Jenson Button starts his season with an emphatic win in Melbourne

2012 Australian Grand Prix report

Jenson Button, McLaren, Melbourne, 2012Jenson Button produced a dominant performance to win the first race of 2012.

He took the lead from team mate Lewis Hamilton at the start and never looked back.

Sebastian Vettel split the two McLaren drivers on the podium after a safety car period played into his hands.

Button grabs the lead

A frantic first lap set the scene for the race: close action in the midfield, but at the front a consummate performance from Button.

As Hamilton bogged down, Button got “excited” and shifted up into second too quickly. Despite that he was was cleanly into a lead he rarely looked like losing.

From third on the grid, Romain Grosjean started slowly, finding trouble selecting second gear. Nico Rosberg, who started four places back, drew alongside him on the outside of the first corner. Rosberg braked later and made the turn, taking up fourth behind his team mate.

Grosjean’s race didn’t last much a longer. Pastor Maldonado dived down the inside of him at turn 13 on the next lap, the pair made contact and the Lotus’s front suspension broke.

Vettel picked off Nico Rosberg on the second lap, sweeping around the outside of the Mercedes at turn nine. He set off after Michael Schumacher, but went off at turn one on lap six and briefly fell back into the clutches of Rosberg.

Rosberg was under pressure from Fernando Alonso, who’d made remarkable progress from 12th on the grid.

Mark Webber made a poor start by his own admission and suffered damage to his RB8 in contact with Nico Hulkenberg. Having fallen to ninth he passed Maldonado when the Williams driver collided with Grosjean, and took up the running behind Alonso.

Massa hits tyre trouble

The other Ferrari of Felipe Massa had also started well and he too moved up at Maldonado’s expense. But within the fist ten laps he was struggling with tyre wear and Maldonado re-passed him.

Button pulled away quickly at the start, building up a 3.4s lead over Hamilton. His advantage was boosted by Vettel’s mistake and Schumacher’s retirement on lap 11. By lap 13, the closest driver to him besides his team mate was Vettel, 13 seconds behind.

Massa came in to shed his worn tyres on lap 12, and the drivers in front soon began to pit in response.

McLaren faced a dilemma familiar to Red Bull last year, of how to manage the pit stops of their drivers who were running one-two, without inadvertently handing one an advantage over the other.

“We give control for selection of the lap to the car in front,” explained Whitmarsh. So it was Button who came in first, followed by Hamilton on the next lap.

At their second stops McLaren brought both their cars in together: “We nearly did it at the first stop – we chickened out of that one,” added Whitmarsh.

Vettel followed Button in on lap 17. When Hamilton emerged from the pits on the following lap he came out behind Sergio Perez, who was repeating Sauber’s tactics from last year of running a long first stint on the harder tyre.

Hamilton spent a costly two laps behind Perez before using DRS to pass him on lap 21. Vettel, now within range of the McLaren, followed him past on the same lap.

The next man past was Alonso, who was running in an impressive fourth place in a Ferrari which had looked a handful all weekend.

Further back Rosberg and Webber were disputing fifth place. Webber took a brave look at Rosberg in the high-speed turn 11, but backed out of it just as Rosberg realised he couldn’t make the corner and took to the escape road.

The Mercedes driver pitted at the end of the lap, releasing Webber to hunt down Alonso. He took over a second per lap out of the Ferrari before Alonso, too, headed for the pits.

Hamilton loses out under safety car

After passing Perez, Hamilton initially made an impression on Button’s lead, bringing it down to under ten seconds. But by the time they were ready for their second pit stops the gap was back up to ten seconds and McLaren felt they could risk bringing both their drivers in on the same lap without losing any time.

They were ill-rewarded for this risky move as the appearance of the safety car shortly afterwards ultimately cost Hamilton second place to Vettel.

Vettel believed he would have had a chance at passing the McLaren even without the safety car appearance, which was triggered by Vitaly Petrov’s Caterham stopping by the start/finish line.

But in another respect the safety car was good news for McLaren, as the team had found they were using fuel at a quicker rate than they expected and needed to back off to make sure they reached the finish.

Having let the lapped cars move out of the way – a revived procedure that not all the drivers in the queue seemed to be ready for – the safety car released the field for a 17-lap sprint to the finish.

Button pulled 1.9 seconds out on Vettel at the restart. Behind him Hamilton initially kept Vettel in range before slipping back – the pair and Webber in a three-way stalemate.

Maldonado’s last-lap blunder

Behind him the action built to a dramatic climax. Maldonado was piling the pressure on Alonso for fifth place and as they headed into turn three he braked desperately lately, almost hitting the back of the F2012.

A few corners later he came completely unstuck, battering the barriers at turn seven. He had been on course for sixth place – better than any Williams managed last year.

Further back his team mate’s race had ended after contact with the other Ferrari. Bruno Senna had been knocked into a spin on the first lap and was making a recovery drive. He tried to take Massa on the outside of turn four and the pair collided, putting both out.

Maldonado’s crash wasn’t the only last-lap drama. Perez made contact with Rosberg while trying to pass, damaging one of Mercedes’ tyres and dropping Rosberg out of the top ten.

The cars behind pounced and Kimi Raikkonen took three places in the final lap to clinch seventh.

Perez hung on to seventh while Daniel Ricciardo and Paul di Resta passed Jean-Eric Vergne for the final points places.

Both Marussia drivers were classified despite their car having done no pre-season testing. Timo Glock celebrated his birthday with 14th place.

Maldonado, Senna and Charles Pic were all classified despite having stopped, leaving just 13 cars circulating at the finish.

“Every lap it felt a little bit in doubt”

If Button’s run to victory had looked straightforward, he said it wasn’t. “Every lap it felt a little bit in doubt,” he admitted afterwards.

McLaren’s win shows they can challenge Red Bull’s supremacy in 2012. But despite their strong showing Hamilton looked distinctly unhappy after a race which saw him start first and finish third.

2012 Australian Grand Prix


Browse all 2012 Australian Grand Prix articles

Image ?? McLaren/Hoch Zwei

Advert | Go Ad-free

254 comments on Jenson Button starts his season with an emphatic win in Melbourne

  1. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 18th March 2012, 10:23

    We give control for selection of the lap to the car in front

    Does this automatically mean that the second driver has to pit later? If Button was planning on stopping on lap 17, then Hamilton could easily have come in from lap 14 onwards, as he should have. I think Keith’s race analysis (you will still do those this season, Keith?) will show that in the last 5 laps before his stop, Hamilton lost a lot of time, maybe as much as 6-8 seconds (so even without getting stuck behind Perez). I saw him do a 1m36 on lap 17, while drivers behind were still doing 1m33 (the pace at which Hamilton and Button had been running for the first 12 or so laps), and his inlap can’t have been much better.

    I was disappointed to see Hamilton so dejected after a faultless weekend and a useful podium (there were few enough of those last season). If he cannot get over the fact that Button can beat him on race pace, then this will be a difficult season for him.

    Mark Webber: I was happy to see him so quick, but he needs to iron out at least one of two weaknesses: his starts, and his inability to put a move together. I think Mark is a good wheel-to-wheel racer, and he should have the confidence to throw it up the inside (or outside, as his teammate demonstrated) from time to time.

    Kimi Raikkonen: He was fast at the end of his stints, and I think the safety car prevented him from taking more advantage from his lower tyre wear.

    Michael Schumacher: too bad he ran into trouble; I think he would have managed his tyres better than Rosberg. On the other hand, some attrition now is a good thing, otherwise it’s always the same people in the points.

    Maldonado: Although I’m indifferent to Maldonado as a driver, I am absolutely gutted for Williams. This was an excellent opportunity to put the disastrous 2011 behind them. Athough the car is competitive, so are many others, and it’s by no means a certainty that any P6 finishes will come Williams’s way soon.

    • me262 said on 18th March 2012, 11:05

      Yeah agree on Hamy’s dejection after the race. A championship winning McLaren with Button on top might mean the end of the harmonious Hamilton/Button relationship…

    • OOliver said on 18th March 2012, 12:00

      I don’t think Mclaren totally stick to that leader pits first strategy.
      They alter it when it is convenient as they did so many times last season.

      • Forotherruns said on 19th March 2012, 8:03

        They only alter it to suit Button not Hamilton. Just check to see. This is not to say that they favour Button but I think Hamilton’s race engineer is not experienced and assertive enough. On the other hand……..

    • Drop Valencia said on 18th March 2012, 12:30

      Webbers starts are shocking, his moves are fine, did you see compromise Rosberg onto the escape? That was brave sitting in there!

      • HoHum (@hohum) said on 18th March 2012, 23:19

        Yes, and if you leave out the 1st. lap Webber drove a faster race than Vettel ( from what I saw, need to analyse lap times to be sure), Webber needs to be sent to the drag strip with an old RBR car to practice at every opportunity. How hard can it be ?

    • Rush said on 18th March 2012, 15:26

      I think Michael Schumacher could be in 4th or 5th

    • Ed Marques (@edmarques) said on 19th March 2012, 14:40

      Mclaren destroyed Hamilton’s race on the first pit stop e he knows it. Flawless drive by Jenson but the team assured that no fight on the track would be allowed with the pit strategy. Hamilton knows that and if you look to what happened just before the podium you could see that the relationship between LH and JB will not be so harmonious like the years before. Lewis barely talked do Jenson, and barely looked at his face. It’s too early in the season to say that but I start to doubt Lewis will continue in Mclaren next season.

  2. darkenforca (@darkenforca) said on 18th March 2012, 10:25

    Firstly congratulations to JB and the McLaren team, anybody know when Glock was lapped after the SC? He could’ve been close to a P12 today.

  3. me262 said on 18th March 2012, 10:25

    Loved how Button bet Hamy from the dirty side of the start :) Vettel stated that even though they didnt qualify that well their race pace was going to be good…

  4. GeorgeDaviesF1 (@georgedaviesf1) said on 18th March 2012, 10:26

    Button owns Albert Park. Great start to the season in general

  5. matt said on 18th March 2012, 10:29

    A little off topic, but can I just say Kieth how much I enjoy this site, I hope that although you are having to scale back your commitment to the site that you’ll still maintain the enthusiasm and informative nature of it. I live in Australia and it’s slim pickings over here for F1 so I find F1 fanatic a real boon.

    We get Sky commentary feed over here, am I right in thinking Croft used to be a radio commentator or used to do touring cars? His approach seemed a bit OTT especially compared to DC and MB last year who seemed to have built a good rapport.On the other hand it was a pretty gripping race so maybe his excitement was justified but it would be nice if him and MB can strike a balance as MB’s insights are informative and amusing, he seemed to get talked over a bit today.

  6. Rick said on 18th March 2012, 10:30

    Australian GP 2012, JB 1st LH 3rd. nuff said…. seriously though I’m a big JB fan, have been for years, but these 2 are totally different drivers, both great, who will excel in different cars, circuits or even with differing FIA rules., though JB seems to have the edge over LH under current circumstances. I fuly expect LH will get his mojo back, though maybe not this year as I don’t think current rules suit his style as much as Button. Hopefully he is a big enough “Man” to realise he can learn a lot from JB ( as I think JB may have done in reverse, finding more speed by learning from his team mate??)
    Lewis has many years ahead of him in F1, he will have many more chances at becoming WDC, Button less so, possibly spurring him on to his recent form success, coupled with the years of experience he has picked up. Remember his playboy tag a few years ago?? Since then, he has matured and developed as a driver, something LH just needs time to do too. Instead of knocking this driver or that, we Brits should be grateful that we have 2 world class drivers representing us with PD in the wings too. Awesome for the future of British F1 racing. This just maybe JB’s best chance of winning a 2nd championship as it feels like a McLaren season. Though I’m sure even then some people will still say JB was just lucky.

    • matt said on 18th March 2012, 10:57

      2nd this. JB has definitely made the best of competing with Lewis to push himself to another level, Maccas must love him for his media skills as well. He did a bit for Aussie tv this weekend, he was cool, funny and approachable, then again he’s a west country lad so what else would you expect. I think he has a good chance of a second WDC this year and I hope Lewis can keep his equilibrium and draw off Jensons experience to strengthen his game. In the long term I see JB as a 2 time championship type of driver, well respected and great for the team, Lewis on the other hand could be alongside Alonso and Vettel a multiple mega champ but he’s got to use teammates like JB to get him there mentally and proffessionally. Having Kovalienen as a team mate probably did nothing for Lewis’s development, after all look what amazing heights driving alongside Fernando as a rookie pushed him too.

      I think it’s superb to have these 2 British drivers in the same team and they’re both in their own ways really likable and great to support.

  7. tandrews (@tomand95) said on 18th March 2012, 10:30

    Great race by Ricciardo, he was last for about half the race and then got into the points with a help from the safety car. In 2011 Red Bull dominated quali but McLaren caught up in race pace, and this weekend it has been a complete reversal of last year.

    • Karthikeyan (@ridiculous) said on 18th March 2012, 12:57

      Second this, race pace wise things are matched, qualification pace wise McLaren have the upper hand for now. Next week will be the real test for proper speed evaluation

    • hays33d (@hays33d) said on 19th March 2012, 4:17

      @tomand95 expanding on your safety car comment as I haven’t seen anyone really address it. Though I think there was a clue this could happen, the new safety car rule and the unlapping of lapped cars could be a very big deal this year in the driver’s championship.

      The fact that Ricciardo was involved in that collision at the beginning, had to pit and then finished in the points mainly because he could unlap shows that a major championship front runner could pull out some very crucial points in a race this year after an early incident. Maybe enough to put them on top at the end of the year….

  8. Rick said on 18th March 2012, 10:31

    I posted this on an old forum in error but so will repost.

    Australian GP 2012, JB 1st LH 3rd. nuff said…. seriously though I’m a big JB fan, have been for years, but these 2 are totally different drivers, both great, who will excel in different cars, circuits or even with differing FIA rules., though JB seems to have the edge over LH under current circumstances. I fuly expect LH will get his mojo back, though maybe not this year as I don’t think current rules suit his style as much as Button. Hopefully he is a big enough “Man” to realise he can learn a lot from JB ( as I think JB may have done in reverse, finding more speed by learning from his team mate??)
    Lewis has many years ahead of him in F1, he will have many more chances at becoming WDC, Button less so, possibly spurring him on to his recent form success, coupled with the years of experience he has picked up. Remember his playboy tag a few years ago?? Since then, he has matured and developed as a driver, something LH just needs time to do too. Instead of knocking this driver or that, we Brits should be grateful that we have 2 world class drivers representing us with PD in the wings too. Awesome for the future of British F1 racing. This just maybe JB’s best chance of winning a 2nd championship as it feels like a McLaren season. Though I’m sure even then some people will still say JB was just lucky.

    • Rick said on 18th March 2012, 11:36

      Sorry about the double posting, Lagg got me confused. Hopefully this one will get deleted. and thnks Matt

      matt said on 18th March 2012, 10:57
      2nd this. JB has definitely made the best of competing with Lewis to push himself to another level, Maccas must love him for his media skills as well. He did a bit for Aussie tv this weekend, he was cool, funny and approachable, then again he’s a west country lad so what else would you expect. I think he has a good chance of a second WDC this year and I hope Lewis can keep his equilibrium and draw off Jensons experience to strengthen his game. In the long term I see JB as a 2 time championship type of driver, well respected and great for the team, Lewis on the other hand could be alongside Alonso and Vettel a multiple mega champ but he’s got to use teammates like JB to get him there mentally and proffessionally. Having Kovalienen as a team mate probably did nothing for Lewis’s development, after all look what amazing heights driving alongside Fernando as a rookie pushed him too.

      I think it’s superb to have these 2 British drivers in the same team and they’re both in their own ways really likable and great to support.

      I think your reply comment was just about spot on.

  9. JamieFranklinF1 (@jamiefranklinf1) said on 18th March 2012, 10:33

    Jenson was fantastic today. I had a feeling that he’d be able to get in front of Hamilton at the first corner, and when he did, I was ecstatic. The whole race for me was very exciting, and the pace of some of the cars was fantastic to see!

    The Saubers looked great, and the Williams as well, although I’m really not a fan of Maldonado and was quite happy when he crashed out on the last lap. It seemed only fair considering he ended Grosjean’s race, who was probably going to have a decent points haul.

    At one stage, I had 4 of the top 5 drivers in their correct positions for my predictions, but unfortunately, the safety car kind of messed that up for me. Vettel was able to get into 2nd, and Alonso and Rosberg didn’t have the pace to stop Webber getting 4th.

    I thought it was quite bad that Red Bull was intentionally positioning their mechanics in the pit lane in order to restrict the McLaren drivers from getting away well, when their drivers weren’t actually coming in to pit. Not only is it unsafe, but it’s very unsportsmanlike.

    • David-A (@david-a) said on 18th March 2012, 10:37

      @jamiefranklinf1

      I remember Mclaren’s mechanics being rather poorly positioned as well when Vettel came in for his first stop. It likely wasn’t intentional from either team.

      • JamieFranklinF1 (@jamiefranklinf1) said on 18th March 2012, 10:45

        @David-A – There’s a difference though. The McLaren mechanics were out because their car had just pitted, meaning that they were bound to get in the way a little. What I’m talking about, is during the second round of pit stops when Button and Hamilton came in, and the Red Bull mechanics were out, even though neither Vettel or Webber was pitting.

  10. Exciting said on 18th March 2012, 11:01

    I think what happen today was anlucky to H amilton, and his race wnd the firts corner, after team desided not let him pas him his team mate “Team sabotage his car then Hamilton to started struggling his pace

  11. Hatebreeder (@hatebreeder) said on 18th March 2012, 11:11

    I hate the new tyres technology. it’s eating into the driving style of the aggressive drivers. the tyres are clearly too soft and demand smoother drive, which button and Kimi would manage, but those with an aggressive style of driving have to suffer. If this continues, then I dont think Lewis’ll ever win the 2 more titles that he always dreams of.

    • infy (@infy) said on 18th March 2012, 11:23

      By aggressive you actually mean a rough style, which in all honesty cannot be called a style, but instead a flaw. Drivers who turn the wheel too much or spin the wheels on corner exit are doing it wrong, not matter how you look at it. Anyone with race experience will tell you that.

      Lewis might have struggled with turning the wheel too much (using more angle than necessary) which would make anyone a bit faster for a short amount of time, but with any tires that will wear them out faster, which ends up giving you a slower combined race time. Lewis has mostly corrected these errors as his tires have been lasting much longer than they did at the start of 2011 (in comparesen to other drivers). Obviously he is not going to match Button, as that is buttons main strength.

      Perhaps Lewis was able to be more rough on his tires in the past because the tires were much more durable, but racing is not meant to be forgiving like that.

    • Alex Bkk (@alex-bkk) said on 18th March 2012, 11:49

      It’s not a cart race you know?

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 18th March 2012, 12:51

      Actually I would say that is not really true. Indeed it rather favours drivers who are able to drive a car that is less planted on track, only Button seems to have found a setup in the McLaren that makes it stick really well.

      Alonso was doing better than Massa by better coping with the car sliding around, not wanting to overly control that but just anticipating and reacting to it. I would say the same was true at Red Bull on saturday making Webber beat Vettel. Although Vettel got out of his scare and into a groove again on Sunday.

      • Hatebreeder (@hatebreeder) said on 18th March 2012, 15:42

        Hmmm. Maybe.

        • Adam Tate (@adam-tate) said on 19th March 2012, 1:01

          Two words for everyone: Ronnie Peterson. That guy could be sideways lap after lap and he was always fast.

          That said, the sport has changed, the tires have changed. One sign of a great driver is adaptability. Button may be the master of it out of this generation of drivers, but the others are more than capable of learning to deal with the loss in downforce and the new tires. I suspect this is going to be an amazing season!!

      • Hatebreeder (@hatebreeder) said on 19th March 2012, 5:06

        i dunno, now f1 now feels a lot like one is praised for driving precisely and saving the tyres rather than on track action and passing other people and opportunistic moves and braking late.
        First they arent supposed to wear out the tyres and then they have to use both kinds of compounds given.

    • Ed Marques (@edmarques) said on 19th March 2012, 14:45

      Completly agree.

  12. Colossal Squid (@colossal-squid) said on 18th March 2012, 11:43

    That was a pleasant surprise to see Fernando mixing it with the Bulls and Rosberg for a while. Only Fernando could have gotten that car to 5th! At the same time, I can see Mercedes and Lotus being more competitive in Malaysia and pushing Ferrari back, not to mention Sauber and Williams being threatening. So while today was a good result for the Tifosi, Ferrari need to sort themselves out very very soon!

    Great to see JB win, and Vettel showed his worth battling up to 2nd. Hamilton needs to stop sulking every time something doesn’t go his way!

  13. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 18th March 2012, 11:50

    What a drive from Button,right from the word he didn’t put a wheel wrong,even under the safety car made a great getaway from Vettel.

  14. himmatsj (@himmatsj) said on 18th March 2012, 12:18

    What’s with Lewis and Nicole being back together again? Is this the third incarnation of their stop-go relationship?

  15. BasCB (@bascb) said on 18th March 2012, 12:43

    At their second stops McLaren brought both their cars in together: “We nearly did it at the first stop – we chickened out of that one,” added Whitmarsh.

    – a real shame for Hamilton, because had they pulled that one off, he might have been able to keep closer to Button. In stopping a lap later he lost quite a lot of time on track.

    Although in that case they couldn’t have done it at the second stop. I would love to see teams have a go at that one more often.

    • Saip said on 19th March 2012, 10:57

      Imagine if they didn’t do it at the second stop! Then Ham would have pitted after the safety car and Vettel would not get that advantage. Ham would be second, won’t he?

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.