Hello, thank you for joining me for the second episode of the F1 Advent Calendar 2012. We’ve already begun our journey through the key moments of the season just gone, with a review of the early testing. Now it’s time for the racing to get going, so let’s get to it with Day Two - Melbourne masterclass.
We know by now that Australia tends to deliver a chaotic and unpredictable race - one that doesn’t necessarily foreshadow how the season will play out, but kicks things off in style. The 2012 race did not let us down, starting with an intriguing qualifying session.
The McLaren team were on form, with Lewis Hamilton pipping teammate Jenson Button to pole position. Behind them, a surprising Romain Grosjean showed yet more pace from Lotus. The Red Bull pair were fifth and sixth with Mark Webber ahead, whilst the Ferrari duo struggled considerably - both unable to get into the top ten.
Sergio Pérez fell foul to an early gearbox penalty, dropping five places, whilst both HRT drivers failed to complete laps within the 107% time required. We’ve seen the FIA be lenient with the slower teams before, but as HRT hadn’t managed much running in the practice sessions, and were clearly not on the pace, they deemed them not ready to participate in the Grand Prix.
It was a sunny evening in Melbourne when the drivers lined up on the grid for this first race. Jenson Button managed to scamper past Hamilton off the line, taking a very early lead and never looking back. First lap chaos came in the form of Mark Webber coming into contact with Nico Hülkenberg, enough so that the Force India driver’s race came to an early end. Romain Grosjean also retired after colliding with Pastor Maldonado. Amongst the early shuffling, Sebastian Vettel managed to improve to third place.
Caterham driver Vitaly Petrov was also a retirement in the race, pulling his car to a halt out on track on lap 34. The stricken car was left in a dangerous position, so the Safety Car was called. This was the first time we were to see the new Safety Car rules in action, with backmarkers allowed to unlap themselves before the Safety Car would be called in. Drivers came in for pit stops during the Safety Car period, and the changed strategy allowed Vettel to jump Hamilton for second place - a position the McLaren driver fought hard to regain, but ultimately could not achieve.
Meanwhile, Pastor Maldonado was up in a very strong points position, chasing Alonso for fifth place, with the knowledge that the Ferrari’s tyres were falling away. Unfortunately, Pastor pushed too hard, tipped himself into a spin and crashed into the wall. He had completed enough of the race to be classified in 13th place, but had lost out on some serious championship points for the Williams team. Afterwards, the Venezuelan driver said it wasn’t because he was hustling Alonso for position, that he had already accepted he wouldn’t be able to pass the Spaniard, and it was just a moment where he lost the back of the car.
It was Jenson Button who took the victory and jumped into the lead in the drivers’ championship, with Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton joining him on the podium. The Red Bull team cautiously admitted that McLaren appeared to have the upper hand at this early stage, but that if this season was set to be anything like the last, performance would vary on a circuit by circuit basis.
Further down the order, Sauber had a strong double points finish, whilst Daniel Ricciardo and Paul di Resta both scraped a couple of early points to get their season’s off to a good start. Caterham had a disappointing double retirement, with Petrov’s steering issue and Kovalainen out of the race due to faulty suspension. With neither HRT participating in the race, and rookie driver Charles Pic retiring for Marussia, it was left to Timo Glock to fly the flag for the backmarker teams. Whilst a championship battle had begun at the front, with Red Bull and McLaren eyeing each other up, there was also another battle starting at the rear, with Caterham, Marussia and HRT starting another season of fighting for supremacy despite being well out of the points.
That’s all for this episode of F1 Advent Calendar 2012. Thanks for listening, and I hope you will tune in to the next show, where we will look behind the advent window on Day Three, and find out what key moment of the season will be revealed.
All content in the series F1 Advent Calendar 2012
Filed under Mini Series
References Charles Pic, Daniel Ricciardo, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Mark Webber
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