)
5 M. Webber
(Red Bull)
1:27.668, +0.457
(M)
R. Grosjean
(Lotus)
1:26.680, +0.772
(SS)
6 K. Raikkonen
(Lotus)
1:27.877, +0.666
(M)
F. Alonso
(Ferrari)
1:26.748, +0.840
(SS)
7 N. Rosberg
(Mercedes)
1:28.013, +0.802
(M)
L. Hamilton
(Mercedes)
1:26.772, +0.864
(SS)
8 A. Sutil
(Force India)
1:28.426, +1.215
(M)
F. Massa
(Ferrari)
1:26.855, +0.947
(SS)
9 J. Button
(McLaren)
1:28.440, +1.229
(M)
A. Sutil
(Force India)
1:27.435, +1.527
(SS)
10 R. Grosjean
(Lotus)
1:28.520, +1.309
(M)
N. Hulkenberg
(Sauber)
1:28.187, +2.279
(SS)
11 S. Perez
(McLaren)
1:28.597, +1.386
(M)
J. Button
(McLaren)
1:28.294, +2.386
(SS)
12 N. Hulkenberg
(Sauber)
1:28.786, +1.575
(M)
P. di Resta
(Force India)
1:28.311, 2.403
(SS)
13 P. di Resta
(Force India)
1:28.910, +1.699
(M)
S. Perez
(McLaren)
1:28.566, +2.658
(M)
14 P. Maldonado
(Williams)
1:29.443, +2.232
(M)
D. Ricciardo
(Toro Rosso)
1:28.627, 2.719
(SS)
15 V. Bottas
(Williams)
1:29.928, +2.717
(M)
E. Gutierrez
(Sauber)
1:28.772, +2.864
(SS)
16 E. Gutierrez
(Sauber)
1:30.203, +2.992
(M)
P. Maldonado
(Williams)
1:28.852, +2.944
(SS)
17 J. Vergne
(Toro Rosso)
1:30.729, +3.518
(M)
J. Vergne
(Toro Rosso)
1:28.968, +3.060
(SS)
18 D. Ricciardo
(Toro Rosso)
1:30.969, +3.758
(M)
V. Bottas
(Williams)
1:29.386, +3.478
(SS)
19 J. Bianchi
(Marussia)
1:31.263, +4.052
(M)
J. Bianchi
(Marussia)
1:29.696, +3.788
(SS)
20 M. Chilton
(Marussia)
1:32.176, +4.965
(M)
C. Pic
(Caterham)
1:30.165, +4.257
(SS)
21 C. Pic
(Caterham)
1:32.274, +5.063
(M)
M. Chilton
(Marussia)
1:30.600, +4.692
(SS)
22 G. van der Garde
(Caterham)
1:32.388, +5.177
(M)
G. van der Garde
(Caterham)
1:32.450, +6.542
(M)

Legend: M—medium compound; SS—supersoft compound

Sharleen Banzon
Contributor
An inveterate Formula 1 geek, Sharleen tips the scales at just 50kg because she starves herself to save up for F1 trips.
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