Upon answering his first question in the post-race media conference, Australian Grand Prix winner Jenson Button remarked that he’d stayed in the same hotel room on each of the three occasions that he’d won the race at Melbourne.
Without missing a beat, Sebastian Vettel quipped: “Maybe it’s time you stayed in a different room,” to the laughs of the journalists in attendance. Beside them, pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton sat stony-faced, barely able to concede his fury at being beaten to third.
The Albert Park has a history of throwing up unexpected results and incident-filled races, and today’s was no exception.
But in many ways, the form guide played out: the McLarens and Red Bulls finished in the first four positions, and Fernando Alonso claimed a fighting fifth – in other words, the same five drivers who finished in the top-five together in five Grands Prix last year repeated the feat once again.
But in many respects, this was also unexpected. Mercedes and Lotus had thrown the cat among the pigeons with a really strong qualifying performance (if only for one of the Lotus entries), but it was the Lotus that qualified poorly – Kimi Räikkönen – who landed up being the only one who finished in the points.
At the start, Button managed to out-drag team-mate Hamilton off the line on the sprint to the first corner, and he led the pack from Hamilton and the two Mercedes’ of Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg, with Vettel in fifth.
Behind them, all hell broke loose as the pack rushed for the first two corners. Mark Webber had made his by now customary poor getaway off the line, and he found himself squeezed by both Nico Hülkenberg and F1 debutant Jean-Éric Vergne, with the latter cutting across the grass as the former became the season’s first retirement as a result of the damage. Despite a solid whack to his front suspension, Webber was able to keep going.
Further behind, Daniel Ricciardo braked early to avoid hitting his compatriot. In doing so, he allowed Bruno Senna to try and pass him around the outside of Turn 1, but the Brazilian turned in too sharply, and he was launched over Ricciardo’s front wheels and into a spin.
Just a lap later, Romain Grosjean – who had himself made a poor start – found himself under attack from the fast-starting Pastor Maldonado as they braked for Turn 13. Grosjean gave the Venezuelan room to make the pass, but Maldonado wouldn’t return the favour at the exit of the corner and clean ran Grosjean straight off the road – the pair banged wheels and the Frenchman was out with bent front suspension, while Maldonado incredibly continued undamaged and without penalty. It was a rough end for Grosjean after he had showed so much promise on his F1 return with his brilliant qualifying effort.
Up at the front, Button took advantage of the clear track and quickly began to build himself a lead over Hamilton. Behind the McLarens, Vettel set about trying to pass Rosberg and then Schumacher. He moved up to fourth with a neat passing move on Rosberg, and then collected third when Schumacher suddenly retired with a downshift problem in his Mercedes. This freed up Vettel to shadow Hamilton through the opening two stints of the race.
Button built up enough of a lead ahead of his first pit stop to ensure that he emerged in front of the midfield runners who planned on making their first stops later in the race, such as Sergio Pérez and Jean-Éric Vergne. While rookie Vergne’s defence of his position was non-existent, Pérez – who was set on trying Sauber’s very predictable one-stop strategy that it adopts ad nauseum for him – was a lot more spirited in his defence.
The hold-up was enough to given Button a lead of more than ten seconds, but this disappeared when Vitaly Petrov parked his Caterham on the start/finish straight, bringing out the Safety Car.
Both McLarens had pitted at that precise point, while Vettel pitted a lap later and emerged just in front of Hamilton to claim second place, with Webber in fourth and Alonso in fifth.
Those positions remained the same for the rest of the race. Vettel was unable to keep pace with Button when the race restarted, while Hamilton had his mirrors full of Webber, desperate to claim his first-ever podium finish on home soil. Ultimately, Hamilton would prevail, but one would have thought he’d finished last judging by the sulking he demonstrated post-race.
Alonso claimed a surprise fifth in the ill-handling Ferrari, although he had one hell of a time keeping Pastor Maldonado behind him in the last dozen laps. Despite his rather boorish driving against Grosjean early in the race, Maldonado had been inspired for the remaining laps, and he harried Alonso for lap after lap. If he finished in sixth, he’d have earned more points in one race for Williams than it had earned for the whole of the previous season.
But tragedy (or karma, depending on your perspective) would hit the Williams driver on the final lap. In his desperation to get close enough for a last-lap, he dropped two wheels on the grass exiting Turn 7, and the car got into a major tank-slapper, throwing him into the wall and out of the race.
The place instead went to Kamui Kobayashi, who claimed a valuable points finish for Sauber, one year after both the team’s cars were disqualified after finishing in the top-ten.
Nico Rosberg should have also claimed a points’ finish, but he and Pérez made contact on the final lap, triggering a puncture for the Mercedes driver, who fell down the order and out of the points as he limped to the finish line.
This left the recovering Räikkönen to finish in seventh place, while there was a four-way sprint for the finish line and for the minor points, with Pérez just managing to fend off a recovering Ricciardo (who claimed his first ever points’ finish) and Paul di Resta over the line. Vergne lost out in this scramble, finishing eleventh and just out of the points.
Timo Glock was the only other driver to see the chequered fag in fourteenth place, having spent the opening series of laps holding up the slower-starting Caterhams. The German managed to keep ahead of his rookie team-mate Charles Pic, who pulled into the pits and retired in the closing laps. He was classified in fifteenth place.
The last classified runner was Bruno Senna, who drove mightily in his Williams after pitting to have his first-lap damage inspected. On the fringes of the points in the closing laps, he was taken out of the race by Felipe Massa in the ultimate act of ‘friendly fire’.
To say that Massa drove appallingly this weekend would be the master of understatement, and he drove like a man under immense pressure to keep his spot at Ferrari. As awful as the Ferrari F2012 is, Alonso was able to extract the most from it, while Massa showed all the ill-discipline we had seen in his early years. He needs a dramatic turnaround in his form, and quickly.
Caterham was the only team to record a double-DNF, with Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov both retiring with similar steering complaints. Double retirements (particularly of a similar nature) have been a feature of the Team Lotus/Caterham history, and another one is of some concern.
Compounding this, Kovalainen has been hit with a five-place grid penalty for overtaking two cars before the Safety Car control line when the course vehicle was returning to the pits.
It has been a fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable race to cover from the sidelines in Melbourne, and we hope you have enjoyed our coverage this weekend, and for the rest of the season.
In less than one week, we’ll be racing again at the second round of the championship, that being the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang, Kuala Lumpur.
2012 Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix – Final Classification (58 laps):
|1.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-27||58||1:34:09.565|
|2.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault RB8||58||+ 2.139|
|3.||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren Mercedes MP4-27||58||+ 4.075|
|4.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault RB8||58||+ 4.547|
|5.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F2012||58||+ 21.565|
|6.||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber Ferrari C31||58||+ 36.766|
|7.||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus F1 Renault E20||58||+ 38.014|
|8.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber Ferrari C31||58||+ 39.458|
|9.||Daniel Ricciardo||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7||58||+ 39.556|
|10.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM05||58||+ 39.737|
|11.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7||58||+ 39.848|
|12.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG F1 W03||58||+ 57.642|
|13.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Renault FW34||57||Accident|
|14.||Timo Glock||Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01||57||1 lap behind|
|15.||Charles Pic||Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01||56||Mechanical|
|16.||Bruno Senna||Williams Renault FW34||54||Damage|
|DNF.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari F2012||46||Damage|
|DNF.||Heikki Kovalainen||Caterham Renault CT01||41||Power Steering|
|DNF.||Vitaly Petrov||Caterham Renault CT01||36||Power Steering|
|DNF.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes AMG F1 W03||11||Gearbox|
|DNF.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Renault E20||1||Collision|
|DNF.||Nico Hülkenberg||Force India Mercedes VJM05||0||Damage|
|DID NOT QUALIFY|
|DNQ.||Narain Karthikeyan||HRTF1 Cosworth F112|
|DNQ.||Pedro de la Rosa||HRTF1 Cosworth F112|
Latest posts by Richard Bailey (see all)
- 2020 F1 Season Review (Blu Ray) - 27 February, 2021
- WTCR: Guerrieri outwits Muller at the Nordschleife - 26 September, 2020
- WTCR: Girolami breaks Nordschleife lap record to claim pole - 25 September, 2020
- WTCR: Hyundai withdraws from Germany round - 24 September, 2020
- WTCR: Ehrlacher leads Lynk & Co podium sweep at Zolder - 13 September, 2020