2012 Australian Grand Prix
Preview: Albert Park facts & stats
Between 1985 and ’95, the Australian Grand Prix in Adelaide became the venue for F1’s seasonal finale. However, since moving to Melbourne in 1996, Australia has become F1’s usual curtain-raiser, and its laidback and welcoming vibe make it the perfect location once again to kick off the FIA Formula 1 World Championship.
Situated in the seaside suburb of St Kilda, Albert Park is a temporary street track that invariably produces unpredictable and exciting racing. The reasons for this are manifold: the grand prix circus arrives after a winter of hibernation with form still uneven and difficult to read; factor in the dusty and constantly evolving track surface, the proximity of the barriers, a series of challenging high-speed corners and the constant threat of autumnal rainshowers and you have all the ingredients for a classic!
|Race distance||58 laps (307.574km/191.110 miles)|
|Start time||17:00 (local)/06:00 (GMT)|
|Circuit length||5.303km/3.295 miles|
|2011 winner||Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing) 58 laps in 1hr 29m 30.259s (206.184km/h)|
|2011 pole||Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing) 1m 23.529s (228.552km/h)|
|Lap record||Michael Schumacher (Ferrari F2004) 1m24.125s (226.933km/h)|
|McLaren at the Australian Grand Prix|
|Wins||10 (1986,’88, ’91, ’92, ’93 – Adelaide; ’97, ’98, 2003, ’08, ’10 – Melbourne)|
|Poles||9 (1988, ’89, ’90, ’91, ’93 – Adelaide; ’98, ’99, 2000, ’08 – Melbourne)|
|Fastest laps||7 (1988, ’91 – Adelaide; ’98, 2002, ’03, ’06, ’08 – Melbourne)|
Car 3: Jenson Button
Age 32 (January 19 1980)
Q) Melbourne has been a great track for you – what are the highlights?
“There are lots. My first grand prix was here way back in 2000 – it was just a buzz to be in Formula 1: it was pretty intense, the whole weekend just flew past pretty quickly. I had pole here in 2006 – another good memory. But I think the two most significant memories for me were, in 2009, winning from pole for Brawn GP. It was a momentous race for the entire team and it felt so sweet to give them such a reward.
“And winning here in 2010… just an incredible day. Going early for the dry tyre, then almost losing the car at Turn Three, putting the others off following my example, and then finding a rhythm and having a fantastic car underneath me. That was my first win for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes – it was completely unexpected, but a really significant result for me personally.”
Q) What is it about Melbourne that makes it so special?
“It’s hard to put your finger on it. It is a special race – you step off the plane after a long, cold European winter and it’s usually very sunny and the people are incredibly welcoming. I think the circuit is a nice challenge too – it’s not a particularly technical track, but the surface is always rubbering in across the whole race weekend, and it’s a place that encourages nip-and-tuck racing. For a street track, it’s got a really good flow, you can really find a good rhythm – and it’s got some fast corners too, which is unusual for a road course.
“I think the new rules have definitely made it a more competitive place – it’s easier to pass here now than it ever was. And I think the potential of a second DRS zone will be a real benefit – last year, along the startline wasn’t quite enough for overtaking – I think we’ll get more benefit from a second zone. Finally, the walls around here are close enough to keep your mind focused. I can’t remember a race here that wasn’t eventful or surprising in some way – so it’s the perfect place to kick off the season.”
Q) How confident do you feel after the winter that you’re set for a strong start to your campaign?
“I’m happy with our preparations. You always want more laps and more time in the car, but, unlike last year, we’ve had a very solid start to our pre-season. It’s been very difficult to read pace over the winter because a lot of teams have been playing their cards close to their chests: I think it’s going to be extremely close, and I can’t wait to find out where we sit in the pecking order.”
Car 4: Lewis Hamilton
Age 27 (January 7 1985)
Q) What does Melbourne mean to you?
“Melbourne is a city that has sport running through its veins – and the crowd lives and breathes it. It’s a great place to start the season. For me, Melbourne means sunshine, smiling faces, a great paddock – a bit compact but very friendly, a great city with a really positive vibe – and a racetrack that’s really made for racing. A place where you can really get the back-end of the car moving around quite nicely yet still feel like you’re fully in control of the car. The track has got a nice flow to it – I love the fast sweepers behind the pits, it’s awesome when you get them right – and it’s a place where, the more you can attack, the faster you go. My kind of place!”
Q) After just three tests – six days each in the car – do you feel prepared?
“I actually feel more relaxed and ready for the new season than I think I’ve ever done. Everything has gone smoothly with the car – which is more than we can say for last year! – and it just seems to be a responsive and reliable package. My final day in the car – with the aero package we plan to run next weekend – also felt good: the car was a useful step forward.
“Of course, we haven’t tested it in competition yet, but there’s plenty to feel optimistic about. It’s a bit weird to have driven the car for a whole month and still not done a really fast lap – I guess we’ll really find the limit next Saturday. Obviously, this is always the time of year when you’re feeling positive, but we’ve got plenty to look forward to. I’m going to get off the plane in Australia with a big smile on my face.”
Q) What are your hopes and aims for the Australian Grand Prix?
“It’s a realistic aim: to score some useful points and use the race to kickstart our challenge for the world championship. That might sound like we’re aiming low – we’re not – but, at this time of year, it’s good to remember that it’s going to be a very long season. There’s no point putting all your eggs in one basket – I’d love to win in Melbourne, sure, but there are 19 races afterwards, so it’ll be important to get some points on the board. As long as I can leave Australia feeling confident that we have a car that’s able to fight for the title, then I’ll feel happy. It’s as simple as that.”
Martin Whitmarsh: Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
“I’ve never lost my enthusiasm, optimism or motivation for the start of each new Formula 1 season – and this year is no exception. As is often the case, you can complete thousands of kilometres of testing, analyse hundreds of thousands of lines of performance data and read pages of web and magazine editorial and still not have a clear idea of overall form going into the first race.
“I think that’s an intrinsic and fascinating aspect of Formula 1: the resetting of the bar at the end of each season and the relentless, and often invisible, quest to emerge on top at the start of a new year. I think Australia will be fascinating: the winter’s testing has been so finely balanced that it’s particularly difficult accurately to judge who’ll be the quickest. And that’s fantastic for Formula 1 fans across the globe.
“At Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, we’ve had an extremely productive winter – I’ve never seen Jenson and Lewis looking so healthy, committed and prepared for a new season. There’s a real hunger within the whole organisation – I’ve witnessed it in conversation with our heads of department, our engineers and our mechanics: we want to win more than ever and we’ve left no stone unturned in our quest for performance.
“Make no mistake, this will be a long, arduous and difficult campaign, and I’m naturally reluctant to stick my neck out and make any predictions, but my greatest hope is that we go to Australia and put on a world-beating show to demonstrate to the world that Formula 1 is back, and back with a bang!”
How McLaren defined 10 days in the history of the Australian GP
1. October 26 1986
Alain Prost takes the first of McLaren’s 10 Australian GP wins – it’s a tense and dramatic day, with the Frenchman edging out Nigel Mansell (explosive tyre blow-out) and Nelson Piquet (precautionary pitstop) in the dying laps to clinch his second drivers’ title.
2. November 5 1989
The first of two infamous Adelaide deluges left Alain Prost in no mood to contest the race – he withdrew on the parade lap. The torrential conditions also caused mayhem: Ayrton Senna crashed blindly into Martin Brundle’s Brabham after just 13 laps.
3. November 3 1991
Ayrton Senna wins the shortest race in grand prix history. A mighty rainstorm turned the track into a skating rink and conditions were deemed too dangerous to continue. Ayrton’s winning time was a scant 24m 34.899s, an average speed of 129.169km/h.
4. November 6 1993
Despite fears from the team that he would run out of fuel on his final, flying lap, Ayrton Senna kept it nailed to secure pole position – his 46th for McLaren. The following day, he drove the active-ride MP4-8 to his 41st and last-ever F1 win.
5. November 11 1995
Tyre failure sent Mika Hakkinen into a tyre-wall with huge force, leaving the Finn unconscious and requiring an emergency trackside tracheotomy. Fully recovered, Mika later cited the accident as a defining point on his road to becoming champion.
6. March 9 1997
David Coulthard ends McLaren’s 50-race winless drought with the first victory for engine partner Mercedes-Benz. It’s a symbolic victory, kickstarting the revival of the famous Mercedes Silver Arrows.
7. March 8 1998
A pre-race gentlemen’s agreement sees David Coulthard hand the lead to team-mate Mika Hakkinen. It’s both noble and controversial, but allows the team to score a dominant one-two and cement its path towards double-championship glory.
8. March 9 2003
Few would have considered David Coulthard a contender in the ‘year-old’ MP4-17D chassis, particularly starting down in 11th. But the canny Scot kept his head, weathered the storm and kept it clean to score a memorable final grand prix victory.
9. March 18 2007
The day Lewis Hamilton ‘arrived’ in F1. Starting fourth, the rookie audaciously swept into third at the first corner and ran as high as second with all the assurance of a veteran. In his first grand prix, he finished on the podium – and a new hero was born.
10. March 27 2010
A strategic call for dry tyres on a still-damp track was the decisive move for Jenson Button, who moved from last to first in just 20 laps. The win emphatically underlined his world champion’s credentials and set him up as one of F1’s all-time regenmeisters.
Results: Free Practice 1
|1||3||Jenson Button||Vodafone McLaren Mercedes||1:27.560||11|
|2||4||Lewis Hamilton||Vodafone McLaren Mercedes||1:27.805||0.245||14|
|5||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:28.467||0.907||21|
|11||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:29.790||2.230||21|
|12||12||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:29.865||2.305||17|
|13||11||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:29.881||2.321||18|
|23||23||Narain Karthikeyan||HRT-Cosworth||No time||3|
|24||22||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||No time||0|
Results: Free Practice 2
|2||12||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:29.292||0.109||19|
|6||11||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:31.466||2.283||13|
|10||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:32.194||3.011||19|
|11||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:32.296||3.113||20|
|15||3||Jenson Button||Vodafone McLaren Mercedes||1:33.039||3.856||18|
|16||4||Lewis Hamilton||Vodafone McLaren Mercedes||1:33.252||4.069||11|
|24||22||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||No time||1|
Results: Free Practice 3
|1||4||Lewis Hamilton||Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes||1:25.681||18|
|3||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:25.900||0.219||20|
|4||3||Jenson Button||Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes||1:25.906||0.225||17|
|7||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:26.211||0.530||12|
|14||12||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:27.029||1.348||23|
|17||11||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:27.428||1.747||22|
|23||22||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||1:33.114||7.433||12|
|1||4||Lewis Hamilton||Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes||1:26.800||1:25.626||1:24.922||14|
|2||3||Jenson Button||Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes||1:26.832||1:25.663||1:25.074||15|
|5||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:27.117||1:26.297||1:25.651||17|
|6||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:26.773||1:25.982||1:25.668||18|
|9||12||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:27.464||1:26.314||1:26.451||18|
|10||16||Daniel Ricciardo||STR-Ferrari||1:27.024||1:26.319||No time||16|
|15||11||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:27.469||1:27.086||16|
|DNQ||22||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||1:33.495||6|
|Q1 107% Time||1:32.214|
Results: 2012 Australian Grand Prix
176th victory for McLaren
149th fastest lap for McLaren
72nd victory for McLaren, Mercedes and Mobil 1
28th victory for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
13th victory for Jenson Button
7th fastest lap for Jenson Button
Fastest lap tm29.187s (1st)
Pitstops two: laps 16 and 36 (Op-Pr-Pr)
2011 points 25 (1st)
“Every victory means a lot – but today shows just how important it was to have a strong winter. The starts of the past two seasons have both been tricky for us, so today is really encouraging. The guys at the circuit and all the men and women back in Woking have done an amazing job to get us here.
“Today means a lot to me, and I’m sure it’ll mean a lot to all of them too: it’ll make those extra hours worked in the early hours of the morning all the more worthwhile, because we know we can do great things with this car.
“At the start, I really wanted to get away fast in the first two laps to avoid the threat of DRS – it wasn’t easy because I had Lewis right on my tail. But the race went smoothly after that. My biggest worry was the late-race Safety Car: I had a 10-second advantage, which was pretty healthy, but the Safety Car cut that to nothing.
“And, since it was 6.00pm, with the sun going down, it was quite difficult to keep temperature in the tyres when we were running slowly behind the Safety Car. That was a big worry for me, but it worked out okay in the end: I got clear of Seb [Vettel] and the DRS zone pretty quickly and was able to pull out an advantage and hold it to the end.
“There’s a huge amount of positives to take away from this weekend: we’ve got a great car and we can fight for the world championships. This is a perfect start to my season and I’m already looking forward to Malaysia.”
Fastest lap 1m29.538s (+0.351s, 4th)
Pitstops two: laps 17 and 36 (Op-Pr-Pr)
Points 15 (3rd)
“Congratulations to Jenson and the whole team for such a great result today.
“While it’s a bit disappointing not to have been able to convert pole position into victory, I’m not downhearted – there are still plenty of races ahead and lots more opportunities to score points.
“I struggled out there a little – it wasn’t my day. But what’s most important is that we showed today that we have a very quick racing car – that’s a massive positive for the team.
“I’m not sure what happened at the start, but I lost ground and then suffered from tyre degradation at the end of the first stint. Then, at the end of the race, I wasn’t able to close the gap to Seb – he was very quick on the straights which meant that it was always going to be difficult to pass him – so I dropped back into some clear air, then Mark [Webber] put me under pressure.
“I’ll just re-focus now, get my head down and look to the next race. The world championships are all about consistency, so that’s what I’ll be aiming for.”
MARTIN WHITMARSH: Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
“Jenson was utterly immaculate today.
“He made a brilliant start, slipping past Lewis who got bogged down momentarily, and after that he controlled the race with consummate authority.
“Lewis, too, drove extremely well, but was unfortunately deprived of second place when the Safety Car was deployed late in the race. A Vodafone McLaren Mercedes one-two had been there for the taking; but I guess it’s a very good sign when you feel a little disappointed by a one-three, so we’ll settle for that!
“We never under-estimate our opposition, and undoubtedly there’s a long hard road ahead of us between now and the end of the season. But we’ve started well, and in a few days’ time we’ll roll into Sepang, Malaysia, hungry to score a repeat victory.
“I want to thank everyone at not only Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, but also at Mercedes AMG HighPerformancePowertrains, for a fantastic effort over the past few weeks and months. We’ve all worked incredibly hard – and, today, in dappled late-afternoon sunshine in Melbourne’s Albert Park, all that hard work paid off.”