20/03/2012

Australian GP, Albert Park- It ain’t over until it’s over

Wasn’t this the start all you fans hoped for? I mean, down to the wire qualifying and a last second fight to the finish line? If this is not enough then nothing is. The 2012 season started off with a BANG, I can certainly speak for all the fans out here. We saw all the things we wanted to see in a race weekend. The true order is yet to be ascertained to the fullest extent but we got a fair bit of idea about the order. McLaren started off the season with a win as Button won the race, with Vettel at P2 & Hamilton at P3.

Without stating much, I start my weekend review with some details from Friday to Sunday:

FP1:

As all had predicted, it was a wet start to the 2012 season as rain came down during the opening practice session in Melbourne. Though it was a good chance for the teams to test the wet and the intermediate Pirelli compounds. All the teams had limited testing during the start due to wet track. Button topped the first Friday practice of the season with Hamilton & Schumacher behind. The Sahara Force Indians of Nico & Paul were down at P12 & P13 respectively. The FP1 times reflected little as it was mix table with many big teams behind the midfield teams. The lone Indian on the grid Karthikeyan ventured out on the track before his HRT halted on track due to problems.

FP2:

Just before the session had begun, it rained heavily leaving the track all wet. The track was drying all the time and by the end of the session it was all frantic running on the track. After running on the wets, intermediates the teams finally managed to run on the softs and hards. Schumacher topped the timesheets with Hulkenberg second and Perez third. Nico was P1 for most of the time until last minute of the session. While the other SFI of Paul ended at P6. A better run in a fairly unsettled session. This time Karthikeyan got a 16 laps in the car and ended at P23, though far off from pace.

FP3:

It was a great weather in Melbourne during the third practice session, a dry weather much to the delight to the teams to run final adjustments in the car for qualifying. Hamilton popped to the top beating Grosjean who beat Webber to end the session as top 3 drivers. Surprisingly, the SFI duo had a bit troubled session in which they couldn’t run on the softs, Nico ended at P15 while Paul at P17. Karthikeyan continued to get some mileage on the brand new car, ending at P24 aiming to get inside the 107% time.

The three practice sessions gave little information about the grid position. But we could ascertain that McLaren & RBR will fight for pole with Mercedes may pop a surprise. Ferrari seemed out of place. Midfield is jam packed with all doing fairly well and for the new team it was Caterham once again.

Qualifying, Q1:

Yeah, the 2012 first qualifying session was a GO. It was one hell of a start to the first qualifying, I must say. Right from the start in Q1 we saw the unexpected thing happening as Kimi Raikkonen returning to F1 after a gap two years shockingly bowed out due to mis-communication with his team. The others were the usual expected team of Caterham, Marussia & HRT. In addition HRT couldn’t finish under the 107% time and so they were not allowed to race in the Australian GP, not at all the start they had expected. Both the SFI made it to Q2 but it was tough for both of them as they just made it over the line.

Q2:

The second qualifying session will be the one the Ferrari team want to forget. As far as I remember, this has happened after a long-long time that both the Ferrari cars bowed out and did not make it to Q3. With them out, two places automatically opened for two midfield teams to get up in the top 10. In a mad scramble to make it to Q3, the drivers from P5 to P16 all went out. Nico made it to Q3 in the end with a good lap, a great performance on his return to F1. Unfortunately, Paul missed out and was to start his second season at P15 which he said happened due to traffic which didn’t help him to optimise his tyre temperature.

Q3:

The big question on everyone’s mind was, will the teams continue the 2011 trend of not running in Q3 to save tyres? At one time, it was looking like that but then all teams did at least one lap run apart from STR’s Ricciardo. Hamilton had set the time initially and must say it was seeming an untouchable time. And it happened that way as Hamilton was on pole on the first race of the season. Button completed a McLaren 1-2 for the qualifying session, the surprise though was Grosjean at P3 on his return with Lotus. Hulkenberg ended at P9 on his return to F1 with SFI giving the team a good start in the season.

I was a bit surprised with RBR being so down to be honest, more so with Ferrari. Yes, Ferrari were down but didn’t expect such a result. The midfield was closer than anyone could have guessed. SFI had a mixed day with Di Resta at P15 & Hulkenberg at P9, they are to get a tough challenge from other midfield teams.

Raceday:

The day we all were waiting for, yes the first raceday of the 2012 season. The qualifying session gave a fantastic start to the weekend and all of us were hoping for a fantastic end to the weekend. It was a bright and sunny day in Melbourne, no sign of any rain. Time passed by quickly and we geared up for the race and importantly the first lap, first corner. All were predicting that Button will start with an advantage and take the lead, I don’t know what mad them think so but that did happened as the five red lights illuminated, Hamilton lost the lead to Button and since then there was no looking back for Button. Both the Ferrari’s and Kimi made a huge start. We also got incidents involving several drivers touching each other, and Hulkenberg paid the price for that as he suffered a DNF (in two Australian GP, he hasn’t yet completed a lap).

The race went on fairly well from then on as Button settled at P1 whit Hamilton chasing him. Rosberg, Schumacher, Vettel were having their battles while Webber & Alonso had theirs behind the leaders. The midfield battle carried on with Sauber, Kimi leading the pack and surprisingly Maldonado in his Williams was battling on at par with them. As SFI lost Hulkenberg early, it was all on Di Resta to score some points. The best overtake move till then was from Vettel over Rosberg to get to P3. The pit stops round went on smoothly for the teams, the next major move in the race which changed quite many places was when the SC came out due to a stationary Caterham of Petrov.

The SC helped Vettel to get the P2 position and Webber to P4 getting ahead of Alonso. Hamilton was the biggest loser in this case. Behind this an interesting battle was on between Rosberg, Perez, Kobayashi, Kimi, Di Resta, Vergne & Ricciardo. All were fighting for P7-P10 and championship points. Talking about Di Resta, he had a good start as at one point he was running at P9 from P15. But surprisingly the pace of the rivals were a touch better (not much) as in the P7-P10 battle, he lost out to Vergne & Ricciardo but he was always running right behind them. The last lap just changed the game, I have never seen such an end honestly. It was just superb way to end a fantastic race. On the last lap, Maldanado running at P6 crashed out changing the whole scenario of the lower half of the points table. Rosberg slowed down k Ricciardo jumped upto P9 and so did Di Resta to P10. All these happened just inches away from the start/finish line.

It took time for the results to get into your mind with so many changes taking place in the last second. Apparently, cleverness, presence of mind got Ricciardo & Di Resta got the points while Vergne missed out. Many of you will say that SFI got lucky but this is a race, luck plays an important role as the performance, we need to be ready to pounce on the opportunities present with us. All in all, this was the perfect race. Surely, the kind of race we had hoped for. Still early days to rate anyone as the champion or a possible front runner. The midfield is very closely packed, the lower field is still to be ascertain though Marussia showed a good reliability, Caterham is always the favourite. Anyways, we have no time to rest as Malaysian GP is just days away. Don’t we just love back to back to back races? Just sit back and enjoy!!

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