With the first race of 2013 comes the first Performance Podium rankings of the year. For those of you unfamiliar with it, it’s basically an extended driver of the day ranking, with the top three making up the ‘performance’ podium.
One slight change from last year is the introduction of a points system for the top three drivers. The driver ranked first will receive 10 points, the second placed driver five points and the third placed driver two points. In addition, on occasions there will be honourable mentions for those who didn’t quite make the cut. In these instances, any driver in this position will get one point.
With that tedious explanation out of the way, here is the performance podium from the Australian Grand Prix.
1) Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus-Renault)
Kimi Raikkonen began the season in fine style by taking an impressive victory in Melbourne. Starting seventh, the Lotus driver worked his way up to fourth in the opening stages and was quickly on the pace of those in front of him.
With Raikkonen’s tyre management and speed on a superior level to that of his rivals, the Finn was the only one of the frontrunners to run a two-stop race as opposed to three, and he took full advantage of that as he put in two very impressive stints on the medium tyres and assumed the lead once his competitors had made their third stops.
Despite Fernando Alonso’s best efforts to reel him in, Raikkonen stayed calm, controlling the gap with confidence and then upping the pace to pull clear of the Ferrari in the closing stages as he took his second win since his comeback to Formula One.
With such an impressive performance to start the season, things are looking strong for Raikkonen as he looks to win a second world title.
2) Adrian Sutil (Force India-Mercedes)
There is no doubting that the surprise performance of the race came from Adrian Sutil. The Force India driver drove a storming first stint on the medium tyres and put himself right amongst the frontrunners.
Not only did he manage to drag himself into the leading group, but Sutil then managed to keep his car at the front throughout the second stint and during the middle part of the race was a genuine podium contender.
Unfortunately, Sutil’s ill-timed switch to the super-soft tyres in the final stint left him several seconds off the pace in the closing stages, and the German driver lost places to Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber as he narrowly held off teammate Paul di Resta for seventh place.
However, that must not detract from a stunning performance from Sutil who, on his first race since his return to Force India, showed exactly why he was always worthy of a drive in Formula One.
3) Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)
The Australian Grand Prix may have been the start of a new season, but for Fernando Alonso it was the traditional textbook drive. The Spaniard drove brilliantly throughout the race, hounding teammate Felipe Massa and Sebastian Vettel in the first two stints before making good use of strategy at the second round of pit stops to leapfrog them both.
Alonso then pulled away from the rest of the three-stoppers and consolidated himself as the best driver on his strategy. Although he ultimately lost out to the superior tyre management and strategy of Kimi Raikkonen, Alonso achieved as much as he could from his car and pushed the Lotus driver all the way for the win.
With Ferrari having provided Alonso with a much better machine this year, the Spaniard will be extremely confident going forward as he chases that elusive third title.
HM – Jules Bianchi (Marussia-Cosworth)
Despite being edged out for a place in the top three, it would seem wrong to write a piece based on driver performance without mentioning Marussia rookie Jules Bianchi.
Despite the Australian Grand Prix being Bianchi’s first race in Formula One, and the last minute nature of his arrival at the Marussia team which left him with minimal testing ahead of the new season, the Frenchman was by far the strongest of the four backmarkers as he finished fifteenth and well over half a minute clear of teammate and fellow rookie Max Chilton.
Bianchi has come into Formula One off the back of an impressive career in the junior formulae, and with the Frenchman having shown his undoubted potential already, expectations will be high for the rest of the season.
2013 Performance Podium Rankings
1) Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus-Renault) – 10pts
2) Adrian Sutil (Force India-Mercedes) – 5pts
3) Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) – 2pts
4) Jules Bianchi (Marussia-Cosworth) – 1pt