#859 2012 Australian Grand Prix

2023-01-19 23:00

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#2012, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Giulia Montemurro,

#859 2012 Australian Grand Prix

In the end, if I had to bet on anyone, I would bet on Sebastian Vettel. Word of Bernie Ecclestone. Speaking freely, the prophecy of the number one of


In the end, if I had to bet on anyone, I would bet on Sebastian Vettel. Word of Bernie Ecclestone. Speaking freely, the prophecy of the number one of the circus is excellent news for Ferrari: last year, Ecclestone also declared:


"I don't like to bet, but if I had to play a pound, I'd put it on Fernando Alonso".


Considering how last season ended, it can be said that the Spaniard will have more than one chance this year. The World Championship that is about to get underway is the longest in the history of F1 and a defensive start by Ferrari (who are not yet in top form it seems) could easily be recovered. What is wrong with Ferrari?


"I think it's not a management problem, that of Maranello, but of personnel in the technical department, in other words I don't think Montezemolo should fire anyone else, but limit himself to hiring someone, maybe Adrian Newey".


And he adds:


"I don't think Alonso is in the wrong car. But let's put it this way: he could be in a better car".


The phrase of Bernie Ecclestone, boss of F1, goes around the world because - as we know - Ferrari is par excellence the best car in the world. It is when he loses, it is when he doesn't reach the finish line, it is when he runs into terrible seasons and the usual transitional years. And Ferrari itself is the Scuderia that in fact is F1, without which it is unthinkable to organize a World Championship, again to quote Ecclestone in a sentence from a few years ago. The hope of all analysts and insiders is that F1 is not falling back into yet another Ecclestone-Ferrari tug of war and that it is just an unfortunate phrase. We will see. What is certain is that the executive director of Formula One Management does not hesitate to analyze the current situation of Ferrari:


"Whether things stay like this is another matter, I don't think Ferrari can accept the current performance of its car for much longer. But it looks like the Maranello team won't wake up in the first few races of the year. We expect that things change with the return of the World Championship to Europe. Sure, Ferrari is Ferrari, it's something special. It would be good if they were competitive".


And in this search for competitiveness, the boss also talks about riders. Fernando Alonso's qualities are not in question. And so here are the shots at Felipe Massa:


"Felipe has no luck. He almost won the title a few years ago, but he saw it blow under his nose".


He says thinking back to the daring epilogue of the 2008 World Championship, won by the Englishman Lewis Hamilton on the last corner of the last Grand Prix. After coming close to triumph, Massa ran into an accident without bearing any responsibility.


"He has a lot of talent, but he also has a lot of bad luck".


It is known that Ecclestone loves to talk, but this time perhaps he exaggerated: the World Championship hasn't started yet, there have only been tests and the real strengths on the track have not yet been revealed. But if this is the level of pressure that poor Stefano Domenicali will have to endure this year, then the World Championship for Ferrari really starts uphill. And, meanwhile, Fernando Alonso admits:


"It is always difficult to draw conclusions in tests. Everyone works on their own schedule and no real comparisons can be made. We certainly still have to improve a lot, work on our knowledge of the F2012, adapt our driving style as much as possible to a car which, with the aerodynamic load lost at the rear and the new Pirelli tyres, is a little more difficult to drive. We know in which direction we need to develop the car, this is important. Of course, we will have to grit our teeth in these first few races but first we have to see where we are exactly in terms of competitiveness and then do our best to bring home as many points as possible in this initial phase of the championship. I know that the fans always expect to hear that we are capable of achieving this or that result, but the truth is that we cannot say for sure where we are: we are waiting for Saturday afternoon at six, after qualifying, and even more, the end of this first round of extra-European tenders".


With twenty races on the calendar, the World Championship looks like a marathon. Any negative result in Australia must not affect the team's work.


"We have to stay cool and calm and take one step after another, starting with the Melbourne race, where we'll have a first idea. Once we understand where we are, then we'll be able to set ourselves more defined goals. What is certain is that with the will to win that characterizes each of us in Ferrari and with the history behind us we feel the responsibility to do well: for us, for our fans and for our partners and this is everyone's desire. We must all work together to achieve this goal".


The approach to the first Grand Prix of 2012 was marked by the winter tests.


"This year I had even less time available to drive the car, as the pre-season tests were further shortened: six days are certainly not enough to satisfy my desire to drive! I've said it several times in the past: the Ours is the only sport where training is prohibited. You don't ask Nadal to try a new racket for just six days or a footballer to train six times before the World Cup".


In short, Fernando Alonso shows a great desire to go back to work.


"We'd like to do more practice but not to the detriment of the races because there's nothing better than competition. In fact, after so many kilometers spent trying and trying again, we're finally starting to feel the smell again. I miss the thrill of qualifying , the excitement of being on the starting grid waiting for the traffic lights to go out, the adrenaline of diving into the first corner, in short, everything that makes Formula 1 an exceptional sport".


The first race of the year is always special. In Australia, then, the world circus immerses itself in a particular environment.


"It's the longest journey of the year and the first goal is to adapt as soon as possible to the different time zones: there are a good ten hours of difference between Oviedo and here. I always enjoy coming to this city. The atmosphere is very particular, there is a sense of relaxation and lightness that is not seen so frequently in the rest of the world: Australians seem to have a particular recipe for living well. They too will have their problems, there's no doubt: it's difficult for us to judge on the basis of an experience that lasts only ten days a year, but this is the impression they give me".


Felipe Massa is more optimistic:


"In my head there is the idea that we can fight for the podium. But I know perfectly well that the tests didn't go as we hoped because we had very ambitious objectives in terms of performance. We had some problems getting the exhaust system that we had chosen and we had to go with a stopgap solution.We lost precious time and, of course, also a little performance and only in the last two days were Fernando and I able to do some real work on the set-up of the F2012".


The Brazilian driver believes in the F2012:


"I remain convinced that there is good potential in this car: we just need to find a way to get it all out. We hope to start doing it already at Albert Park this weekend! I've never had such luck at Albert Park. Only three times out of nine appearances at the Australian Grand Prix I managed to finish the race in the points, including once on the third step of the podium. Of course, it would be great to do it again but I know it will be difficult. There is great competition: not only Red Bull and McLaren are strong but other teams, from Mercedes to Lotus, Force India and Toro Rosso, will also be able to have their say. to get on the track".


And Stefano Domenicali is also convinced that Ferrari will fight to the end in the 2012 World Championship. The team principal of the Maranello team is preparing for the first round of the season scheduled for Sunday in Australia. Before boarding the plane for Melbourne, Domenicali takes stock of the season that is about to begin:


"There's a great desire to start with a new challenge. It will be a very long season and, at least this is my feeling, very uncertain: there are many teams that can have their say, especially at the beginning. We arrive in Australia knowing that we failing to meet our performance targets for a number of reasons that have been widely discussed over the past few days".


Ferrari will still need some time to figure out where it can go:


"I want to repeat it once again, we'll have to wait a few more days before we know where we really are compared to the others. I remain convinced that we'll be there to fight and we'll fight until the end. I also said it at the end of last season: if if we don't have to be competitive at the top levels, we won't have to give up but stay focused on developing the car. The championship ends at the end of November, let's never forget that".


Before the start of the 2012 World Championship, Fernando Alonso broke a record: that of press declarations. Thursday 15 March 2012, in fact, on the eve of the first free practice scheduled at the Albert Park circuit and valid for the Australian Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso is back in charge:


"We have to keep working and developing the car. Our project is very innovative compared to the past, so six days of testing aren't enough to go from black to white. It's not an evolution of last year's car, so we need to more time than the other teams to maximize our potential. We are progressing well, and we will understand how competitive we will be not only based on what happens in these qualifiers, but also in Malaysia and China. In fact, this track is very special because it's a braking and acceleration track, with no big corners that put the single-seater's aerodynamics to the test.It will be important to mount on the F2012 all the best solutions tested in the winter tests, a situation that we never verified in our test days. we'll do it for the first time tomorrow in free practice".


The open question, obviously, is that of competitiveness, also because it was the same technical director, Pat Fry, at the end of the winter tests, who argued that the F2012 was not currently competitive enough to aspire to the podium. What does the Spanish rider think?


"Engineers are always looking at data, at numbers. Maybe we haven't achieved the goals or values we expected from this car, but that doesn't mean that the data we currently see isn't enough to fight for the podium. We'll only find out in this weekend. There is a lot of potential in this car and the hope is that it will be expressed soon".


As for the presence of six World Champions on the grid, the Spaniard, two-time champion of the championship title, thinks it is positive, but he doesn't expect things to change much.


"It is something great for the fans and the media, six champions convey more attention to the championship. But I don't think it creates more entertainment or improves the quality of the rides. In GP2, for example, some Sundays we see phenomenal racing, but there are no champions there. Six World Champions does not automatically equate to great races. The important aspect is that many cars can fight for success. If Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari, Lotus and Mercedes can all fight for the win, the fans will fall in love with this season and that's what I hope will happen".


In short, even if there is the feeling on the technical front that some objectives have not been achieved during the winter, Alonso has no doubts about the qualities that have always distinguished Ferrari:


"The team is extremely motivated, very ambitious for this championship and there is a great atmosphere as we want to be World Champions. This is our goal and between now and November we have to score one more point than the runners-up if we want to succeed in our intent. We are prepared, united, and we believe in ourselves. There is confidence in the engineers, the mechanics are doing a fantastic job, and I hope there is confidence in the riders too".


Alonso is echoed again by Felipe Massa:


"We have to do our best and fight for the win. I hear many things being said, I hear people saying that we won't fight for the podium. Maybe we won't, but we still have to do our best to get to the top, to fight for the win. We have to get the maximum with the single-seater we have".


The first race of the year is a rebus for everyone:


"We have to be ready for any situation. It's important to take the right direction and develop the car quickly: race after race, week after week".


The Brazilian is back from two disappointing seasons. At the end of 2012, the contract binding the Brazilian to the Maranello team expired.


"On a psychological level, I feel ready to face a complicated start. But I would also be able to manage a positive start, one prepares with confidence".


In short, it seems excessive to talk about Ferrari in crisis after the winter tests on the Spanish tracks of Jerez and Montmelò.


"We're not fully satisfied. Last year though, we were happy with the tests and then we weren't happy when we got to Australia".


In the absence of the key elements of Formula 1, engines, times, tyres, on the eve of the moment of truth after a winter of waiting, the circus stops, puts down wrenches and drills for a moment, and raises its head towards the sky. Yes, because full of threats or hopes, depending on the point of view, from the horizon, over the ocean, preceded by a wind so humid that it takes your breath away, herds of black clouds are approaching Albert Park. Forecasts say it will rain all weekend. And the rain could revolutionize the scenarios that had been sketched up to now. It was said that Red Bull Racing started as favourites. That McLaren had come very close. That Lotus and Mercedes had made two good cars. And that Ferrari, perhaps having gambled too much, had fallen behind a bit but that, playing a bit in defense in these first few matches, perhaps they wouldn't have paid too much. This had been said. But what will happen to this already precarious picture if qualifying and the race have to take place underwater? Formula 1 has always been divided on this. There is a school of thought that argues in no uncertain terms that a fast car stays fast even when it rains, just as a wreck remains a wreck. A somewhat radical line, from which many depart. Flavio Briatore explained in one of his pre-season interviews:


"The truth is that the rain brings out the values of the drivers more. During the downpours from time to time there are the only spectacular moments of this F1".


If the school of thought headed by Briatore was right, and if it were true that Ferrari is the car that needs the most time to develop its full potential (in short, if it were true that it is the slowest) then they should look to Maranello. with much sympathy to the incoming cloud. The one who doesn't care much about the weather issue is Michael Schumacher. The oldest of the six World Champions on the track this year (by the way, on Thursday morning during the traditional Mercedes lunch by the ocean, he performs an extraordinary act, when asked to list the other five World Champions he forgot one, Fernando Alonso, a name that just doesn't come to mind) the oldest of the six World Champions on the track this year replies to anyone who asks him to line up his five world champion colleagues:


"Vettel starts as the favourite and I'm really curious to see how many records he'll be able to break, behind me I see the two from McLaren. Then Raikkonen. Alonso? Ferrari seems to be in a bit of trouble but it's a team that has incredible recovery skills and I'm sure who will fight. Never give them up for Maranello".


What will start on Sunday 18 March 2012 is one of the most mysterious Formula 1 seasons in history because never before, at the start of the championship, has there been so much uncertainty about which team is more competitive. Of course, Sebastian Vettel and the formidable Red Bull Racing (who have rebranded Abbey this year) are the favourites. And the German habit of nicknaming his cars seems to really work: Sebastian raced at the wheel of Kate, Katès Dirty Sister, Luscious Liz and Kinky Kylie. Successes speak for themselves. But this year the mysteries of the Australian Grand Prix are different: we know that Red Bull Racing is competitive. He's been doing it for many years. But how is the situation at Mercedes? After so many modifications to the machine and record investments, what are the real values in the field? It's no small question because a Michael Schumacher fighting for the top positions would certainly light the fuse for the season. The same goes for Ferrari: is the situation as dire as it would seem? Or does Fernando Alonso have some surprises in store? We will see. What is certain is that the argument also applies to McLaren with that strange nose, and to Kimi Raikkonen's Lotus. 


This means - in practice - that there will be ten cars fighting for the top positions. And that, above all, whoever of these gets into trouble will not only never reach the podium but will certainly not be among the top six. A nightmare for everyone, no doubt about it. Some bet on the stroke of genius, some on tradition, some on the surprise effect and some on the talent of the driver. They call it the Formula 1 World Championship but it would be more correct to call it the Red Bull Racing chase, a competition where there is one who runs away, aboard an elusive car, and many who chase after. Each secretly imploring heaven that his weapon works and hoping that the fugitive's doesn't. The case study is that of Ross Brawn's Mercedes, perhaps the most interesting car seen so far. On Thursday morning, by the ocean, his most representative driver, Michael Schumacher toasted the start of the new season saying he was very optimistic. Maybe like all champions his instinct tells him something that you can't see from the outside, or maybe, more simply, he knew what would happen in a few hours, namely that the Federation would give the team the definitive free vial for the use of the front wing with the F-duct: it seems to give great advantages, and risks becoming the first catchphrase of the season (everyone is trying to copy it). In the beginning, the F-duct was a mechanism invented by McLaren which allowed the driver to modify the aerodynamic set-up of the car (more downforce in corners, less on the straight) simply by plugging a hole in the cockpit. That mechanism has been banned because it goes against the rule which states that the driver cannot activate mechanisms that modify the attitude. 


Since the day the ban was placed all the teams have been dedicated to a constant search to get around it, in vain. Until Ross Brawn pulled out this front wing, the workings of which aren't known much. It is only known that it works on the F-duct principle, that the driver and other mechanical parts are completely passive and that it gives enormous advantages. If Mercedes focuses on the front wing, McLaren focuses on the entire car, thanks to the tradition that wants it to be unstoppable in pursuits. Last year the British started behind Ferrari and finished the season with the car which, as Martin Withmarsh confided, was at times better than Red Bull Racing. It is no coincidence that Michael Schumacher always credits the Hamilton-Button duo as the one with the most chances of immediately worrying Sebastian Vettel. The surprise factor is instead the element exploited by Kimi Raikkonen's Lotus, at least in theory. Considering that in practice the Finn scared everyone during the tests by showing that his car has respectable potential. Ferrari is also betting on the surprise factor, in its own way. Whose greatest asset remains the talent of Fernando Alonso. The F2012 is an indecipherable machine for now. Daughter of a revolution, it was revised downwards halfway through the winter tests, and for this reason it was overwhelmed by criticism, especially internally. Slowly, though, it became clear that the data wasn't all that bad. That the car in fast corners - the weak point of past seasons - is competitive. And that, in short, if the team can handle the impact of the start of the season, it will be able to do some good damage in the second half when it will be able to develop the areas that the others have already developed to the maximum.


"In the end it's not that bad. An achievement here in Melbourne? I don't feel like ruling it out".


Friday 16 March 2012 the first day of practice was characterized by the rain that fell before the start of FP1, which made the track damp and forced the riders to use intermediate tyres. In the first session, the first to take to the track is Daniel Ricciardo. The first to mount dry tires is, however, Kamui Kobayashi. In this stage Mark Webber set the fastest time, which was later overtaken by the two Mercedes drivers. With ten minutes to go Jenson Button sets the best time of the session. Felipe Massa was the protagonist of a spin, while HRT completed only three laps with Narain Karthikeyan, without laps with Pedro de la Rosa. The second session was penalized more by the rain, so much so that the drivers were forced to use intermediate tires up to twenty minutes from the end of the practices. Michael Schumacher sets the fastest time, beating compatriot Nico Hülkenberg by 0.109 seconds. 


The McLaren-Mercedes in front, Ferrari in the group and Sebastian Vettel in hiding. The rain affected the first two free practice sessions of the Australian Grand Prix, the opening round of the Formula 1 World Championship. In Melbourne, Friday's testing began on damp asphalt. The Finnish Kimi Raikkonen, returning to the circus after two years of exile in the World Rally Championship, debuts with the ninth fastest time. Sebastian Vettel does not go beyond the eleventh best time. Felipe Massa closes the first session with a ride in the gravel. Another downpour served as a prologue to the afternoon tests, in which Michael Schumacher set the fastest time, placing himself ahead of the Force India of his compatriot Nico Hulkenberg and the Sauber of the Mexican Sergio Perez. Fernando Alonso is fourth, leaving behind the Sauber of the Japanese Kamui Kobayashi and the Force India of the Scotsman Paul di Resta. Seventh time for Felipe Massa's F2012, which did better than the Caterham of the Finn Heikki Kovalainen, the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg and the Red Bull Racing of Sebastian Vettel. The two McLaren drivers do not force: Jenson Button is fifteenth, ahead of Lewis Hamilton. The indications are positive but the truth will only be known on Sunday. Fourth in both free practice sessions of the Australian Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso says he is moderately satisfied but without overreacting too much.


"It was a bit complicated trying to do all the program we had planned for this Friday due to the weather conditions, so there is still a bit of work to do tomorrow before qualifying but I think the others are in the same situation too. I'm quite satisfied with the car: the first feeling about the balance is positive. However, we didn't make the usual comparison between the two types of tires because we mainly rode with the intermediate and medium tyres. The latter seem to behave quite well, also in terms of degradation. It was important that everything worked perfectly - from KERS to the engine, from the power steering to the gearbox and everything else, as always happens on the first day of the season - and that's how it worked out. It is useless to look at today's standings to make predictions for qualifying: tomorrow I expect to see a very mixed grid because there are so many teams that have worked well over the winter. We will try to do our best, putting together the best solutions we have tried in recent weeks, including some details that we have brought here. However, my opinion hasn't changed: we have to wait until tomorrow to find out where we are compared to the others. However, if I have to give an opinion referring to this day, it's positive: we've done the important things, the balance is good and the car responds well to the changes".


Less answers instead for Felipe Massa, who talks about a rather difficult first day:


"Because we were able to shoot very little compared to what was planned. The rain complicated the situation, both in the first and second sessions. In the first I also went off the track which made me lose some time: under braking I put the left rear wheel on the grass and the car took off on its own, stopping only on the gravel of the escape route . In the second session the rain left the track wet for a long time and we were only able to put on dry tires towards the end. Given all of this, it hasn't really been possible to figure out much about where we are in relation to the others. I did too few laps to tell if the car has changed since the last day of testing in Barcelona. Tomorrow afternoon, in qualifying, we'll all be in the same conditions: then we'll understand something".


Even the technical director of Ferrari, Pat Fry, confirms that it was an even more difficult day to interpret than usual:


"Because of the variability of the weather. The track conditions changed very quickly, making it very difficult to carry out the program we had planned. Furthermore, considering that this is the first race, we preferred to save the engine a handful of kilometres. The possibility of using one of the sets of tires available today in the third free practice session will allow us to recover at least part of the program tomorrow. Honestly, it's impossible to give any judgment on the performance of the F2012 and on the prospects for this weekend".


Finally, as if that weren't enough, to increase the uncertainty, which hopefully translates into entertainment, the teams in the middle of the standings also took part. Two above all, Sauber and Force India. The first was even included among the favorites for his debut by drivers such as Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, while the second was the protagonist of a good second free practice session, with the young Nico Hulkenberg in the lead until the last second. when it took all the competitive anger and class of a rediscovered Michael Schumacher to snatch the first position from him. In short, on the eve of the first race of the season, the chaos is still total, and so the swinging declarations of Fernando Alonso take on a completely different meaning:


"What I know for sure is that Sunday's race will be a real battle. Our primary objective, obviously, is to bring home some points, when you fight for the world championship and you have to face twenty races you must know well that you must try to have the least number of boxes with the number zero on them. After that there will be battle. And in the battle we will try not to let anyone go forward".


A task that if Pat Fry's prophecy were to be true would be truly thankless. Saturday 17 March 2012, during the third and final practice session, held on a dry track, the best times were initially set by the two Mercedes drivers, who first used the Soft tyres. In the final stages of the session, however, it was Lewis Hamilton who took the lead, ahead of the Frenchman Romain Grosjean. The times are very close to each other, with the first nine riders enclosed in less than a second behind. Sebastian Vettel is author of a spin, as well as Michael Schumacher. The first ended up in the gravel run-off area of the Clark curve. Qualifying also takes place on dry track conditions and in sunny weather. In Q1 the best time is set by Kamui Kobayashi. Among the non-qualified, in addition to the drivers of Caterham, Marussia and HRT there is also the returning Kimi Räikkönen. The two HRT drivers set a time 107% higher than that of Kamui Kobayashi, and therefore did not qualify for the race, as happened in the 2011 edition. The Iberian team asked the marshals for the possibility of starting anyway, but request is rejected. In Q2, all the drivers immediately opted for the use of the Soft tyres. Fernando Alonso, after initially setting the fourth fastest time, ends up in the sand run-off area of turn 1 and is forced to close his qualifying sessions prematurely. In order to remove his Ferrari, the red flag is displayed, which determines the suspension of the session. In this stage, the two Ferrari drivers, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, the two Sauber drivers, with Sergio Pérez setting no time due to a gearbox problem, Jean-Éric Vergne, Bruno Senna and Paul di Resta were eliminated. In the final stage Lewis Hamilton immediately sets an interesting time, followed by Michael Schumacher and Jenson Button. Shortly after, Sebastian Vettel took second place. With the second attempt, Jenson Button and Grosjean approached Lewis Hamilton's time, but without being able to beat him. The first pole of the season goes to Lewis Hamilton. The British McLaren driver was the fastest in qualifying with a time of 1'24"922. At his side, on the front row, was his teammate, Jenson Button. For Hamilton, this is the twentieth pole of his career. Great surprise in third position, where the Frenchman Romain Gorsjean is placed in the Lotus, ahead of the Mercedes of Michael Schumacher. Only sixth is the World Champion, Sebastian Vettel, preceded by his teammate, Mark Webber. Worth noting is the eighteenth place of Kimi Raikkonen, who went out in the first heat due to an error.Ferrari's 2012 season starts badly: on the Melbourne circuit, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were eliminated in the second heat of qualifying at the Australian Grand Prix.Fernando Alonso went off the track and will start from twelfth position, while Felipe Massa recorded the sixteenth fastest time.


"I touched the grass under braking and found myself in the gravel, keeping the engine running. I had set the time with the used Softs, perhaps with new tires I could have hit the pass in Q3, without fighting for the front rows anyway. We lack performance: we have no downforce and we are also lacking in top speed.Here, at the end of last year's qualifying, we had a gap of 1.4 seconds: today in Q2 we had mi second, so hypothetically we can say that in terms of competitiveness we are even better than then. Of course, there are other teams that have made progress but I think we have ample room for improvement".


And Felipe Massa is also very disappointed:


"It's not the start we expected. It was a very difficult day, not a good start. I had budget problems with the car, I had a lot of difficulty getting the right lap".


Not even the Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali hides his disappointment:


"We can only be disappointed after this qualifying. Not having any riders on track in the final part of the session hurts, even if we know that Fernando had every chance of reaching at least this milestone if he hadn't run into one of those episodes that make part of the game. Felipe has been struggling with the balance of the car since this morning: we have to understand the reasons well. We were all waiting for this qualifying hour to understand what the balance of power was in the field: we knew it would be tough for us and so it was".


The two McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button will start from the front row. Lewis says:


"It's fantastic to start the championship like this, and I'm proud of the work the team is doing: it's great to see these results. Now it's important to complete the work tomorrow: I repeat, the team did an incredible job and allowed us to get to this point. The guys have had a tough couple of seasons".


Same thought for Button.


"We did great things in the winter. This is just the beginning, after all, the traffic lights have not yet gone out for the first race of the year. The Red Bulls? They're not in trouble, they will certainly be competitive. For now, let's enjoy the moment".


Red Bull Racing team principal Chris Horner does not appear to be anxious about the third row finishes of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.


"It was interesting qualifying, there are always surprises in the first race, however we'll have a good race tomorrow. We hope to be more competitive. What happened today? Mark (Webber, ed) unfortunately lost Kers, we still don't know what happened with Sebastian (Vettel, ed), something didn't work".


Fourth place on the starting grid for Michael Schumacher: the champion wants to start well.


"Everything worked well today, I made a small mistake this morning but the car behaved well even in winter. We were also strong in qualifying and we hope well for the race. I think there will be two pit stops. Podium? I'll try , I will do my best".


Sunday 18 March 2012, at the start of the Australian Grand Prix, Jenson Button got off to a good start and overtook Lewis Hamilton at the first corner, immediately taking the lead. The starts of Nico Rosberg, who moved from seventh to fourth position, and Fernando Alonso, who moved from twelfth to eighth position, were also excellent, while Romain Grosjean slipped to sixth position with Mark Webber finishing in ninth position. Sebastian Vettel is fifth, behind the two Mercedes.


Kimi Räikkönen also has a good start and, after starting from P17, at the end of the first lap he is already in P13. In the rear Daniel Ricciardo sends Bruno Senna into a spin, while Sergio Pérez and Nico Hülkenberg suffer damage from a contact in the first corner which will force the German to retire. During the second lap Sebastian Vettel passes Nico Rosberg, while Romain Grosjean finishes the race who is attacked by Pastor Maldonado at the Ascari corner, and in the contact he suffers the breakage of the front right suspension; Fernando Alonso took advantage of the fight between the two, passing the Venezuelan and climbing to sixth place. Pastor Maldonado then makes a mistake on the fifth lap, ending up on the grass and dropping to ninth place. The McLarens of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton begin to take advantage of Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel, Nico Rosberg and Fernando Alonso. During lap 6 Sebastian Vettel goes onto the grass at the first corner but manages to resist the attack of Nico Rosberg. During lap 12 Michael Schumacher was forced to retire due to a gearbox problem, allowing Sebastian Vettel to move up to third place, already ten seconds behind Lewis Hamilton and thirteen seconds behind Jenson Button. The first series of pit stops allows Jenson Button to consolidate his first position; Lewis Hamilton returns to the track after his stop behind Kimi Raikkonen and Sergio Pérez, who have not stopped yet. After the stop made by Kimi Raikkonen on lap 19, it was only on lap 21 that Lewis Hamilton managed to pass the Mexican, as did Sebastian Vettel who was already in his slipstream. At the start of lap 23, Fernando Alonso, who had passed Nico Rosberg during his pit stop, overtook Sergio Pérez to move up to fourth. Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber began a duel that ended with the German entering the pits on lap 31, after he had carried out a maneuver at the limit, so the Australian gained a position, climbing to fifth place. Meanwhile Kimi Räikkönen climbs to eighth place on lap 27, overtaking Felipe Massa, one of the most in crisis with the tyres. During lap 37, shortly after the two McLarens of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, and Fernando Alonso, make their second stop, Vitalij Petrov stops in the starting straight and therefore the race direction decides to let the Safety car onto the track. Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber took advantage of the situation to make their stop and gain a position from Lewis Hamilton's McLaren and Fernando Alonso's Ferrari, who narrowly managed to stay ahead of the unleashed Pastor Maldonado. 


At the restart, Jenson Button was forced to watch out for Sebastian Vettel's attack; followed by Lewis Hamilton, Mark Webber, Fernando Alonso and Pastor Maldonado. Sergio Pérez, the only one not to stop for the second stop, moved up to seventh place, while Kamui Kobayashi passed Kimi Raikkonen and moved up to ninth place. During lap 48 Daniel Ricciardo attacks Felipe Massa at the Whiteford corner, with Bruno Senna trying to take advantage, but the two compatriots collide and go wide at turn 4. Both cars are damaged: Bruno Senna has a puncture but can continue after having made the pit stop. Felipe Massa, on the other hand, had to retire due to more serious damage to the suspension. Jenson Button stretches again without problems, leaving the following trio to fight for the other podium positions. Pastor Maldonado instead puts Fernando Alonso under pressure, to try to conquer the fifth place. In the final laps the first four positions did not change and Jenson Button could thus win the Australian Grand Prix. Pastor Maldonado, right on the last lap, makes a mistake ending up in the wall and is therefore forced to retire, while Fernando Alonso ends the race in fifth place. There was great confusion during the last lap, as Sergio Pérez, having a crisis with the tyres, came into contact with Nico Rosberg who, with the damaged car, ended the race slowly. Kamui Kobayashi benefited from this, finishing in sixth position, and Kimi Räikkönen who recovered and finished in seventh position. In the end Sergio Pérez saves eighth place, Daniel Ricciardo concludes in ninth position (for the first time in the top ten) and Paul di Resta finishes in tenth position. For the first time two Australian riders score points in the same race. Lotus, albeit with a new denomination, has been back in the points since the 1993 Belgian Grand Prix. McLaren dominance: the 2012 World Championship opens with an impressive showdown for the English team, which wins with Jenson Button. Without forgetting that only a Safety Car denied her second position, lost by Lewis Hamilton to Sebastian Vettel. Off the podium were Mark Webber, Fernando Alonso, Pastor Maldonado, Sergio Perez, Nico Rosberg, Kamui Kobayashi and Kimi Raikkonen. Proof - if proof were still needed - that races are always unpredictable: poor Michael Schumacher had to retire due to gearbox problems while he was third, while Fernando Alonso was the author of a spectacular comeback, finishing fifth at the finish line. Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali explains:


"We can't be satisfied, but Fernando Alonso did an extraordinary race. We were also unlucky because safety came out when it shouldn't have gone out and we lost our place to Webber. Apart from today's performance by Red Bull and McLaren, the others I've seen them close, there's work to be done but let's bring home these important points".


Likely but difficult, because it would have had to withstand the onslaught of Mark Webber who finally shot in record time. In every home race to be framed, above all because - times in hand - Ferrari has repeatedly demonstrated in the race that it can lap at the same pace as McLaren and Red Bull. Of course, in the end there's always a problem with tire wear, but it's too soon to draw conclusions (even if it wasn't nice to see a Ferrari battling a Williams in the end). However, the theme of the day is certainly the fact that Red Bull Racing is no longer unreachable, and therefore if Sebastian Vettel wants to keep the world title he will have to work hard: the McLarens are competitive and - above all - the Button couple - Hamilton is in better shape than ever. Not only that: the silver cars look perfect on both Supersoft and Soft tires and show impressive balance. In this regard, top marks to Jenson Button: perfect start, with a textbook overtaking on Lewis Hamilton and then an impressive race pace.


"A real honor for me, every victory means a lot. We had a very important winter and we showed it yesterday and it's great to have won the first race of the season. The guys did a great job and this will push them to do even better and make us go even faster".


Lewis Hamilton, on the other hand, recriminates for the bad start, despite the third place finish:


"Congratulations to Jenson and the whole team who did a great job, but it was a difficult day for me. Of course there are many races ahead and I have to keep my head down".


And on overtaking in the race, the situation is explained well by Sebastian Vettel:


"Did I take advantage of Safety to overtake Hamilton? I would have had a good chance anyway because I was fast. It was a good race, I got a good start, even though Nico surprised me, I got stuck on the inside, then with a good maneuver I overtook Rosberg , I stayed behind Michael Schumacher, I made a mistake and then he repeated it over the next lap. Congratulations to the two McLarens, Jenson drove fantastically. Many would not have expected this result, the car performed well , it has a lot of potential, it's up to us to exploit it, it was a good day".


And Ferrari? Great race for Fernando Alonso, author of a spectacular comeback from twelfth place to fifth place, as we said, and a race to forget for Felipe Massa, who immediately had problems with the tires and was never really competitive. In the end, the Brazilian was also forced to retire after a contact with his compatriot Bruno Senna, who was also forced to retire. But what hurt the hearts of all the fans was seeing the Brazilian always fight in the rear with unlikely teams that until yesterday had only seen Ferrari through binoculars. Fernando Alonso is visibly satisfied at the end of the first race of the season. For what were the forecasts on the eve, fifth place is welcome.


"I think it was a good result. The start was fantastic, the car started well, Felipe too as I saw in the mirrors, there was some good fighting on the track and being after McLaren and Red Bull is a good result. Our priority is to improve, be faster to fight with them, but on a weekend like this, finishing fifth is fine. Who's toughest opponent? Nobody was easy, the last fight with Maldonado was the most stressful because I was in front but slower, when he had the accident I took a breath, even if I felt sorry for him because it's bad going out at the last corners.The blackest point is that we are one second from pole, today's data I don't know them in detail yet, but the grid has narrowed down, in one second we have eight teams, which means that if we can improve 0.5 seconds we will be able to gain six-seven positions".


The champions are also used for this. To open the umbrella in the face of the storm that is about to arrive and offer shelter to everyone. To pull out, who knows where and who knows how, an impossible result to which the entire team could hold on, waiting for the worst to pass. In the hope that maybe, in seven days, with another stroke of genius from the driver and a little luck, we can postpone this process again, and so go on, from postponement to postponement, until better times arrive. . If they ever come. Of course, this was not the horizon in which Stefano Domenicali hoped to find himself after having invested so much (in terms of money, time and image) on this F2012. But so be it. The Ferrari team principal calls for calm and professes optimism.


"We can't say we're happy, of course. But in the light of this race we can say at least two things: the first is that Saturday's car (one second behind the rivals, slow on the straight and unstable in the corners, ed) is not our car. That performance does not represent our real level of competitiveness. The second is that in the race we are much better off".


How much better this really is remains to be seen.


"We went well in the first two stints, we were just two tenths behind the McLaren and certainly ahead of the Mercedes, then in the third we dropped".


The team principal's analysis is echoed by that of the heroic Spanish driver.


"There's a mix of sensations: on the one hand I'm happy with the points we got, many more than expected. On the other hand, I'm sorry because we had worked to find ourselves much further forward in these debut races. But unfortunately we didn't make it and now we'll be forced to have another race like this one, because the car won't change between now and next Sunday in Malaysia".


However, the circuit will change, which is not a city circuit but a real one, demanding for the car, tires and drivers. Will Ferrari resist?


"What to say? That at least at the end of the Grand Prix we will have an exact picture of the values in the field. However, we are all motivated: we want to fight for the World Championship".


The plan to try to salvage an already complicated season is clear, however. Try to resist as much as possible until the first developments of the car arrive from Maranello. Stefano Domenicali says:


"I hope that something starts to arrive already after Malaysia. The truth is that compared to last year, this season is different: there are a dozen teams piled up in a second. So recovering a few tenths can allow you to make a huge leap in the standings. Our engineers have already figured out how and where to work, so what we have to do is just accelerate as much as possible".


Put like this it would seem easy. Certainly more than it seems easy the solution to the other dramatic problem that has been afflicting Ferrari for years now. The Massa case. His race was obscene. The Brazilian was unable to make his tires last more than five laps taking beatings from all over the grid. The final scene, with Bruno Senna and Kamui Kobayashi climbing over him instead of overtaking him, is so sad that when the Brazilian left the scene, many sighed deeply. After the match he has a very gloomy face. Stefano Domenicali explains:


"I asked all the men in his entourage to stay close to him. It's a very difficult moment for him".


A moment lasting two years. It's already Sunday at Ferrari: the next race in Malaysia is upon us and there's certainly no time to lose. Thus, on Monday 19 March 2012, Fernando Alonso is already on the Sepang circuit, between Kuala Lumpur and its international airport, site of the next Malaysian Grand Prix. The Spanish rider chose to immediately move into the humid heat of the track to quickly acclimate to what will probably be the most extreme conditions a rider has to face throughout the championship. Felipe Massa remained in Melbourne instead: the Brazilian driver will fly to Malaysia on Tuesday evening. Meanwhile, the team worked all night to pack up all the material in the pits and ship it. At the moment cars, mechanics and various machinery are on their way to Sepang, but there are also those, like Stefano Domenicali and Pat Fry, who have even set sail for Maranello, where they will arrive in the late evening: after all, there is no time to lose, you have to push hard on the accelerator of the development of the F2012. The cars used yesterday in the opening race of this very long season are also on the road. There won't be any significant changes from a technical point of view at Sepang: it will be necessary to make a virtue of necessity, that is to say try to adapt the F2012 as best as possible to the characteristics of the Malaysian track, which is very different from that of Albert Park. In particular, it will be important to find the right compromise between aerodynamic load and top speed, given that the first and third sectors are characterized by two long straights. And precisely the lack of top speed (yesterday Alonso reached 304 km/h in the speed trap, almost ten less than Hamilton) was indicated by Stefano Domenicali and the drivers as one of the areas on which much work must be done to bring the F2012 up to par with the best cars in the group.


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