The first round of 2012 has come and gone, with plenty of excitement for all. But, what are the hot topics coming out of Melbourne? The Badgerometer is cranked into action, to give you the Top 5!

Pirelli continue to get it right

Sunday was a great race, and although we can start singling out performances up and down the grid, there’s only one that stands out in our eyes as being pretty darn great – the new Pirelli tyres.

Last season they were a revelation, but the madness subsided as the season wore on. Now, a year wiser, the firm has brought some pretty clever compounds that are closer in terms of pace, instead of being vastly different 12 months ago.

The proof? Look at Sergio Perez’s lap times and pace on the harder tyre, which took him from last on the grid to mixing it with the front runners at around mid-distance. Yes, there was some fortune in the first corner incident, but the way the tyres held together was pretty impressive. Jean-Eric Vergne and Vitaly Petrov were the other two drivers to try this strategy, and were raising some eyebrows with their laptimes.

What does that mean? Varied strategies. Towards the end of last year it was the softer tyre all the way, and the harder later in the race. If Sauber keeps this little secret to themselves, they could be on to something special.

There are some cult heroes this season

Not exactly changing of the guard, but there were some names that could garner some strong fan support over the course of 2012. Australia put some names into the mix that we just aren’t used to.

Take Romain Grosjean, for example. Unless you follow racing outside of Formula One, you would remember him mostly for eliminating Jenson and Lewis from Spa in 2009. But the young Frenchman has honed his craft in GP2, taking the title, and hauled his Lotus to 3rd on the grid for his comeback. Not too shabby. Kimi and Michael take note – that’s a comeback.

Photo Courtesy of Force India

Then there’s the aforementioned Perez, and his better-than-Button tyre nursing, and Pastor Maldonado, who finally looked like the driver who dominated GP2 in 2010, still with that mental glare down the camera during interviews. And don’t forget Kamui Kobayashi, the overtaking machine, or the Toro Rosso boys. And then there’s the chaps at Force India.

We could be looking at a bumper crop of talent to take us into the next decade, so pick your favourites wisely!

What’s eating you, Lewis Hamilton?

Anyone else see the sulky teenager on the podium after the race?

Whoever had the first race in the “Lewis Hamilton implosion sweepstake” should cash their ticket in with a smile. Despite many reassurances from Martin Whitmarsh, family members, experts and even the man himself, the young Brit still doesn’t look like he’s in the right frame of mind.

Picture Courtesy of McLaren F1 team

Having his team-mate grinning next to him likely didn’t help. He probably had a massive victory speech ready to go, involving Nicole and dedicating the win to his Mum on Mother’s Day. We’d be peeved if so much of our word-craft wasn’t used.

Pole position was a welcome return to form and the McLaren was the best car this weekend. So, if he was the fastest man in race trim, he should have done more to push both Button and Vettel ahead of him. Not that we don’t love Lewis, but compared to the other front runners, he just came across as… average.

Champions have to prove their worth

Lots of media outlets are obsessing over the fact that there are 6 World Champions on the grid this season – we’re looking at you, Sky – but with the way F1 works, we all know that you’re only as good as your last race. Each one of the champs has to prove their class across a season, and already all of them have shined in some way after the opener;

  • Raikonnen – drove through the field from 17th to 7th
  • Schumacher – took 4th on the grid, and was holding off Vettel for a good few laps
  • Alonso – hauled his Ferrari out of the Q2 gravel trap to take a very respectable 5th
  • Vettel – proved that he could overtake by slicing up to 2nd, from 6th
  • Button – controlled the race from the first corner and never looked back
  • Hamilton – took pole in a confident fashion, was unlucky not to finish on a higher step of the podium
It’s a shame that only one of them may take another title, as there will be plenty more individual flashes of brilliance between now and Brazil. Can’t wait!
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Roles reversed at the sharp end?

You have to hand it McLaren, working hard across the winter to close the gap to Red Bull. Because, on Sunday, it all paid off. But, Red Bull didn’t take it lying down.

It’s almost like roles have been reversed. Red Bull would get the front row, with McLaren behind, usually mixed in with the Ferraris. Then Vettel would roar off, and Jenson and Lewis would slot in behind and take chances when they could. This season, it’s McLaren with the faster car, and Red Bull playing catch up. Replace the Ferraris with Mercedes and everyone’s in a new role!

Not that 2nd and 4th is a shabby return from the energy drinks company. There’s some magic still there. But can they overturn McLaren?

Who thought we’d be saying that!?