2012 Formula1 Championship: Jenson Button wins the Australian Grand Prix with Vettel and Hamilton bagging 2nd and 3rd
The first race of the 2012 Formula1 championship season began with a bang with the usual grid lock and tyre banging at the first few corners that resulted in heartbreak for Romain Grosjean, who after coming back into F1 after nearly two years had justified his inclusion into the Lotus Renault racing team with a superb 3rd place in yesterday’s qualifying. Grosjean retired with the front suspension giving way. Meanwhile, ahead up the order, Mclaren’s Jenson Button, starting from second place on the grid, powered past Lewis Hamilton and the Mclaren 1-2 with Button followed by Hamilton began going quicker and quicker. Eventually, Button would go on to win a thrilling first race of the 2012 F1 championship season.
Veteran Michael Schumacher in his Mercedes was driving a good race in third place before retiring well before the 20th lap of the 58 lap race, due to transmission trouble. Up the grid, Button continued to drive strongly and was well ahead of the field with a near 10 second advantage while team mate Hamilton fended off a resurgent Sebastian Vettel who was pushing hard to displace Hamilton off second place. Fernando Alonso of Ferrari, after smartly moving up the field after qualifying out of the top ten on Saturday was running in fourth place during the first half of the race.
Behind Alonso though, plenty of action ensued with Nico Rosberg of Mercedes and homeboy Mark Webber of Redbull scrapping for track position in fifth and sixth places respectively. Just when Webber came alongside Nico Rosberg, Rosberg smartly pulled into the pits in what seemed like a two stop strategy to emerge with hard compound tyres and a full tank of fuel. Webber in the meanwhile, set the fastest lap even as fuel loads were beginning to go down in the leader cars. Kimi Raikkonen making a comeback into F1 was the big gainer of the raceday with a seventh place finish after starting from the 18th place, from the back of the grid.
The ice man displayed all of the skill that has earned him the formidable reputation of being fast and icy cool yet aggressive with a superb drive that led him to capture. Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi in a Sauber though, proved to be one tough cookie by resisting Raikkonen to take 6th place. On lap 37, the safety car came onto the track after Russian Vitaly Petrov’s Caterham came to a halt, off the racing line on the main straight. While the Mclaren’s of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton has just pitted minutes ago before Petrov pulled off, Sebastian Vettel who led the field briefly made the bright move of pitting just at the right time.
In the melee though, Lewis Hamilton lost his place to Vettel, who rejoined the grid on second place, splitting the two Mclarens. The safety car went off on lap 42 and race leader Jenson Button immediately began breaking away from the field with Vettel in second and Hamilton in third place. Mark Webber had moved on to the fourth place while Alonso was in fifth with Williams’ Pastor Maldonado rounding off the top six. After struggling all through the weekend, Brazilian Felipe Massa retired his Ferrari on the 49th lap of the race after contact with compatriot Bruno Senna of Williams. Senna rejoined after pitting to replace his punctured left front tyre. Senna later retired after a few laps.
With less than 6 laps to go, the battle for second place intensified with Vettel, Hamilton and Webber separated by under 2 seconds although Vettel began pulling away from Hamilton as the race came to a close for a brief period, after Hamilton once again began closing the gap. Maldonado in 6th place gave Alonso plenty of things to think about after pushing him hard throughout the last 10 laps of the race. On the final lap though, Maldonado spun out of control and crashed out, a shame really after performing so well all along, even as Team Williams is racing with a much smaller budget than the top rung teams.
Narain Karthikeyan and Pedro De La Rosa didn’t make the racing grid as they were disqualified due to being slower than the 107% cut off rule at qualifying. Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg retired from the race even as Paul Di Resta managed to finish in 9th place. Retirements galore was the name of the game at the exciting opener to the 2012 F1 season at Albert Park, with Michael Schumacher, Romain Grosjean, Bruno Senna, Felipe Massa, Pastor Maldonado, Vitaly Petrov and Heikki Kovalainen all getting out of the race at some point or the other.
Raceday timesheets sourced from Formula1