The 2012 Formula 1 season finally kicked off with the first and second free practice sessions for this weekend’s Australian grand prix.
No amount of excitement or expectation however could make the Oz weather play along. Rain showers left the Albert Park circuit wet and most teams huddled in their respective garages. The weather prediction for the rest of the weekend is expected to be sunny; as a result most of the teams were not willing to run the risk of damaging their cars in conditions they would gain little no information out of.
Nevertheless, it provided the opportunity to cast a keen eye on this year’s crop of F1 challengers. As expected 2012 will not go down as the most aesthetically pleasing season in the sport’s history; then again its inside what counts isn’t it? Or in this case, underneath. As the circuit’s racing line dried out so various driver’s emerged from the pitlane to put their machines through its paces.
Despite comparatively few laps being completed with slick tyres there was still several marked performances. Granted we are unaware of the various/different fuel loads run by the teams. Force India, as suggested in pre-season testing, appears to have taken a step forward in terms of long-run pace. The mid-field battle is going to be a fierce contest in 2012 and from what was gleaned from practice this morning Force India seems to be the early frontrunners in what will be an extremely close battle.
Mercedes are undoubtedly in better shape than they found themselves in at this stage twelve months ago. Both Schumacher and Rosberg set several consecutive fastest laps. More importantly both drivers seemed to find a good balance in the car almost immediately – a crucial base which will enable them to build strongly towards qualifying and the race. Similarly, Jenson Button required only a handful of laps to make the MP4-27 talk with the quickest time for the first free practice session.
Contrastingly, the Ferrari appeared to be a real handful to control through the corners; as shown by onboard shots with Fernando Alonso. The F2012 look uncooperative and like a car that will require a firm hand and to be hustled around the circuit in order to be rewarded with a good lap-time.
Over at Lotus Kimi Raikkonen’s E20 had to undergo yet another steering rack change as the Finn reported his displeasure with the power steering system. This problem also lost Raikkonen some testing miles in Barcelona and has again reared its head in Australia. Hopefully it’s last that is heard of a problem that should really be sorted by now.
Red Bull hasn’t revealed their hand yet and it’s unlikely that their true pace will be revealed before qualifying. The common feeling is that the fight between the top teams is much closer than in 2011.
Free Practice 1 Results:
Pos Driver Team Time Laps
1. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m27.560s 11
2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m27.805s + 0.245 14
3. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m28.235s + 0.675 17
4. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m28.360s + 0.800 21
5. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m28.467s + 0.907 21
6. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m28.683s + 1.123 22
7. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m28.908s + 1.348 23
8. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m29.415s + 1.855 16
9. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m29.565s + 2.005 8
10. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m29.722s + 2.162 26
11. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m29.790s + 2.230 21
12. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m29.865s + 2.305 17
13. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m29.881s + 2.321 18
14. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1m29.953s + 2.393 21
15. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m30.124s + 2.564 22
16. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m30.515s + 2.955 16
17. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m30.586s + 3.026 16
18. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m30.743s + 3.183 11
19. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m31.178s + 3.618 17
20. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m31.983s + 4.423 8
21. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m34.730s + 7.170 8
22. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m40.256s + 12.696 11
23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth no time 3
24. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth no time 0
Free Practice 2 Results:
Pos Driver Team Time Laps
1. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m29.183s 16
2. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m29.292s + 0.109 19
3. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m30.199s + 1.016 23
4. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m30.341s + 1.158 13
5. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m30.709s + 1.526 14
6. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m31.466s + 2.283 13
7. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m31.505s + 2.322 14
8. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m31.932s + 2.749 16
9. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m32.184s + 3.001 17
10. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m32.194s + 3.011 19
11. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m32.296s + 3.113 20
12. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m32.632s + 3.449 17
13. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m32.767s + 3.584 15
14. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m32.822s + 3.639 11
15. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m33.039s + 3.856 18
16. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m33.252s + 4.069 11
17. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m34.108s + 4.925 21
18. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m34.275s + 5.092 7
19. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1m34.312s + 5.129 17
20. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m34.485s + 5.302 29
21. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m34.604s + 5.421 31
22. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m34.770s + 5.587 13
23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m42.627s + 13.444 16
24. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1
Broadcast Times for the rest of the weekend (SA Time):
Practice 3 – Saturday, 05:00am
Qualifying – Saturday, 08:00am
Race – Sunday, 8:00am