Notes taken during the SPEED broadcast of the F1 Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, on 3/18/12.
Welcome to the bottom of the world! Southern hemisphere. I kid! First GP of the season is in the hometown of Shane Rogers, aka @Shagers, aka the International Superstar. Can't believe there's no signage to that effect on the track.
pressdog® DRINK, ye BASTARDS™ beer of the race is the Sierra Nevada Torpedo. Get your DRINK, ye BASTARDS drinkware here.
Starting lineup: Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Roman Grosjean (!), Michael Schumacher, Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel, Nico Rosberg, Pastor Maldonado, Nico Hulkenberg, Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne, Fernando Alonso, Kamui Kobayashi, Bruno Senna, Paul di Resta, Felipe Massa, Kimi Räikkönen, Heikki Kovalainen, Vitally Petrov, Timo Glock, Charles Pic, Sergio Perez.
Perez qualified P17 but is moved back 5 spots due to changed gearbox. Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan in the HRT-Cosworth did not start due to failure to meet the 107% rule. Appeal to the stewards... DENIED. In F1 your best speed of first round of qualification must be within 107% of the speed of the leaders or you're not allowed to start, unless the stewards give you a special dispensation.
The announcing posse is back in tact. David Hobbs (insert tinkle of scotch on the rocks here), Bob Varsha and Steve "Sporting Regulations" Matchett are in the booth (actually in the studio back in the US) and Will Buxton is on the grid in Australia.
Story lines. David: Silver Arrows. Five Mercedes engines in the top 10. Steve: Screwderia "see what we did there?" Normally it's "Scuderia" as in Ferrari, but they are down on speed so they are, screwed. Har. GET IT? Bob: Wizards of Oz. Six past champions in the race (Vettel, Schumacher, Alonso, Hamilton, Button and Räikkönen).
Gridded. Let's light this candle. Lights are out and we're GREEN GREEN GREEN GREEN.
Festival of 9 wide into turn one. Booth guys start grunting. We got a car airborne briefly. Some gravel trap action.
Button got a monster start. Maldo inhales Alonso. Webber may have damage. McLaren folding the wings back into the delta and getting ... supersonic. (F-14 Top Gun reference!)
Lap 2 -- Local yellow. Senna in the pits for something. From the FUBAR on the start. Ricciardo into the pits also. Vettel in hales someone for P4. Hulkenburg is off. Grojean hip checked out! Right front is askew. Got BASHED by someone going by. He's done.
Lap 3 -- Jensen goes purple (fastest time of the race). 2.2 seconds up on Hamilton. DRS (Drag Reduction System) zone enabled.
Replay start. Rosberg swerves to the middle. Go five wide into one. Rosberg got a monster start. Onboard Webber at start. Hulk clips him in the right front, but no damage (apparently) Senna goes ass around. Onboard Grosjean. Replay. Maldo is the one who bashed his right front with his left rear on the way by.
Button up 2.4 sec on Hamilton.
Lap 4 -- Vettel working on Schumacher. Räikkönen in P12 after starting P18. Good to have the Räikkönbadger back on the grid. I've missed his monotone, all-one-word answers. "Wellwehadagoodcartodayandunfortunately .." And, of course, Kimi rocks the oversidzed, flat-brimmed cap.
Lap 5 - Button, Hamilton, Schumacher, Vettel, Rosberg, Alonso, Maldonado, Webber, Massa, Perz, Kobayashi, Räikkönen.
Maldo off and back on. Onboard Vettel who goes off and gets inhaled by Rosberg. Alonso in p6. Replay. Vettel power slide. Bit of a tank slapper and off.
Lap 9 -- Button is plus 4 seconds on Hamilton.
Lap 10 -- Kobayashi working on Massa. Perez up to P 10 from starting P 22. Schumacher goes off and is inhaled.
Lap 11 -- Mike is way off speed. Onboard with Vettel. Schumacher goes off and must have broken. He's done. Massa pits. His tires are shit on Lap 12.
Button, Hamilton, Vettel, Rosberg, Alonso, Webber, Maldo, Kobayashi, Räikkönen, Perez, di Resta, Vergne, Kovalainen, Petrov, Massa, Glock.
Lap 13 -- Onboard Räikkönen working on Kobayashi. Kobayashi pits. Festival pitting for tires here. Räikkönen gets monster air.
Lap 15 -- Vettel and Webber are P3 and 4. Webber pits. Hobbs says Räikkönen has the wins back. Button Pitts. Vettel pits.
Lap 17 -- Hamilton, Button, Räikkönen, Perez, Vergne, Vettel, Alonso, Rosberg, Webber, Maldo, Petrov, Massa, Kobayashi, di Resta, Glock, Senna.
Hamilton is up by 18 seconds but will pit ... and he does.
Lap 20 -- Räikkönen pits. Made his tires go 19 laps. the Räikkönbadger is on fire.
Lap 22 -- Button, Hamilton, Vettel, Perez, Alonso, Rosberg, Webber, Maldonado, Massa, Kobayashi, Räikkönen, Perez, Vergne, Senna, Petrov, Kovalainen.
Hobbs is incredulous that Perez has not pitted yet since he's off the pace noticeably.
Lap 25 -- Räikkönen dives inside Kobayashi .. conatact ... everyone continues. Replay. Massa inhales Kobayashi and Räikkönen follows him right through as well.
Lap 27 -- Schumacher interview off camera. Says why he went out but couldn't catch it. Booth guys don't help us out. Says he is happy with car so far this year (but it's early!).
Lewis goes purple. He's 9 seconds back from Button. Räikkönen inhales Massa as does Kobayashi. Festival of Unhappiness in the Ferrari pit. Booth guys said during practice that Massa may get tossed by Ferrari if he doesn't do well this year.
Räikkönen is sporting some most-excellent donuts after his NASCAR-ish banging with Kobayashi. Matchett is worried about the "matrices" under the body work. IT BEARS WATCHING. Matchett is just concerned with matrices in daily life, I am sure.
Lap 29 -- Button still 9 seconds up on Hamilton who has Vettel chasing him.
Lap 30 -- Räikkönen on the radio asks why they are waving the blue flag at him. Pit responds that the blue flag is for cars behind him and he should carry on.
Button, Hamilton, Vettel, Alonso, Rosberg, Webber, Maldonado, Räikkönen
Webber is working working on Rosberg. Lap 31 -- Vergne beached. Webber dives inside Rosberg who has to take evasive maneuver Tango Bravo X-ray and go down the escape road but keeps the position. Much speculation about if the stewards will allow that.
Bob explains the new one-move rule in F1. Basically you get to make one move if someone is behind you to "defend" but two moves is then considered blocking. I look forward to the stewards NEVER calling a blocking penalty this year. Blocking is actually celebrated with accolades in F1.
Button still +9.5 seconds on Hamilton who is about 3 seconds up on Vettel.
Lap 33 -- Hamilton radios that rear tires are going to shit (I'm paraphrasing!). Matchett says less downforce in the back this year makes the ass end slide around more and causes more wear on the rears. Viewing enhanced.
Webber is now clear of Rosberg adn goes purple to celebrate. No refueling in F1 a'tall, so as the race progresses and fuel gets burned off the fast lap times come down.
Lap 35 -- Alonso now goes purple. Varsha said Ferrari had a fast pit stop.
Hamilton is now -10.5 seconds from Button. Vettel within 1.5 seconds of Hamilton. Shit tires! Räikkönen is up to P6 from P18 start. Booth guys finally notice the Räikkönbadger.
Lap 36 -- Button pits. Stays with the harder compound tires.
F1 note: each race has tires of two compounds. One is a harder compound that theoretically wears better but has less grip. The other is softer which theoretically offers more grip but shorter wear. Each team has to do at least one stint on each set of tires. Last year the Pirelli tires went to shit early and there were big performance differences between the two types. This year Pirelli said they will narrow the difference in performance and make them all more durable.) By the way F1 adopted this alternate tire rule after Champ Car started doing it. Designed to encourage overtaking and add a strategy element.
Hamilton pits right behind Button on the same lap, so Button leaves just as Hamilton enters pit lane. (F1 note: only ONE pit crew for each team, so cars cannot pit at the same time. There are, however, about 19 crew guys involved in each pit stop. I'm not sure there's an actual limit to how many you can have. F1 pit stops, since they don't refuel are just three or four seconds.)
Petrov is off. Car smoking.
Cue the circus music! SAFETY CAR!!! Graphic goes up and the booth guys don't notice for a few seconds. Then Matchett sees it. "SAFETY CAR, boys!" Matchett LOVES the Safety Car. (Pace car to American fans.) He does a little dance in the booth and (probably) sings SAFETY CARRRR!!!!"
I guess Petrov's car was in a bad spot so they had to bring out the Safety Car. Unlike IndyCar races where we go full-course yellow if someone sneezes AND sprays spittle on the track, F1 is super reluctant to go full-course. There could be an actual deer carcass on the side of the track and they'd stay green, I swear. And I LOVE IT MORE THAN I CAN SAY, hence the ALL CAPS. Stay green! IndyCar ... I'm talking to you.
Festival of pitting as the Safety Car comes out. (F1 note: Pits are always open, so if the safety car comes out or is about to come out everyone DIVES into the pits.)
Vettel is in the right place at the right time to dive right into the pits and comes out in P2. Inhaled Hamilton in the pits.
Räikkönen pits. Much pitting. Petrov says his steering broke coming out of a turn (luckily) so he just ended up biffing the wall on a relatively straight bit.
Lap 40 -- Preparing for restart, lapped cars are moved to the back. (I think, technically, they get a wave around, but don't get a lap back.) F1 does this to enhance the restart battle.
Lap 41 -- Kind of a long yellow here. 18 to go.
Safety Car coming in. Hobbs says Vettel is insane on the restarts. Green. Button LEAPS to hyperspace. Got a great restart.
Lap 42 -- Button, Vettel, Hamilton, Webber, Alonso, Maldonado, Perez, Rosberg, Kobayashi, Räikkönen, di Resta, Vergne, Massa, Ricciardo, Senna, Glock.
Replay of Kobyashi inhaling Räikkönen on the restart.
Button is already +3 seconds on Hamilton.
Hamilton and Vettel may have a knife fight here for P2. Maldonado is definitely having a knife fight with Alonso for P5.
Lap 44 -- Kimi radio. No idea what he says on the radio. I always wait for the booth translation. Booth says Räikkönen complaining about bits flying off Kobyashi. Looking for a black flag! Doubt that happens.
Lap 45 -- Maldonado and Alonso in a serious brawl for P5. Button is +3.8 seconds on the field. Hamilton .7 seconds in back of Vettel for P2. Hamilton has got to be pissed about being passed in pits due to a lucky (for Vettel) Safety Car.
Lap 46 -- Random shot of David Hill. (Correction: Damon Hill per notes below. I must have misheard and am obviously oblivious to F1 history.)
Cue the circus music! Replay Massa and Senna. Senna goes wide and Massa appears to just hip check him right out into the grass. Contact. Festival of Carbon Fiber breaks out. Both cars continue. Senna got the position.
Lap 48 -- Button, Hamilton, Webber, Alonso, Maldonado, Perez, Rosberg, Kobayashi, Räikkönen, di Resta.
Senna is in. Front wing is a bit mangled but still attached. Back out. Matchett is all up in Alonso's business about how AWESOME his drive is today. He's up to P5 from P12. Maybe Matchett is making up for the "Screwderia" comment earlier.
Massa is in the garage. Toast from the contact with Senna. Stewards will look at the incident with Massa and Senna.
Lap 50 -- Button is +3.6 on Vettel who is +0.7 on Hamilton. Button should win barring air strike.
Lap 54 -- Senna was AIRBORNE briefly on the opening lap and then hipchecked by Massa and is still in the race. Räikkönen working on Kobayshi. That's been a good battle all day.
Vettel goes purple and is within 2.8 seconds of Button, causing the booth guys to have hope for a battle for the lead late. Hope they are not holding their breath.
Lap 55 -- Matchett says if Hamilton's tires are going off (Hamilton radioed as much a few laps ago) then "we can only assume that Button's tires are going off." Beer spew. That's a wishful assumption, Steve, but Button is Mr. Tire Management and probably not pushing as hard as the enraged Hamilton.
Maldonado and Alonso continue their knife fight. Button is up by 3.2 seconds. Webber is approaching Hamilton for P3. Will Buxton checks in from the pits and is ON FIRE!!!! about this year's F1 season, which is so unlike him.* (*denotes sarcasm)
Lap 57 (white flag) -- Button, Vettel, Hamilton, Webber, Alonso, Maldonado, Perez, Rosberg, Kobayashi, Räikkönen, Vergne, Ricciardo, di Resta, Glock, Riccardio, Senna.
Button is putting up a Festival of Purple Laps. He's +2.8 on Vettel.
Cue the circus music! Maldonado is TOAST. Left front is trashed. On the last lap. Replay. Hits the curb, goes ass around and nose first into the wall. We got day-bree everywhere. Matchett thinks maybe they will finish under yellow. HA. Whatever. It would take an actually baby on the track for F1 to go full-course yellow on the last lap.
Rosberg is toast too for some reason. Bunch of cars slowing. Theorizing it's due to day-bree.
Button wins. Vettel, Hamilton, Webber, Alonso, Kobayashi, Räikkönen, Perez, Ricciardo, di Resta, Vergne, Rosberg, Maldonado, Glock, Pic, Senna, Massa, Kovalainen, Petrov, Schumacher, Grosjean, Hulkenberg.
Podium. God Save the Queen. Hamilton accepts the P3 dish/trophy like he's accepting a warm cup of piss.
Driver points: Hamilton 25, Vettel 18, Hamilton 15, Webber 12, Alonso 10. Constructors: McLaren-Mercedes 40, Red Bull-Renault 30, Sauber-Ferrari 12, Ferrari 10.
That's it from Melbourne. Next up is Malaysia, 3/23 through 25. Race: 4 a.m. Eastern on 3/25.