Well, thanks to the miracle of small children we managed to watch the race almost live. I dipped my toe into the Sky build-up on Friday (starting with the practice sessions) and found myself pleasantly surprised. To a total petrolhead like me, having a dedicated F1 channel is truly like manna from heaven but Sky does have a very different feel to the Beeb and it will take some getting used to. Still more of that later.
Just before the start of the race, the husband was shrieking “look at Button”… “look how he is angled” (and to be fair he is a long-time Button fan way before everyone else pretended they had rated him all along). Perhaps he might know a thing or two about motor racing because sure enough Jenson took Hamilton on the inside on the first corner and never looked back.
Romain Grosjean must have looked the Big Time in the eye at the start and suddenly hit the small time meltdown button as he plummeted down from 3rd to 6th in the blink of an eye and then crashed out on the second lap after a coming together with Pastor Maldonaldo. He is one to watch though. Rosberg had a storming start and it was looking very nice indeed for Mercedes with Schumacher and Rosberg running 3rd and 4th respectively until (1) Vettel passed Rosberg in a stunning move that stuck two fingers up to all those who think he is not a ‘racing’ driver but just a good driver who had a brilliant car and (2) Schumacher had to retire with gearbox problems (boo hiss).
The first round of McLaren pitstops resulted in Button (the first to pit) regaining the lead after Hamilton pitted. Unfortuntely for Lewis, he emerged behind a tenacious Sergio Perez (who was matching Button’s pace!). Time for the first Safety Car of the season on lap 37 after Petrov’s Caterham ended up stuck on the start/finish straight. Cue another round of pitstops which allowed Vettel to move into 2nd place ahead of Hamilton. When the Safety Car trundled off at lap 41, Button did a scorching restart and Hamilton ended up having to worry more about holding off Webber to keep 3rd place than being able to get anywhere close to Vettel to challenge for 2nd spot. Massa and Senna had a coming together on lap 46 (hmmm Massa having another crash incident…anyone spot a trend here?) which resulted in both drivers eventually retiring from the race with punctures.
No sooner had I uttered the words to the husband “…Williams have had a great race” when Maldonaldo in hot pursuit of Alonso (whose tyres were clearly screwed) showed that F1 cars can be driven too hard and ended up spinning and crashing into a wall. Murray Walker eat your heart out. There was such fierce scrapping on the final lap between Rosberg, Raikkonen, Vergne, Ricciardo and Di Resta and Perez that I entirely lost track of who ended up where. To be fair, 8th to 11th was separated by 0.4 seconds (which given they have been going hammer and tongs around the track for 58 laps is pretty damn close). Raikkonen finished 7th so after a rubbish qualifying, he massively redeemed himself.
So here are the results from the Australian Grand Prix 2012:
1. Button (all hail Jenson, the coolest of them all and loving those shades – might have to google those!)
2. Vettel (a tidy result if I may slip into Gavin & Stacey parlance)
3. Hamilton (on the podium but Lewis had his Kevin the Teenager face at the end which says everything)
4. Webber (he hung on in there but really I’d sooner watch paint dry and oddly enough I did yesterday – don’t worry I’ll leave it there before the husband slips into a coma!)
5. Alonso (brilliant result in that pig of a car)
6. Kobayashi (actually this totally escaped me – he is another one to watch because – and take note Mark Webber – he is exciting and entertaining to watch)
So what did we learn from the first race of the season:
1. Button is a bloody good driver. Actually he might be a better driver than his team-mate. Better doesn’t necessarily have to be faster. There is far more to being a great F1 driver than having pure raw speed. Ralf Schumacher was fast. Quite.
2. Vettel will push Button all the way. From 6th on the grid, he finished 2nd. A statement of intent. But Red Bull are unlikely to dominate and this is a good thing.
3. Williams are much, much better than they have been a long time. Hopefully their long years in the wilderness are over. I think I may have just about forgiven Frank Williams 15 years on for the cruel dumping of Damon Hill for Heinz-Harald (‘faster than Schumacher’) Frentzen .
4. Ferrari are terrible and Alonso worked miracles to finish 5th.
5. Mercedes did not live up to the pre-season hype but the jury is still out. Malaysia will be very interesting and please dear Lord let Michael Schumacher have a good race as my 4 year old was in floods of tears after he crashed out in Australia. Oh yes, he has been trained well. As he said to me the other day, “everyone likes Michael Schumacher” (he also said the same thing about Wayne Rooney!). He has a lot to learn.
6. Lewis should keep an eye on Martin Brundle. Our Martin definitely has a deep appreciation of the exotic charms of Ms Scherzinger!
7. Lenny Kravitz…WTF? Away with you back to Nascars (which I’m sure you follow fanatically given your phenomenal motor-racing passion…cough). Give me lovely Ted any day!
8. The new Sky commentator (David Croft) was pretty darn good. Brundle (rapidly becoming an F1 institution who any TV channel must buy at any cost) is as brilliantly laconic and knowledgeable as ever. Some might say that Damon was a little stuttery and a tad wooden but I Love Damon Hill and no one is ever allowed to say a single word against him. I just adore that man.
9. Message to Georgie Thompson – I want to give you a chance but for the love of God woman, please just tone it down. The leather trousers, over-styled hair and heavy make-up just look ridiculously OTT and she is in danger of making Nicole Scherzinger look scruffy. Even if Georgie could name every single winner of every single Grand Prix race since 1950, who can take her seriously pouting away in her leathers. Shut up, husband.
10. Simon Lazenby is not even a poor man’s Jake Humphrey. What chance a Sky megabucks offer comes Jake’s way during the season.
Well folks that was Australia. See you in Sepang!