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F1 Ð FIRST BLOOD TO BUTTON

  Or Daniel mauls the Lion again. Continuing his super form from 2011 Jenson Button again outraced Lewis (The Hoon) Hamilton to take victory in the Australian Grand Prix. Last year Jenson became the first driver in the same team to outscore Lewis over a championship and at Albert Park yesterday he continued that supremacy in convincing fashion. Since winning the championship with Brawn in 2009 and then “entering the Lion’s den” by joining the Hamilton dominated McLaren squad Button has proved just what an outstanding Grand Prix driver he really is. The Hoon still has the advantage over a single lap and displayed that on Saturday when he was the only driver in the 1m 24’s and beating Jenson to pole, but come race day over the last year Button has had the upper hand. The comparisons with Alain Prost do not end with his super smooth style. Neither may have dominated qualifying when up against a super fast team-mate, but both are bloody hard to beat come Sunday afternoon.

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  On a personally satisfying note I was delighted that the only car (except the real tail-end Charlies) that didn’t have one of those appalling stepped noses was by far the quickest and most stable throughout the weekend. It’s nice to see that the old adage, “if it looks right, it usually is” still pulls some weight. So much for Ferrari chief designer, Nikolas Tombazis’ prediction that if his car wins it will be beautiful. The Ferrari looks frightful and evidently handles in a similar descriptive manner. The Ferrari constantly looked like it was about to provide it’s drivers with a far too intimate introduction to the concrete barriers and both King Fernando and poor bloody Felipe were both lucky that when they were bitten, there was no concrete in the immediate vicinity. 12th and 16th on the grid was probably representative of where they currently stand as the McLarens, Red Bulls, Mercedes and Lotuses (Lotii?) are definitely quicker as are possibly the Williams cars. Their eventual fifth place was only due to the phenomenal skill of King Fernando, God alone knows what would have happened if he was in one of the McLarens, apart from a punch-up with Hamilton that is…

 

  While on the subject of Williams, it was also good to see them showing some form after the horror season they suffered in 2011. Pastor Maldonado had his FW34 in the top ten in all but one session and was set for a fine sixth place when, battling hard with King Fernando he made the one error of a fine weekend and planted the Williams very heavily into the concrete with just one lap to go. If you were going to place money on who, out of a Williams or a Ferrari, was going to have that accident this weekend, you wouldn’t have had your hard-earned on the car from Grove. In an interesting coincidence their respective team-mates took each other out of the race on lap 46 while squabbling with the recovering Daniel Ricciardo’s Toro Rosso.

 

 

  Apart from a spin in the wet on Friday afternoon and being assaulted from just about every direction at turn one Ricciardo had a debut with Toro Rosso to remember. Consistently in the top ten throughout practice and qualifying he brought his battered baby bull into the pits at the end of lap one and then proceeded to put in one of the drives of the day. By lap 20 he was battling with the Caterhams and by lap 40 was brawling with Senna and Massa. By lap 50 he was by Paul di Resta in the sole remaining Force India (who where a bit of a disappointment after their testing pace) and closing rapidly on the battle for the final point. Entering the last lap he was still in 12th place, right behind his team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne when a) Maldonado bit the concrete, b) Rosberg and Perez bit each other and c) Vergne slowed to avoid being bitten by both. A ninth place finish and two points were well earned.

 

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  “I don't really know how that happened on the last lap. I saw blue flags and a lot of cars in front and I was sure I could make up at least one place because it was chaos. I was a bit lucky to be the last one in that group because I could have a clear picture of the other cars going off in front. Then I had a chance to attack Jean-Eric. He defended into Turn 13 and I thought I could make the switch back and I did, which put me in P9. The last few laps were crazy and I was pushing like hell. At the start, I got caught up in the accident and at the moment I don't understand how it happened or who was to blame. I made a decent start, I moved to the outside but there were too many of us there. I hit the left front quite hard against a Williams and had to come in to change the nose. I had to race with a bit of damage after that. It's good to finish ninth, but I think I could have done better because the car was very strong, given how fast it was even with the damage I had to carry through the whole race, with the car pulling to one side. It was not easy to come back, but I never gave up, pushing all the time. I'm extremely happy and it's great to score my first F1 points here at home in Australia, where the crowd has been just fantastic all weekend long.” 

  In the senior team, the Red Rags were the best of the “fuglies” with Seb finishing second after a nice aggressive drive and Mark having his best result at Albert Park in fourth. Vettel’s pass on Rosberg on lap two was possibly the highest “pucker factor” pass ever completed at Albert Park around the outside heading down to the right hander at turn 12. “I had a good start initially and was surprised by Nico, who had a very good start and got past. I passed him again, which was a great manoeuvre and on the edge. Behind Michael, I had a mistake and went off in the first corner; he then did exactly the same when I got close to him, which was good.” Yet another crap start saw Webber get caught up in some of the turn one mess and he completed the first lap in just ninth place but from that point he put in another good drive to close right onto the battle for second at the flag. The Red Rag was especially quick on the harder prime tyres and Mark emerged from the second pit stops in the fourth place that he would hold until the finish.

 

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    Of the rest? Lotus (formerly known as Renault, Benetton, Toleman etc) showed that it will be up amongst it this year with a great qualifying performance by Romain Grosjean who lined up third on the grid. Unfortunately for Romain he slipped to sixth after the start and was then nerfed off the track on lap 2 by Maldonado and ended his race with a broken right front suspension. Raikkonen made an error in his final qually run but drove well in the race to finish seventh from seventeenth on the grid. Promising signs. The Saubers again showed that they like Albert Park with Kamikaze Kamui entertaining everybody (except Kimi possibly) on his way to sixth and Perez putting in another excellent drive from the rear of the grid (placed there after a gearbox change) to eighth even after savaging Rosberg on that last lap.

   And of the Silver Slings. Well they flattered to deceive. Super quick in practice and qualifying but when it came to the race they were far too brutal on their tyres and both fell off towards the end of their, rather short, stints. On top of that Schumacher’s gearbox lunched itself after just ten laps and Rosberg also missed the points when he and Perez disagreed over a patch of track on the last lap. Rosberg had been dropping back all race though and was only eighth when said disagreement occurred anyway so they slunk off with no points.

   Paul di Resta took the final point for the second year in a row but was shaded by the returning Nico Hulkenberg all weekend. Unfortunately for Nico he was out on lap one, being damaged in the first corner chaos but the Force India was just not really on the pace here. Caterham (formerly Lotus, gets confusing doesn’t it) were closer to the midfield pack than recent seasons but still not there, they still need about another second to be in with a chance of points and the Marussia pair where about where you would expect a team that had no testing to be. At least they were better than the HRTs that for the second year in a row didn’t qualify in Australia. Again they were still building the cars at the track and even when they got going struggled with boiling hydraulics that robbed them of their DRS, power steering and any chance of racing at all.

 For full results go to;

 http://www.mmmsport.com.au/index.php?option=com_docman&task=cat_view&gid=148&Itemid=38 

Sam Snape 

19/03/2012