F1 Winter Break
Hamilton heads McLaren front row at Melbourne as Red Bulls suffer
Posted By: James Allen  |  17 Mar 2012   |  1:58 pm GMT  |  249 comments

If this is what the 2012 F1 season is going to be like, we are in for a very exciting championship.

Today in qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne the form book of 2011 was overturned as Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber struggled to get on terms with the McLarens in particular.

Lewis Hamilton pulled out a tremendous lap early in the final part of qualifying to issue a ‘catch me if you can’ message to his rivals. Jenson Button did a very good second lap to get to just over a tenth of a second off his time, while F1 returnee Romain Grosjean made a real name for himself by securing the third fastest time.

The Lotus (previously Renault) has always gone well here, if you think back to the podiums in the last two seasons here for Robert Kubica and Vitaly Petrov. Meanwhile Grosjean’s team mate Kimi Raikkonen struggled in qualifying, dropping out in the first session after a weekend of wrestling with power steering issues.

Mercedes has moved a good step closer to the front of the grid, the new car looking like a challenger for pole up to the final session where Hamilton pulled out something special. Nevertheless Michael Schumacher has a new lease of life and qualified fourth, ahead of team mate Rosberg. Mercedes has been the centre of discussions today with Red Bull and Renault keen to protest the rear wing, but making little headway with the FIA technical people. There are many interpretations of what the Mercedes wing is doing and most of them appear to be wrong, as the FIA’s Charlie Whiting told the teams.

What is interesting about the times today when overlaid with last year’s qualifying times is that whereas McLaren were 6/10ths of a second slower than last year and Lotus 1/10th slower, Red Bull were 2 seconds slower while Mercedes were a tenth faster! This says a lot about the removal of the exhaust blow diffuser which at this stage of the season was a significant advantage to Red Bull and which McLaren mastered quite quickly. It was something Mercedes never really got on top of it.

Red Bull had a balance issue in the car and they are losing a lot of ground on the straights. This will be exacerbated in Malaysia and especially China with its long straights.

Webber did well to outqualify Vettel, especially as he didn’t have KERS, which is worth at least 3/10ths of a second here.

They have work to do, as Webber acknowledged, “We knew there were some quick guys out there – McLaren and Mercedes especially and Roman did well too. Everyone always thinks we have special bits to keep coming back, but this year it’s opened right up. I didn’t have KERS at the end of the session, which affects your rhythm during qualifying – it’s a shame as it’s been faultless all winter.”

Ferrari’s difficult start to the season continued with both cars eliminated from Q2; Alonso spun off while Massa never got on top of the car and was a second slower than Alonso, despite having four more laps after the Spaniard went off. Alonso had set his time early in Q2 on a set of used soft tyres and was fifth at the time, so it’s likely that he would have got into the lower reaches of the top ten, but would probably not have got beyond that.

One of the stars of the day was Pastor Maldonado in the Williams, who qualified 8th and was competitive all through the session. The Venezuelan has always been good on street circuits and he found the way around here quickly, showing that the Williams is a far superior car to last year’s model. Team mate Bruno Senna was 14th.

Meanwhile HRT has been told by the stewards that they will not be allowed to race tomorrow in the Grand Prix, having failed to get within 107% of the fastest Q1 time in qualifying. “The stewards having considered all relevant material decide not to allow both cars to take part in the race in accordance with Article 36.1 FIA Formula 1 Sporting Regulations,” said an FIA statement. It’s the second year in a row that they have arrived at the first race without testing and missed the cut. The HRT cars were involved in several incidents of blocking during Q1 and caused some traffic problems.

AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX, Melbourne, Qualifying

1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m24.922s
2. Jenson Button McLaren 1m25.074s + 0.152
3. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m25.302s + 0.380
4. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m25.336s + 0.414
5. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m25.651s + 0.729
6. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m25.668s + 0.746
7. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m25.686s + 0.764
8. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m25.908s + 0.986
9. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1m26.451s + 1.529
10. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso No time

11. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m26.429s + 0.960
12. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m26.4942 + 1.025
13. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m26.590s + 1.121
14. Bruno Senna Williams 1m26.663s + 1.194
15. Paul di Resta Force India 1m27.086s + 1.617
16. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m27.497s + 2.028
17. Sergio Perez Sauber No time

18. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1m27.758s + 1.576
19. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1m28.679s + 2.497
20. Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1m29.018s + 2.836
21. Timo Glock Marussia 1m30.923s + 4.741
22. Charles Pic Marussia 1m31.670s + 5.488

107% time: 1m32.214s

23. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m33.495s + 7.313
24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m33.643s + 7.461

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The 2012 version of Hamilton will surely be the best to date. In spite of what Pirelli may say, the tyres are better this year, they have to be. They can't be any worse than they were at the start of last season without falling apart completely, and Hamilton, long renowned for being hard on his tyres will have learnt how to manage his tyres out of his 2011 exprerience. Every year one expects a young driver to learn and improve.

In 2012, Hamilton is better, having learnt how to deal with a slow car especially in 2009, learnt how not to handle things under pressure in 2007 and 2008, how to manage himself in 2011, also learnt how to manage the tyres in 2011 (which will be better this year), still out and out fastest , in what appers to be the fastest car on the grid.

As a package, Lewis Hamilton has never looked better. Does the fastest driver on the grid have the fastest car this year? I hope so. If he does, he must be careful and use it wisely.


Lewis had a solid lap. Jenson was just a hair over 1/10 slower. Methinks the gushing about LH is slightly pre-mature. One lap does not a season make.


Nice post, I am looking forward to seeing how Seb copes if he does not have the outright fastest car by a country mile. I still have significant doubts but maybe this year they'll be answered and I'll be proven wrong once and for all.


Well, he made an excellent start to proving me wrong.


This was a bit unexpected.

McLaren have a step up on step noses. You can make a good looking fast car in 2012 it appears. Nervousness at Red Bull. Absolute panic at Ferrari.


I'm a Ferrari fan but I'm not bothered at all with such turn-around at the front. I'm just glad we won't have to hear Vettel's post qualy and race celebrations. There were all the same and very predictable aka "yes yes, thank you boys. That's what I'm talking about".

For the race I suspect McLaren to take it home..

I wish grojean a good race. That kid has speed in him, Kimi is average, Massa is slow and Vettel will have to overtake LOL. Bring it on!


'Kimi is average, Massa is slow and Vettel will have to overtake LOL.'

Kimi proved he better than average, Massa is indeed slow and Vettel proved he can overtake.


What did Kimi actually did that is more than average? He has a great car compared with Force India, Caterham, Torro Rosso. I didn't see any overtakes that would make me rate him above average.

Also..SV did one overtake on Rosberg and boom..he can overtake. People these days are so easily impressed...


James, so what do you think qualifying has told us about the pecking order? There is speculation that some cars - Red Bull especially - will be much better race cars than qualifying cars. Do you think there's any truth to this? Or will the McLarens waltz off into the distance?


Merc will qualify better than race, if the stories about the power of its DRS system are correct


but because of the drs system mercedes got, they are able to shed more drag than other teams in qualifying, but in the race they might have more downforce and a stable car. maybe they can compromise better than other teams. especially with high fuel loads.


Merc is not only fast in quali but also very competitive in straight line. Brawn & Schumi always developed cars with supreme straight line speed, going back to their rein in Ferrari. So I'm expecting them to be winning races in Malaysia, Monza, Spa, India, China etc. This car is only going to get better. I'm a huge Ferrari fan, but they are lacking quality in the design room. Therefore, the result is no surprise, just disappointing & bit sorry for the drivers. McLaren has proved me wrong, the car looks like the most complete one & the drivers are more than capable. Only team is out of the championship is sadly "Ferrari".


Good start to the season.

Interesting comments by rb about other teams still using exhaust blown diffusors on BBC website. James can you tell us who he is referring to? Lotus?


Great job by the entire McLaren team, much closer between the drivers than I would have guessed. Very curious to see how the Renault does in the race as they tend to go well here but I expect Mercedes and Red Bull to go well in race trim. Very curious if Mercedes will show a significant drop off in lap time though with the reduced use of DRS and the now famous ducts. Raikkonen the big surprise, apparantly he was cruising round thinking he had enough time to get another lap in but turns out he didn't.

RBR didn't surprise me too much given their running in the last test and the fact that their car was the one most developed around the EBD. Curious how much time they gained or lost through the last test updates.

Ferrari was never expected to do well but this was significantly worse than expected. Wouldn't be at all surprised to see a completely new car appear over the season.

Over the moon to see a Williams back in the top ten, fingers crossed they can maintain the pace in the race itself. Surprised to see such gaps between Maldonado and Senna though, also the gap between DiR and Hulk. Caterham were rather disappointing, thought they'd have made a bigger step but they seem to still be in no man's land. Hopefully they'll do better in the actual race tomorrow.

No surprise about HRT. Wouldn't be surprised to see the same in Malaysia with the length of that circuit.

Have to admit I actually rather enjoyed following qualifying via 5Live, live text and timing apps. Stayed awake reading your book of last season, was a great way to prepare for the new season 🙂


Lotus not Renault! Sleep deprivation is what I'm blaming.


Congrats to Lewis & JB. They always looked like they were going to land on the front row. Congrats to Roman also. What a fantastic result for him.

Red Bull must be absolutely bricking it tonight. We all thought they were foxing all weekend but alas! Admittedly Marks KERS failed as usual but still... At least he out qualified his team mate 🙂

I sincerely hope Mercedes has race pace. They seem to have made a quantum leap this year.

Congrats to Ricciardo, Q3 was a fantastic result for him and the team. I told you these guys were worth watching this year 😉

Fail of the day (weekend) goes to Kimi who at least jumped in the car today. Good thing it wasn't raining or we might not have seen him at all. I was so looking forward to seeing Kimi race this year and then he goes and refuses to go out in practice because it's wet. This was reflected in his quali performance. No one else in the world would have gotten away with that. Boo Kimi!!!


Do you have a source for your statement that Kimi refused to go out because it was wet?


The Iceman is back to motivated best...


I don't quite see your logic regarding Kimi here. Why do you think "Kimi refused to drive in the wet"? Grosjean drove 4 laps more than Kimi in the second wet FP, did he also just refuse to drive? Kimi's poor quali was due to risky tyre strategy, slight off on his last fast lap and poor time management, not much to do with FP.


I am so happy for McLaren to be back on top.

Hope, I will continue to be like this for at least half season.


Let's hope the race is just as surprising as the qualifying! Great work by Ricciardo to make it into Q3. He'll be one to watch for a possible haul of points.


Thrilling quali session, loved the result. Looking forward to an entertaining race tomorrow! Enjoyed the 5Live coverage by the way James, all the best for the race.


Hi James,

This may be a bit early in the season, but Vettel seemed to be a bit of a master of handling the car with the off throttle blowing etc. Do you think that this will even up the times between him and Webber? I seem to remember back in 2010 that they were much closer in times when this was not so prevalent.


Finally we can all get that salty Newey taste out of our mouthes and come to accept that he can build *average* cars just as frequently as he can build grear cars. Yes I AM enjoying saying I told you so 🙂


As the 1994 Williams and any Mclaren from 2000 onwards already proved.


Williams 1994 and McLaren 2000 were very fast cars. 2002, 2004 and 2006 McLarens were not so fast, though.


I'd argue that the FW16 was a very fast car. In arguably the "greatest driver ever" hands, Senna, it was just about capable of competing with Schumacher. Whether you believe the Benetton had traction control or not.

In Hill's, Mansells and Coulthards hands, it was average, and don't forget Schumacher and Benetton missed 4 races that year through suspension and disqualification etc.

The 2003 Mclaren was the MP4/17D, an updated 2002 car because the MP4/18 was a disaster.

Anyway, I'm not convinced that this Red Bull isn't a very fast car because of one qualifying session. It's just not a dominant car like the previous ones, yet.


James, any news or info on the alleged Maclaren FIA inspection late Saturday? What was it over?


Very Good stuff from Vergne for his very first formula one week end. He's surely gone be in the points tomorrow.

Matthew Cheshire

Those of us with our fingers crossed for another 2010 five way contest are pretty optimistic now.

The race could be worth watching just to see an angry Alonso racing through the middle of the pack.

Webber looked concerned post-race but he may be happier than he looked. He achieved his no.1 goal by outqualifying Vettel, and Massa made another step towards vacating Webber's 2013 seat.

If I remember correctly, Vettel started out performing Webber when the exhaust overrun appeared in mid 2010. Might Vettel be back as the understudy with his favorite technology gone and needing to fight to the front without a dominant car?


Good comments about Webber. Lets hope it is a sign of things to come. Mark deserves some good luck after all the bad luck he had in past seasons.

What race do you think they will yank Massa out of the car? 1 second off the pace...pathetic. He should not have been in the car last year, let alone this year.

matthew cheshire

I handn't thought about Massa going during the season, but it must be a possibility, surely. If Ferrari need to save face with another poor car, Massa isn't helping hanging around at the back of the field.

But they need another Alonso to get a 10th place car up to the leaders. Who is there? Even with a miracle to get fit, Kubica wouldn't deliver instant results. Sutil, Alguersuari? Massa would still be a better bet?


You do realize that Vettle came in second in the WDC in 2009 right?

matthew cheshire

Yes, but he also drove like an unlicensed teenager for half of 2010. That said, Vettel's overtake of Rosberg shows that he certainly can get through traffic and will be able to win without pole position.

Vettel and Webber looked close on times, but the difference was that Webber yet again gave away places at the start. Too cautious?

If Webber can start effectively, there will be some feisty driving between the red bulls.


Hi James I was at the track today enjoying the action and it was so exciting to see a change at the front of the grid.

Watching from a grandstand at the fast left right turn 11 & 12, you could see the Ferrari looks unstable while McLaren & Mercedes were super fast. Still can't believe Red Bull didn't have a trick up their sleeve and Grosjean? What a suprise package.

I hope the form guide so far in Melbourne is an indication of an exciting season ahead..

By the way James I really enjoyed listening to you live on my Fanvision today. I would love to hear you and Brundle together on Sky. Maybe next year!!


Thanks. Quite happy where I am


Until the figures on offer add up nicely 🙂


Great summation James. Refreshing to see Red Bull not even get a car on the front row.

The cars might (McLaren aside) look aesthetically challenged, and the lights haven't even gone out to signal the start of the first GP of 2012, but I feel we are in for a bumper season.


So surprised by Romain's pace in qualifying! how exciting for him! I really hope he can turn that into a great race. what do you predict for the race tomorrow, James? Mclaren 1-2?


McLaren win but which driver? Button looks very confident in his ability to manage the tyres


Fantastic qualifying session, and goo to see Hamilton answering his numerous critics in style.

Very surprising how far back red bull are off the pace, but I expect them to come back. Interesting to see Webber qualify ahead of Vettel despite only having one run in Q3 with no DRS.

Mercedes looked very quick but it will be interesting to see how their race pace is without unlimited DRS. Also will be interesting to se if they are easier on their tyres than last year which was certainly a big achilles heel.

Can't wait for the race


James, a couple of questions for you;

1) What is the lap time penalty for an extra lap of fuel in Q3? For example, I assume a driver who intends to do two flying laps in Q3 on different tyres will start Q3 with enough fuel for both flying laps. Assuming all else constant, what would be the difference between the two laps purely based on fuel loads.

2) Do different driving styles result in drivers using more or less fuel per lap compared to other drivers and therefore starting the race on different fuel loads, and if so how do the drivers fare comparatively in terms of the penalty they suffer for carrying more fuel?


You use about 2.5kg of fuel per lap. 10 kg is worth 3/10ths of a second - so it's 1/4 of 0.3secs


Wow - just what we wanted, a bit of a shake up at the top.

James - when Hamilton took a trip across the turf, I couldn't help but notice that the whole nose seemed to flex. Is that possibly why McLaren have taken a different route on their nose design, having a flexi-nose to get the front wing closer to the ground rather than the gains of more air-flow under the nose?


Don't think so, the rules on flexing are much tougher this year


Great job by Lewis and McLaren; that his first lap held up is quite something.

First front-row lockout for LH-JB, and I would reckon since 2008 or 2007 for McLaren. Just checked, and it was a LH-HK 1-2 grid in Valencia 2009.

Of course, no pts for qualifying. McLaren have to convert their great grid placing into 43 pts tomorrow. Hopefully no silly stuff from either of the drivers, just bag the points. If I was Whitmarsh, I'd be telling them to hold position, with no on-track passing. McLaren need to win a WCC soon, and best to grab max points and give themselves a nice gap to the other teams early.

Very surprised by Grosjean, the Hulkenberg-Di Resta gap, and the Ferrari's. Kimi was very unlucky, though someone has to be telling him that he needs to get a move on to make the clock. Look for him to lead the "most overtakes" list after this race. The Red Bulls placing was also surprising. First time an RBR car hasn't been on the front row since Monza 2010!

The cars "look" faster than last year (though they aren't, pole 1.4 secs slower this year than last). I thought Rosberg's first lap in Q3 looked like the Merc was on rails.

It's the right call to not start HRT. The blocking was ridiculous.

Was that you JA commentating (was watching TSN's coverage in Canada)? I think it was with DC. I missed the start of it, so maybe you mentioned it then.


It was Ben Edwards with DC. I've never heard him before. I knew it didn't sound like you JA.

So will I get your commentary for the race, in Canada? And who will be getting the post-race unilaterals now?

Just lookin' on the FIA's site for the race, and they have Hamilton's pole position time in 2008 as 1:33.096. That's gotta be wrong (Wiki has it as 1:26.714). If not, it means the HRT's of today would be mixin' it with the MP4-23 then.


My commentary is on BBC Radio 5 Live. I'm doing the post quali and post race unilaterals this weekend, yes. It's quite a dash from the comm box opposite the pits, under the tunnel, to the main pit building where the unilat room is! Had a golf buggy to get me there yesterday. A girl from Network 10 called Rachel drove it faster than Hamilton!


James, is there a link or a podcast that people in canada can download to listen to your post quali and race reporting? Thanks.

Andrew Halliday

My mate and I managed to sneak up the scaffolding with the black mesh behind the commentary boxes for qualifying yesterday - had a great view over the pit straight and saw your mad dash to the buggy - Olympic record stuff!!


Heikki can make it to Q2 but block by Pedro de la Rosa..


Hmmmm. I thought Red Bull would have problems, but I expected it to be on the reliability end of the scale, rather than outright speed.

I still say that Schumi will pull out the win - Fangio to the Collins/Hawthorne of Lewis and JB.

HRT I actually feel sorry for; I hope they get it together, but the stewards made the correct decision.


It’s just WOW, the best F1 start in many years!

Australia may not be very representative of pecking order, but it clearly can be seen, that we’ve got a very exciting season on our hands with many greatly improved teams.

I can say I am surprised with every team (except HRT and Marussia) – because every one of them showed something excitingly different to last season.

McLaren really shines (at least in Australia), I anticipated them to be quick, but to bring everyone nearly 4 tenths – is really something different. Lotus looks nice, Mercedes is also good, RBR surprised with the lack of clear performance, Ferrari – total failure (especially Massa, who I think might be sacked right after first Europe rounds, when Ferrari bring upgrades to their car, if he will show similarly awful performance).

The only thing that saddens me is the possibility of protests regarding Mercedes’ Whatever-duct system… but I hope FIA will clarify this in a swift and elegant matter.


My daughters watched qualifying with me today. They are aged 12 and 9 and take a casual interest whenever I watch.

They both asked me as the qualifying progressed, why was Massa driving for Ferrari, "he's hopeless"!

What is it about Massa that the rest of the world sees but Ferrari management fail to act upon.


Go Schumi! Thanks Brawn <3


Things used to be a lot easier for Seb with a *SUPER* car. Seems this year he will face some real competition. We will see how good he really is.



It's all ok, normal service has resumed! Please sit back, relax and watch the fantastic show that is Mclaren! Any one remember 1998? DC and Mika? I'm saying nothing but Jenson do not give way!!

Red bull have been found out, and merc

Look better!!

Cannot wait for this season, it has to be a classic!


God bless Ron Dennis!!!!


lol, this ^

Ron's presence always gives me a bit of confidence.


Why, exactly???


So good to see Ron back in the Pit Lane.


Perhaps this is a turning point in many ways with Schumi outqualifying Rosberg and Webber beating Vettel. I hope the trend continues as the season progresses because it has the makings of a vintage season at the moment.


thanks again fantastic article. wats ur opnion on forceindia james they looked falling behind midfield.


Shame for Kimi, I was following him on the live timing and on his last lap of Q1, he was on Grosjean's pace. He would've made it into Q3 for sure and possibly even been in the top 5 (but still a little bit behind Roman)


Go Schumi!!!

Gonna be there for the race!!


It's so hard to watch Massa keep struggling. Maybe Sauber could swap drivers with Ferrari? I'd prefer Kobayashi in a red car over Perez, though. Or maybe the could poach one of the STR drivers? Maybe Heiki? Villeneuve from the retirement home? Can't see Massa surviving the season, unfortunately.


If they change Massa for Villeneuve there would be a record breaking 7 Champs on track. And maybe someone can bring Mika back too? He's at the same age as Schumi, he might qualify on the second row as well.


Hope your right


Great to see some new/old names and teams in the mix. Button if I were the betting type. But I hope Maclaren (or any team) don't just become 2012's red bull and walk it in on a tech advantage. I might have tuned out for the season if SV just walked it to pole today, but as you say James, today's quali bodes well for an exciting season hopefully.

Really looking forward to the race.

I wonder what Kimi can do from back there? If Grosjean's pace is a sign of what the Renault is capable of it could be interesting.

Bring on some great racing (and c'mon Webber)!


In the words of Vettel: "Yes! Yes! Yes! Thank you guys!"

I have to thank the FIA for banning EDB and thank the other teams for upping their game! There is nothing like seeing SV qualify 6th after the last two years.

I am an outright Ferrari fan, but I am stoked at the fact that RBR aren't going to clean the floor again. Given that the red car is in such dismal form, I will put my support behind LH (until Ferrari pull up their socks).

Looking forward to seeing RBR squirm a bit!


I can't see Massa lasting more than another 2 or 3 races at this rate.


At last, Mercedes have given Michael a good car. We're in for a real treat this season.


To be fair to the Enstone boys, can we stop referring to them as Renault - the weird no money changing hands sponsorship deal is over now, the team is now Lotus!


Unless you meant the Renault engine guys have protested the Mercedes DRS duct, in which case I apologise.


Now that's more like it.

Glad to see anything, absolutely anything on the front row of a formula 1 grid apart from certain pesky cattle.

Well done to Lewis for pulling out the rabbit out the hat though he was lucky no one could beat his first Q3 time.

Lots of people had good showings out there today from Jenson to Schumi to Maldondo to the KERS-less Webber to Hulkenberg but most of all Grosjean.

But I wouldn't be quick to throw Kimi under the bus for he's still rusty so he's still under a grace period in my book, as for Alonso, he shouldn't have built his fans hopes up.

Anyway, a vintage F1 season awaits us especially so seeing as the times are so close between the top 4 teams.

But you know what, I guess Alonso was right when he said we shall witness a mixed grid thanks to the lack of dry weather running on Friday & hence some teams & drivers looked worse than they really were.

However the teams running Ferrari engines must be concerned for I see that only one Ferrari powered car made it to Q3.

Now concerning tomorrow's race, it looks to be very hotly contested especially with Schumi within stricking distance and if I were Hammy & I noticed Jens was still on my tail after the first lap, I would switch off the team radio for it's quite clear to me that Lewis would be on his own from that moment onwards e.g. Turkey 2010.

Anyway hoping for a fun race tomorrow and my predictions are;








Delighted to see those fellas down at HRT didn't make the cut, as always Narain Karthikeyan was a pain to lap

*Fun Facts*

1) Before Germany 2011, Lewis was excused from the PR work & he went on and won the race

2) After India 2011, Lewis was excused by Mclaren from talking to the media after another shunt with Massa = Lewis went on & won the next race in Abu-Dhabi

3) Mclaren excused Hammy from getting back to work immediately after the festive season thus giving him extra holiday time ---> Do the maths.


Well, judging by those fun facts, it looks to me like Lewis can't handle the pressures of being a Formula One grand prix driver and all the responsibilities that come with it, unlike SebVet and JBut.

Perhaps he should head across the atlantic with RuBar and try his hand at Indycar racing.


Well Lewis finished behind vettel and Lewis was in a faster car


It is very interesting with the new teams. They appear not to have made any progress, even Caterham. Is it really like that or it just appers like that?

Some experts predicted last year that it will become better but so far it is almost where it was last year.

Let's hope that the races will be interesting. It is not important who is in front, the most important is to have good races.


So McLaren is the fastest car by a mile then?


No, its the fastest at this track by a few tenths.......


Great day for McLaren and Mercedes, bad day for Red Bull and tragic for Ferrari. What is needed for Domenicali or Montezemolo to through out of the cockpit that clown Massa? I'm pretty sure Alonso would have made it to top10 but Massa... No words..


what is needed is for Domenicali and Montezemolo's heads to roll!!!!!!!!


Alonso spins off in a FERRARI in Q2?!struggling with a bad ferrari?! i remember a german who used to wrestle those red cars to the front of the grid! And this is the man that ended schuey's career?! james allen i hope that wipes the smile right of your face!!!

(pls mods you must post my comment it's not breaking the rules!)


You seem to have a lot of hatred against FA inside.

Anyway, today that man showed that a lame Ferrari in his hands is still faster than Schuey in his much praised Merc.


Someone's bitter!


I don't think you will have to worry about your post getting deleted. I think James shows and maturity and respect that you would do well to learn


It may help if you actually read up on your history my friend.

Schumi wrestling the bad Ferrari was in 1996 and his only competition was the Williams FW18 driven by Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve.

No other team was anywhere near the pace of Williams back then.

At the moment you have Red Bull, Mclaren and Mercedes all competitive and Lotus seems to be at the sharp end at the beginning of the season.

Schumacher in 1996 was also head, shoulders and torso better than any other drver.

I doubt my reply, to your rose tinted comments, will remove the smile off your face, but we all have varying differences of opinion.

Stephen Kellett

HRT == Horrific Racing Technology


What a quali with a lot of suprises…

Alonso beaching his ferrari in Q2.

Red Bull in third row with webber ahead of vettel.

Schumacher finally showing some quali pace.

2 Aussie's in top 10.

Mclaren 1-2, with lewis back on form.

Raikonnen out in Q1.

Maldanodo gets 8th…

Can’t wait for the race to begin.

Will be Mclaren duo Vs Schumacher!


With the other teams so close to Red Bull I wonder if Webber will continue to have KERS issues in qualifying?


Thanks for the blog James -excellent as always. Thought you and Jaime worked well together on R5L. Keep up the good work.

And well done McLaren! Nice to see MSC doing so well, hopefully should give him a boost in confidence going into the race. Glad to see the end of Red Bull dominance. Maybe Vettel isn't so special after all. Like most champions its down to the car.

A good day for the underdogs.


F1 Season has begun like a Russian roulette. Who would have predicted such a starting grid for the first race of the season.While Mclaren,Mercedes and Ferrari's performance were along the expected lines, Red bull was the big letdown.The general expectation with Red bull was that they were hiding something. It will be foolish to rule them out for the race tomorrow.The surprise package atleast in qualifying seems to Lotus however kimi seems to have some difficulties, wonder is it with the setup of his car or something else.Really an exiting starting grid for tomorrow's race. 2012 F1 season has well and truly started in style.


Wow! Great lap by Hamilton and an equally special performance from Schumacher. Mercedes seem to have finally given Michael a car capable of challenging, and it wont be long before he wins his first grand prix since his return to F1. Should be a cracker of a race, I have a feeling Schumacher will fancy his podium chances, and let's not forget Raikonnen. From 17th on the grid following Perez's penalty, Kimi has a whole lot of tyres left and it should be fun seeing him fight his way to the top 10!


RB has to start well tomorrow for a good result, Schumacher is probably one of the most difficult to pass in the history of F1. Mclaren all the way !


The Williams has to be the biggest surprise next to the Red Bulls not being dominant, or even close to the top. Mercedes and Lotus look stronger than Red Bull at this point.


Dear James,

Ross Brawn had said earlier, that this will be close season, and the pundit was right on the money. While Mclaren's form was never questioned and Ferrari woes were apparent, what seems to have surprised viewers is the struggle of the red bull. If the stuggle on the straights, with China and Malaysia next, will that mean the contenders for the moment be Mclaren, Mercedes, and the Lotus?

For the fans of Michael, they will be hoping for one his famous starts, and if the package has shown the potential, then this is a podium postion for Mercedes.

Hopefully, Ferrari will overcome their woes soon, so that at least the season will be evenly contested.

Here is hoping for a fantastic season opener from down under.


TOO HAPPY THAT THERE IS RED BULL NO MORE!! 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀



Well! I can't *wait to hear 3-Car-Monte's rant about who's in his way this time.

Especially since those 2 Torro Rosso's with the same engine are ahead of his arguably much better drivers!

And Danny B's Lotuses - hmmm... maybe if Kimmi could keep the steering wheel on he could have been on pole, since he just *has to be better than the Amazing Grosjean.

Just don't know what to think about our other crowd fav here - Caterham. Just dunno.

And ofc the usual tail-enders are... tail enders:

I imagine the Cosworths at HRT are down significantly on power by now even though development is supposedly "frozen."

And Mother Russia, well... w/e


The qualifying was super exciting.

RBR seem to need a few races to put themselves together, but indeed they are not much behind. Deduct 3 tenths from webber time for Kers and a few more tenths that Vettel is quicker and you would find out that they are much closer. Once they overcome their problems they will be quickly be on par with Macs.

Merc seems strong. I wonder could rosberg qualify much quicker? Then perhaps Schu can be a par in lap times with the Macs as He was quicker than Rosberg in the race last year.

I also wonder if schu will manage to be p2 after the start. His starts were really good last year and I would not be surprised. Then we could see a bit of a fun for some laps at least if not for the race.

I also wonder If wonderboy Romain will have a terrible start and cause a crash. I would not be surprised. This is a result above anyone's expectations from him so I wonder if he can regulate the pressure properly. We will find out soon.

I still wonder where Sauber is in terms of pecking order. They must be higher for sure, but how high?

Let tomorrow come!

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

For all those Hamilton Haters......

0.7s difference on a comparable lap with Button.

That lap made the others look like also rans. Reminded me of Abu Dhabi 2009.

Notice that the more aggressive drivers all easily outqualified their team mates time





err... not exactly. The gap was one and a half tenths...


James, you forgot to allow for the usual 500% exaggeration when compiling a story about somebody you don’t like


hahaha this bloke stopped watching before the last minute of qualifying, a bit changed in the last runs mate!


It was 7 tenths on the first lap in Q3. The track was getting quicker for everyone by the time Button posted his second place time and Hamilton aborted. Looked like Hamilton overcooked it in turn one on his second lap though, so he had maybe already decided that he wasn't going to improve and save tyres...........Still - he was 7 tenths quicker on comparable track conditions


This has wacky races written all over it. Or not.

Can Lewis get a good start and break the 1sec barrier or will Jenson reel him in? Will Grosjean jump one or both McLarens?

Seb V.on the rampage and cutting through? Uncle Michael to school these young bucks? I can't wait.


Aah I forgot:

Ron Dennis is in the paddock this weekend so get ready for the Ron Dennis curse to kick in tomorrow i.e. One of the Mclaren shuttles not making it home & in most cases than not, it's falls on Jenson's side of the garage.


Not this time jb destroyed lewis


What are you ranting on about? Jenson was hired by whitmarsh AFTER Ron Dennis had moved to a new role. He doesn't hae anything to do with the Racing team anymore.

Jeez, a more accurate assessment would be Whitmarsh's favoritism torwards Button.

Or maybe not. Maybe he just feels that Jenson needs more help and hand-holding!!!


Mercedes rear wing duct device thingy;

For:- It's passive, it doesn't move, just like aero body works and wings, it's legal.

Against:- Yeah but, you need to engage DRS for it to work, that's driver assisted. DRS should just do it's DRS work and nothing else.

In reply:- By that logic, all body aero work would be illegal. An F1 car at rest has the downforce of it's weight, the driver needs to step on the gas to generate more downforce as the car moves. That would be driver assisted?

I think everyone will have some form of that by the 5th race. Especially McLaren who has this thing for straight line speed.


The "Mercedes rear wing duct device thingy"

I like that name.

I have been thinking of it as the "DRS Rear-Wing Triggered Front Wing F Duct"

Super innovative either way. As you say others will try to copy, but they'll have a hell of a time trying to feed the ducts through the chassis to the front wing in cars that haven't been designed for it.


Schumacher was last year one of the best starter.


Was he? It's not difficult making up places from mid-field.

Why didn't Vettel get the best starter award, he wasn't headed off the line that often, or what about Alonso at Barcelona and Monza.

I think best starter is given to who makes the most places up from their starting position, but if you have a driver that qualifies 3 or 4th, they can only make up 3 places.

Someone like Michael can use his experience and drive around the accidents and other slow starters and his stats will be sky high.

The fascinating part of it all, Schumacher in his first career was never recognised as a great starter. A consumate chop-across merchant undoubtedly.


Go Lewis! Really pleased to see the best looking car is also the fastest (so far).

Tornillo Amarillo

I am pleased since I was expecting McLaren on top.

But the year is long and car developing will be thrilling too.

My highlight: Hulk is back!


Great quali, hope BBC repeat it at decent time (bbc3 anyone?) as the original repeat around 1 was too early for me personally and needs to be more flexible...

Out hopes and dreams came true with Vettel having to race more often vis a vis tear away and hide after claiming pole. What happens if he crashes due to slower car and wheel to wheel racing?? Will be very very interesting season for sure.

Sooo glad we have Jake at BBC, Georgie Thompson a bit pedantic on Sky.


Yes! He is back...LH.


-Champions March in Melbourne Qualifying-

With plenty of uncertainty regarding form coming out of winter testing, qualifying for this year's Australian Grand Prix was particularly exciting.

While the presence of six World Champions on the grid for 2012 got a lot of mention in the lead-up to the opening race weekend today was the first chance to feel what that would be like.

It didn't take long before Q1 offered the first crushing disappointment of 2012 as Kimi Raikkonen, who looked spot on in his return during winter testing, failed to reach Q2. It was a stark contrast to his black & gold teammate Romain Grosjean who consistently applied himself through two days on a track new to him to leap up to a surprising, and redemptive, third on the starting grid in his return to the sport.

As much pleasure as there is in watching new talent and underdogs rise to success for the first time, there seems as much satisfaction in witnessing success from the already successful. Whether it is reveling in the passionate excellence and arrogance of Alonso, or reconnecting with the Raikkonen mythology of raw talent and speed at the wheel of...anything, there is always extra depth and texture in the continuity and reliability of established heroes.

A sport needs its touchstones. It is why we yearn to see Michael Schumacher back atop the podium. More to the point, it is why even critics of the seven-times champion during his first tenure in the sport can now be found rooting for him to win again.

Growing up in North America in the 70's and 80's praise or reprimand for a fast turn at the wheel elicited the same question. "Who do you think you are, Mario Andretti?" Despite Formula 1's lack of presence here over the last couple of decades, the name Schumacher was still able to supplant the Andretti in all such instances. Michael Schumacher is synonymous with speed and with winning. Whether he was your hero or your villain he was getting it done more than anyone else in the history of the sport ever had.

To see Mercedes begin the year in a seemingly competitive position provides hope; possibly even more than seeing Schumacher rolling out in a dominant car like last season's Red Bull. In only a "competitive" car it would be Schumacher making the difference if he piloted it to victory. Confirmation, as if any more were needed, that Michael was not just fortunate to have been at the wheel of seven championship cars, but a rather key ingredient in them.

The season's only just begun, but fifth and sixth place on the grid for Red Bull means that many will get their wish to see what two-time defending champion Sebastian Vettel can do in a car that is less than dominant. Can he haul such a machine higher up the grid than it deserves?

Which brings us...to the front of the season's first grid. Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. If opening day form forecasts a season-long battle for the championship between the two, the eventual champion would have to perform against type and overcome their own perceived weaknesses to prevail against the other. Can Lewis make better decisions and be more consistent? Can Jenson come to terms with, and match, the Hamilton pace and aggression?

The season offers plenty of opportunity to burnish the reputation of one of these champions. But will all that pedigree stand strong enough to withstand the challenge of someone new? Could Webber, Grosjean or Rosberg break their way into the castle? With so many Kings guarding the walls the challenge looks daunting. But when would the coronation of someone new ever have meant so much?


Wow incredible to think that Massa would be better off if he returned to Sauber.

And it must be pretty embarrassing for Ferrari to be slower than the other Italian team on the grid.


The only way Hamilton will lose tomorrow's grand prix would be due to either a safety car or reliability issues. He has first priority on pit stops so Jenson can not take advantage of a better strategy.

I honestly can not remember a race where Jenson pulled a pass on Lewis in the McLaren, and Pliz don't say Canada coz Schumacher had just shoved Lewis on the grass and he lost momentum.


or a bad start or being overtaken or making a mistake or being crashed out or.......there are a few more reasons I can think of as to why he may not win the race, just saying they are valid outcomes too 😉


Turkey 2010 - Button overtakes Hamilton, but LH retakes JB shortly after.


Monza n Hungary 2011 comes to mind immediately


Magic start to what will hopefully be an equally brilliant season. Vettel / Red Bull had a superb season last year. This year will hopefully continue to delight and amaze with exceptional drives and surprising results like Grosjean, Maldonado and Hamilton delivered in qualifying!


"If this is what the 2012 F1 season is going to be like, we are in for a very exciting championship."

I disagree James. I don't see how McLaren dominance will be any more exciting than Red Bull dominance which is what you're suggesting.

That said hopefully the other teams get their act together and we could be in for a great one!

Here's hoping for a Schumi win and a great Kimi drive from the back tomorrow, can't wait 🙂


I wasn't talking about dominance. I was talking about how competitive it is!!


Well I guess we'll see tomorrow how competitive things are under race conditions.

McLarens were by far the fastest out there today, Hamilton had even more to wring from that car I'm sure.

Just saying the championship won't be any more exciting if it's another one horse race, despite the inevitable gushing of British press/Hamilton fanboys.

Hope you're right James!

Love the site by the way, top journalism!


Does Alonso have a performance clause that lets him get out of the Ferrari contract if they build a bad car?

His career seems to get wasted for yet another year.


I'm not a huge fan of how 'Lotus' have gone about some of their business in the last few years, but it's going to be great seeing a black and gold car near the front of the grid tomorrow!!

Now, if only the McLarens were painted red and white...


Really interesting comment James about comparing the qualifying times of 2011 and 2012.

Also, Vettel had a difficult time if he lost to Webber who didn't have KERS! Hope this is a sign of things to come and that the fight at the front won't the Vettel show again.


Now we will see if the Vettel 'hype' is the man...or the machine.



I would go through the site and point out all the failed pre-season predictions made here but there just isn't time enough!

Some of you lot need a better crystal ball.


Wow! I acknowledge and respect Button's tremendous race craft and skill, but despite him being close to Hamilton in qualifying, he did it on his second attempt to Hamiltons one attempt with a less rubbered track..love them both but Hamiton looks good for the race...


Hamilton also had a second go, but didn't improve...


Great qualifying session. Does anyone know what happened to Hamilton on his second lap in Q3? Surprised how close Button got, he really does get better and better. Hoping for a LH win tomorrow but got a suspicion button's better tyre management will give him the victory. Would be no bad thing. This season is shaping up to be a classic


I think Lewis'time in the first sector was ordinary so he aborted the lap.


Cracking lap from Hamilton, and he could have gone faster. His second run was something of an experiment, but thankfuly not needed as even Button could only get within a tenth and a half. So the McLaren is truly beautiful! It's great news for McLaren for if they can keep the development rate up they should easily clinth the constructors this year with the drivers they have, but of course it's a long season, and the other teams will not stand still for sure. Great bit of driving from Grosjean, but a pity about Raikkonen. Mercedes have improved, and Red Bull gone backwards relatively. Ferrari well and truly in the doldrums. - Make me wonder how long Pat Fry will be there.


Looks like being a real contest this year. Unfortunate that Ferrari won't be joining it. Lotus have clearly made up ground on last year but how long before Kimi returns to form? I'd love to see him fighting with Schumi again.


Great session! Young helmets a plenty in the top of the grid, as well as a very good performance of ol' Michael now that the car seems to be closer to a winning F1 and the great

perfs of Grosjean and of the McLaren boys with a Lewis Hamilton just perfect!

Hopefully, the race will give us as much intensity and quality that we've experienced this morning.


Great writeup James! Those statistics about the teams' speed relative to last year were very interesting indeed. I was also at the session today, and noted a few things:

The cars may look a lot uglier this year, but they do sound nicer. I suspect this is because of the ban on exhaust blown diffusers, which means there is no silly popping and banging and results in a purer sound.

The Ferrari's sliding in the corners was so severe that it was easily visible to the untrained naked eye, so much so that even my boyfriend (at his first F1 experience) remarked at it. I was at the corner where Alonso went off and I believe that it was indirectly caused by the handling problems. Alonso knew he would have trouble getting round so he took a wide entry line and moved as far to the left as he dared, which unfortunately was a little bit further than where the track ended. It surprised me, he wasn't more than a few centimetres off, but it was obviously enough.

It could be just me, but when I watched the TV broadcast there seemed to be an especially high amount of mistakes in qualifying. Lock ups when braking, missing apexes, running wide, turning in early - you name it, it was all there, and in numbers I hadn't seen before. The cause might again be the ban of EBDs, and drivers aren't used to the lower levels of grip under braking and in the corners.


They had all of winter testing to get used to the missing downforce. They were all pushing their cars to the limit, they need to know their true speed.


Congratulations to McLaren. They did everything right so far and their car is very good as they seem to have some gap in qualifying over the rest of the field that is really really tight.

RB are the biggest disappointment, even more than Ferrari. Alonso's banker lap on used tyres in Q2 was about 0,8s slower than the fastest run of RB in Q3.

On the other hand, compared to McLaren, Ferrari has to do a miracle if they want to be champion in November.

Mercedes did a good job too.

But let's see tomorrow's race. Maybe we'll see something nice.


1. Button

2. Hamilton

3. Schumacher

That's how I call it... Well I'd like it to be at least.

Fingers crossed the RedBull is genuinely just off the pace this season, will give Vettel the opportunity to prove he can win in the slower car(& I don't mean one race!).

Maybe then I'll agree with his name being thrown around with the all time greats.


Looks like it's going to be an interesting race. I won't be watching it 🙁

I can't believe Webber's car is having KERS issues AGAIN.

Nice effort by HRT to get the team and 2 cars out there, but what an expensive waste of time.


Yeah, funny that. Mark was able to use KERS in Q1 and Q2, but come the critical Q3 his KERS fails, totally, no gradual overheating over a lap, almost as if someone had disabled it before Q3 started.

Mark needs to move on to a team that will not handicap him just to preserve the fragile mental state of Helmut's wunderkind.


he ALWAYS has KERS issues when it looks like he might out qualify finger boy in Q3, it happened how many times last year? Someone PLEASE get Dr Helmut Marko awqay from Marks engineer station out the back of his pits during qualifying!


Ehhhr Grosjean... nice to see him so far in front. Let's see if he can keep his place tomorrow...


up the front, Hamilton is in front...


Congratulations to McLarens in particular Lewis. It seems we (Ferrari) have more issues to address. For now, Sunday should provide that platform to know our relative pace per tire compound. Malaysia should suck also. From China onwards we should be competitive or else this will be a very long campaign for us. Otherwise if that fails...then I guess it will make more sense to calm down and work very hard in all departments. Otherwise we (Ferrari and in particular Pet Fry) have no one to blame but ourselves. The future remains RED. To all the Tifosi out there, boys/girls easy does it. Let's wait for the season to unfold first. DS


DS, I agree, I have watched the cycles of F1 since the mid 70's and have been a proud Tifoso since memory serves.

I well remember Brawn and Byrne arriving at Ferrari for the 97 season and it took 3 seasons of hard work and a re-structure of Ferrari to return to winning ways.

Pat Fry started at Ferrari last year, and in interviews he has spoken of how far Ferrari were behind the British teams regarding simulation software and CFD departments that they built up, to combat Ferrari's decision to have 2 test tracks available to them.

The FIA, by banning in season testing a ridiculous situation for professional sports people, had neutralised something that Ferrari invested heavily for.

Isn't it ironic that Max Mosley who during his final year, fighting Ferrari before losing his presidency, let it be known that Ferrari had had a veto to rule changes they didn't like. Yet throughout the years, Ferrari, also seen as arrogant and selfish, never vetoed decisions that they knew would heavily penalise their competiveness.

I think Ferrari will turn this around, I won't guess at time frame, but I am sincerely hoping Massa is replaced before the season is out. He is ridiculous. Get back Rubens!!


Phenomenal qualification and a joy to watch. I really cant remember the last time that it was that open to so many drivers.

I cant lie though, having 2 Brits leading the grid is a pleasure that I never tire of. Well done to Lewis & Jenson for doing it and a big well done to Grosjean who has returned to F1 with an almighty bang!


This is where we see what Red Bull and in particular Vettel are really made of without such a crucifying advantage.

Lets hope it stays this way all year as it can be utterly unhealthy to the spectacle when there is one team that is too dominant.


It’s interesting now that the cards are on the table. It’s only the first starting grid and many of you have said that Australia is not representative. Still there are many things to consider.

Many of you expressed the wish to not see Vettel always starting from the front. Wish granted. It will be fun to see how he does passing. It will be a relatively new experience for him.

Will Webber’s car work better this year now that he’s needed? Will Webber let Vettel pass him à la Ferrari?

Will Hamilton still be teasing McLaren by seeking to go to Red Bull or Mercedes? Maybe Vettel will start visiting McLaren’s hospitality suite. If McLaren continue to do well, Hamilton's salary negotiations might be difficult.

Is the Ice Man melting?

Is Big John a flash in the pan or solid gold?

Is Ferrari following in the foot steps of Williams?

I'm looking forward to the first corner.


I'm crying in laughter at the Williams Ferrari comparison


If you had a good laugh, it's all good.

Robert in San Diego

How did Daniel Ricciardo get tenth with no time?


He got tenth in Q2 then decided not to run as he would not improve on that, so preferred to save tyres for the race


The Good, the bad and the ugly

The Good:

McLaren - Very impressive performance - look for a Hamilton, Button 1/2

Mercedes - Looks like a very quick car, shame about Nico's mistakes in Q3

Grosjean - Great performance

Maldonado - Excellent start to season

Ricciardo - Would have liked to see if he could have jumped over the other midfielders in Q3

The Bad:

Red Bull - First 3 races not looking good, have to turn it around quickly

Alonso - Rookie mistake from someone who should know better - trying too hard

Caterham - Yet again empty promises of catching midfield

Sauber - Disappointing Q2

Kimi - Will let him get away with this one as is first race back, but not the start he wanted

The ugly:

Massa - Please replace him now before it gets any more embarrassing

HRT - Not unexpected, but still not good to see


James, so much was made of the RBR's "shock and awe" at the last winter testing. It didn't make sense back then (unveiling a spec B car supposedly in an attempt to further increase their presumed superiority)- as today's qualifying confirmed. They may yet be competitive in the race, but no one (I bet) is shaking in their boots.


James, I was at turn 15 for qualifying and it was very noticeable that the Red Bull's engines (and no other team) were sounding pretty strange after braking but before the throttle. Is it something you've heard too, and with the engine mapping/blown diffuser ban do you know what the source of this noise is?


I've heard this too, they are still trying to sneakily use off throttle blowing in my opinion.

Too bad it doesn't seem to be helping them much though, thats what you get for not being within the spirit of the regulations lol!


I think we’re about to find out if “the finger” has the skill to make a car go faster than it should, ala HAM, ALO, and MSC. Right now it doesnt look like it, seeing how he was beat by Webber. Perhaps he can only win with the best car, we shall see.

Ferrari, well, it looks like they completely missed the plot, I guess McLaren wont miss Pat Fry afterall LOL. As far as Massa goes, I think hes done, I dont think he will finish the season in the car.

Mercedez GP looks to be slower than RB, except for MSC, he always had he ability to make the car go faster than it should.

Lotus seems to have a great car, and Romain just earned his seat, we will have to wait to see where Kimi stands.

Really happy to see a Williams so high in the grid, Ive always been a Williams fan and Im hoping its not a fluke.

Is the geneal concensus that Lewis had more speed left?


What a competitive start to the season - wow. It's going to be another battle royale between the macca drivers but this time for the top step.

Great to see it looking like Schumacher is in a competitive car this year. I hope the car has good race pace and that it's not qually-only drs-fwfd trickery, as clever as that system is.

Ferrari are in huge trouble. Alonso looked like a man yesterday who knew the championship was already gone


I didn't think I'd be saying this, but I'm gutted Schumi didn't get 3rd place - would have been much better to see him in the press conference after all that time.

Saying that, we might see him there tomorrow. I suppose we'll see how much advantage that F-duct gives when Merc drivers will be driving around without it.

Who knows, maybe that special diffuser on the Merc will give better tyre life than the Mclarens and he'll be able to leap at least one.

Anyway, stunning performance by Grosjean. To be honest I always considered him as a second driver to flatter Kimi, so that's another thing I was surprised about. But Kimi? Not so much. I thought he'll be ordinary in quali and very rusty in the race, like Schumacher was for a lot of 2010, but crikey that went even worse. Good for the race tomorrow though, if he can use the DRS safely he should finish much higher, especially with all 3 fresh tyres.

Hamilton pulled a blinder too, but I got a feeling that Button went out on the used first like Merc did. Did Hammy use up all 3 of his tyres and Button didn't? Hammy's lap was impressive, but not perfect.

Nice one from Hulkenburg and Maldonando too. Suddenly di Resta looks rather ordinary, doesn't he?

The less said about Ferrari the better. Looks like their season's down the drain. Poor Massa, it seems that dog of the car was developed with only Alonso in mind. Probably a good idea, otherwise both Ferraris would struggle to get into top 10 each race.

Finally I shall eat humble pie - I thought it was the status quo all over again... well I couldn't ask for better. Hope it stays that way, no offense to Red Bull.

Christian Horner

None taken.....


What's happened to the Bulls?

0.7 s behind - that's disaster, isn't it James?


Well McLaren were further behind Red Bull than that this time last year, so no.


Agreed. However, I think that fact that McLaren are development gods could make all the difference!?

.... Here's to hoping for that to be the case 🙂


Sorry James but the gap is quite similar. Vettel beat Hamilton by 0.778 0.778 seconds last year. This year the gap between the fastest McLaren and the fastest RB is 0.729 seconds. So not that much difference.


Formula 1 is on the same mood.

McLaren is always there, first or second doesn’t make much difference. The game is between Button and Lewis.

During pre season tests everyone understood Redbull was having some problems. No surprise. They still have some chances: very good management, top engineers and, no doubt, the best F1 driver.

Mercedes is, as usual, far behind. No surprise.

Ferrari is, as usual, a disaster. They have a superb driver (Alonso) and nothing else. Taking into consideration their monster budget, something is very wrong. It’s quite easy to understand where lies their main problem. Let’s be realistic. F1 is not rocket science, they use old tech (high tech is not available to this business). So… where is the differentiator. It’s all about funding and management. If Ferrari has more than enough funding…the conclusion is obvious.

As usual the interesting part of this game lies on the not so rich teams (Lotus, Force India, Toro Rosso, etc).


As usual a great article.

I am pleased to hear of your BBC (am I right) commentating job. Hope it doesn't affect your ability to present us with great information here. I am English but don't live in the UK and won't get to hear you commenting so this is a great place to catch up on your great F1 analysis


I'm sure it will enhance it


Delighted to see Lewis on the front row, great result for Mclaren.

For me this is why Lewis is better than Jenson, he is the quicker driver out of the two and showed it today.

Stunning lap from Lewis.

Can't wait for the race!!


Lewis better than Jenson? Did you miss last season?

Saturday is only for show...Sunday is for the dough.

Don't get me wrong. Lewis is a great driver, but Jenson is the first team mate to out score Lewis in his career. Should be a good year for those two.


Lewis better than jenson? You bet! Jenson outscored Lewis last season because of DNfs.


I'm a big fan of Lewis myself, and when Jenson went to McLaren I thought...my friend, you are going to get destroyed.

But he hasn't. He had a creditable performance in 2010, outscored Lewis in 2011, and now has won first race this year on raw pace. No rain, no DNFs, no accidents, no strategy specials...just out and out speed.

Give Jenson his dues, he's every bit the measure of Lewis when it counts on race day.


He's akways been the best in any category he passedn he was champion within 2 years, Vettel was beaten by Di resta, and now we're seeing what he can do with a normal car, the car was mighy for 2 years, and know we're seeing his true pace, and the ones who was saying that he was greater than senna can be ashamed. Lewis is with Fernando the best driver out there and trust me Vergne will rejoin them next year


Kimi explains the problem as the team not having had the chance during testing to select the best steering system out of many available, and until they try them out, one by one, they can't be sure of progress.

That is a tough situation because obviously the car is fast and without the problem it's poss he can win!


he had plenty of time in Friday running but chose not to do laps......


But he also said that it is not a major problem and he can drive around it. It is not ideal, but I don't think he should suffer performance from it (only comfort may be).

The fact that Grosjean did not complain till now says one/all of these two things: 1. He knows that he has been hired as a second-driver and so he is just happy with whatever is given. 2. He has not got used to a particular system like Kimi (9 years of F1), so may be he is OK with whatever is there.

Could we be seeing 2010-McLaren situation in Lotus? But I think Kimi is not like Alonso! He may just get disinterested if he finds team-mate competitive.


Isn't it funny. Trulli complained about his power steering all season and people just said he was no good any more etc etc.

Kimi struggles and people make excuses for him.. go figure


Great session and so happy for Schumi!! This year hopefully will see him at the front and shutting up the critics like Eddie Jordan.

As for Mclaren they clearly have the best car but will there policy of no clear no1 driver work? I predict fireworks between the two Brits!!

Really loved the analysis of the relative times to a year ago that clearly shows how the teams have moved - thanks James.

Sebastiaan Hekman

I've checked the differences between the Q3 sessions from 2011 and 2012 for RedBull, McLaren and Mercedes and come to a different conclusión.

My conclusion is that Mercedes (Schumacher) is 0.635 seconds faster than last year. Rosberg is 0.265 slower, probably due to his mistake.

In average Mercedes is 0.185 seconds faster than last year. Where that 0.1 second difference comes from is unclear to me.

In 2011 Schumacher qualified in 1:25.971 and now (2012) in 1:25.336.

The numbers for Redbull (+2.139 sec) and McLaren (+ 0.615) are correct, according to my calculations. I took the time of the fastest driver of the two teams, Vettel and Hamilton, not an average of both. Calculating an average for RedBull and McLaren, gives a +1.698 sec slower laptime for RedBull (thanks to Webber) and +0.455 sec slower laptime for McLaren (thanks to Button).

If I follow the same line of thinking as this article does for explaining the differences I conclude the following:

Schumacher, Webber and Button perform better than their teammates without the hot-blown diffuser, where Schumacher makes the biggest jump of the three, -0.635 sec (WEB + 1.256 and BUT + 0.295). But that is not enough an explanation I'm afraid.

Assuming that the blown-diffuser provided Merc with a some of speed advantage and not an disadvantage, then they have not only made up for the loss of that advantage but also gained on top of it.

Another explanation could be that Schumacher did really a lousy job last year (0.550 slower than Rosberg) and now he has find his speed in qualifying again. Or that rear wing is really magical. Probably a combi of all the explanations does it.

The results of the next couple of races will shed more light on this before we head back to Europe where big upgrades are waiting and comparisons with last year become useless.


I would say that the Merc passive version of the F-duct helped them in qualifying and once the other teams copy it, that advantage will be gone. I hope the race will be better for Merc as they won't be able to use the DRS (and the "F-duct") all the time.

Sebastiaan Hekman

Indeed, that was clear in the race. Not Rosb or Schu could make it within the 1 sec bracket needed for DRS. It was clear that Vettel was hitting the limiter when chasing Schumacher down the main straight, just like Hamilton in Monza last year.

Merc has kept its straight line speed. Wonder how fast that would be if/when they can use DRS. Read somewhere that it could add + 18km/hour. Massive speed advantage is that is true. Maybe we will see in the next race.


No, it shows how important the BD was to RB, and now that they dont have it the are slower than the other teams. Merc never got it to work ver good, and McLaren's wasnt as good as RBs either

Sebastiaan Hekman

Agree, that's why they, RB, suffer more now.


Interesting little comparison.


Hope this trend continues; despite being sad because Ferrari have designed a red school bus for yet another year, I'm quite happy Red Bull isn't anywhere near P1. Maybe by end of year with a string of bad results, that Austrian will call it quits and sell the team. Santa, are you getting all this??


Mercedes’ so called f-duct front wing is genius. People are still trying to determine its benefits, but supposedly it is a duct on the rear wind end plate that pass air back up the car to stall the front wing when DRS is activated to not only give a small increase in top speed but allow the DRS to be opened earlier by stopping the front end from being so “pointy”/the rear wing stepping out when DRS is activated. I can’t see how it’s illegal. Eric Boullier is not protesting the device itself, he’s trying to get it banned by saying that it’s “driver operated” as it comes into effect when DRS is deployed, but the only reason for that is due to the fact it’s a slot that’s always there and always open but is blocked by the upper element of the rear wing when it’s down/DRS closed, and when the element flips up/DRS activated then the duct is exposed to the airflow. It’s very clever and it’s the innovation that so many ppl on this site (and around the world) were hoping the engineers would still be able to produce despite the restrictions the regulations provide. Well done to the mercedes engineers.

val from montreal

hey James Allen , if Schumacher wins this race please tell him that his fans always supported him !!!



Revised car?


No KERS? How is this still happening!


Ferrari have to get rid of that front pull rod suspension quick. James will the revised car have push rod?


I am really excited by the prospect of this season. I wouldn't be suprised if this year's world champion records only half a dozen wins.

I think it is because of the apparent closeness between the top teams that it is important for safety that the stewards stick to their guns about the 107% rule. Karthikeyan was almost comical the way he caused problems in qualifying.


Gotta say James, the BBC have made an extraordinary (i.e. extraordinarily poor) decision to relegate you to R5 instead of Ben Edwards (he's good but just not suited to the prime commentary role on TV).

I suspect you'll be getting a call to rescue their TV coverage very soon!!


I don't see it as relegate or promote situation. There are many reasons why things are the right way around and I'm happier doing what I'm doing, thanks


Been at the track for the last 3 days and not sure how well it came across on TV for overseas people. Hopefully good??

Expected the unexpected due to being the first race and after varying weather in P1 and P2..What a great qualifying today. It kept throwing up surprises

Good to see the driver having to drive and control the car more using their ability, not techno gizmos doing it for them. 3 WC’s all in the gravel, wow. The cars are definitely moving around more in the rear end with OTBD gone.

Great work by McLaren, their support to develop the car last year with 2012 dimensions in mind have given them a first base advantage. Well done Lewis great lap. Mercedes car look sharp and very driveable at speed, great turn in. ….but Grosjean, quali surprise and a great bonus for the team. Kimi will need to bounce back..Romain gave Drive of today. Red Bull..well, did they lose direction and they seem to have lost the most from the removal of OT blown diffuser. Webber over Vettel, has he proved that last years rules and tyres just didn’t suit him? Time will tell that.

I just cannot believe that Webbers KERS failed again today in qualifying, I hope his start to the new season is not dogged by the same KERS issues like the first 5 races last year. Why cannot RBR fix this issue??

Lastly Daniel, well done!!. The duel this year between Daniel and Vergne is shaping up very well. Watch this space

With all the concerns over Ferrari at testing I don’t think anyone would have expected such a bad result like that..The car looked lose in the rear end all day. It looked very unstable and whenever pushed hard just didn’t want to behave. Alonso must be angry over his mistake however I doubt if he would have been in the top 7……Massa, what is happening there??..Of all the teams they were the biggest disappointment.

I have a feeling tomorrow to throw up a few more surprises.


I believe Mercedes will be the fly in the ointment this season. Both cars were certainly capable of challenging for pole today and will surely win some races this year. I also believe Ross Brawn started developing the 2012 car early last season when it was obvious they couldn't really get on top of the diffuser issue; hence the faster speed this year, rather than their DRSF-Duct.

Grosjean's lap was epic, but it underlines what a good job Lotus have done. Imagine where Kubica could have put the car! Unfortunately, if going by past seasons, they will be sliding back as they do have a history of starting strong, then losing their way - and surely, Merc and RBR will outdevelop them in the remainder of the season.

The McLaren boys are not home yet. The first 5 rows are separated by the same gap that RBR had to McLaren last season - 10 cars in 1.8secs! It is going to be a developers war this season. The most aggressive, and able to correlate CFD and Wind Tunnel data to on track behavior will win.

Lets hope that Martin Whitmarsh will not take the shine of Lewis's pole by undermining his race strategy in favour of Jenson's as he did a few times last season. Last year, it seems Macca were content to let Lewis haul himself up with pure speed, but always gave Jenson a helping hand with more innovative strategy. Lets hope we don't have a repeat of the Turkey 2010 debacle.


The gap between Red Bull and McLaren in Australia last year was 7-8 tenths of a second.


Why you saying imagine what kubica or kimi will have done with this car. The things is that Romain is a great talent, he's a potential race winnern the reality is that for any driver it will have been difficult to do better

Gerardo Delgado

Come on James. No comment on Williams and Maldonado??

Yes, I'm biased, but he still pulled in front of several more favored teams.

Regards, G


43 years old.

0.414 seconds off pole.

Say no more.


Too old and too slow, right? 🙂


Just to clarify; I don't for one minute believe that Schumacher is too old or slow. But the statisitc listed above is listing Schumachers age then showing him to be half a second off the pace, as if that's something to be proud of.

When he gets his pole, a comment like '43 years old and 2 tenths faster than anybodye else' would make a lot more sense...


more needs to be said.

43 years old. a 20 year career. he is STILL fighting at the top. outqualified his highly regarded teammate.

i cant think of any other sport where someone has had the ability to fight with the very best for 20 years, apart from golf.

someone needs to put him in a lab and run tests.


Now *that* I can agree with. The man's just unbelievable. It's starting to defy belief really... Surely a win this year has to be on the cards.


Genuinely excited by Schumacher's chances tomorrow. Not getting my hopes up but without major drama on the first lap I've got my fingers crossed he can at least be looking at a potential podium....

Can't wait!


The Aussie guys did a great job. Webber out qualifying Vettel without KERS (more KERS nightmares for Webber) and Ricciardo for his first Q3. Fantastic efforts. I hope they can convert this into a home win. Come on Aussie come on, come on, come on Aussie come on!!!!!!!


more KERS nightmares for Webber = Dr Helmut Marko in my opinion. Its all getting to be too much of a concidence in qualifying 3 when Marks KERS stops working EVERY TIME he looks like being close or outqualifying Vettel recently....


Red bull place their KERS around the gearbox. One off the hottest parts of the car. It's this overheating that causes it to fail. When it cools it can sometimes be used again. I don't believe that Mark is getting worse treatment than Seb and I'm an Australian. Simply because there's no incentive to do it.




Where are all the comments that I allways enjoy reading? However Lotus Renault look great. James do you see Renault gelting more involved in the Enstone team again?


Sorry for the spelling by the way. It is this stupid IPad having Danish as preferred language.


Hi James,

What is the reason for Ricciardo not to go out in Q3. Considering the lack of dry time on Friday, I'd be a bit surprised if it was just to save a spare set of tyres. We're only expecting two stops, aren't we?


Maybe he can use the new set of tyres to go longer on the first stint.


Maybe, although some models show three stops as faster. Limited dry running makes the picture hard to see


Hey James, Did Webber have an issue with his KERS or have they removed it like they did last year? In an interview after quali he said "we didn't have KERS" does that mean Vettel as well, or just his side of the garage?

Thanks for the insights.


I don't think Red Bull would have it for winter testing, practice sessions and the first two quali sessions, and then remove it for Q3.


A lot of the drivers seem to use the word "we" and it almost always means them and their engineers rather than team mate.


I got the impression it wasn't working, but you raise a good point


i am so pleased for Schumacher and i am not even a fan of his.

i would love to see him up on that Podium along side Hamilton or Button.

as for Grosjean that is great news for Lotus, i just hope he can handle being at the top and mix it with big boys without crashing.

definitely going to be a great race.


I've just watched schumi going on to check each car rear at the end of quali, he was soon joined by vettel and both of them spent a good ten minutes looking at their competition cars, which included a 5 min chat alongside the mclaren with vettel down to his knee looking underneath... They seemed a little surprised...


I want to see a photo of Adrian Newey down to his knee looking underneath the Maclaren. That photo should be boldly displayed at the lobby of the Maclaren Technology Centre!!


SV is being unfaithful to Abbey - looking up the skirts of other cars 🙂


Very interesting. And something that'd make me smile too. Where can I find footage of this?


Vettel dropped his car keys and they went under the mclaren apparently!!


The relative performance of the cars (in particular the Red Bull and Ferrari) makes me wonder greatly about the around the off throttle engine mappings at Valencia and Silverstone last year.


Well a race with out maps is a different thing than a race without blown diffusers, so really no comparison can be made.


Being a big Kimi fan, I can only hope that he can salvage some points this afternoon after a disappointing quali.


Shame about Kimi, I really hope he does well during the race. It's good to see Schumacher back at the front end, it would great to see him fighting for wins.

john wainwright

Great quali' from Schumacher but chuffed to bits with Lewis's pole. F1 needs him to be firing on all cylinders. Just need Alonzo to have a better prancing horse and game on!

john wainwright

Alonso (sic) sorry Fernando:)


Couldn't agree more, looks to be a very interesting and different year to 2011 (seriously considering the Sky Sport subscription). So glad the season is starting now! But I'm really interested to see what the Renault and the Mercedes does in the race and what their race pace is like. Can't believe how well the Torro Rosso has performed either (still holding out judgement to see what their race pace is like).

Also, just wanted to add my thanks James for the Ferrari analysis. I didn't get to see quali so had no idea if Alonso was looking good or not, and if he had have gone on would he have been much better than 12th.


finally we will get to see what vettel is really made of. if he has the 3rd best car for the rest of the season, and manages to finish the championship 3rd or higher, we will know he is a Great driver (like schumi in 2005, for eg). i hope for vettels sake that redbull have to struggle and work at it, so vettel has a chance to cement his reputation.


yeah the prancing horse is hardly prancing!!


A real shame Kimi didnt make it into Q2. I'm sure he would've been in the top 10 like Grosjean IF he got past the 1st stage. At the time, he was on mediums and was only a couple of tenths off on Grosjeans lap. Ah well, better luck next time I guess. On the bright side, it'll be interesting watching him fight through the pack.

Always suspected that Mclaren were on top. I wonder how the top teams will fare on race pace (exclduing Ferrari from that group at the moment).

James, can RB switch back to the 'A-spec' car for the next races? One they will have more knowledge on and miles.

Finally, seems like a good year ahead. Not sure how quickyly RB will (if) they will close the gap to the Mclarens but I hope Lotus and Merc can keep up.


Whilst I am pleased to see McLaren back on top, I don't think we should write off Reb Bull too quickly. I have no love for Alonso or Ferrari, but I found it sad to see his frustrations with the dog of a car being taken out on the marshals; did he really think they could push him out of the gravel?


Happy to see bookmakers switch Ham. And Vet. Around in the season odds-that is the right way ....finally.


Does anyone have a good link to somewhere which shows how this mercedes rear wing duct works. I was looking on the formula 1 website, but it wasnt very clear.

Also looking forward to 2012. No clearly dominant team, so there should many different winners of races. I hope the season goes down to the wire like 2010.


Hi James looking forward to seeing the race trackside! Anyone who gets the gong for being impressive so far this year? Early days yet Lotus look good tho I think I said the same thing last year!


Ferrari: Desastrri

Vettel: Gave his forefinger to Hamilton (VSign) - now he sounds like Schumacher, after his comeback, two years ago

Horner: Vodka Croissant is the biggest threat

Vodka Croissant: will destroy Kimi -- as I predicted a month ago.

Schumacher: Magnificent

Hülkenberg: Will surprise us soon

FIA: Stole us last season by allowing the Bulls to keep the D-Diffusor


Not much said about the performance of the Williams team. Great lap from Maldonado only 0.3 off the Red Bulls. Senna yes didn't do as well but the pace in the car is clearly there. I just hope they can keep it up for the rest of the year.


Great to hear you back on the airwaves James... and a great day as a Mclaren fan. Now for three hours sleep then the most exciting race in years!

Stone the crows

How long has it been since Red Bull have started this far down on the grid? I'm happy for Mclaren and Lotus, but the gloatfest over Red Bull's start might be a bit premature, much less is it time to stick a fork in them. On the other hand, Ferrari; what does one say? How discouraging it must be to struggle through 2011 and then to seeminly start off worse in 2012. Alonso's churlishness toward the marshalls at turn 1 tells volumes about the mood inside the Scuderia right now. I don't think Mercedes will be on the podium tomorrow, but they will be making Lotus and Red Bull earn their days pay. I look for Webber to show better than Vettel, he's been punching above his weight for years and can make more of what he has than most. Most of all I'm hoping to see a good result from Williams.


Interesting session. Clearly Red Bull are missing the blown exhaust this season. This seems to have affected the balance of the car, especially at the rear. My expectation would be that they will probably be stronger in race form when DRS is only enabled in tHe DRS zones and therefore the impact on the rear balance of the car is only affected in part of the lap,

I think Lotus have a strong car this year. Look to Kimi to win races later in the season. I think Schumacher will also win at Mercedes this year


Re the commentary on the Melbourne F1 race today - Martin Brundle is a pleasure to liston to, but where or where is David Coulthard?

Martin's co commentator is dreadful - he would do better commentating on a horse race. We switched off the sound early in the race. If this is what we have to look forward to, 2012 F1 racing season will be a complete write off.

Please let us have a commentator that does not get over excited at the sound of his own voice


You must have been watching Sky I assume if you are in the UK? I think you may have missed a lot of discussion about the BBC / Sky coverage...

Brundle has moved to Sky, and currently commentates alongside David Croft, formally of BBC Radio 5 Live, who has also joined them.

Meanwhile, Ben Edwards has moved to the BBC to join DC in the commentary box, while James has taken over on R5L.

I quite liked Ben Edwards, and was impressed by the BBC highlights package. I watched the race live on Sky, but the BBC only cut 20 mins of it for their show, and most of that was from the safety car period.


With the results now in Red Bull have improved from their qualifying position. I'm worried about Hamilton. Why was he slower in the race than Button because he was conclusively beaten in this race. It's fair to say that after a relatively poor start things did not go his way both in the pit stops, and because of the safety car. I'm just hoping he is not mixing it too much with the L.A. pop/rock scene. One thing I've noticed about Hamilton is that those bright eyes he used to have have gone. Anyway let's see how the next race goes.

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