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Button Opens Season With Victory

By Mav | 18 Mar 2012 | 6 Comments | 1,797 views

Jenson Button claimed his third victory in the Australian Grand Prix with an assured drive after a better start handed him the lead. Sebastian Vettel recovered from Red Bull’s relatively poor qualifying session to take second after luck shone on the defending champion in the form of a perfectly timed safety car handing him the chance to leapfrog Lewis Hamilton. The McLaren driver had to settle for third after a series of misfortunes.

There was a similar dose of fortune for the other Red Bull as Mark Webber came out in front of Fernando Alonso to take fourth. The Australian also pitted under the safety car, caused by Vitaly Petrov stopping on the pitstop in the middle of the final pitstop sequence and had to settle for Alonso fifth as Ferrari’s race pace appeared to be significantly stronger than their dismal qualifying. Behind them, a tight battle was resolved with Kamui Kobayashi coming home sixth just ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and team mate Sergio Perez. Hot on Perez’s tail were Daniel Ricciardo, Paul di Resta and the unfortunate Jean-Eric Vergne – the Toro Rosso driver less than four tenths behind eighth placed Perez but out of the points.
 
Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
 
Driver of the Day:
A number of contenders but I think it has to be the race winner. McLaren may not have allowed their drivers fight it out at the front but Button built up a handy cushion to make the decision academic. The race was then controlled right up to the late safety car putting Vettel right on his tail. Button, however, once again pulled out a gap to prevent Vettel from having so much as a sniff of victory.

Good Day:
Raikkonen and Alonso both recovered from poor qualifying positions but then the Ferrari would seem to be a better car over race distance. The Lotus is certainly a better car and while the damage was limited, the Finn probably feels he should have got more out of this weekend.

Bad Day:
After a great qualifying performance, Romain Grosjean followed it up with a woeful start. Immediately dropping back into the pack before clashing with Pastor Maldonado a lap later, ending his race in the process. I’ve also a lot of sympathy for Williams – with a much improved car and despite tangling with Grosjean, Maldonado was riding high and challenging Alonso until he crashed heavily on the final lap – zero points.

However, the team with the worst day had to be Mercedes who avoided any argument about their controversial wing by failing to convert promising qualifying pace into similar speed in race trim as high tyre degradation reared its ugly head.

Talking Point:
It’s still the first race of the season but the early pointers to form are there. McLaren clearly look the strongest but Red Bull’s disappointing qualifying hides race pace that is just about there. The reverse seems true of Mercedes, with Nico Rosberg eating up his tyres as suggested by pre-season testing. Ferrari remain an enigma as does Lotus who haven’t had the chance to show what they can do – I’ve a feeling they will go away confident of podiums and possibly wins in 2012.

Race Rating:
There was little of interest at the front, just the interference of the safety car but in the midfield there were some titanic battles which were only resolved on the final lap. All-in-all, a pretty entertaining opening race and not the usual cautious, sabre-rattling of recent years.

Full Result:

1. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1h 34:09.565
2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault +2.139
3. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes +4.075
4. Mark Webber      Red Bull-Renault +4.547
5. Fernando Alonso       Ferrari +21.565
6. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari +36.766
7. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault      +38.014
8. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari      +39.458
9. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari +39.556
10. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes      +39.737
11. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari +39.848
12. Nico Rosberg Mercedes      +57.642
13. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault +1 Lap
14. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth +1 Lap
15. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth +5 Laps
16. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault +6 Laps

 
Fastest Lap: Jenson Button, McLaren-Mercedes, 1:29.187

Fastest Pitstop: Fernando Alonso, Ferrari – 21.910s (entry-exit)

Not classified/retirements:

Felipe Massa     Ferrari Lap 47     Collision damage
Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault     Lap 39     Suspension
Vitaly Petrov     Caterham-Renault     Lap 35     Steering
Michael Schumacher     Mercedes     Lap 11     Gearbox
Romain Grosjean     Lotus-Renault     Lap 2     Collision
Nico Hulkenberg     Force India-Mercedes     Lap 1     Collision damage

 
What did you make of the Australian Grand Prix? Who do you think was driver of the day? Who had a weekend to forget? Should Vitaly Petrov have found somewhere better to park up his Caterham to avoid the safety car? How do you see the next few races unfolding? Let us know your thoughts in the comments…

Photo: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

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6 Comments »

  • Kimster

    You think the Lotus is quick in race trim? I don’t think it is. Maybe it’s too easy on the tyres?

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  • Mav (author)

    Kimster,

    Hard one to call since Grosjean deigned to not take part and Kimi was not on a sharp-end-of-the-grid strategy but Lotus seem quietly happy.

    Mind you, they started very strongly in the first two races last year…

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  • Mav (author)

    Kimster,

    Lotus seem to have a some silly things wrong though – like their front suspension for example. We laughed at Virgin for getting the fuel tank wrong but I don’t see how that was any worse.

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  • Kimster

    Lotus were pushing the boundaries of composites, Virgin didn’t bother to check how much the fuel consumption was :).

    When Kimi was in free air he was about 0.6 off the Mclaren. Red Bull look about 0.2 off. Can Lotus compete in the development race?

    Mclaren, is it to do with their better COG?

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  • Kimster

    What of Lewis? Didn’t take long for him to leave his “good place”.

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  • Mav (author)

    When Kimi was in free air he was about 0.6 off the Mclaren.

    Long first stint doesn’t make it a fair comparison. That might be a reasonable difference allowing for tyres.

    Mercedes look like making a nuisance of themselves – mobile road blocks near the front of the grid!

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