Another of my favourite circuits, this super-speedy raceway of two long straights joined by hairpin bends, was given a number of chicanes a few years ago to try and slow the cars. But even so fast lap times are invariably set. Races are limited to 2hrs, but last year this race lasted an incredible FOUR hours, due to the torrential rain that lashed down, and cars crashing at almost every turn that decimated the field, stopping the race. Button had every kind of problem during the race - including a drive-through penalty - but was still on the top step of the podium at the end, and it will be interesting to see how he fares this year. And with that in mind, how did qualifying go ??
Q1, several drivers set fast times, but Vettel quickly put them in their place by setting the fastest lap time. At the end of this session, all of the top drivers are secure from the drop-zone !!
Q2, most of the cars went out onto the track early, to log a time. Hamilton sets what seems like the top time, but again Vettel denied him. Button has a big lock-up that ruins his front tyre, and consequently his lap times suffer also. Senna did not repeat his his crash during the practice session, by slamming into the infamous "wall of champions" at the last bend but he still fails to progress. Maldonado did hit the wall, ending his qualifying dash !!
Q3, Hamilton and Vettel continue their personal contest to set the top time, leap-frogging each other with every lap. So at the end the leading cars are; 1 Vettel, 2 Hamilton, 3 Alonso, 4 Webber, 5 Rosberg and 6 Massa. Button is down in a lowly 10th place, but since he came from the back to win last year, I'm not too depressed by this. And so onto the race !!
It's a beautiful day, hot and sunny, and rain is not forecast, and most of the drivers are on the red named super-soft tyres to get more grip. Lights out, and they charge towards the hairpin close to the start-finish line, and everybody makes it through ok, with Vettel taking the lead and Hamilton close behind. Massa and Rosberg tussle through the early laps, but Massa finally manages to get past !!
Lap 6 Massa spins his car on the exit of the first bend, dropping several places, and he has it all to do again. Rosberg has also dropped places, and is told by his pits to take care of his tyres. Webber's lap times are suffering, and a large space opens up between him and Alonso !!
Lap 12 some of the drivers report that the red 'option' tyres are going-off, and Massa is the first to pit, other drivers do too and change to the yellow 'prime' tyres hoping for longevity. Lap 15 Hamilton is told to 'push' Vettel, in anticipation of a pit stop, and he closes up to him. Button pits after being passed by Raikkonen. Vettel pits, giving Hamilton the lead, and comes out just behind Grosjean !!
Lap 17 Hamilton pits but Alonso keeps going, and Hamilton exits just in front of Vettel, who pushes the man in front. Alonso pits with a 15 second lead to Hamilton, and exits just in front. Hamilton retakes the place with a good DRS run down the back straight. Grosjean pits from the lead, giving Hamilton the place !!
Lap 24 Karthikayan spins, and retires. A couple of laps later De La Rosa retires with brake problems. Lap 34 Button pits again, and puts on another set of super-soft, hoping to move up through the field. At the half-way point (lap 35) Hamilton has a comfortable lead over second place Alonso, with Vettel close behind him !!
Lap 39 Button is told to 'run long' between gear changes, but Button complains of lack of grip. Webber has a 'grass tracking' moment, allowing Grosjean to catch up. Raikkonen comes in for his single pit stop, exiting just in front of Rosberg. Schumacher has a 'banzai' moment to pass Kobayashi, who retakes the place with a DRS run !!
Lap 45 Schumacher's DRS is jammed open, severly reducing downforce, and pits to give the engineers a chance to fix it, but they can't and has to retire. The stewards give Vergne a drive through penalty for speeding in the pit lane !!
Lap 50 Hamilton pits, giving Alonso the lead, but has a slow stop and exits just in front of Webber. Webber has a quick pit stop a couple of laps later, exiting just in front of Raikkonen. Hamilton pushes hard, making up places, but Alonso stays out and Mclaren consider that he may go to the end !!
Lap 57 Rosberg tries a pass on Massa and has to cut the corner, while Perez makes his presence felt and passes both of them. Lap 59 Rosberg finally gets past Massa, who has to pit for new tyres. Hamilton continues his charge, and is only a second or two behind Vettel and Alonso !!
Lap 62 Hamilton opens his DRS on the back straight and easily moves past Vettel, who doesn't contest the challenge, and Hamilton moves up behind Alonso. Lap 64 Vettel pits, hoping the new tyres will give him speed. The faster Mclaren of Hamilton easily takes Alonso, again on the back straight, and opens up a lead. Grosjean closes the gap to Alonso, and Ferrari regret not bringing their man in earlier, and to add insult to injury Lap 66 Grosjean takes Alonso, and moves up into second place !!
Vettel brushes the "Wall of Champions" but is able to keep going, and closes the gap to Alonso with just two laps to go, and easily takes the place. Lap 70 Hamilton takes a well-deserved flag, to be the 7th different winner of 2012 !!
1. Lewis Hamilton Britain McLaren-Mercedes
2. Romain Grosjean France Lotus-Renault
3. Sergio Perez Mexico Sauber-Ferrari
4. Sebastian Vettel Germany Red Bull-Renault
5. Fernando Alonso Spain Ferrari-Ferrari
6. Nico Rosberg Germany Mercedes-Mercedes
7. Mark Webber Australia Red Bull-Renault
8. Kimi Raikkonen Finland Lotus-Renault
9. Kamui Kobayashi Japan Sauber-Ferrari
10. Felipe Massa Brazil Ferrari-Ferrari
11. Paul di Resta Britain Force India-Mercedes
12. Nico Hulkenberg Germany Force India-Mercedes
13. Pastor Maldonado Venezuela Williams-Renault
14. Daniel Ricciardo Australia Toro Rosso-Ferrari
15. Jean-Eric Vergne France Toro Rosso-Ferrari
16. Jenson Button Britain McLaren-Mercedes
17. Bruno Senna Brazil Williams-Renault
18. Heikki Kovalainen Finland Caterham-Renault
19. Vitaly Petrov Russia Caterham-Renault
20 Charles Pic France Marussia -Cosworth
Rtd Timo Glock Germany Marussia -Cosworth 56 laps completed
Rtd Michael Schumacher Germany Mercedes-Mercedes 43 laps completed
Rtd Pedro de la Rosa Spain HRT-Cosworth 24 laps completed
Rtd Narain Karthikeyan India HRT-Cosworth 23 laps completed
1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 88
2 Fernando Alonso Ferrari-Ferrari 86
3 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 85
4 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 79
5 Nico Rosberg Mercedes-Mercedes 67
6 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 55
7 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 53
8 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 45
9 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 37
10 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 29
11 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 21
= Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 21
13 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 15
14 Felipe Massa Ferrari-Ferrari 11
15 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 7
16 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 4
17 Michael Schumacher Mercedes-Mercedes 2
= Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 2
19 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 0
= Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 0
= Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 0
= Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 0
= Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 0
= Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 0
1 Red Bull Racing 164
2 Vodafone McLaren Mercedes 133
3 Lotus F1 Team 108
4 Scuderia Ferrari 97
5 Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team 69
6 Sauber F1 Team 58
7 Williams F1 Team 44
8 Sahara Force India F1 Team 28
9 Scuderia Toro Rosso 6
10 Marussia F1 Team 0
= Caterham F1 Team 0
= HRT F1 Team 0
Always a great race, and this year was no exception !!
Grateful thanks to PupsiK for the awesome sigs !!