At the 'start' line the McLaren’s tail wings read Lucozade. A popular energy drink brand. Its significance is huge as Jenson Button drives home his Vodafone McLaren Mercedes to the chequered flag and wins the 2012 Formula One Qantas Australian Grand Prix.
Pole sitter Lewis Hamilton made a mess of it with too much wheel spin and ultimately lost P1 to teammate Button. Behind them, yesterday’s star Romain Grosjean lost ground as expected to Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes cars.
He got caught up with the charging Pastor Maldonado and Red Bull cars of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber as well. The Williams driver Maldonado nudged the Lotus of Grosjean out. And that was the end of the Frenchman’s race.
On lap 4 it was an all-German affair with Michael Schumacher being hounded down by Sebastian Vettel. On lap 9 the Ferrari drivers had made up lots of places. Alonso 6 and Massa 8!
We were denied a great fight when Schumacher’s Mercedes slowed down by the track with gearbox issues. The seven-time champion looking for a strong comeback after two years of development was out. On lap 17 Button pitted for Hard compound tyres. The first of the front runners to do so.
Out on the track, the Ferrari of Alonso held out against the Mercedes of Rosberg and Mark Webber’s Red Bull. The Sauber of Sergio Perez proved disastrous for Lewis Hamilton as he held him back on lap 21. He’s on a single stop strategy. Will it unfold beneficial for the Mexican?
Meanwhile at the front, Jenson Button was flying. Lewis was more than 12 seconds behind in P2.
Perez is soon overcome by Hamilton and this time he begins to hold position against Vettel.
Lap 25 and Kimi Raikkonen in the sole surviving Lotus, pulls a move on the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi. The Finn hasn’t lost any speed after two years at the WRC!
Lap 27 and the resurgent Williams team are amongst the points with new power from Renault. Pastor Maldonado is running in P7. The race is going as per McLaren’s plan with Button leading from Hamilton. Kimi comes over on the car-to-pit radio and goes “why are they waving blue flags?” only to be assured by his engineers that they weren’t for him. Welcome back to Formula1 Kimi.
On Lap 31 Mark Webber is giving the home fans something to cheer about. A superb dogfight with Nico Rosberg and the Williams of Maldonado.
Just when everything seems to fall into a familiar race order with the McLarens, Red Bulls, Ferrari and the lone Mercedes, yellow flags are suddenly waving furiously at a stricken car on the home straight! It’s the Russian Vitaly Petrov who appears to have a mechanical problem.
The Safety car is deployed as the Caterham is in a dangerous zone just off the racing line. The cars slow down and begin to queue up behind the Safety Car. As the rules of 2012 permit unlapping of lapped cars there’s lots of shuffling and rethinking of strategy up and down the pit lane. More bad luck for the Caterham team as Kovalainen pulls into the pits to retire.
On the restart of the race, Jenson Button is too fast for Vettel who has jumped the other McLaren of Lewis. He is now P2 and is attempting to catch Jenson Button. Kamui Kobayashi lives up to his reputation by jumping Kimi on the restart. Kimi is again overheard on the radio complaining of falling debris from the Sauber. FIA’s Charlie Whiting the Race Director, is informed by Lotus.
Hamilton and Button are trading fastest lap times as Felipe Massa now forgotten in 14th place, clashes with Bruno Senna and spins into retirement. His race is run. A bad day for the Brazilian who desperately needs a character change for this season.
At the other end of the grid both Marussia cars are still running on lap 50 without any testing prior to this race! Timo Glock and Charles Pic are doing the team proud.
Lap 52 and the Vettel, Hamilton and Webber train speeds past the Start-finish line.
Vettel sets fastest lap with 1:29:587 while the overtaking Japanese sensation pulls another move on now struggling Mercedes driver, Nico Rosberg. His teammate is driving a strong race. Will Perez replace Massa at Ferrari soon? Button wants the fastest lap and takes it back on lap 56!
On the last lap there’s drama as Pastor Maldonado who revived all of Williams hopes in the season opener, lost control behind Alonso in P5 and smashed his FW34 into the wall at Albert Park. The Williams engineers should’ve coaxed him into holding station. A disastrous end to a fine drive by the Venezuelan.
Up ahead in the distance Jenson Button basks in the glory of the setting sun at Melbourne’s Albert Park with a fine finish and race win."The car is beautiful and she's quick," says Jenson on the radio back to the pits. Sebastian Vettel brings home his RB8 in P2 and Lewis his MP427 in P3. He’s not happy.
Is this season about Red Bull versus McLaren then with the latter having a slight advantage? McLaren’s PR team surely must be planning a campaign that reads “Lucozade gives you wins.”