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Australia analysis - the perfect start to 2012 19 Mar 2012

Race winner Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren celebrates.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 18 March 2012 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-27 leads at the start of the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 18 March 2012 (L to R): Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren and Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 18 March 2012 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2012, and Kamui Kobayashi (JPN), Sauber C31.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 18 March 2012 Kamui Kobayashi (JPN) Sauber C31 on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 18 March 2012 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus E20.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 18 March 2012 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Force India F1 VJM05 as Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR7 runs wide at the start of the rface.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 18 March 2012 Paul Di Resta (GBR) Force India F1 VJM05.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 18 March 2012 Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W03 takes a trip across the grass. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 18 March 2012 Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams FW34.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 18 March 2012 Charles Pic (FRA) Marussia F1 Team MR01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 18 March 2012 A transporter takes away the car of Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Caterham CT01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 18 March 2012 L-R: Narain Karthikeyan (IND) HRT, Johnny Herbert (GBR) FIA Steward, Bruno Senna (BRA) Williams.
Formula One World Championship, Australian Grand Prix, Rd1, Race Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 18 March 2012

To fans’ delight, pre-season predictions of even closer racing proved correct in Melbourne, with an epic Australian Grand Prix. There was little between the race pace of McLaren and Red Bull; it took all Fernando Alonso’s skills to haul Ferrari into contention; and the midfield action was frenetic, with just 0.1s the difference between eighth and 11th place as the chequered flag fell. Jenson Button left Albert Park with the biggest smile, as the 2011 runners-up achieved just what the doctor had ordered - a near-perfect start to their championship campaign. We take a team-by-team look at Sunday’s showings…

McLaren
Jenson Button, P1
Lewis Hamilton, P3

Button drove a near-faultless race in which he led from the start and maintained control even during the safety-car deployment between laps 37 and 41. His McLaren was the class of the field and comfortably eclipsed Vettel’s Red Bull. Polesitter Hamilton lost the lead off the line, and later second place to Vettel during the safety-car period. The 2008 champion said that he was at a loss to explain his car’s lack of pace in comparison with Button’s. Despite that, the team lead the world championship for constructors, with 40 points.

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, P2
Mark Webber, P4

Red Bull lacked McLaren’s ultimate pace, but were an awful lot more competitive in race trim than they had looked in qualifying. Vettel might have challenged Button more strongly but for his lowly grid position, while Webber showed great pace too as he fought back through the field after a poor start. Red Bull are only 10 points adrift of McLaren and confident of an even closer fight in Malaysia.

Ferrari
Fernando Alonso, P5
Felipe Massa, retired lap 47, accident damage

Both Ferraris made fantastic starts, and Alonso continued his upward trajectory with an excellent run to fifth place. Massa, however, faded quickly with balance problems, and was later eliminated in a clash with Senna. The indications are that the Scuderia is currently a second off the pace.

Sauber
Kamui Kobayashi, P6
Sergio Perez, P8

Sauber had a great race, with Kobayashi and Perez scoring 12 points to put the team third in the constructors’ table. Perez drove brilliantly from 22nd to eighth, despite stopping only once. He deserved even better, but lost a possible sixth after colliding with Rosberg on the final lap. Kobayashi was in the fight all afternoon, and took that sixth place instead.

Lotus
Kimi Raikkonen, P7
Romain Grosjean, retired lap 2, accident

Lotus lost lead runner Grosjean by the second lap after a collision with Maldonado. Raikkonen was often trapped in the midfield traffic after being heavily delayed in the first-corner incident, and thus the Lotus E20’s true performance was masked.

Toro Rosso
Daniel Ricciardo, P9
Jean-Eric Vergne, P11

Ricciardo lost out on the first lap but was able to fight his way back into contention thanks to the safety car. In the end he just pipped team mate Vergne for two points, but the Frenchman had a positive debut.

Force India
Paul di Resta, P10
Nico Hulkenberg, retired lap 1, accident damage

Di Resta had a race-long duel with Vergne, and was able to take advantage of the last-lap scrap to ‘KERS’ his way by the Toro Rosso to grab the last point on the finish line. Hulkenberg’s chances evaporated right at the start when he was spun in the pack in the first corner and forced to retire.

Mercedes
Nico Rosberg, P12
Michael Schumacher, retired lap 11, accident damage

Mercedes had a highly disappointing race. Schumacher and Rosberg made brilliant starts to run third and fourth initially, but the elder German went off the road in Turn 1 on the 11th lap and retired with subsequent damage, while the latter lost pace as his tyres degraded, and later lost a possible sixth place after a collision with Perez.

Williams
Pastor Maldonado, P13
Bruno Senna, retired on lap 52, accident damage

Williams ended up with a highly disappointing result after Senna got involved in the first-corner melee and later collided with Massa, and Maldonado threw away sixth place by pushing too hard in pursuit of Alonso’s fifth place. But the upside was the FW34’s excellent performance, which saw the Venezuelan set the fifth-fastest race lap.

Marussia
Timo Glock, P14
Charles Pic, P15

The Marussias ran well in what was effectively their pre-season test. Glock focused on his own race after a spirited dice with the Caterhams, and was delighted to score a potentially useful 14th place finish. Pic was classified 15th even though he stopped shortly before the finish because of concerns over his Cosworth engine’s oil pressure.

Caterham
Heikki Kovalainen, retired lap 39, suspension
Vitaly Petrov, retired lap 36, power steering

Caterham started their drivers on different tyre strategies, with Kovalainen on the softs and Petrov the mediums. They raced one another closely, despite the former having some KERS issues initially, but Petrov dropped out with power steering problems on the 36th lap, and Kovalainen later had a front suspension track rod problem which forced him to retire. He was later penalised five grid places for the next round for irregularly passing the safety car.

HRT
Pedro de la Rosa, Did not qualify
Narain Karthikeyan, Did not qualify

HRT were forced to watch from the side lines after stewards understandably decided that their barely-tested F112 had failed to display practice pace worthy of a place on the Albert Park grid. Things can surely only get better for the small Spanish team in Malaysia.

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