Button leads McLaren one-two in first session

2012 Australian Grand Prix

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Vettel was 11th in first practice in Melbourne
Jenson Button was quickest in the first practice session for the Australian Grand Prix.

The McLaren driver headed the times on a drying track with team mate Lewis Hamilton second-fastest.

Michael Schumacher was third-fastest ahead of Fernando Alonso. The Ferrari driver grappled with his car during the session, the car almost spinning away from him as he finished his final lap.

The F2012 had already got the better of Felipe Massa. His session came to an end 15 minutes before the chequered flag came out. He put two wheels on the damp grass at turn nine and spun into the gravel.

The Toro Rosso drivers made the early running when the track was damp. As the conditions improved, more cars joined the track and by the final half-hour most were running on slick tyres.

Mark Webber and Kamui Kobayashi took turns heading the times but with 20 minutes to go the Mercedes drivers were swapping this the fastest times.

Schumacher’s time remained quickest until the final ten minutes of the session, when Button took over at the top of the times.

Kimi Raikkonen had a low-key return to F1 – he did a single installation lap then spent much of the session in the pits having his steering seen to. He eventually made it out in time to set the ninth-fastest time.

HRT had a slow start to the season. Narain Karthikeyan managed just three laps before his car stopped on the track, and Pedro de la Rosa didn’t appear at all.

Marussia, meanwhile, managed to get both cars on track, but were by far the slowest.

Pos.CarDriverCarBest lapGapLaps
13Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Mercedes1’27.56011
24Lewis HamiltonMcLaren-Mercedes1’27.8050.24514
37Michael SchumacherMercedes1’28.2350.67517
45Fernando AlonsoFerrari1’28.3600.80021
52Mark WebberRed Bull-Renault1’28.4670.90721
68Nico RosbergMercedes1’28.6831.12322
716Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso-Ferrari1’28.9081.34823
818Pastor MaldonadoWilliams-Renault1’29.4151.85516
99Kimi RaikkonenLotus1’29.5652.0058
1014Kamui KobayashiSauber-Ferrari1’29.7222.16226
111Sebastian VettelRed Bull-Renault1’29.7902.23021
1212Nico HulkenbergForce India-Mercedes1’29.8652.30517
1311Paul di RestaForce India-Mercedes1’29.8812.32118
1419Bruno SennaWilliams-Renault1’29.9532.39321
1515Sergio PerezSauber-Ferrari1’30.1242.56422
1610Romain GrosjeanLotus1’30.5152.95516
1720Heikki KovalainenCaterham-Renault1’30.5863.02616
186Felipe MassaFerrari1’30.7433.18311
1917Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso-Ferrari1’31.1783.61817
2021Vitaly PetrovCaterham-Renault1’31.9834.4238
2124Timo GlockMarussia-Cosworth1’34.7307.1708
2225Charles PicMarussia-Cosworth1’40.25612.69611
2323Narain KarthikeyanHRT-CosworthNo time3
2422Pedro de la RosaHRT-CosworthNo time0

2012 Australian Grand Prix

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    Image © Red Bull/Getty images

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    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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    65 comments on “Button leads McLaren one-two in first session”

    1. A Caterham faster than a Ferrari?

      1. Massa went off about 25 minutes from the end of the session in the middle of an outlap (or possibly a flying lap). So that time was set much earlier in the session, before the circuit really started to dry out. Most of the top times were only really set in the last five or ten minutes.

        1. ahh I see, wasn’t able to follow the session. Thanks @prisoner-monkeys

          1. @rumfresh It also says in the article.

        2. but that’s how Tony Fernandes will see it, we are faster than a Ferrari

      2. ShaneB457 (@shaneb12345678910)
        16th March 2012, 3:17

        Massa spun halfway through the session and was stuck in the gravel..

        1. ShaneB457 (@shaneb12345678910)
          16th March 2012, 3:19

          Whoops..I didnt realise you replied.. @prisonor-monkeys

    2. The McLarens look phenomenal.

      1. Yeah, they could be the ones to beat this weekend. Will see if they also have race pace come Sunday. Last year their race pace was better than qualifying. If that’s the case again, it may only be between Hamilton and Button for the win.

        1. lets not jump to conclusions it’s only p1…(pesimistic Mclaren fan who doesn’t want to get his hopes up, but really would love if they were fastest!)

          1. Perhaps, but ONE HD was showing slow-motion footage of some of the cars up around Turns 5-7 and again at Turn 14, and the MP4-27s just look nice and firm through all the corners.

            1. By firm do you mean stiff? Because watching those cars brake into the first corner was mind-bottling for me. They sure do love those stiffly sprung cars. It looked like it would shake the eyeballs right out of your head.

            2. @d3v0 – Firm, stiff, planted; call it what you will. The McLaren just looks like the kind of car Button and Hamilton can simply point at a corner, open the throttle and not have to worry about making corrections (unless they themselves make a mistake). It looks like it’s on rails, particularly through Turns 13, 14 and 16.

          2. Indeed, but can’t help feeling bullish… @Prisoner Monkeys has made some good points.

            1. last year their car ran firmer then redbulls most of the time also. and last year mclaren were often 1st in fridays sesssions, but then didnt find much more time on saturday, unlike redbull who traditionally run more fuel on friday. lets see what happens tomorrow.

        2. Yep… they look very strong indeed. It looked to me like Hamilton was on course for fastest lap before catching that Mercedes (was more than a 10th up after sector two, but had to back off). Both drivers looked fast & comfortable straight away too. The car seems very well behaved, unlike the Ferrari which looks like quite a handful. Too early to tell how Red Bull is faring, but I doubt they’ll be far from the top either way. Mercedes looks pretty decent too. Great start to the season so far though!

        3. I’d still wait for saturday practice to be absolutely sure. It’s always been this way. Someone else is always on top during friday practice. Then suddenly its an RBR on the top at the end of the finally session.

      2. i think we can safely say they are at least the 2nd quickest car. Red Bull for sure can go faster, but they’re not a dead cert to be quickest.

    3. Well, it’s still only first practice. I’d be amazed if this is the order we see tomorrow.

      Despite that. it makes me happy the see Schumacher quick and you can see that the Caterham’s are nipping at their tails now!

    4. did anyone see how hamiltons sector times compared to buttons?, it just looked as if he got help up a few times in the final sector…

      1. he did, but to me thats also the trickiest sector too. That penultimate corner is a real bear to get slowed down for, after all the smooth fast corners preceding it.

        1. I agree it’s tricky to get slowed down for, from my vast exprience in f1……2011 on xbox…

          1. Haha EXACTLY. Half the time I end up in the grass and just say “ehhh might as well box”

      2. held*….it is 3 30 am…

      3. @lemon Yeah he lost a tenth in the final sector.

        But remember this is Friday practice. Last year Webber was quickest in this session and Button was quickest in the second.

        Then on Saturday Vettel was quickest in every session and won the race from pole on Sunday.

        1. Scary thoughts, Keith! But true, indeed. I think we all just want to see a mix up this year. And its looking to be a cracking season. Going to be 8-9 drivers fighting it out for podiums and in each race, hopefully? (top 5 teams, excluding Grosjean and potentially excluding podium-free Massa)

        2. There goes Keith ruining my optimism with logic… :) It really is too early to tell though, but just based on the number of laps run & how the cars look on the track, I have to say the McLaren looks pretty well sorted so far.

    5. Those Mercs looked REALLY light on fuel, and ran short runs. Take this with a grain of salt. I do say they look good though. They handle quite well, from the onboard shots.

      I’m not so sure I agree with Ant Davidson’s characterization of Rosberg’s skills behind the wheel of an F1 car – referring to him as like a robot driver whose performance is exactly where the car should be, no more no less. I think this is clearly erroneous based on his previous driving record. I wouldnt say he gives an Alonso boost, per se, but that it is something similar he brings out in a car.

      1. Tom Haxley (@)
        16th March 2012, 7:17

        I think a lot of engineers who have worked with Rosberg have said this also.
        If you want to know where your car is at, Rosberg will tell you. He gets 100% but no more.

    6. Still hard to say whats the order is, but McLaren looks quick, Ferrari seem to be struggling for balance. But these things could change with a few setup improvements. Mercedes are looking better prepared than last year & in the midfield Sauber has made good progress.

      1. Sauber looks like an evil car to drive. Tire warm up may be a problem, I believe. Those guys were locking up over and over again, both drivers at different parts of the circuit – multiple times.

        1. Kobayashi had to correct multiple times coming out of every corner there for a while. The Sauber looks very tricky, and while it might have been slicks on a still drying track, other cars out at the same time didn’t have that problem.

    7. Mercedes have a very fast car.
      Redbull are being their usual low key fridays.
      The cars are really not that ugly. Mercedes does have the weirdest nose job.
      Mclaren looks out of place.
      But it’s good to have the cars back even if delayed for some.

    8. Despite the wet start to the session, the times ended up quite close to what we saw last year: Button’s time was 0.7s off Webber’s best last year.

      1. Does that mean they’ll likely be a lot faster around the track come Saturday?

    9. Is Red Bull sandbagging as usual. Guess we have to wait till Q3.

      1. That point really is worth repeating. Qualifying is the first meaningful test of pace.

        That said, I’m still staying up to watch these practice sessions – what for, I wonder? :)

        1. I wish they had to publish how much fuel they were running with. I watch the sessions, but I have no idea how good everyone is. It’s pretty much just guessing a lot of the time.

          The teams can analyse the sound and stuff and have a much better idea than we do. I don’t see why we can’t have that info too.

      2. Is Red Bull sandbagging as usual.

        No. Sandbagging is when you deliberately run slowly so as to hide your true pace. There is no need to do it during a race weekend because the season has started and free practice is usually set aside for setup work. Anybody who does sandbag during free practice is a fool, because you’re wasting time that could be better spent on development work. You don’t win consecutive Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships by being foolish like that.

        1. I guess it had more to do with Red Bull regularly doing more heavy fuel running in FP1, combined with the track only drying up at the end of the session.

          RB are generally confident enough not to need having a try at a low fuel run.

        2. Red Bull rarely show their true pace on fridays. just look at last season.

          i think what they have been doing for the past year on fridays fits the definition of sandbagging pretty well. i wouldnt call them fools though.

          you can easily mask your pace by adding fuel (even on short runs). It doesnt prevent you form doing development and setup work, and drivers can still go 100% flat out. But you are still sandbagging. Adding weight (sandbag) to mask your true pace.

    10. I’ve got to say, the Ferraris do not look very settled at all. Especially in the low-speed corners. Alonso was confident enough to push through and deal with anything that came up as it came up, but Massa just looked like he was tensing up and expecting the worst. I noticed it a lot on the exit of the corners – the car never quite seems to get back in line as fast as some of the other cars. Maybe it’s just a trigger-happy pull on the DRS, but I’m willing to bet that both Alonso and Massa were using the DRS in the same places as they were last year. The difference is that the F2012 is all over the place on the exit compared to the 150 Italia. The cars just aren’t tight enough in the back end, and judging by the body language of the car, it’s not something that is going to be completely corrected with setup.

      1. I agree. When Alonso gave it the beans going onto the straight on his last lap, the rear end just ran away from him. Not confidence inspiring at all. I’m hoping it’s just down to setup though, & not that they’ve built an inherently poor handling car. I’m really, REALLY hoping for a close fight right off the bat this year between the top three.

      2. At least they aren’t way off the pace. If they can play with the setup over the next two sessions I think they’ll be a lot closer to the front then what many people predicted after testing. Still not Red Bull or McLaren quick but not disastrously slow either.

        1. I don’t think they can hold up over the course of a race. The one-lap pace is there, and that will certainly help in qualifying, but I don’t think that even Alonso could hold on forever. Even if he drives 58 qualiyfing laps, the way he did at Suzuka when he was driving for Minardi. For one, it would be very taxing, both mentally and physically. And secondly, cars with too much tail tend to chew through their tyres. If Ferrari pushed too hard just to keep up with the front-runners, they might be forced to make an extra stop. I think the best thing they can do right now is have Alonso qualify on hards and take a bit of a hit position-wise (though the performance difference between the hards and the softs is less than it was last year, and Alonso can qualify a car much higher than it would normally be capable of) and then hammer home on the soft tyres.

          I think Ferrari are going to be in for a really rough season, at least to begin with. Right now, they need to focus on solutions and have them ready for the Mugello test. It’s a bad way to start the season, but McLaren blew their car development last year and managed to turn it around pretty quickly, even without an in-season test to fall back on.

          1. Did they have the supposedly arriving new updated side-pods on the Ferrari’s @prisoner-monkeys? If not, maybe they can help a bit to “calm” the car down without making it catatonic. Looking forward to some great efforts by Alonso to keep the car in check!

            1. @bosyber – I don’t know if they brought anything new. I don’t think it’s an easy fix; bolting on a new sidepod might help in the short-term, but they need to be looking at the whole package. I think the problem might be in the exhaust layout. They’ve got that weird pipe-like arm extending out from the bodywork and then bending back in so that they can aim the exhaust gasses as they please, and I think too much of the exhaust gas is being blown onto the rear tyres, probably on the inside. So Ferrari have got a situation where the rear tyres are not only hotter than the fronts, but where the inside of the rear tyre is hotter than the outside.

            2. @prisoner-monkeys – Yes, I fully agree, a sidepod-update might help some, but they need to work on getting the car working more consistently, that’s what the tests seemed to show, and I think today has confirmed that view (having seen FP2 now). I think it is more to do with blowing-car w/o the off-throttle tricks of last year showing up the traditional down-side of that: instability when going into a corner.

            3. The fastest way to do it might be to cut a hole in the side of the exhaust outlet arm, plug the end of it, and have the gasses coming out much closer to the bodywork and further away from the tyre. That should fix any heating issues, if heating is indeed the problem. It’s an inelegant solution, but elegance is the last thing Ferrari should be worried about.

    11. A slow start to the season, but a good one – McLaren is on top and I want to see Kimi around too!
      Ferrari was a total disaster, like I expected, and it was not worst for a micro-second, when Alonso let the car escape him on the final corner in the final lap of the session – It would be 2 in 2 – Massa in the gravel and Alonso in the wall. :)
      It will be an interesting fight in the middle of the pack with Lotus, Ferrari, Mercedes, Sauder, Toro-Rosso, Force India…
      And on top, it’s between the ‘usual suspects’ – Vettel, Buttoun and Hamilton.

    12. I don’t remember having seeing alonso on the wall becuase of a mistake he amd during the race. The redbull as always looks good and they never look for time on fridays just like they did last year. You’ll see the red bull being the fastest when it matters the most. Also the ferrari looked unsettleted quite a bit. Also i think there are more posibilities that hamilton ends on the wall or crashing with another car than alonso on the wall:)

      1. canada 2005 though it was just a tiny mistake it put him out of the race..also fuji 2007 in the wet

    13. was pretty obvious watching vettel’s in-car on sky’s in-car feed that he wasn’t pushing anywhere close to the cars full potential. on his final few laps he was lifting on the straghts to make sure he didn’t set a representative lap time.

      also surprised that while discussing alonso’s big slide at the final corner that they didn’t mention it was because he opened the stupid drs too early.

      1. He got stuck in traffic when he tried to do his fast runs and also got in the way of another driver too. There is not benefit to backing off in testing to hide your time and for sure wont help a driver get into the rhythem at a track.

        I think there are too many peopel expecting the same from red bull as last year.

        1. @theoddkiwi

          I think there are too many peopel expecting the same from red bull as last year.

          I agree, but I also think there are far too many people trying to convince themselves that 2012 will not be a Red Bull whitewash.

          I think that whatever issues they have in Melbourne are a result of their setup and not being able to complete a full practice programme, rather than any inherent flaw in the RB8. But I also think the gap between them and the chasing pack is considerably closer than it was a year ago, and with different cars getting their speed in different ways, they’re going to have to plan their development schedule carefully lest the get too carried away with a concept – like Mercedes’ front wing F-duct – and neglect the rest of the car.

      2. most people are trying to settle their minds that redbull is still the fastest like last year and being slow today means they’re just sand bagging…who knows…they might not really be as fast as their rivals this year. let’s say, they might be in the middle pack. :-) this is not impossible… anything can happen this year.

        1. I haven’t seen anything from Red Bull in the two practice sessions that dispels any of the notions I had about them before. Just like last year, they are giving away quite a lot in the speed traps, but that means they probably have more cornering downforce. They also don’t have Mercedes’ blown front wing solution yet, but I expect they will by the third round. Just like last year, they haven’t revealed their true pace on Friday, perhaps running with more fuel than the other teams. Just like the last test suggested, they seem to have a quick car, but they are still having a couple of issues (as evidenced by the use of the flo-viz paint) and therefore aren’t getting the full potential of it yet. I’m still sticking with my prediction that Red Bull and McLaren will be in a class of their own at the front this season, though Mercedes look like they could make it a three-way fight at this particular weekend.

    14. Am I the only who curious about Pic? Did he have a problem or.. he and that marussia combined are totally hopeless?

      1. @rhj8899 I think it was his first outing in the car. They missed all of testing https://www.racefans.net/2012/02/27/marussia-preseason-test-crash-test-failure/

    15. Raining again iover my house, radar looks like it will pass over the track just before 4. Its quite heavy too but wont last long. So it will probably soak the track and leave it wet for P2. It doesnt look like there will be much more after this band passes during P2 maybe a few light sprinkles. I suspect P2 will be much the same as P1

    16. i am guessing the mclarens and mercs were relatively lighter on fuel when they set their times…the ferrari looks like it is severely lacking in downforce..looks like another year like 2009 for them

    17. Whats up with Lotus??

    18. I cannot be more excited! Mclaren and Mercedes seem to be very fast, the germans have an amazing top-speed. By the way the Ferrari looks a very nervous car but fast in the first lap so I guess Fernando can do a goot qualy, but the race will be harder.

      RB is hidding its true potential but I except to see them on the top(anyway I would like to see Lewis being first).

    19. Looks about right, drivers all over the place!

    20. RB and MCLaren seems quick. MS seems to be getting excited a little early. Merc may be 0.5-1 sec behind the front runners.

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