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


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

  1. 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.

  2. 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….

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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

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

      Were we watching the same race…are we talking the same language??

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 18th March 2012, 11:05

      When?

      To begin with, at no point was Hamilton in a position to try to overtake Button. Button took the lead at the start, then drove away from him.

      So at which of Hamilton’s non-existent attempts to overtake Button did the team, in your words, “decide not to let him pass him”?

    • Hatebreeder (@hatebreeder) said on 18th March 2012, 11:14

      @Exciting
      You are excited with the completely wrong facts! :P

  6. 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, 11:47

        +1

      • DMC (@dmc) said on 18th March 2012, 23:03

        Aggressive drivers -senna,schumacher,fangio,hakkinen,raikkonen,alonso,hamilton. Thats a few world championships there. Imagine how many more they would have had if they had been doing it right!

      • HoHum (@hohum) said on 18th March 2012, 23:32

        Also I believe these tyres need to “bed in” for a couple of laps if they are to last, makes qualifying fast a self handicapping proposition.

    • 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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?

  10. 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?

  11. Rick said on 18th March 2012, 12:49

    Hamilton’s race pace simply wasn’t up to Buttons level today. People who say it was tyres are mislead, Button was faster than Hamilton even when they both had new tyres on. If it was tyre management Button would only be faster when Hamilton had used the best of his up – this simply wasn’t the case today.
    I have a feeling that is the real reason why Hamilton was dejected afterwards, he knew he simply wasn’t quick enough from the off – it’s a long year though.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 18th March 2012, 12:57

      Looked to me like Hamilton was baffled by Button driving away from him and sort of lost the confidence and determination to fight for it. Lets hope he nails it on pole next week again and gives a good fight for it.

    • lluis said on 18th March 2012, 13:30

      Not only because of the lack of pace, poor strategy affected him too.
      Excerpt from El Pais “Y hoy, Jenson Button dejó constancia del potencial de los bólidos británicos … por delante de un inconformista Sebastian Vettel y de Lewis Hamilton, perjudicado por la estrategia del equipo.” => “And today, Jenson Button recorded the potential of British racing cars … ahead of maverick Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, hurt by the team’s strategy”

    • soulmonkey said on 18th March 2012, 18:49

      My hypothesis is that Button turned up his engine to full mode at the start (after passing Hamilton) and after the restart. This allowed him to get away and out of the reach of the DRS. Once settled, Hamilton was able to either egged back or maintain the gap to Button. Unfortunately, Hamilton did need to pit before Button and not doing so at the right time contributed to his race greatly. But I think the most deciding factor was that Button used more engine revs (gas) than Hamilton. [of course it’s a guess].

  12. BROOKSY007 (@brooksy007) said on 18th March 2012, 13:16

    Sitting @ turn 2 today – the mclarens have an obvious downforce advantage, their cars looked stable and controlled while the rest of the field were twitching and sliding on exit! Very cool to watch only 15m away!! Disappointed to see webber get sandwiched and his start, but 4th was pretty good. Riccardo in the points – very big cheers all around!
    Congrats to mclaren – starting the season strong!

  13. bsnaylor (@bsnaylor) said on 18th March 2012, 13:38

    When will we get to see the predictions table updated!

  14. schumi_the greatest said on 18th March 2012, 13:49

    Some of the comments on this site amaze me! people twisting reality to suit theyre theories etc, ridiculous.

    Was a good race, Button drove brilliantly, I knew as soon as he was past at the 1st corner it was always going to be hard for Hamilton to get back in front because of the pit stop situation. Thats the problem when your racing your team mate, rightfully the team gives the best strategy to the guy in front. But i also think thats a weankess on Hamilton/Mclarens past. At the 2nd round of stops Hamilton was starting to come under pressure from Vettel, Button was 10 seconds clear so was never going to be under threat by the “undercut” from Button. Mclaren should have brought lewis in first to protect his 2nd place from Vettel. What happened after was a bit lucky on Vettels part but (and Im a huge fan of Lewis) needs to be more assertive in these situations – that’s 1 of buttons strengths he’s prepared to make his own decisions out there sometimes and lewis needs to learn from that. The fact he was clearly not happy after the race is understandable i’d put it down to just a bad day at the office – it happens and to be fair to Jenson when he’s on form in a car that’s to his liking he’s a very good driver. Be interesting to see what happens in Malaysia, i would think mclaren would be even better there with the long corners etc their car seems much more planted on the track than the red bulls.

    Another impressive drive by Perez he faded off a little last season but he had a great race today, bad luck for Grosjean but he did let Maldonado bully him a little there. Good recovery from Raikkonen and a fantastic drive by Alonso. Massa needs to look at what hes doing, the car isnt any better for alonso but hes just throwing the car around whereas massa seems to expect it to just work for him, he’s been crap the last 2 years.

    Not sure what happened to Mercedes but there’s definitely pace there shame to see Schumacher retire but we should get a better idea of the pecking order next week. I think Mclaren are a little ahead of Red Bull with Lotus/Mercedes not far behind.

    Great to have F1 back and I thought the sky coverage was brilliant to be fair. I certainly didn’t miss listening to eddie jordan talk complete drivel or the cringey banter between the pundits (something brunle alluded to as a reason for leaving)

    • dkpioe said on 18th March 2012, 16:59

      at the second pitstop they both came in the same lap as hamilton was so far behind already. button exited his pit box well before hamilton arrived – so mclaren did nothing wrong to hamper hamiltons race. hamilton was outdriven this race in every aspect by his teammate, but not by as much as his pathetic attitude after the race showed. he should have been happy to have points on the board as its obvious it is going to be a tight season. such a poor attitude by hamilton shows a sign on mental weakness, this will hamper him over the season, he has to realise he is not the next ayrton senna like he thinks he is, and should just do the best he can, and be happy for every opportunity he gets to drive a top-2 car in f1.

    • Alexandre said on 18th March 2012, 20:35

      ALonso had a good race, but won 2 places (grosjean and maldonado) in the beginning, and had fresh tires to overtake both rosberg and webber (1st pit stop). If Massa continues like this, dont know if Ferrari will be patient to wait until the end of the year. Yes, the golden years are definitely gone. :(

  15. smudgersmith1 (@smudgersmith1) said on 18th March 2012, 14:00

    Really pleased for JB, but more concerned about Lewis, he seems to be missing the bit of magic he had in his first couple of seasons.
    This could be the closest of seasons and yes…..vettel can race and mix it when he needs to.

  16. McFillin (@kcampos12) said on 18th March 2012, 14:16

    Great stuff Williams!

  17. Andre (@) said on 18th March 2012, 15:03

    Massa is already blaming everything else but himself.

  18. Terry said on 18th March 2012, 15:11

    Alonso came in 5th behind 2 Red Bulls and 2 Mclarens and this in the grand scheme of things is not a bad result at all. He was actually running 4th ahead of Webber for a while. Surprised they still haven’t resolved their qualifying issues from 2011. As for Massa…well.

    • dkpioe said on 18th March 2012, 17:02

      alonso and vettel are the best at getting the best out of the car they have. alonsos car looked liked 8-10th position finishing car, and after qualifying vettels car looked liked 4-6th position, and both showed their worth in the race and finished the best their cars possibly could.

  19. mikeycool said on 18th March 2012, 15:20

    Great drive from Button, but i still wouldnt dismiss Hamiltons chances in the Championship race this year. Its only the first race for goodness sake! I’d understand if Button won and Hamilton ended up in another incident involving the stewards, but overall it definately wasnt a bad drive from Hamilton.

    • Exactly, but Hamilton fans and non-fans, even haters, probably always expect greatness from him every lap of every race, so anything less than perfect is a ‘terrible’ result or something to do with Lewis losing his ‘mojo’.

      Fact is today was just an unfortunate series of events caused by a less-than-perfect getaway from the line.

      Theres many races to come and everyone will have their fair share of good and bad luck.

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