On the betting front, I was more nervous even than usual (I'd only made the bet because I didn't want to break over 3 years of continuous tipping). Ferrari started 4th and 5th, which gave me some hope, although the Red Bull lockout of the front row was displeasing. Happily, Alonso got 2nd and Massa 4th, giving the Prancing Horse the most points and heralding a profitable start to the season (unusually).
Unhelpfully (possibly due to lime jelly poisoning) I fell asleep 2 minutes into qualifying. I therefore heard it was wet, and little else. The grid had the boring presence of Vettel on pole, with Webber by his side. Hamilton had a great third slot, with Massa next to him, and Alonso and Rosberg shared row three. The Lotuses (Loti?) of Raikkonen and Grosjean were next with Di Resta and Button rounding out the top 10.
Hulkenberg qualified 11th, but a major problem with his car meant he couldn't start, and the slot was left empty.
Worth mentioning that Perez started a pretty abysmal 15th. Looks like Hamilton jumped ship just before it hit an iceberg.
The start went almost as I expected. Webber left his handbrake on and the Ferraris had good starts. Within a lap or two Vettel was first (boringly) and was followed by Massa and Alonso. Interestingly, Massa, who has significantly recovered his form, was allowed to race properly and his gearbox was left unmolested.
Webber's start was atrocious. He was back to something like 8th after the first lap. This pretty much ruined his race. Raikkonen had a decent start and soon passed Hamilton to run just behind the Ferraris.
Happily, the Red Bull pace in the race was not equal to their dominance in qualifying. If anything, the Ferraris looked a little faster, and Mercedes and Lotus were also very similar.
After the first round of pit stops Alonso had leapfrogged Vettel (who was trapped behind Sutil). It worked less well for Massa, who had stayed out a bit longer, though he was still in the hunt for a podium.
Both the Mercedes and the Lotus of Raikkonen attempted a two stop strategy. Rosberg was foiled by his car breaking, and Hamilton could not make the tyres last well enough. Raikkonen, however, managed to combine strong pace with great tyre management.
Sutil did manage a two stop strategy, but he started on the medium tyre. Force India had a good day at the office, with Sutil leading Di Resta to 7th and 8th.
The one fewer stop meant Raikkonen led Alonso in the latter stages. Briefly, the Ferrari driver was significantly faster but then his tyres started to grain. Happily, Vettel's (then 3rd) suffered likewise, and the running order remained unchanged.
Massa got 4th, a great improvement in terms of both points and performance from last year. Hamilton, despite having to change strategy late on, got 5th and Webber recovered somewhat to 6th.
Button could only manage 9th, which is pretty poor for McLaren. Their best hope of still mounting a title challenge might be the very tight nature of the battle at the sharp end, which should prevent anyone dominating early on and building an unassailable lead.
Grosjean was strangely anonymous in 10th (having started 8th). He was on a three stop strategy, unlike his team mate, but given the concerns over his starts I imagine a quiet day will not be the worst thing that could've happened to him.
So, I was wrong not to go for the Raikkonen podium at 2.75, but given Ferrari top-scored at 5.5 I'm not complaining.
It's very likely both Mercedes would've been top 6 had Rosberg's car not broken, as The WPT suggested. Reliability does seem to be an issue for the Silver Arrows (Rosberg in particular).
However, let us not get carried away. It's a 19 race season, after all.
Obviously, the finishing order and Drivers' standings are identical. Raikkonen, the Mercedes, Red Bull, and Ferrari drivers are all pencilled-in as contenders right now. Have to wait and see how Grosjean does. He is fast, but if he's retreated into his shell and playing it safe he'll get left behind.
Nightmare start for McLaren. Turns out massively changing the fastest car on the grid has the potential to bugger it up.
Next stop: Malaysia, next week.