After a couple of difficult Free Practice sessions it was interesting to see that the McLaren’s had the outright qualifying pace. It has been documented that Jenson Button made a mistake on his flying lap and still was only a tenth of Hamilton highlighting the speed he had.
It was surprising to see Red Bull not deliver, Vettel made an uncharacteristic error along with Webber having no KERS. It is evident that the car is quick though even without KERS.
Shock and delight rolled in to one for position three. Romain Grosjean showing the magnificent work the Lotus team has done over the winter. The Enstone based team shook the entire field with the Frenchman’s lap, not least Mercedes.
Mercedes backed up their pace from winter testing with fourth position from Michael Schumacher.
Early hours in Europe and bleary eyed race fans were rolling out of the bed in anticipation for the first race of the season. Jenson Button won the McLaren battle in turn one after making a not so great start himself, but his team mates was even worse. The early pace from Button and the McLaren had shades of Red Bull from last year.
The unfortunate Grosjean went out early doors after a collision with Pastor Maldonado, the Venezuelan keen to show his ability immediately in 2012 trying to silence his critics. An early shower was also required for Michael Schumacher after hydraulic issues plagued him in to turn one where Vettel would capitalise.
Safety car out and the pack is closed up, Petrov’s Caterham grinded to a halt on the start/finish straight. Quick thinking McLaren pits their cars back to back but due to regulations they had to meet a specific delta behind the safety car gifting second position to Vettel.
Ferrari’s poor winter testing had gone from bad to worse in Qualifying but the skill, talent and ability of Fernando Alonso allowed him to greatly improve on his qualifying position in the race but he was hunted ferociously by Maldonado in a Williams that has some very encouraging pace about it.
Sauber’s regular vendettas towards the top echelons of the field in the early season were prominent again as both Perez and Kobayashi secured top ten finishes. Perez again only doing one stop in Melbourne this time though thankfully both cars not disqualified unlike 2011.
After the restart Button showed his raw pace again and from the sounds of his race engineer had plenty in reserve in terms of engine mix. Button drove a faultless race and looks to be in a very good position for the season. He appears settled and has little pressure on him as it is expected that Hamilton will beat him.
It is clear to see Hamilton is still not at one with this current era of Formula 1. If refuelling was still here and he could get rid of the tyres then arguably he would be controlling the McLaren. Currently he is not as there are underlying issues that he still is currently unhappy with. Red Bull is still an option at the end of the season with Webber likely to leave. Hamilton appeared to be more surprised at Button’s pace than his own.
After a wonderful race for Williams hearts sank as Maldonado crashed off of Turn 8 spearing in to the wall on the final lap. The Williams showed awesome pace and Maldonado was on to pass Alonso for fifth position, so unlucky for the team from Grove.
What have we learnt?
McLaren have built a very good car and the drop nose has little to no effect as it has been stated recently it is more what goes on at the rear of the car than the front.
Red Bull has a little bit of work to do but they are there and they will be challenging with both drivers and Webber looks to step his game up to Vettel.
Sauber looks to have a built a good car but it will need continued season development to secure a good championship finish.
Ferrari has issues. It has been reported that Stefano Domenicali and technical director Pat Fry both flew back to the team’s Maranello factory on Monday for an emergency meetings.
Lotus need a competitive race run at the front and not from the rear. Therefore it will be easier to call after Malaysia.
Toro Rosso surprise package and both Vergne and Ricciardo look closely matched on pace, like Sauber will need a full season of development.
Force India lucky with a point. Race pace is required as it lacked in comparison to testing.
Mercedes need to work on degradation but signs are that they have a good car.
Williams nearly were on for one of their best results in a few seasons just a slight mistake from Maldonado cost the team a sixth place finish. Commitment required from the team to update it but potential surprise package of the season.
Marussia finally got some running and Glock performed well, Pic had issues but clear that the car needs work.
Caterham will be disappointed. Car did not show a great deal of pace and reliability has hindered them.
HRT. Little to say, hugely disappointing but it is expected when you change 80% of the team members.