The 2012 Melbourne Grand Prix has been run and won, and while there were some surprises, the names at the top of the list still look somewhat familiar.
Though qualifying suggested that there might have been some significant movement amongst the mid-level teams, particularly Mercedes and Lotus, the race panned out according to established pedigree.
As with all races, there were winners and losers...
No matter what, if you win a Formula One grand prix, you’re a winner.
Button controlled the race from the start and never looked like he'd be beaten. He even toyed with Sebastian Vettel towards the end before pulling out a fastest lap and putting the race beyond doubt. It was a flawless performance.
Normally, if you finish on the podium, then you’ve had a pretty good race. Unless you’re Lewis Hamilton, that is.
Hamilton’s qualifying performance seemed to signify a re-emergence of the Hamilton of old. The confidence was back, and he seemed more relaxed as he comfortably secured pole position.
That was before the race.
A start that was only slightly slower than his teammate and a bit of bad luck with a safety car saw Hamilton come in third in the race.
Not bad, by any objective standard, but by his own high expectations, it was a failure. His sullen demeanour in the post-race interviews looked worryingly reminiscent of last year.
Qualifying in sixth place left Vettel with more cars in front of him than he’s become accustomed to over the last few years, but while qualifying was disappointing, Vettel put in a solid drive to secure the second step on the podium.
He even pulled off a couple of outstanding overtaking manoeuvres to put to rest any speculation that he is only a driver who can win from the front.
It was a shaky start to the season for the reigning champion, but there were enough positives to let us know that he'll be competitive, despite the fact that the loss of the blown diffuser has had a big impact on the RB8.
One day you’re a rooster (le coq sportif, perhaps?); the next day you’re a feather duster. Grosjean burst to prominence in the F1 world by securing third spot on the grid while his much vaunted teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, languished at the other end of the field.
But while qualifying is important in F1, racing is a completely different affair. Grosjean was swamped of the line and was being bullied back down the order when he was brushed by Pastor Maldonado in a Williams, breaking his front suspension and putting him out of the race.
That's the highs and lows of F1 racing for you.
For Maldonado and Williams, it was a welcome return to form. Even though Maldonado ended up hitting the wall half a lap from the end, the fact that he was in sixth place and harassing the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso gives a glimmer of hope that Williams might have turned the corner.
Bruno Senna, again, underperformed in the sister Williams, but for the first time in nearly two years, Williams looked like they may be capable of scoring points on a regular basis. They probably won’t threaten the podium for a while, but they’re not alone there.
After striking fear into the hearts of the front runners with their clever new F-duct, W-duct and DRS modifications, Mercedes were expected to figure prominently in the final standings.
Such was the speed advantage gained from these modifications that the protests started almost immediately. Straight-line speed, however, works best when the gearbox and engine are working in harmony.
Sadly, this wasn’t the case for Michael Schumacher. Teammate Nico Rosberg had trouble keeping the tyres in a reasonable condition (and inflated, too, at the end of the race), and so what started out as a good weekend ended up not yielding even a single point.
We have been hearing for the last couple of months that the F2012 Ferrari is not a good car. Team boss Stefano Domenicali has been quick to tell anyone who would listen that the car wasn’t up to scratch, and driver Felipe Massa has done his very best to prove his boss correct.
Fernando Alonso, on the other hand, has managed to carry what seems to be a dismal machine into fifth place in Melbourne, mainly as a result of keeping out of trouble and getting the car home in one piece.
Objectively, he’s been a bit lucky given that the Mercedes and Lotus cars seemed to be faster, but you have to finish the race to score points.
Sergio Perez pulled out an amazing effort to take his car from last place through to finishing in eighth place, two spots behind teammate Kamui Kobayashi. Both drivers were helped by clever use of tyres and other drivers' self-destructing.
Kobayashi was his usual exciting self—the sort of driver that you watch fully expecting things to all go wrong. Perez had a couple of close calls following minor bumps with other drivers—most notably with Rosberg on the last lap—but overall a very creditable performance.
Of the rest, Mark Webber had a minor victory, securing his highest ever finish in an Australian Grand Prix. HRT failed to start, and Caterham had a shocker but no different from last year.
Torro Rosso and Force India filled their usual spots, despite high hopes that they would both be on the up-and-up.
Overall, it was an interesting start to the year. Next week’s Malaysian Grand Prix takes us to a completely different style of track, and we’ll have an even better idea of where this season is heading, but early indications are that it might just be a cracker.