Qualifying went better than I expected and I improved my PB by 3 tenths which resulted in a front row start. I got away cleanly and was taking it easy in the first 3 laps, trying to get into a rhythm without sliding too much and risking a spin. This worked out well and once I felt comfortable on the inters I was starting to pull a gap to Marco and the rest, while hunting down Nick, who seemed to be struggling towards the end of the first stint.
I took a gamble and came in on lap 6 with Nick staying out. Despite my worries about being held up by the guys behind pitting at the same time, I figured that it was definitely time for slicks. I got away without losing any time in the pits and got past a Renault on inters around the outside of T8, which proved to me that I had taken the right choice by pitting early. Coming out of the last corner I wasn't sure whether I could snatch P1, but I had just about enough speed and momentum entering T1 to come out ahead of Nick. He then retook the lead shortly afterwards and I remained in 2nd until lap 16. I felt like I had the upper hand in the dry, but sitting behind Nick and putting just enough pressure on him to make him nervous while saving fuel was the way to go at that stage of the race.
On lap 16 (I think) I managed to get past Nick on the s/f-straight down to T1, but as I covered the inside of T3 I got my line through there slightly wrong which gave him a chance into T4. We were side by side for 3 corners, but eventually I had the inside-line into T5 and found myself back in the lead again. Regarding the incident in S3 I can only say that from my POV it looked like I was slightly ahead entering the corner while also being on the inside, but with Nick hanging on even after it was clear that overtaking me around the outside wasn't going to happen our cars touched and we both lost a bit of time. Given how many corners we've shared side by side and how tense our battle was, minor incidents may happen from time to time.
Anyway, Nick decided to try the undercut this time around which was a surprise, given the amount of laps remaining. I stayed out two more laps, pitted for softs again and came out in P3, 4 secs. behind Nick and Laasko but crucially ahead of Marco. Knowing that I was on a quicker tyre with +1,00 fuel onboard, I decided to give it all until the end, being satisfied with an almost certain P2 at that point while still having that desire to win. With 5 laps to go I was within DRS-range, but Nick was defending well. I could have tried to be more aggressive in my approach, but with all the incidents which have cost me dearly last season, I knew it was better to play the long game. Apart from that, I didn't want to ruin what has been an incredibly tight battle up until then. At least not that early in the season.
And then it happened: On the very last lap, I nailed T12 which allowed me to slipstream Nick down to 13. He covered the inside, so I took a wider entry to the corner which allowed me to accelerate faster but with the last few corners being so tight, there was no chance to get past. I tried a lunge down to T15 but Nick was aware enough to react to that, which only left us with one corner to go. I nailed the last corner and got a great exit, but despite DRS and a perfect slipstream I wouldn't have made it past Nick if it wasn't for him running out of fuel. Couldn't believe it when I saw him slowing down. What a race, what a result, what a way to start the season. After nearly everything going wrong last season, this result feels like redemption. Given that I don't consider Melbourne to be one of my strongest circuits, I remain cautiously optimistic about my chances to fight for podiums on a consistent basis and maybe snatch the odd win. Looking forward to Bahrain. Congratulations to the rest of the podium and all the guys who got into the points in what I consider to be the most competitive PC league out there.
Quali: Had a bad qualifying, ran wide in my first try on SS and completely messed up my second try. At least 1:24,6 should've been possible with only kind of a good lap.
Race: Start of the line was Ok, but had a small contact with @Fehler3 which dropped me a few positions down the field. While trying to compensate my Turn 1 I had some good battles with a lot of guys, really fair driving from everyone I raced against. When Fehler ran wide in Turn 10(?) I didn't want to lose any momentum and tried to overtake him into T11 and 12. Nukka wanted to go down the inside and I had to move a bit to the outside where I unfortunately hit Fehler, we both dropped some positions. The next lap someone took out the brake markers for T13 and i completely fucked up the breaking point and ran wide, just as @Nukka and @maxafc46, had to look hilarious from any car behind us. So I dropped way back the order to P15.
Was able to get back some positions before Lap 6 when most of the guys pitted, I came to the pits one lap too late which cost me around 5-6 seconds against @Maffus who I was chasing on my SuperSofts. Because only points mattered for me i pushed really hard(and gopt a stupid CC penalty) and was able to decrease the gap down to around 2 seconds, but then I had to pit again, this time for mediums.
On the last stint I had some good fights with @MassaChaussettes , especially after I nearly did the Maldonado, for the final points paying positions but as MAffus on fresh Options closed in I, especially because of that one penalty I had, saw my chances of a podium reduced to very little. "Luckily" for me @Chicane did a mistake on the final lap which secured me P10, although Massachaussetes who was directly in front of me secured P7, penalty go f*** yourself.
A race with many ups and downs, but at least the pace was very good and I felt very comfortable in the car. Additionally it was a better start than in S12, although I felt like much more would've been possible, if I got a good quali-lap, if the brake markers hadn't been taken out, if I left a few centimetres a little more space in some close battles, but it doesn't matter because the race is over. Congrats to my teamm8 @NickB for showing very good pace but unfortunately running out of fuel just before the line.