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Posted By: James Allen  |  19 Mar 2012   |  3:36 am GMT  |  190 comments

Jenson Button got the better of his McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton in an entertaining season opening grand prix at Albert Park, Melbourne in Australia but who was your driver of the day?

Jenson Button

Began the weekend strongly, topping the times in first practice on Friday. Focused on setting the car up for the race in the next two practice sessions but still delivered an impressive lap in qualifying to make the front row alongside McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton. Made a good getaway to pass Hamilton into the first corner and then built a comfortable gap at the head of the field. Left the field trailing at the restart after the safety car and controlled the race from then on to secure his third victory in four years at Albert Park.

Sebastian Vettel

Made a mistake in Friday practice, spinning his Red Bull into the gravel and losing vital set-up time. Looked downbeat after qualifying sixth, one spot behind his team-mate Mark Webber, after a scrappy lap on his final run. Made up for that performance with a strong start, passing Webber and then gaining places when Michael Schumacher and Romain Grosjean had their retirements. Kept pace with the leaders and then benefitted from the safety car to leapfrog Hamilton into second, where he stayed for the rest of the race.

Fernando Alonso

Struggled to hide his disappointment during Friday practice when the Ferrari was well off the pace. Qualifying didn’t get much better as he spun off in Q2 to start the race from 12th. The car looked stronger in race, with the Spaniard scything his way through the field. He was up to eighth by lap. Struggled to make the tyres last but got everything he could out of the car and did well to finish fifth.

Kamui Kobayashi

Showed good pace in Friday practice and even finished fastest of all in Q1, but failed to replicate the form and qualified a modest 13th. Avoided Bruno Senna’s spinning Willams at the start, but was hit by team-mate Sergio Perez which damaged his rear wing. Lost out when the safety car came out, but pulled off some good overtaking moves, including one round the outside of Kimi Raikkonen, to rise to ninth. That was improved to sixth when he benefitted from Pastor Maldonado’s crash and then took advantage of a squabbling Nico Rosberg and Sergio Perez.

Kimi Raikkonen

A miscommunication with the team in qualifying meant he failed to make Q2 and started the race 18th. But the Finn’s race was much stronger and he showed that he has lost none of his race-craft skills with some impressive wheel-to-wheel racing. He was up to eighth by lap 14 and then put a stellar move on Kobayashi around the outside of Turn 4. Looked set for 10th place, but Maldonado’s crash on the last lap caused havoc behind him, allowing Raikkonen to benefit and finish seventh.

Sergio Perez

Had a disappointing qualifying session which saw him finish 17th fastest but a gearbox change relegated him five places to 22nd – which was effectively last as the HRTs failed to qualify. Damaged his front wing when he touched team-mate Kobayashi at the start but managed to drive around the problem. Made a one-stop strategy work, which involved him completing a mammoth 34 laps on the soft tyre. Clashed with Nico Rosberg at the end, but held on to salvage eighth.

Pastor Maldonado

Produced one of his best ever qualifying performances to finish seventh fastest and then transferred that form into race pace on Sunday. Put a good move on Romain Grosjean in the early laps and then looked set for sixth place – a points haul which would have bettered Williams’ total for the whole of 2011 – however a mistake on the last lap saw him crash into the wall. Nonetheless, it was a strong performance for both driver and team.


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1

just to add to my earlier post re ricciardo, now that i have had time to check the facts, they are, prima facie, that almost all drivers benefited from the safety car, including button who was able to conserve fuel otherwise, as he was beyond marginal, he may have to have turned it down in order to finish.

ricci’s extra pit stop after the first lap cost him 24secs. his elapsed time at the finish was 39.5 secs off the winning time. deduct 24secs from that and he was in-between webber and alonso for 5th place. a great drive.

yes, a long bow but the exercise has merit.

2

I remember a guy called Vettel used to get pole, control races and not put a foot wrong all through last year but I don’t recall him getting the driver of the day for quite a few reasons like ‘he had the best machine, he cannot overtake’, blah blah.

Jenson had the fastest car, was beaten by his teammate in qualifying, yet he is the DOTD?

Double standards to say the least!

Anyways my DOTD would be Alonso again. Until Ferrari give him a car that is as fast or faster than McLaren/RB, if he continues to get these important points, he will always be the DOTD for me.

Thanks for the amazing articles, James.

Any idea if Ferrari will fare better in Malaysia? Since they seem to lack mechanical grip as per some articles and Australia being a street circuit probably demanded such a setup. But I am not sure if Malaysia will be similar to it? Will it play to Ferrari’s strength (if there is any)?

3
Steven Pritchard

Button showing again that his style of driving is underrated (even though he ain’t “cool” like Hamilton), the Maccy’s had plenty of pace in the bag (getting the fuel loads right would be a great start). But plenty of people could have won in that car (not saying they could have beaten Button though before I get flamed).

I voted for Alonso, driving a complete dog of a car, fifth place. His team mate was nowhere. ‘Nuff said.

4

I’m another one who thinks that Ricciardo was the driver of the day. Shame he wasn’t on the list.

5

Can’t believe Seb has only got 2.7% of the votes, even less than Perez or Maldonodo. This is absolutely not fair. He deserves better than that.

6
unabashedly Aussie

Like many of the previous responses I am suprised Ricciardo was not there to vote for. Such a composed drive after 1st corner incident. Many others would have had their heads down after being effectively shunted to the back of the pack.

Ricciado’s joy is a breath of fresh air when compared to Mr Personality Raikonnen. Even Webber could lighten up a little

My “Goose of the Weekend” would have to be Rosberg. How he wasn’t penalized for holding Webber up, using the Escape road into corner before pitting.

The other Goose would have to include Maldonardo for punting Grosjean. Karma hey? that Maldonardo went into the wall on the last lap

7

I was standing at Turn 9 all race. Jensen had his car through that turn ‘on rails’ every lap. Very impressive. I would not usually vote for someone would led from start to finish either.

8

Kimi.

Great comeback after 2 years TOTALLY out of F1.

9

Personally I’d just like to comment to say that I think it’s fantastic there is such a spirit debate over who is Driver Of The Day and that there are even suggestions for people who could be added to that list- it confirms my hopes that 2012 will be one of the most exciting seasons I’ve seen!

Personally (while I know many might disagree), this is one of the most exciting season openers I’ve ever witnessed, so I do think some people on here need to learn to agree to disagree and all appreciate the fact there are some amazing performers on the grid this year!

10

James,

Is this driver of the day or driver of the weekend? Just want to be sure before voting for Jenson 😉

11

Driver of the day? easy…..Jenson was in a class of his own.

12

I voted for Perez. Maldonado was good, but ultimately binned it in the wall, and had it not also been for an earlier mistake, he would have been ahead of Webber on the road too, so he could actually have been as high as fourth.

Button controlled the race and always looked like he had more in hand; Raikkonen did well to come from his lowly grid position from seventh, and Alonso did very well to come home fifth (although he did make a mistake into turn one at one point).

But ultimately, I’ve given my vote to Perez because, not only did he come from last on the grid, and not only did he make a one stop strategy work, but he made places up early on in the race on prime tyres, and it was only that, along with the safety car, that gave him any realistic hope of points in the race. Yes, the safety car, definitely helped him with the tyres, but he pulled off a strategy that to be honest probably shouldn’t have worked, it worked because he did a great job in the opening third of the race and managed his tyres well in the final third.

13

There can only be one man in this poll.

“Set his car up for the race” Well done Jenson, going to be a good fight this year with Vettel me thinks.

14

Button, by a country mile. He made it look easy, and was in control at all times.

Not driver of day: Maldonado. Throwing it away on the last lap is utterly stupid. All that fine effort, wasted.

15

Has to be Button for winning despite being in fuel saving mode for almost the entire race.

I would have voted for Maldonado had he not made that stupid mistake on the final lap.

Kimi and Alonso were certainly the other two drivers in consideration.

16

GO KIMI. Not bad for a come back kid, has been with no motivation…

17

You could clearly see what a handful the Ferrari was. It looked like a back of the grid car the way it was dancing around. Alonso seems to be able to adapt and to drive around problems like few others.

All these guys are great in a good car, with little between them, it’s when the car is not good that real talent reveals itself. I think his drive was remarkable.

18

Someone else already made the point. Massa was once fast and was unlucky to lose the driver’s championship to Lewis in the last few turns of the last lap of the final race.

But now, he is fading fast for whatever reasons. Is Alonso so good, or is it just Massa being so weak? Or is it both? Two more races like this and I don’t see Ferrari keeping him even this year.

Kimi was lots of fun. His blue flag episode was great comic relief.

And Fast Lewis. His handlers and PR people have their work cut out for them.

19

After first voting Perez and thinking it over, I have to say Maldonado was the man of the race. Grosjean had lost the corner and he did not back off just enough – Maldonado could have left him more space true, but he was on the racing line and he had gone past Gosjean and it seems the stewards saw it likewise. Had it not been for the last lap, Maldonado drove a flawless race and extracted almost everything the Williams had to offer. I tend to believe that Barrichello could have done slightly better, but not much. Yes, Button drove a good and controlled race, but that was nothing really special and I do not think he had to push overly hard either. Alonso would be in my top three aswell – he surely had a great race. Since Massa screwed up so hard, it’s hard to tell if this was just a disastrous week-end for him, or if he just can’t handle the beast while Alonso can.

I tend to believe that if Massa screws up the next three races like this one, he will be replaced no matter what it costs. And the best driver on the Market to date would be Sutil.

20

Sutil’s stock isn’t terribly high these days after what happened in the German courts over the nightclub incident

21

Button has improved a lot and his confidence is getting better, he can control tyre wear and be aggressive whenever required. Hopefully we can see more battles between Button and Hamilton, which would be epic, like 2007 with Alonso and Hamilton. More importantly Mclaren really are craving for the constructors championship they have missed since 1998. I can see Hamilton getting the Pole lap and the wins soon, who knows next week Hamilton could win the Malaysian GP, providing he can sort out that start procedure between himself and the engineers. He has started to learn from Jenson i.e. not over driving and making silly mistakes.

22

A good race, strange at the start of the race with Hamilton, looks like the car was stuck with lots of wheel spin and hence losing the start. Normally Hamilton is good starter, wasn’t expecting that. I would have preferred a bit of an Alain Vs Aryton style of battle but in a good way.

One thing to point out James, that both Mclaren’s running with fuel saving? (if they carried on with great speed they would have run out) at what point of the race could we explain the gap between Jenson and Hamilton before first pit stops?. We have not seen the true pace of Mclaren yet, especially with combinations of high and low speed tracks like next weeks GP Malaysia or China GP….Anyway James good luck with the rest of 2012 coverage.

23

Hard to pick out exactly but certainly either Alonso Richardo or Maldonado but for his crash

24

For me, it had to be JB, he was absolutely in control throughout the whole race.

But I thought there were a lot of outstanding drives, as many have mentioned, Alonso was supreme in wrestling the Ferrari around in a place it should never have been.

Watching the race times I was surprised at how competitive so many of the drivers were, especially Vergne and Ricciardo for much of the race. Will be interesting to see how they both go for the rest of the year. Ricciardo was especially impressive given the unfortunate first lap he had.

Overall a fantastic first race of the year and I’m really looking forward to see how the rest of the year unfolds.

25

“Put a good move on Romain Grosjean in the early laps”. You mean the move where he tried to force Grosjean off the track and when Romain wouldn’t go any further (despite being off the track) Maldonado still went further and broke the steering arm on the Lotus?

26

I’ll start by saying Button was fantastic, got my vote. I still find it interesting that last year, Vettel never got driver of the day on this site, never close. In fact, usually slammed and criticized for having a fast car. If the Mclaren is dominant this year, I expect the Mclaren boys will still get driver of the day repeatedly.

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