• Australian Grand Prix

Driver-by-driver run down

ESPNF1 Staff
March 18, 2012

A look at how each of the drivers faired in the Australian Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button celebrate on the podium © Getty Images
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Jenson Button - 1st
The perfect start to the season was based on the perfect start. While Hamilton lost time in the second phase, Button eased alongside and then proceeded to pull away at an impressive rate from his team-mate. The safety car threatened to ruin his day, but he then displayed the ruthless raw pace that we came to expect from Vettel last year in order to immediately pull out a cushion which he maintained to the flag. Continues to get better with age.

Sebastian Vettel - 2nd
May have been concerned after only qualifying sixth, but he proved it isn't just the car that makes him so good. His early pass on Rosberg was breathtaking and he seemed certain to overhaul Schumacher before the Mercedes retired. That he ran off-track showed how hard he was pushing, and he got a bit of luck when the safety car allowed him to jump Hamilton. Was rarely troubled in the closing laps but admitted Button was "unbeatable".

Lewis Hamilton - 3rd
The smile from Saturday was replaced by an all-too-familiar despondency in parc ferme after a poor start cost him the race. While that error can be rectified in future, what will really worry Hamilton was his inability to keep touch with Button - a man he fully believes he's quicker than - and it was all compounded when the safety car was deployed just after he'd pitted, allowing Vettel to pit and rejoin ahead.

Mark Webber - 4th
The best result of his Formula One career at Melbourne, but it could have been so much better. A very poor getaway was made worse by contact with Hulkenberg, which resulted in the Force India retiring. Having been ninth at the end of lap one Webber showed he had the measure of his team-mate for the first time since Germany last year with some blistering pace, but he was unable to find a way past Hamilton.

Fernando Alonso - 5th - Arguably the drive of the day. The Ferrari was clearly a slow car around Albert Park - with Massa at one point being caught by a Caterham - yet Alonso transcended it thanks to a blistering first lap and some superb racecraft. Never a match for the McLarens or Red Bulls, he held off Maldonado in a quicker car and drove around the F2012's tyre problems to ensure solid points after starting 12th.

Kamui Kobayashi- 6th
Another strong drive as Kobayashi was able to display the pace of the Sauber despite having sustained damage. A broken rear wing endplate didn't help his performance, but Kobayashi remained in the mix throughout and two-stopped to match Raikkonen before showing a cool head to make the most of the last-lap drama and gain an extra two places.

Kimi Raikkonen - 7th
After his error in qualifying, Raikkonen confirmed that he's lost none of his racecraft as he climbed through the field to score points. He ran as high as second before his first stop on lap 20, at one point lapping over a second quicker than the leaders, and will have enjoyed putting a move on Massa into turn one. May have been able to finish higher, but was caught a bit cold by Kobayashi on the restart after the safety car.

Sergio Perez - 8th
The second Sauber to have a strong race, but more importantly a fantastic opening few laps. Starting 22nd on medium tyres he was 10th by the end of the fifth, but contact with his team-mate on the opening lap left him with a damaged front wing. It didn't stop Perez executing another excellent one-stop strategy, although he was overly cautious picking his way through Maldonado's last lap debris and slipped back from sixth as his tyres gave up.

Daniel Ricciardo - 9th
His first grand prix points came at his debut home race, and were hard-earned after a first corner collision with Senna. He lost a lot of time as he pitted for a new front wing, but climbed his way back into contention before the safety car period, which put him back on a level playing field with those in front. Despite still struggling with a damaged car, he put a strong move on Vergne three four corners from home to pick up two points.

Paul di Resta - 10th
Not his strongest race, but di Resta showed a clear head in the cockpit to make the best of a bad situation. He lost out to the two Toro Rossos on consecutive corners late in the race, but as the last lap drama unfolded he stored his KERS, giving him enough boost to outdrag Vergne to the line out of the final corner.

Jean-Eric Vergne - 11th
Came so close to points on his debut. Made a good start but was caught up in the Webber and Hulkenberg contact at turn one, having to take to the grass and losing momentum. Outbraked himself trying to pass di Resta and went off again, but still managed to get into a scoring position for the final lap, when he was the one to lose out in the scrap to the line as 8th-11th was covered by 0.4s.

Nico Rosberg - 12th - A disappointing race that had promised much more. A lightning-fast start saw him exiting turn one in fourth place, but he was soon overhauled by Vettel and quickly started struggling with his tyres. Despite that, he should have clinched sixth on the final lap as he tried to outdrag Perez out of turn 10, but slight contact caused a puncture and he limped to the flag.

Pastor Maldonado - 13th
For 57 laps it was the best race of his F1 career, but when he exited turn six for the 58th time a momentary lapse of concentration was punished hard. He'd been filling the mirrors of Fernando Alonso's Ferrari for several laps, but by his own admission got a little too close on the final lap and did not prepare himself for the resulting loss of downforce. The rear stepped out, and although he caught the thrashing Williams once, it swapped ends again and spat him into the barriers. It was a costly error, but his performance over the previous 90 minutes gives plenty of hope for the rest of the season.

Timo Glock - 14th
His 14th place finish was about as good a 30th birthday present as he could have hoped for. The result equals Glock's best finish since joining the team and, considering the car had only completed two filming days prior to the first race, it bodes well for the rest of the season.

Charles Pic - 15th
Although he didn't see the chequered flag, being classified 15th on his debut was a decent result. He pulled into the pits five laps before the end with falling oil pressure and the team decided not to send him back out. But he did what was asked of him and avoided any major incidents.

Bruno Senna - 16th
After showing promise in pre-season testing, it was a weekend to forget for Senna. He was 0.4s shy of his team-mate in qualifying and a first corner incident set the tone for his race. He actually had a good start but was tagged from behind by Daniel Ricciardo and thrown up into the air. He had to pit as a result and was then fighting an uphill battle on a three-stop strategy. His race came to a premature end when he collided with Felipe Massa in what was widely accepted as a racing incident.

Felipe Massa - DNF - Collision
Compared to Ferrari team-mate Fernando Alonso, Massa's performance simply wasn't good enough this weekend. He blamed the balance of his car, but when you consider his team-mate finished best of the rest behind the top four and he was running a lowly 13th before he retired, it's hard to defend his performance. Perhaps most concerning is that Ferrari does not understand the reasons for the poor balance, and there isn't much time to figure out the issue ahead of Malaysia. After a disappointing season in 2011, this is not what Massa needs at the start of a crucial season for his career.

Heikki Kovalainen - DNF - Suspension
He didn't get the best of starts but come back strongly considering he lost his KERS early in the race and his moveable rear wing refused to budge for the first six laps. A problem with the front-left track rod meant his car started pulling to the left under braking and the team sensibly decided to retire the car rather than suffer the consequences of an accident.

Vitaly Petrov - DNF - Steering wheel
Petrov impressed on his Caterham debut, getting ahead of team-mate Kovalainen at the first pit stop and making time on the midfield when he took on another fresh set of medium tyres. His charge was halted when an issue with his steering wheel forced him to retire, but technical director Mark Smith was impressed: "He deserves great credit for putting in such a strong performance on his first race with the team."

Michael Schumacher - DNF - Gearbox
Having a competitive car in qualifying appeared to reawaken Schumacher's competitive edge and his performance throughout the weekend was impressive. His retirement on lap 11 was therefore hugely disappointing, not least because Sebastian Vettel was shaping up for a fight behind him. A top three finish would have been a push over the course of the race, but if Mercedes can work on the car's tyre management it won't be long before he registers podium No. 155.

Romain Grosjean - DNF - Collision
After such a promising qualifying performance, his second lap retirement robbed him of his chance to secure his first F1 points and, he felt, a possible podium. Things started to go awry when he struggled to find second gear off the line and he then spent the first two laps defending. When Pastor Maldonado attempted a move at turn 13, Grosjean should have given him more space as he was always going to come off worse being on the outside. However, he kept his foot in right until the exit kerbing and the pair made contact, breaking the Lotus' suspension.

Nico Hulkenberg - DNF - Collision
After outqualifying di Resta on Saturday, Hulkenberg's F1 return race was an anticlimax. He took a knock in the first corner melee and it was enough to damage his suspension and put him out of the race. A similar thing happened on his first visit to Albert Park in 2010 so he will now be looking to Malaysia where he went on to score his first Formula One point.

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