An exciting start to the season in prospect in Melbourne

2012 Australian Grand Prix pre-race analysis

Mark Webber, Red Bull, Melbourne, 2012On 15 occasions last year we headed into a race with Sebastian Vettel on pole position and little prospect that he might be caught.

In comparison, the curtain-raiser for the 2012 season looks alive with possibilities and fascinating storylines.

Who will prevail in the battle of the McLarens? Can Red Bull move forward from row three?

What can Romain Grosjean achieve from third on the grid – and how will his team mate fare starting among the stragglers?

It promises to be a highly exciting start to the season. Here’s a look at the data from today and how the race could unfold.

Full qualifying results

Driver Car Q1 Q2 (vs Q1) Q3 (vs Q2)
1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1’26.800 1’25.626 (-1.174) 1’24.922 (-0.704)
2 Jenson Button McLaren 1’26.832 1’25.663 (-1.169) 1’25.074 (-0.589)
3 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1’26.498 1’25.845 (-0.653) 1’25.302 (-0.543)
4 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1’26.586 1’25.571 (-1.015) 1’25.336 (-0.235)
5 Mark Webber Red Bull 1’27.117 1’26.297 (-0.820) 1’25.651 (-0.646)
6 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1’26.773 1’25.982 (-0.791) 1’25.668 (-0.314)
7 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’26.763 1’25.469 (-1.294) 1’25.686 (+0.217)
8 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1’26.803 1’26.206 (-0.597) 1’25.908 (-0.298)
9 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1’27.464 1’26.314 (-1.150) 1’26.451 (+0.137)
10 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1’27.024 1’26.319 (-0.705)
11 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1’26.493 1’26.429 (-0.064)
12 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’26.688 1’26.494 (-0.194)
13 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1’26.182 1’26.590 (+0.408)
14 Bruno Senna Williams 1’27.004 1’26.663 (-0.341)
15 Paul di Resta Force India 1’27.469 1’27.086 (-0.383)
16 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’27.633 1’27.497 (-0.136)
17 Sergio Perez Sauber 1’26.596
18 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1’27.758
19 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1’28.679
20 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1’29.018
21 Timo Glock Marussia 1’30.923
22 Charles Pic Marussia 1’31.670
23 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1’33.495
24 Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1’33.643

Looking at the grid it’s not hard to spot a few drivers ‘out of position’.

Kimi Raikkonen is the first who jumps to attention – he’s 17th (after Sergio Perez’s penalty) in a car that’s good enough for at least third.

According to Raikkonen: “There?s no issue with the car. I made a mistake and there was a communication issue so the timing wasn?t right to get another lap.” That suggests he should be in a position to make up places in the race.

So should Fernando Alonso from 12th following his spin. But how much progress he will be able to make in the evil-handling Ferrari F2012 remains to be seen.

He could quickly end up with Raikkonen on his tail, which is a prospect to relish.

Then there’s Nico Rosberg. Qualifying was his forte last year, but that lock-up on his only new-tyre run in Q3 cost him dearly.

Merely repeating his lap from Q2 would have been good enough to put him fifth – row two was certainly possible. He should be able to make progress in the race, aided by the controversial Mercedes F-duct-style system.

Both Saubers should also expect to make progress. Sergio Perez, is set to start from the back of the grid after his gearbox trouble.

And Kamui Kobayashi clearly had the pace to reach Q3 – he Q1 lap would have been good enough to make the cut.

Straight-line speeds

Pos Driver Car Speed (kph/mph) Gap
1 Sergio Perez Sauber 316.7 (196.8)
2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 314.0 (195.1) -2.7
3 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 313.4 (194.7) -3.3
4 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 313.2 (194.6) -3.5
5 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 312.5 (194.2) -4.2
6 Jenson Button McLaren 310.7 (193.1) -6.0
7 Romain Grosjean Lotus 310.2 (192.7) -6.5
8 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 310.2 (192.7) -6.5
9 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 309.2 (192.1) -7.5
10 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 308.6 (191.8) -8.1
11 Pastor Maldonado Williams 308.1 (191.4) -8.6
12 Paul di Resta Force India 308.1 (191.4) -8.6
13 Bruno Senna Williams 308.0 (191.4) -8.7
14 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 308.0 (191.4) -8.7
15 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 307.3 (190.9) -9.4
16 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 307.1 (190.8) -9.6
17 Felipe Massa Ferrari 305.5 (189.8) -11.2
18 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 305.0 (189.5) -11.7
19 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 303.7 (188.7) -13.0
20 Mark Webber Red Bull 302.6 (188.0) -14.1
21 Narain Karthikeyan HRT 302.4 (187.9) -14.3
22 Charles Pic Marussia 301.0 (187.0) -15.7
23 Timo Glock Marussia 300.7 (186.8) -16.0
24 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 297.7 (185.0) -19.0

Last year Red Bull dominated races with a car that was all about having a high average speed throughout a lap – they were among the slowest on the straight, but always the quickest in the corners.

As Vettel often showed, that worked brilliantly as long as you were starting from pole position. But as Mark Webber often showed, it worked less well when starting in the pack.

Row three of the grid is not where they wanted to find themselves. In a straight line, they’re slower than anything else in the race bar the two Marussias.

They could be sitting ducks through the consecutive DRS zones and powerless to pass in the braking zones. Red Bull’s reliably canny strategy calls and super-quick pit crew will be invaluable if they are to move forwards.

Remember also Vettel’s scorching first-lap pace in 2011, which could serve him well here.

Strategy

This chart shows the longest stints by each driver in final practice with their lap times in seconds:

http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/charts/2012drivercolours.csv

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Sebastian Vettel 87.668 93.103 89.95 91.478 86.735
Mark Webber 88.214 93.348 87.031 86.996 94.592 86.926
Jenson Button 87.802 86.801 93.671 86.897
Lewis Hamilton 85.836 97.762 97.499 99.473 85.681
Fernando Alonso 88.146 97.131 94.532 87.985
Felipe Massa 89.381 95.62 91.236 89.46
Michael Schumacher 93.108 92.387 92.67
Nico Rosberg 94.532 93.519 93.381 94.143 94.038 93.47 93.71
Kimi Raikkonen 89.751 93.236 92.005 94.556 86.737 88.274
Romain Grosjean 86.831 89.046 86.897 89.666 86.973
Paul di Resta 94.452 93.558 93.926 93.218 94.654 94.15 93.196 93.39
Nico Hulkenberg 95.458 94.571 93.769 94.044 96.878 93.719 93.724 93.91
Kamui Kobayashi 87.914 91.892 91.898 87.448 96.957 87.138
Sergio Perez 93.31 92.784 93.603 96.439 94.678 92.032 92.304 92.016
Daniel Ricciardo 89.034 87.815 96.45 88.875
Jean-Eric Vergne 89.561 89.501 88.182 87.645
Pastor Maldonado 88.206 97.51 87.783 108.543 87.187
Bruno Senna 91.135 87.375 95.708 87.773 87.612
Heikki Kovalainen 94.111 88.833 96.879 90.799 90.972
Vitaly Petrov 93.151 90.559 98.131 92.61 89.697
Pedro de la Rosa 95.784 98.942 95.43
Narain Karthikeyan 98.331 93.261
Timo Glock 92.508 97.559 96.673 92.032
Charles Pic 92.974 108.09 92.337

Unsurprisingly, all the drivers in the top ten who set times chose to run on the soft tyres, which means they will start the race on those tyres.

Those further back have a free choice of tyre, and the ‘out-of-position’ drivers are most likely to make a start on the harder rubber and potentially make an early switch during a safety car period. Melbourne is a track where the possibility of a safety car appearance is more than likely.

Poor conditions in practice meant the teams have not been able to test the tyres as extensively as they would have liked.

Of the short stints they ran in final practice, Red Bull’s look most promising. They seemed to find more more time as the fuel load dropped – though of course we don’t know what those initial fuel levels were.

The question of strategy is especially interesting when it comes to the two McLaren drivers. Last year Button was often able to make his tyres last longer than Hamilton – and potentially make one fewer pit stop.

Pirelli have brought softer tyres this year and reduced the size of the performance gap between them in a bid to create more varied strategies. This race will be the first sign whether that has worked.

Your thoughts on the race

Who do you think will win the Australian Grand Prix?

Will Red Bull bounce back from their qualifying disappointment? Where will Alonso and Raikkonen finish after starting outside the top ten?

Have your say in the comments.

2012 Australian Grand Prix


Browse all 2012 Australian Grand Prix articles

Advert | Go Ad-free

85 comments on An exciting start to the season in prospect in Melbourne

  1. Hamilton: “I was controlling the race from pole and eventually came up to lap Felipe, and he just turned in on me.”

    Massa: “Leuis (sic) cannot use his mind.”

    • Aussie Fan said on 18th March 2012, 2:43

      Its Lewis not ‘Leuis’, you speeled it wrong when you wrote this exact quote on James allen’s f1 site too ;-)

      • @ Aussie Fan
        Please show me the same exact quote. I just made it up so would be gutted if someone thought of it before me. It’s definitely “Leuis” mate, listen up at the next Massa interview haha

  2. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 18th March 2012, 1:46

    First 2-3 laps will be something to savour,it will be a great race for sure.Top 3 HAM,BUT & a Mercedes!

  3. Carl Craven said on 18th March 2012, 7:44

    I predicted Button and Button did it.

    A very very dry race. Button also gets FASTEST lap.

    Anyone want to tell me how lucky he was or how unlucky Lewis was? Actually Lewis had the worst luck with the safety car. But there was no way he was beating Button today.

    Anyone STILL doubting?

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments must abide by the comment policy. Comments may be moderated.
Want to post off-topic? Head to the forum.
See the FAQ for more information.