Button Opens Season With Victory
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|1.||Jenson Button||McLaren-Mercedes||1h 34:09.565|
|2.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||+2.139|
|4.||Mark Webber||Red Bull-Renault||+4.547|
|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|
|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)
|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