Australia analysis - the perfect start to 2012 19 Mar 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 Alonsos 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 Sundays showings
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 Vettels 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 cars lack of pace in comparison with Buttons. Despite that, the team lead the world championship for constructors, with 40 points.
Sebastian Vettel, P2
Mark Webber, P4
Red Bull lacked McLarens 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.
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.
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.
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 E20s true performance was masked.
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.
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. Hulkenbergs chances evaporated right at the start when he was spun in the pack in the first corner and forced to retire.
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.
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 Alonsos fifth place. But the upside was the FW34s excellent performance, which saw the Venezuelan set the fifth-fastest race lap.
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 engines oil pressure.
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.
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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