melbourne's albert park circuit

Melbourne's Albert Park circuit, photo by Christophe Mallet

The Australian Grand Prix 2012 is proving one of the toughest races to pick out a star from, Button of course and also Perez and Alonso had great races and for many other drivers including Vettel, Di Resta, both Toro Rossos and Kobayashi there were lots of positives to take. There were also positives for Williams with the car looking fast in the hands of Maldonado, Maldonado was sadly also still accident prone and failed to bring the car home; Pastor Maldonado crashed out on the final lap though he was lucky to survive in the race when he took Grosjean out early on.

 

Mclaren will probably be the happiest team following the race having shown they have pace both in qualifying and the race, Mercedes and Red Bull seem to have better qualifying and race pace respectively.

 

More on those drivers who can be considered to have had great races though and first Button. Button has been described as dominating the race and this is probably fair, he certainly didn’t make a single mistake right through and even with the safety car and restart looked untroubled and had the speed to break the DRS gap before DRS was turned on again: as he had crcucially done at the start. The fact that he was so much faster and consistently faster than Lewis Hamilton, who had no real problems we know of, really shows how well he was going on Sunday. Button briefly seemed to struggle with his tyres during his seconds stint on mediums but that didn’t hold him back for long and he seemed to drive around a problem that in previous years would have ruined his race.

 

Lewis Hamilton of course got a bad start which helped Button, it might have been a different story otherwise, and Hamilton was disadvantaged at both pit stops, the second though being purely down to bad luck as the Mclaren team strived to give him a pitstop on the same lap as Button which should have helped, except then the safety car came out at the perfect time for SebastianVettel.

 

Vettel had a good race considering where he started and he got a chance to show he can race, and without the kind of incidents that we saw in 2010 when he was last in positions fighting from a more lowly position.

 

Fernando Alonso’s drive was perhaps most impressive though and he totally dominated teammate Felipe Massa all weekend. You could visibly see on TV just how difficult the Ferrari was to drive and Alonso undoubtably out performed it. Massa by contrast at times seemed to not care and perhaps actually underperformed the Ferrari: this shows the different mental states of the two drivers. At this point one has to ask whether Massa wants to be at Ferrari anymore or in F1 at all anymore and if Ferrari want him? He has a contract until the end of the year but both parties could agree to end it early: Fissichella would seem a better option in the seat to see out the year.

 

Sauber have two potential future Ferrari drivers; Sauber putting Perez on to a 1 stop strategy would have been a very easy choice given his performance on the same strategy in 2011 and that he was starting from the back of the grid: making it work would have been harder and Perez’s performance was much more impressive even than in 2011 as he kept pace very well and got up to 8th  at the end of the race from the back of the grid. Kamui Kobayashi also had a good race showing us again just how well he can place his car on the track whether he is defending or attacking, a strong looking Sauber of course put him in the position to be fighting for points places but he certainly made the most of it and was the most exciting driver to watch almost race long.

 

Mercedes may be disappointed with the Australian Grand Prix their pace seemed to drop off having been poor compared to where many of us thought they would be beforehand. With Schumacher dropping out early on we had to base their performance on Nico Rosberg who seemed to race well but simply not have the pace, they may find themselves battling againist Lotus, Ferrari and perhaps Sauber and Williams more often this season than the Red bulls and Mclarens, we will get a better idea after Malaysia perhaps though.

 

There is indeed a lot that we don’t yet know and that includes how fast the Lotus cars really are when driving from the higher positions we have seen they can qualify in. Grosjean was unlucky but Raikonnen looked good coming through from the back for some reasonable points.

 

Force India will be disappointed that their pace doesn’t seem to be where many thought it was from testing, though maybe they already knew; Di Resta was arguably lucky to jump up several places on the last lap to get a point. The Toro Rossos looked solid and the drivers well matched and they will probably be fighting with Force India for the minor points all season, though both teams may fail to score in races with less retirements.

 

Caterham are a team who will need a good few retirements to get points, it isn’t obvious but they have, I feel, made a big step forwards and Marussia have too. Caterham are where Williams were last season I’d say, unfortunately everyone else has moved up and closer to the top teams. Expect Caterham to finish on the lead lap often though and be in positions to jump drivers who have problems that slow them down or force extra stops as well as those that retire.

 

Marussia maybe are where Caterham were last year and look reliable. HRT haven’t moved anywhere yet, except maybe backwards, though at China we are being promised that their problems will be overcome, it could be they have a reasonable car that is yet to shine and with working KERS could even trouble the Marussia who are the only car without KERS in 2012.

 

 

March 19, 2012 at 12:13 pm by admin
Category: Race Reviews