The Australian Grand Prix was a race full of missed opportunities and many drivers will head to Malaysia this week seeking redemption. Only the Brawn GP team can leave Albert Park feeling totally satisfied with the weekend because almost everyone else on the grid had a realistic chance of joining them on the podium. It is very telling that the fight for third place eventually went down between the driver who started last on the grid and the driver who started from pitlane.

When the chequered flag fell it was Jarno Trulli who crossed the line behind both Brawns and he took great joy in celebrating his success with a bottle of FOM’s finest champagne. However, shortly after the race Trulli was given a 25 second penalty for passing Lewis Hamilton during the final Safety Car period. The added time dropped the Italian to twelfth and out of the points.

The penalty is rather severe and is being questioned by Toyota since they believe there is sufficient doubt surrounding the incident.

When the Safety Car was deployed following Kubica’s accident, Jarno Trulli ran wide just before the pitlane entrance and slipped onto the grass. Lewis Hamilton was able to take advantage of the mistake and scampered ahead the Toyota just before Trulli made it back onto the circuit. It was a legitimate pass for position, and not an overtaking manoeuvre, because Trulli had all four wheels off track at the time.

However, there appeared to be some confusion about the move in the McLaren garage.

McLaren initially believed that Hamilton’s actions were against the rules, since footage of the incident was not available at the time, and asked Lewis to move over for the Toyota. Hamilton obliged and Trulli took back the position as the McLaren waved him by. Trulli explained afterwards that “When the safety car came out towards the end of the race Lewis Hamilton passed me but soon after he suddenly slowed down and pulled over to the side of the road. I thought he had a problem so I overtook him as there was nothing else I could do.”

With that in mind the penalty on Jarno Trulli is very harsh and Toyota is right to appeal. Jarno didn’t overtake Lewis Hamilton, but was rather given the position. If anything that is a McLaren’s mistake.

A 25 second penalty is especially brutal since the entire field was compressed behind the Safety Car. Jarno drove brilliantly from the pitlane and has every reason to feel aggrieved with the outcome. He was very deserving of third place.

Of course, Lewis Hamilton is no less deserving of a podium finish and was incredible throughout the Grand Prix.

The reigning World Champion started form eighteenth courtesy of a gearbox change but moved up to twelfth on the first lap. He made the most of his KERS and super soft tyres in the opening stages of the race and quickly despatched with Fisichella, Buemi and Piquet in a fine display of racecraft.

After getting ahead of Timo Glock on lap 25, Lewis did not have to race with anyone else until he battled with Nico Rosberg just before the final Safety Car.

In the post race interviews Hamilton was pleased with fourth and was apparently surprised to learn that Trulli was under investigation believing nothing wrong had happened. He obviously told the stewards something different.

Although Hamilton’s podium is a worthy reward for his efforts, it was only possible thanks to some late race madness from Robert Kubica and Sebastian Vettel.

On lap 55 Kubica was all over the Red Bull driver who was stuck on badly worn super soft tyres. The pole closed up on Vettel at roughly two seconds per lap and was within striking distance of Jenson Button’s lead.

Vettel ran wide exiting the first corner and gave Kubica a run down the long straight leading into turn three. The BMW pulled alongside the Red Bull and tried going around the outside of the tricky right hander. Kubica squeezed Vettel into the apex and left him with almost nowhere to go, at which point Sebastian’s front left wheel made contact with the BMW sidepod.

Vettel’s wheel continued to make contact along the right hand side of Kubica’s bodywork until it clipped the rear wheel and spun the Pole around. Vettel veered right to avoid another collision but Kubica was out of control the front of both cars crunched together.

The pained reaction from BMW mechanics said it all. The second and third placed drivers had taken each other out within sight of the flag.

Amazingly the cars were largely intact and Kubica and Vettel kept going. However, the two emerging stars of F1 were extremely fired up and ignored the damage to their front wings. They both arrived at the next corner with too much speed and went straight off into the wall.

Mario Theissen believes the accident cost his team victory, and robbed fans of an epic Kubica v Button scrap on the final lap.

The FIA deemed that Vettel had caused the collision and he was handed a grid place penalty in Malaysia. The steward’s decision was correct because Vettel had just enough space to manoeuvre, even though Kubica had squeezed him very aggressively. Sebastian admitted as much himself saying “At the time we collided he was in front, but I had nowhere to go. I couldn’t stop the car or turn to the right and my tyres were gone. It’s a shame as it meant the end of the race for both of us. Should I have let him go? You always want to fight. Maybe I should have said ‘let him go and bring third back home’ but that’s life. I tried to defend and, up to the mid-corner, I had reason, but then I had no grip to avoid a collision.”

Vettel still tried to salvage a result behind the Safety Car and stayed out on three wheels, but that only made his afternoon worse. Not only did the other drivers pass him as allowed, but he earned another penalty for continuing with a faulty car.

The crash moved Hamilton and Trulli into podium contention which is amazing considering where they both started. Any of the seventeen drivers who lined up in front of them could have taken third place instead, even Adrian Sutil, but in the end it was Lewis and Jarno who made the most of an unpredictable action-packed Grand Prix.

A great year of Formula One racing beckons.

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