Button drives McLaren to victory in Melbourne
In an ominous sign for his competitors, Jenson Button cruised to victory at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. The Briton’s third triumph Down Under affirms the notion that McLaren are the team to beat this season.
The team didn’t have it all their way, with Lewis Hamilton squandering second place to reigning-World Champion Sebastian Vettel, following the intervention of the safety car mid-race.
Button’s win was never really in question, leading by over ten seconds prior to the safety car before holding off a fast-finishing Vettel to the flag.
Mark Webber enjoyed his best outing on home soil despite another botched start, which saw the Australian drop to tenth.
He was lucky to escape being crunched at turn one, running closely with Hamilton in the dying stages of the race.
It was Hamilton who was most disappointed following the race; the 2008 champion was at a loss to explain his inability to match his team-mate’s raw pace.
“It just wasn’t a good day… I really don’t know. I just struggled out there,” the Briton told Sky Sports F1 HD.
He added that the start, in which he ceded the lead to Button, “was the beginning of it all”.
The most heartbreaking story of the evening was Williams’ Pastor Maldonado. Having qualified a brilliant eighth, the Venezuelan was on course for sixth place, even causing Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso headaches.
But at turn seven he lost downforce on the kerb and careered violently into the wall on the final lap.
Out of the carnage, Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi, and Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen in his first race since 2009, took advantage to snatch sixth and seventh place respectively.
Kobayashi’s team-mate Sergio Perez fell to eighth after contact with Nico Rosberg.
Meanwhile, Australia’s other hope Daniel Ricciardo seized ninth place on the final lap, capping a great comeback drive after the Toro Rosso pilot lost his front-wing in a first corner clash with Bruno Senna.
Force India’s Paul di Resta claimed the final point in tenth position, ahead of Toro Rosso debutant Jean-Eric Vergne.
Michael Schumacher’s promising form came to a premature end after his Mercedes suffered gearbox failure. While the German was running in third place on lap eleven, team-mate Rosberg’s early pace slipped away before a final lap tangle with Perez relegated him to twelfth place.
Timo Glock was fourteenth and last, but crucially, the Marussia pilot’s position could be crucial towards the constructors’ standings come the end of the season.
Elsewhere, Felipe Massa had a dog of a day, running a lowly thirteenth for the majority of the evening before a clumsy coming together with compatriot Bruno Senna ended both of their races. The pressure is growing on the Brazilian at a rapid rate.
Romain Grosjean had an early shower after his Lotus was crunched by Maldonado on the third lap. It was a disappointing end after qualifying so magnificently in third place.
The first race of season 2012 has been run, the atmosphere at Melbourne infectious. It was the largest crowd in recent years and they were treated to another spectacle of pure class.
But there’s little time for the teams and drivers to reflect, with round two this weekend at Malaysia.