Button steers McLaren to Melbourne win
Jenson Button led from turn one to the chequered flag on Sunday winning the first race of the 2012 season. He passed pole-sitter, Lewis Hamilton, on the launch and didn’t look troubled for the remainder of the race. Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel had a better race day, moving from sixth on the grid to second position in the season opener.
Hamilton looked unable to match Button’s pace all afternoon, and was the unfortunate loser when a safety car was deployed on lap 37, dropping a place to the Vettel’s Red Bull. Mark Webber was also beaten by his team-mate, despite out-qualifying him bringing the car home in fourth position; his best ever result at his home Grand Prix.
Button, who has won three of the last four Australian Grand Prix, said: “For the last couple of years our first races have been tricky, I’d say we’ve been pretty dominant today.
He added: “It’s an amazing way to start the season. As a team, the win shows how important the winter is. The guys have done an amazing job. This win will definitely help them push hard in the extra hours they are doing.”
Fernando Alonso managed to wrestle his Ferrari round to fifth position, a hugely impressive performance based on the cars display in qualifying and further enhancing his reputation as the best driver in the field. His team-mate, Felipe Massa, was again outperformed and didn’t finish after a tangle with fellow Brazilian Bruno Senna.
After an impressive qualifying, the Mercedes disappointed on longer runs and heavier fuel loads on race day, repeating the trend that plagued their 2011. Michael Schumacher suffered a gearbox failure early on and Nico Rosberg suffered another malfunction on the final lap, placing only twelfth.
Meanwhile, the midfield battle was particularly very close and in terms of race-pace, competitive. Jean-Eric Vergne for Torro Rosso and Kamui Kobayashi’s Sauber posted fastest laps of the race at stages and the midfield seems to have closed the gap to the front four teams. Pastor Maldonado was set for an impressive sixth place finish in the vastly improved Williams but crashed on the last lap, whilst harrying Fernando Alonso, a situation that seemed unthinkable last year for Williams.
Force India had a disappointing weekend, but Paul Di Resta took advantage of the confusion caused by a slowing Roseberg and the crashed Maldonado to sneak home in 10th and take the last available world championship point.
The HRT’s weren’t allowed to race after qualifying outside the 107% ruling and off the other back-runners it was Caterham who continue to show the best pace, despite reliability issues on Sunday.