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Jenson Button won the 2012 Australian Grand Prix in dominating fashion, having taken the lead from pole sitter Lewis Hamilton into the first turn and only giving it up for a pit stop. Hamilton would finish third, as second place finisher Sebastian Vettel pipped him in a pit stop during a Safety Car period caused by Vitaly Petrov’s Caterham stopping on the front straight. Mark Webber finished fourth, having lost positions on the start then retaking them through the race. The Australian was very close to Hamilton in the closing stages but remained unable to make a move on the Briton. Fernando Alonso rounded out the top five, having heaved his Ferrari up from a twelfth starting position.

Saturday’s qualifying session added to the newly mixed-up 2012 field, as Hamilton (1:24.922) won pole with a 2011 Vettel-style lap. Only Button came close to the former world champion, making a McLaren front row on the starting grid. Grosjean showed that Lotus’ pace in testing was no fluke, though a mistake from his new teammate Raikkonen meant that the Finn qualified only eighteenth. The biggest mistake, however, came from Alonso. The Spaniard beached his recalcitrant Ferrari in the gravel halfway through Q2 and was only twelfth quickest. Still, he fared better than Massa, who went out after Alonso’s red flag and was also knocked out in Q2. Back up front, Schumacher qualified to start next to Grosjean in the mad dash to fast laps in Q3 while Webber and Vettel managed only to qualify fifth and sixth, respectively. The Australian out-qualified his reigning champion teammate, despite yet another KERS failure. Despite usually winning an appeal to the stewards despite qualifying times outside 107% last year, neither Pedro de la Rosa nor Narain Karthikeyan started the race, presumably due to their extensive balking of other drivers as moving chicanes during qualifying itself. Perez also had issues with his gearbox that forced Sauber to change it and resulted in a five place gird penalty from his qualifying position of seventeenth.

Both McLarens also showed good pace in the practice sessions, with each driver posting the fast lap for a session. Button (1:27.560) led the team 1-2 on the wet Friday morning, with Schumacher, Alonso, and Webber joining them as the fastest five. Hamilton (1:25.681) had his turn on the dry and sunny Saturday morning session, leading Grosjean, Webber, Button, and Rosberg as the quickest. Both Schumacher and Vettel had trips through the gravel in the sunshine, though no driver crashed out of either wet Friday practice. Schumacher (1:29.183) was the shining driver Friday afternoon, leading Hulkenberg, Perez, Alonso, and Kobayashi in that session as the track dried quickly in the final minutes.

Race Start:
The light was about to begin fading with the late afternoon start in Melbourne, but the sun still shone brightly as the lights went out to start the 2012 season. Button beat Hamilton to Turn 1, but it was well back in the field where contact occurred with Ricciardo going straight on to the gravel and Senna spinning. Grosjean did not show well, dropping well back on the start. Webber had a poor start, complaining of contact, while both Senna and Ricciardo, then Pic all pitted. Hulkenberg did not complete the first lap. Button led Hamilton, Schumacher, Rosberg, Vettel, Grosjean, Maldonado, Alonso, Webber, and Massa at the end of the first lap. Vettel squeezed through on Rosberg at Turn 10, but drama behind him put Grosjean out. Maldonado looked to get through on the Frenchman who gave him a bit of space, but Madonado tagged his wheel, pushing him into the gravel and damaging his right front.

At the front, Button began to eek out a lead on his teammate. The gap was up to 3.1s between the, as Schumacher, Vettel, Rosberg, Alonso, Webber, Massa, Maldonado, and Perez as the top ten. Vettel had a trip through the grass at T1 having lost the rear a bit, allowing Rosberg to get right up on him, but the German champion held off the other German. Alonso and Webber caught both of them, allowing the Spaniard to press Rosberg. Even after the off track excursion, Vettel regained his gap to Rosberg. The drivers soon settled in, as Button gained a tenth or two per lap but his teammate had nearly eight seconds of his own gap back to Schumacher in third. He, however, had Vettel directly on his gearbox.

End L10:
Button led Hamilton, Schumacher, Vettel, Rosberg, Alonso, Webber, Maldonado, Massa, and Perez as the top ten, with Raikkonen twelfth at the end of L10. That order would not last long, as Schumacher went off and appeared to have some sort of issue that allowed Vettel to move up to third. Schumacher went to pit but parked before arriving to the Mercedes garage, having lost gears. Massa, who was complaining about his tyres, pitted on L11.

Pit Stops Begin (L12):
Rosberg pitted next, leaving Alonso in possession of fourth. Alonso pitted on the next lap, as did Kobayashi and Di Resta. At the front, Hamilton began to claw back a bit of the gap to Button as the latter had apparently been told to save some fuel for a lap or two. Webber pitted for his new tyres on L15 as did Kovalainen. At the end of L15, Button led Hamilton by 3.5s, with Vettel, Maldonado, Raikkonen, Perez, Vergne, Alonso, Rosberg, and Webber the top ten. The top seven had not yet pitted. Perez looked good for a one stop race, having begun on the harder tyre, while Vettel took a good bit of time out of Hamilton. Button and Vettel pitted on L16, as did Maldonado. Both Vettel and Button had a bit of a moment in the stop, as each nearly clipped a crew member of the other team.

Meanwhile, Alonso had been setting good times and was barely back from Vettel as the German rejoined the track. Hamilton pitted from the lead on L17, returning Button to the lead over Raikkonen, Perez, and Vergne who had yet to pit. Hamilton rejoined behind Perez. Vettel was the only driver to stay on the softer tyre. Alonso moved up to sixth with a DRS move on Vergne while Rosberg was also about to take position from the Toro Rosso, as he and Webber did within the next few corners. Raikkonen pitted on L20 for the softer tyre, leaving only Perez in the top fifteen to not yet stop. Perez had come under fire from Hamilton, who could not make a move stick.

At the end of L20, Button had 11 seconds on Perez, with Hamilton still fighting to catch his teammate. Vettel, Alonso, Rosberg, Webber, Maldonado, Massa, and Raikkonen completed the top ten. Hamilton finally got through on Perez with DRS, as Vettel did so at Turn 11. The Mexican next came under fire from Alonso as he remained on track. Perez made life very difficult for Alonso, who soon had Rosberg back again behind him. Along the front straight and into Turn 1, Alonso took fourth from Perez. Rosberg similarly moved forward through Turn 3.

With Ricciardo’s stop on L24, Perez became the only driver to yet stop. He began to drift backward on wearing tyres, losing position to Webber as well as the halfway point approached. Meanwhile, Button radioed that he had started to pick up some vibrations on the tyres, though he had not locked-up. Perez finally pitted on L25 while Hamilton began charging forward to catch his teammate, setting two race fast laps in a row. In the back portion of the top ten, Massa, Kobayashi, and Raikkonen were having a scrap over a few points, as Massa then Raikkonen took position from the Sauber.

Halfway (End L29):
As halfway approached, Button’s tyre issues seemed be haunting him with the gap dropping well below ten seconds. The scrap over eighth continued as Raikkonen smoothly took position from Massa, as did Kobayashi, on L27. Massa pitted for the second time on L29, while Button’s lead held steady at 9.4s at the end of the halfway lap. Hamilton, Vettel, Alonso, Rosberg, Webber, Maldonado, Raikkonen, Kobayashi, and Di Resta completed the top ten. In traffic, Raikkonen was rather frustrated, radioing “why do I get blue flags?!” His engineer reminded him that the flags were for those he was passing and not for the Finn. Meanwhile, Webber remained frustrated behind Rosberg, with Maldonado was right behind the Red Bull. Vergne went off, but the battle between Rosberg and Webber continued, with Webber complaining that the German was weaving. Rosberg took the escape road and kept position, but pitted immediately.

Back in eleventh, then tenth, Perez set the race fast lap on L31. Once Webber got clear air, he took race fast lap, but it was Button at the front running away with a 10-plus second lead over Hamilton. The latter Briton radioed to complain of wearing rear tyres. Each driver in the top five (Button, Hamilton, Vettel, Alonso, and Webber) at the end of L33 had move than two seconds cushion both ahead and behind.

Second Pit Stops Begin (L34):
Di Resta made his second stop on L34 for the harder tyre. Alonso did the same on the next lap, leaving Webber in possession of fourth position. Alonso rejoined in eighth, behind Kobayashi. A bit further ahead, Vettel had managed to get a second and half behind Hamilton while Button pitted. Hamilton did so as well, as the McLaren drivers had just space enough between to pit both on the same lap.

Safety Car Deployed (L37):
Meanwhile, Petrov had pulled off at the start-finish straight, causing a SC deployment. Vettel, Webber, Maldonado, and Raikkonen all pitted. Vettel rejoined ahead of Hamilton, winning him second position for the restart. After the stops mixed the field, Button led Vettel behind the safety car. Hamilton, Webber, Alonso, Maldonado, Perez, Rosberg, Raikkonen, Kobayashi, Di Resta, Vergne, Massa, Senna, Ricciardo, Glock, and Pic completed the cars still running as Kovalainen retired under the SC.

Restart (L41):
Button got a great restart, well away ahead of Vettel. Hamilton looked to get through on Vettel, but could not come close. The restart was clean for the entire field. Button quickly had a good lead, with 2.5s at the end of that first lap back racing. The only change of position on that lap came from Kobayashi, diving through on Raikkonen. Button continued to gain on Vettel, pulling out nearly another second on the next lap. Hamilton remained less than a second behind Vettel, with Webber right behind. On the radio, Raikkonen informed his team that Kobayashi’s rear wing was broken and shedding parts, adding, “it’s not very safe.” DRS became enabled again on L45 as Button’s lead grew incrementally. Vettel had more problems with Hamilton and Webber within 1.5 total seconds behind him. Despite the closeness, there was little dicing between the three. All used DRS, but there was no overtaking in the first sector. Actual fighting came between Massa and Senna, as they got locked together in a shower of sparks. Senna remained stuck behind in the gravel with a puncture. Both pitted, and Massa retired. News soon came that the incident would be investigated after the race.

10 Laps Remaining:
Button’s lead had come down to 3.3s over Vettel while Hamilton, Webber, Alonso, Maldonado, Perez, Rosberg, Kobayashi, and Raikkonen completed the top ten with ten laps to go. Alonso’s tyres looked mighty ragged, and Maldonado looked ready to take advantage. Though Webber soon gained enough time to be within the DRS settings behind Hamilton, the top five continued to hold station with seven laps to go. However, Vettel was gaining slightly on Button as the laps ticked down.

For the final five laps, Button had a 2.9s lead over Vettel, Hamilton only .4s ahead of Webber, and Alonso holding Maldonado off by just .5s. Both Webber and Maldonado lost a bit of time to the drivers ahead of them, while Senna pitted and became the seventh retirement of the race. For the final two laps, Button continued to turn up the speed and pull away from Vettel. The closest fighting came from Kobayashi and Raikkonen over ninth as the Sauber got out of shape, but the Japanese driver kept the former champion behind. On the final lap, Maldonado lost the rear of his Williams and smashed himself on the wall. He was unhurt, but allowed Alonso a bit of a breath on the final third of the lap. Button took the win, with Vettel safely ahead of Hamilton.

Final Positions, 2012 Australian Grand Prix:

  Driver Team Gap
1. Jenson Button McLaren  
2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 2.1
3. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 4.0
4. Mark Webber Red Bull 4.5
5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 21.5
6. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 36.7
7. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 38.0
8. Sergio Perez Sauber 39.4
9. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 39.4
10. Paul Di Resta Force India 39.7
11. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 39.8
12. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 57.6
13. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1 Lap
14. Timo Glock Marussia 1 Lap
15. Charles Pic Marussia 5 Laps
  Bruno Senna Williams 6 Laps
  Felipe Massa Ferrari 12 Laps
  Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 20 Laps
  Vitaly Petrov Caterham 24 Laps
  Michael Schumacher Mercedes 48 Laps
  Romain Grosjean Lotus 57 Laps
  Nico Hulkenberg Force India  
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  • F1Champ

    Just what happened to Merc? Gutted for Schumacher though….

    best part of the race was:
    Kimi Raikkonen on team radio: “Why do I get all the time blue flags!” Kimi’s race engineer replied: “The blue flags are not for you, Kimi, they are for people who need to be lapped.”

  • F1Sommelier

    What happened to Lewis? I genuinely thought he was going to cruise to a easy victory today.

    • Jack Flash (Aust)

      If you want even more interesting bit of Race Pace info, take a look at the FIA records for the Race @:

      http://www.fia.com/en-GB/mediacentre/f1_media/Documents/aus-race-laps.pdf

      Both Vettel and Webber were faster than Hamilton too! Isn’t that a worry for Hammy? The Bulls have more pace than him, not only his ‘slow’ (cough, cough) team-mate Button. Maccas and RBRs collectively are reasonably ahead of others on speedy lap times.

      I know… One Race a Season does not make! Can’t wait for next Weekend in Sepang. JF

      • The Roo

        This to me just puts the whole race/running order into perspective. McLaren in front (remember that Lewis was behind Seb at the end, when they all did the fastest laps, hence he was not faster than the RBR’s like JB was), daylight, then basically everyone else within a second or so…EXCEPT MASSA!

        Biggest disappointment – Caterham. They have not improved at all on where they were at last year. Still inbetween the grid-fillers and the midfield.

    • Jack Flash (Aust)

      Even more puzzling for LH if you look at the ranking of times in the 3 Race Sectors. Very low in Sectors 1 and 2.

      http://www.fia.com/en-GB/mediacentre/f1_media/Documents/aus-race-sectors.pdf

      ???? JF

      • F1Sommelier

        Good point Jack, I wonder if Macca built the car to suit Jensens smooth driving style as opposed to Lewis’s run and gun style.

  • Chuck

    I guess Lewis got distracted again… or something… Lewis finishing third when better was possible for him does hurt McLaren’s constructor campaign with Red Bull slipping in to to split the McLarens. I really hoped Lewis might pull out the second place finish, and I’m sure that is Lewis’ grief right now, even though I wish he would downplay that… and try to be a bit more classy under the circumstances!

    Good job by both Red Bull drivers as the team tries to catch up to McLaren now, for a change!

    Lots of surprises, I thought Mercedes would do better… and Lotus too.

    Not surprised at Ferrari, and Alonso did a good job, and never gives up… a real professional! Hope to see him pull up the field during the year, but wish he had more help from Felipe! Oh well…

    Enjoyed all the mid-field action… too much to comment on, other than it was a great race to watch!

  • Pete Dennis

    I honestly believe Hamilton is no longer the favourite son at Mclaren for whatever reason, the start was a bit surprising to say the least, I can’t remember in the last 10/15 years the pole sitter lose out in the first corner to the second guy on the grid, especially when you are starting from the clean side of the track…the tide has definitely change inside the Mclaren camp, this guy is always getting the less favourable calls, even after pitting, he seems to get traffic in front of him all the time, especially in Melbourne where overtaking is painlful difficult, this are nibble things which impair anyone’s race , nevertheless it was a great race from Jenson, he made no mistakes, looked well after his tyres and controlled the race from the front beautifully, in contrast Lewis struggle for pace, it cannot be only tyre preservation, the reason he couldn’t get closer to Jenson, 2012 will be definitely be a year to remember, the level of competitiveness between the teams will be amazing for the fans, Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari will not give up easily, but as an Hamilton fan, I think it’s time to move on, perhaps to Mercedes if a seat becomes vacant in 2013, he needs to grow up outside the Mclaren shade, Jenson is more experience and intelligent driver these days, he learned a lot whilst racing for other teams and surely fought his demons at one stage in his career, I fondly remember when he was at Renault and was trashed by Alonso under “Don Briatore” watch, that experience made him a stronger driver, but I reckon the turning point in his career was when he paired at Bar/Honda/Brawn with Jacques and Rubens, the experience made him a very complete driver, he learn a lot from them, either Lewis will accept this and learn from him as well, or if his pride and ego refuse to accept it, there is no other alternative than move on and improve his racecraft elsewhere, difficult times ahead of him I’m afraid…

    • Chuck

      I guess if you are right and Lewis is being challenged by his own team, at least he doesn’t have the wheels falling off his car coming out of a pit stop, or engine cooling plugs left in the intakes like has happened to Jenson by the same team. Also, it would be really cool to see Lewis come from the very back of the field to win the race despite adversities of all sorts… Yep, that would be a great feat on the part of a truly great driver.

      I liked what Mario Andretti said about Jenson at the start of this year. He said in essence that last year he made a lot of noises about Jenson being McLaren’s #2 driver at the beginning of the year, which he regretted, but by end of the year Mario said Jenson had shown all of them… he and McLaren that he was not a #2 driver.

      I hope Lewis, if there is any real promise with him, realizes that it’s what you do over the long run that matters, and that it isn’t an easy life in F1, so he ought to be thankful for all the blessings he has received by starting his career at a top team, instead of acting like he is God’s gift to F1, and that anyone who doesn’t see it that way is irrelevant.

      • Peter Dennis

        Totally agree, facts are facts, we cannot deny them, hence the reason I take my hat off to Jenson, it is his 13th season and he is getting better and better like the old Rubens…I suppose the hype from last year was justified, he came a long way in his career, almost self destructed a few years back!!

      • Peter Dennis

        Just checked the lap times on Autosport.com Plus, Jenson was consistently two tenths per lap faster than Lewis the all race, even the bulls lap times were faster than him…humm, interesting

  • tom

    My thoughts:
    1) Amazing performance by McLaren. They appear to be as strong as Red Bull was at the beginning of last season.
    2) Good performance by Vettel who got the max out of his car. Catching Lewis was a great feed given his material. Will be interesting to see how Red Bull evolves this season.
    3) Alonso once again manhandled his Ferrari into heights it had no business being in. The less we talk about Massa the better.
    4) Terrible showing from Mercedes. But still hard to judge. Michael was on his way to a 4th place IMHO, so the car might not be as bad as it now looks. I think Nico generally had more problems with his set up, not being able to go the pace of Schumacher who also claimed that he had no tire problems whatsoever when his gearbox went south, Nico was unlucky with the safety car and then had an unlucky crash in the last lap where he was on his way to finish 6th. I hope Mercedes can still improve their car and I’m looking forward to high speed courses.
    5) Force India is in a similar situation as Mercedes, only further down field. They did worse than expected, however they couldn’t show everything with Hulk crashing out in the first lap and Di Resta appearing to have more problems squeezing the car. We’ll have to wait till Malaysia to get a better picture, but still, I’d have expected better.
    6) Sauber has finally lived up to the pre-season hype and delivered a great performance. Also, Williams has done much better than expected. Both had a great race pace, very close to the top teams.
    7) Lotus is also the real deal. Räikkönen had a very good race, starting so far back.

    • tom

      *feat

  • Clutchless

    Hats off to Jenson he passed Hambone on the first turn and never looked back. Even though Weber had another one of his typical poor starts finishing 4th was a great result. And I had no doubt Seb would finish on the podium if he stayed out of traffic on the opening lap and he did. Maybe that complaint about the Merc rear wing will not come to light until they start finishing races more respectably. Fred had my drive of the day, great result for the slop he was given.

    I do wonder what kind of non race fans they have behind the scenes at SpeedTV. They come back from commercial with about 6 laps left, lots of cars battling for position and the producer decides to do a two minute race recap?!?!? That couldn’t have waited until AFTER the race? I know the viewership at 2 in the AM is not great but those who are watching HAVE been watching and don’t need the reminder.

  • UAN

    great weekend for Button with P2 in qualifying and the race win. I think Button has really been underrated as a driver and the past season and the start of this one really shows his quality.

    The same goes for Vettel, showing what he can do with a car that is not the “best” on the grid. Brilliant pass on Rosberg w/o DRS and putting himself in position to take advantage of the SC. He’s really matured in a positive way–showing much more patience.

    I do wonder about Rosberg and his race craft. He may have an edge on Schumacher in qualifying, but definitely not in the race. If Mercedes gets a race win this year, my money’s on MS doing it.

    Great drive from Alonso. Really gutted for Maldonado. I think Kimi did a solid job and will improve. Thumbs up for a an on form Kobayashi. Looks like STR made a good choice promoting their 2 drivers.

    As for Massa–seems a repeat of last year. I gave him the benefit of the doubt because it was usually with an equally struggling Lewis, but I’d say it’s getting close to Ferrari promoting another driver. I don’t think Alonso’s getting that much more out of what the Ferrari is capable of, rather Massa is just significantly under performing. I like Massa, but it’s time for another Brazilian to head to Indy Car.

    Radio transmission of the day and maybe the year: Kimi “why are they waving blue flags at me?” (I think I’m paraphrasing just a pit) LOL

    Great start of the year!

  • Paul

    I’m guessing that Button’s served notice that he’s definitely going to be compettitive. I wouldn’t completely count Hamilton out, but he’d better come up with a better showing next time around.

  • Tony

    yeah just what more does Lewis need to win?? oh yeah the next thing will be wanting his dad back to manage him – and then the team should get behind him once more…OR he could just be a professional driver like everyone else on the grid

    jenson gave a lesson today on how to win (from 3rd or from any spot he starts at, he can ALWAYS win!)

    Mercs seem to have the tire issue from last year still on them despite their gains in f-duct and top speed – they will go nowhere unless they get the overheating of tires sorted.

    Massa – just how long is ferrari going to carry this chump! and just how long is Alonso going to wait until he wants to break his contract and stop wringing every last ounce of speed out of the car!!!!

  • Topspeed

    I think Jenson reads and manages the tires better than anyone else on the grid and is quite fast. Hamilton might be that 1 tenth faster ocasionally but that is not enough at race day.
    I also believe the teams are still finding their ways regarding set up and strategy. I would not crucify Massa this soon. Ferrari might have chosen to go different set up ways and certainly tire strategies………so what we see most often than not is not the real picture, which is preserved from the public.
    I also believe there is not available in the market a better driver than Massa…….who would replace him? Sutil? Bianchi? On the other hand, IMHO he´s better off changing team for next year.

    • dude

      Base on Perez performance today, despite the bad luck in the end, I can see him recruited by Ferrari later this season.

      • Niyoko

        The thought just popped into my head, that I worry that Perez should wait to join Ferrari until they have a better car. Perez may not be able to get any more speed out of the car than Massa. It’s just that little voice i the back of my head telling me that. We know Alonso is prehaps the best driver in F1 at the moment, but can he really be that good?

  • Mercapeich

    I truly enjoyed the first race; I’ve been waiting for this two months and it was something. Here are my thoughts about the race and about some of your comments:
    1. Fantastic performance by Button (he was truly unstoppable as Vettel put it) (some of you mentioned that he manages the tires better than anyone and I have to disagree..look at Perez yesterday (remarkable performance 4 Perez too).
    2. Hamilton-Vetel : we have to agree that although McLaren appeared yesterday a little bit faster than RB…the difference between those two and the rest, FOR NOW , still important. Hamilton had a poor start (please do not try to look for conspiracy theories), he had a poor start (not that bad) and e was pass by Button….I think the loss of the second position was not his fault, it was just bad luck: The McLaren just pit (both in the same lap, amazing job again); the the safety car was deployed and “catch up Hamilton and not Vettel who was ahead.
    3. Fernando is amazing. Ferrari, RIGHT NOW, should be fighting for 10th. This driver is unbeilable (Gene, Ferrari’s third driver could not believe his performance during the race (he commented for spanish TV)
    4. I loved to see Williams and Sauber up there. Great race by Maldonado and Perez.
    5. Michael is back and Mercedes looked good but with a “minor” problem of tire degradation
    6. You have to love Kimi. The guy has been without driving this machines for a while and comes back and can drive like that (He is definitely the real deal). There was a moment when he was driving with very old tires before his first pit stop and was outperformance a lot of people…he can manage his tires.

    I can’t wait for more (just 5 days)

  • gsprings

    hats off to button,he took this one,if hamilton did’nt know it,he knows it now,his teammate is not going to give him anything,as it should be