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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Image ?? McLaren/Hoch Zwei

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

  1. GT_Racer said on 18th March 2012, 16:10

    This new pits feed that FOM are producing for this year & that Sky are taking is simply fantastic.

    I ended up keeping that feed on my ipad for the entire race just to get all the team radio comms.

  2. dkpioe said on 18th March 2012, 16:27

    i am really dissapointed at hamiltons attitude. he should be happy to have a podium. its the first race of the year, and its not like button beat him by a minute. im sick of his sour grapes, he acts like such a spoilt sport, youd think the reality of the last 2 years which showed he isnt the best in the world would bring him down to earth, but instead the whole world has to put up with his attitude problem. why cant he be grateful that every year he gets to drive a top 2 car in f1. look at vettels reaction after the race, he is much more grateful for the opportunity he gets, and can still show grace after not winning, his attitude towards race winner button was exemplary, while hamiltons just stunk of sour grapes.
    if mclaren has the advantage in the next few races i can see similar results, button first ahead of hamilton. hamilton is faster over a single lap, but he cant manage his tyres, which is required in the current generation of f1, and button can, so button has the advantage over a race distance. hamilton only shows good sportsmanship when he wins, but i hope if the result is the same in malaysia he will be a bit more respectful and sportsmanlike with his behaviour on the podium, he should realise there are drivers who spend their whole career in f1 without a podium, and even if he has high expectations, you should still respect the result.

    • Mikeycool said on 18th March 2012, 17:16

      I understand there is a need for humility and good sportmanship but having a go at lewis for being disappointed at the result is ridiculous. His sportsmanship was there when he shook Jensons hand and congratulated him. He was personally dissappointed at the result and didnt feel the need to mask it and pretend to convey genuine joy at the podium. I see nothing wrong with that.

      I would understand your comment if he later blamed someone else for not have won the race but he didnt.

      I believe that he was disappointed because he (and the rest of us) now realise that Jenson is a genuine threat to his future successes in formula 1 more than anyone else and he will not settle for second best at Mclaren. I see nothing wrong with him being disappointed when he knows that his team mate can have him more regularly than most.

      I am a lewis fan and can only hope that the benchmark raised by Button (all credit to him) will only propel Lewis to greater heights in the future. But for now, no doubt, even Button in my opinion is favourite for the title. With this much improved Mclaren under him, he only need to start on the front 2 rows to challenge for victory.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 18th March 2012, 17:38

      He had a quick enough car to win the race but his team mate won. Show me a driver who’s happy with that and I’ll show you a driver who doesn’t belong in the top flight.

      • Eric Morman (@lethalnz) said on 19th March 2012, 0:07

        Vettel was exactly the same when he was beaten by his team mate, they are not there to come second/third.
        look at how Vettel got passed Lewis,
        lewis was slowed due to speed restrictions under the SC, while Vettel powered down the the pit lane at full speed, to the restricted zone,
        that in itself was enough to make most drives cry, loosing 2nd like that was not easy to take in anyone’s book.

      • Schumi the Greatest (@schumi-the-greatest) said on 19th March 2012, 9:10

        Have to agree with Keith and Eric on that 1. It probably made Hamilton even more angry that he’d lost 2nd place like that too. Everytime Button beats Hamilton everyone is so quick to step on Hamilton’s throat. There were many occasions last year when Jenson couldn’t get near lewis….wasn’t the same reaction then though……

        • Robbie (@robbie) said on 19th March 2012, 13:31

          While I do agree with what you say Keith, and perhaps it is folly to criticise LH for not exactly doing handstands over his placing at the end of the race, I think LH has only himself to look at in the mirror. As you say he was in a race winning car and didn’t win the race. So I think there is room for criticism, even if his demeanor after the race isn’t the place to start.

          I have been indifferent about LH all along, and in general I have seen him make a lot of mistakes and squander a few WDCs that were his to lose, and only just squeak in the WDC he did win…but what I thought was really unfortunate with LH is his admission that last year he had too much fun which cost him training days which hurt him on race days…that to me is inexcusable with all that is on the line, and after hearing that I’m am much less indifferent…now I want to see JB dominate him. And now that this has happened to LH, I wonder if he is already rattled and will start to once again make mistakes. We’ll see. He has a proven record of it, in spite of all the times he has also shown himself to be incredibly good and worthy of accolades.

  3. Hollis Graham (@) said on 18th March 2012, 16:40

    You would be dissapointed as well. McLarens looked above pace of red bulls for qualy then he loses first to Jenson and second to Vettel from pole on the grid so I think he should maybe be slightly happier yeah but it’s not a good result seeing how his team-mate and slower (or so he thought) car beat him.

  4. HardbrakingStan said on 18th March 2012, 16:50

    I want to hibernate from now until Friday morning!

  5. TdM (@tdm) said on 18th March 2012, 17:45

    My 2 cents on Hamilton’s performance

    Button made a better start, Hamilton gave him space – a wise and fair move considering.

    Button was evidently a bit faster in race conditions, Hamilton went to looking after his tyres. This went well, he showed good pace and his tyres lasted as long as Button’s.
    This is where it started going wrong. First pit stops, BAD decision making by McLaren AGAIN… Lewis should have come in a lap earlier than Jenson rather than waiting for the cliff – we can kinda let them off as it’s early in the season and they didn’t know when it would happen for them but they could see other cars dropping off so… Well that happened.

    Hamilton came out slightly ahead of Vettel. Vettel closed up but when he did, Hamilton upped his pace – I presume they hoped that Vettel’s tyres would go off, either way again, he managed the gap, managed tyres and fuel and showed extra pace when needed. Second pit stop was just flat out unfortunate. McLaren were trying to manage Vettel and secure the 1-2 Red Bull were just hoping for something to happen and they got their luck.

    Hamilton did try to get the place back but frankly, he couldn’t get close enough out of the last few turns. Crucially I think the Bulls might have better traction or the McLaren was struggling in the dirty air. Because of pushing for several laps the tyres then started to go and he was under pressure from behind which he then managed.

    In summary, he tried to drive a smarter race, taking care of his tyres and managing his stints – OK he didn’t race for 1st but I think he didn’t reckon it was on. He was frankly unlucky and fair enough if he had a bit of a grump… He’s not been catching much luck recently and he must have felt he drove a much better race and came off quite poorly considering.

  6. mole (@mole) said on 18th March 2012, 18:30

    I don’t think there was a problem with Hamilton’s attitude, and it’s strange how people are linking his bad pace to his mindset. You are doing him a disservice, he’s a professional at the end of the day and by all accounts he says he is in a stable position.

    He found it difficult to keep pace with Button because he was wearing his tyres out much faster, and couldn’t get back at Vettel because Vettel had been gifted a bit of a lead and was on fresher tyres. Surely it’s better to come up with a physical reason, than to speculate on an emotional one. He was dissapointed with where he came – he admitted defeat to Button, but was annoyed about being behind Vettel, that doesn’t sound like giving up on me!

    • Robbie (@robbie) said on 19th March 2012, 13:35

      “he’s a professional at the end of the day”…but yet he admitted to last year having too much fun, which cost him on race days…that is not the type of professional any top team needs, nor should expect from a WDC.

  7. would love to have seen schumacher keep going. looked like he could have got in the top 4 but tough to say w/o seeing the tire degradation

  8. socalf1fan (@socalf1fan) said on 18th March 2012, 19:50

    Disclaimer:button fan here (as well as Lewis)

    Can we say we’ve finally reached the point where we no longer feel button is no match for hammy?

    That said, I’ve no doubt that Lewis will have the better of button an approximately equal # of times this season.

    As a NON fan of red bull, their race pace today worries me, but at least they’re not a second faster than the rest of the field….

    • You and I are in complete agreement.

    • You know what, im still not convinced. Button is great at grabbing opportunities when they arise, but, therein lies the problem.

      Yesterdays race was decided by turn 1, ‘all’ Button had to do was do what was neccesary of any driver – get a good start, get in clean air.

      Hamiltons bad start gave Button that opportunity.

      Button is great at seizing upon other peoples misfortunes, this will get him some results from time to time, as we see, but overall, im still not convinced hes in the class of Ham/Alonso, and unless Hamilton has the same amount of DNFs/crashes as last year, i dont see him Button beating him on out right Qual or Race performance.

      • Robbie (@robbie) said on 19th March 2012, 13:46

        This is what I don’t quite get…’other people’s misfortunes’…what, you mean like starting on pole? Yeah…poor guy…that Button is such an opportunity grabber…the nerve of him. Or….wait…isn’t that a big part of racing?

        Bottom line…JB did a better job from P2 than LH from P1…and in spite of LH’s best time that put him on pole, he couldn’t reel JB in during the race and take back the lead. LH squandered his pole position, JB outstarted him and didn’t squander that.

        JB-1, LH-0

        • Don’t get your knickers twisted, your basically saying what i said, Button did his start as he should, Hamilton didn’t. Button pounced on Hamiltons bad start, therefore got into clean air and first choice on strategy.

          This to me is not proof that Button is at Hamiltons level, its like a vulture, hes always ‘right there’ for when Hamilton messes up, to pounce on it. But this is the point i was making in the first place – Button is not a -match- for Hamilton. The only ‘true’ match Hamilton had was Alonso.

          • Robbie (@robbie) said on 19th March 2012, 15:01

            Lol, now who’s knickers seem twisted? Sounds like you are unwilling to say JB got a great start, and would rather word it that LH got a poor start and JB capitalized. I think it is both…JB got a great start, no question…he did not gain the first corner in the lead strictly because LH didn’t get away as well…it’s not like JB was behind LH and had to swerve out of LH’s way to get around him…ie. JB got a good solid clean start all on his own no matter what LH did.

            I also think the ‘Button is not a match for Hamilton’ concept is old news…JB is not the same driver he was, and has obviously picked up where he left off last season…a definite match for LH. As shown yesterday.

            After a ragged season last year, and a poor start, squandering his pole position yesterday, the onus is on LH to prove ‘N said on’ right. So far JB-1, LH-0…

      • Schumi the Greatest (@schumi-the-greatest) said on 19th March 2012, 15:11

        @N said i see where your coming from. This was only his 2nd dry weather victory for Mclaren (unless im mistaken) and it was a great drive…I Just dont think Button would be able to drag the Mclaren to places it shouldnt be like hamilton could do and Alonso does for Ferrari (Vettel did a similar thing in the torro rosso in 08) and that will be problematic for him in a close championship fight. it didnt cost him in 09 because when the car was on song in the first 7 races he dominated….he wont be able to do that this year, that’s why I cant see him winning the title but he will be in the hunt.

        • Robbie (@robbie) said on 19th March 2012, 16:39

          Fair comment from both of you…perhaps the onus is on JB to prove that that was then and this is now, like I think he will do (is doing going back to last year), not just on LH to prove that he can keep it together and be as mistake free as it takes to win the WDC. Imho, he’s already squandered a pole position. Mistake number 1 against a driver who I think might be better than ever, gaining confidents by the minute. Part of LH’s job is to keep JB from gaining confidents, and so far it isn’t working. Just one race though of course and he did get pole. Everything is yet to be sorted out.

  9. Senna said it best “we are competing to win. And the main motivation to all of us is to compete for victory, it’s not to come 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th. I race to win as long as I feel it’s possible”
    why would a driver be happy with 3rd when they had a car capable to win.
    Jenson drove great, got a well deserved first win of the season. Was a little disappointed with Hamilton kind of expected a batte between the two mclarens but Jenson pulled away in first stint and controlled the race. Red bull are still very strong race pace was very close with mclaren. The saubers did well as did alonso with a ferrari perforing better on race pace, still outperformed the car though.
    We should be in for a great season

  10. Luis said on 19th March 2012, 2:51

    Exciting race mostly in the mid-pack.
    1. Button the master.
    2. Ham the crybaby
    3. Shcumy creshed under pressure
    4. Alonso : the beast tamer. A miraculous 5th. Great!
    5. Perez: brave race. 6ht place was sooo close…
    6. Maldonado: unfortunate mistake. Ok, kind ow way too anxious. Great job though.
    7. Grosjean: I can’t wait to see him next race

    • Aussie Fan said on 19th March 2012, 5:27

      Schu’s gearbox failed on the way into the corner, no rear drive hence he slid wide, it was a car failure, not MS.

    • Arijit (@arijitmaniac) said on 19th March 2012, 9:41

      Schumi didnt crash under pressure.
      As Aussie Fan says his gearbox failed. Till then he was doing a good job.
      Unfortunate as it was just a glimpse of the old schumi. Would have loved to see his old form back but I guess saying that is a stretch. With the current passing/defending rules, volatile tires and all, aggressive driving is a thing of the past.
      Sadly we may never see drives like senna in suzuka in 1989 after the collision. :(

  11. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 19th March 2012, 7:42

    Great article @keithcollantine

    It was good to read what happened on the last lap, it sure was fraught. I had no idea what was happening!

  12. themagicofspeed (@) said on 19th March 2012, 9:12

    Massa has never gone well at Albert Park. Literally never, he’s always messing up in the race. Like he has again. He has had chance enough and as others have said if he doesn’t do something pretty quickly he will be replaced by one of the FDA drivers mid-season and that will be the end of him. It took that sad day in Brazil in 2008 to destroy his confidence, and career thereafter. I don’t think his heart is in it anymore. He will never improve, Im strongly sure of that. He will end up either at the back of the grid, or into retirement.

    As for Ferrari in general. What a load of garbage. I will be entirely honest in saying i didnt watch any of the coverage this weekend at all. I had better things to do than watch the sad signt of a team that has been in F1 longer than anybody else, trawling around in the midfield looking like its their 2nd or 3rd season. Its sad and its pathetic and i dont want to see it. When they pull out their finger, i’ll be watching. I just dont want to waste 3 hours every Sunday, watching a flagged horse die.

  13. lordhesketh (@lordhesketh) said on 19th March 2012, 18:20

    For those that watched it, I’m curious to know what everyone thought of the Sky coverage. I’ve watched both the BBC and Sky versions. Really missed Martin on the BBC, but missed Coulthard on Sky as well. Opinions?

  14. lordhesketh (@lordhesketh) said on 19th March 2012, 19:47

    Also, it looked as though Sam Michael and Ron Dennis were having an abrasive chat after the podium ceremony. All I could make out was Ron saying, “He was catching him….” and then it trailed off. He didn’t really look pleased. Any ideas what that was about?

    • SimS said on 19th March 2012, 20:08

      Where did you see that?

      • lordhesketh (@lordhesketh) said on 19th March 2012, 20:17

        It was on the BBC feed on TSN here in Canada. I think the feed is universal though. They had a camera come up behind them in the McLaren garage while they were speaking. They sort of turned away to avoid being heard, but Ron didn’t look happy (not that he ever does, really). I’m pretty sure it was between the podium and the interviews. Were I more technologically literate, I’d try to post a link. It really could have been quite innocent. It was more Sam’s body language than anything which looked defensive.

  15. jpowell (@jpowell) said on 20th March 2012, 9:59

    I don’t think Lewis’s bad humour was at being beaten by his teamate, I think he sees a repeat of last season . He knows that if JB gets past him all things being equal there is no chance of retaking him. He knows, that with tyres that his driving style does not allow all out attack for more than a couple of corners, he can only go slower and trundle along behind. If he was a carbon copy of JB. perhaps they could drive around side by side and finish equal ,wouldn’t that be exciting. Untill the tyre stategy in F1 reverts to real gungo racing tyres I am afraid we are going to see more of this , if a racer cannot push hard to intimidate the guy in front into a mistake ,for me this is not racing . I am not anti. JB.just want to see aggressive racing throughout the race not on one lap.

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