After a winter of much anticipation, the 2012 season started in Melbourne, the home of Australian sport. Under clear blue skies, the teams prepared for a race of unknowns. Could Mercedes have race pace? Could Caterham race with the midfield teams? How far would Raikkonen get through the traffic? Who would win the battle of Hamilton and Button? We will soon find out…
Lewis Hamilton started on pole position with Jenson Button 2nd, and Romain Grosjean in 3rd. With the midfield teams edging closer to the front, any small mistake in qualifying is extremely costly, found out by Ferrari and Kimi Raikkonen.
At the start, Lewis Hamilton had slightly too much wheelspin in the second phase, helping Jenson Button overtake before the first corner. Further back, Nico Rosberg made an amazing start to take 4th behind his team mate. Grosjean had a dodgy gear change, which dropped him down the order and Mark Webber was squeezed, causing him to fall back to 9th. Bruno Senna spun dropping to the back of the field.
Further around the lap Nico Hulkenburg retired from damage, then Grosjean and Maldonado lock wheels causing the formers steering arm to break, retiring him from the race. Maldonado was able to continue with an undamaged car.
With the McLarens pulling away at the front, it was left for the Red Bulls to race with Mercedes. with Vettel eventually winning the argument from Rosberg. On Lap 10 Schumacher then ran wide at the first corner, seemingly with a problem enabling Vettel to overtake easily, Vettel was up to 3rd. It later transpired that he had a gearbox failure. Ferrari were still struggling, especially with Massa, who was the first of the teams to pit, clearly aiming for a three-stopper with less than perfect degradation from the tyres. Behind Massa was Perez, who started on the harder tyre, trying to emulate the amazing pace they had last year where they only stopped once. Considering he started at the back of the grid, getting up to 10th was a great achievement in such a short space of time.
Pit stops started on Lap 14, which included Massa who dropped to 15th, Raikkonen from 8th and Alonso, who changes to a set of the Medium tyre. Alonso gave impressive pace on the medium tyre, alerting the later pitstoppers, as the soft wasn’t performing as long as was expected. Jenson Button pitted from the lead on Lap 16, along with Vettel. Hamilton pitted a lap later.
After the first round of pit stops, some longer first stint runners where mixed with the front runners including Kimi Raikkonen, Sergio Perez and Jean-Eric Vergne. Hamilton lost a lot of time, with Button increasing his lead to 10 seconds.
At the second round of pit stops the McLarens pit on the same lap, Button first followed by Hamilton. An impressive task by the pit crew with a gap of only 10 seconds. However, disaster struck. The Caterham of Petrov broke down on the start/finish straight causing the Safety Car to be deployed. Vettel managed to get around the lap, pit and exit ahead of Hamilton. Button had lost the 10 second lead, and the protection of his team mate. That didn’t matter though, as at the restart Button made a fantastic start, creating a clear gap to Vettel. It was clear that the end of the race would be extremely exciting.
Although at the front the top drivers were trading fastest times, Massa had a crash with Senna, effectively ending the day for the Williams driver in an accident which will be investigated after the race. Nico Rosberg had also slipped down the order to 8th, and was under attack from the Saubers and Toro Rossos.
Jenson Button was three seconds in front of Sebastian Vettel, leading Lewis Hamilton in third. Mark Webber 4th, Fernando Alonso in 5th and Pastor Maldonado was having an excellent race in 6th. Then disaster struck for Williams, Maldonado crashed heavily on his own, after going to far over on a curb.
Jenson goes on to win commandingly from Vettel, just in Vettels style… Further back Rosberg and Vergne also have a coming together all promoting the Saubers, Ricciardo and Di Resta in the Force India over the line.
Some what of an interesting race for the start of 2012, lets hope its as competitive in high-speed Sepang, Malaysia next weekend.
1. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1h34:09.565
2. Vettel Red Bull-Renault + 2.100
3. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes + 4.000
4. Webber Red Bull-Renault + 4.500
5. Alonso Ferrari + 21.500
6. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari + 36.700
7. Raikkonen Lotus-Renault + 38.000
8. Perez Sauber-Ferrari + 39.400
9. Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 39.500
10. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes + 39.700
11. Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 39.800
12. Rosberg Mercedes + 57.600
13. Maldonado Williams-Renault + 1 lap
14. Glock Marussia-Cosworth + 1 lap
15. Pic Marussia-Cosworth + 2 laps
16. Senna Williams-Renault + 4 laps
Fastest lap: Button, 1:29.187
Massa Ferrari 47
Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 42
Petrov Caterham-Renault 37
Schumacher Mercedes 11
Grosjean Lotus-Renault 2
Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1
Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth DNS
De la Rosa HRT-Cosworth DNS
Image via Australian Grand Prix