Sunday, 18 March 2012

Dominant Button wins season opener in Australia

Jenson Button won a tension-filled season opener in Melbourne, beating Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel to the flag.

Jenson Button won the Australian Grand Prix for McLaren with a very dominant drive. The 2009 World Champion, who has won in Melbourne twice before, tops the championship after the first race. Button led home the defending World Champion Sebastian Vettel, who was 2nd for Red Bull.

Button was very impressive today
Lewis Hamilton was on pole but was beaten away by Button, who was alongside him on the front row. Hamilton just looked to get too much wheelspin, and Button led into the first corner. Michael Schumacher had a great getaway from 4th, and jumped 3rd placed Romain Grosjean. Grosjean had a very poor start, and was down to sixth by Turn One. Nico Rosberg and Fernando Alonso also had very strong starts, while Mark Webber had a shocker, being left nowhere to go and making contact with Nico Hulkenberg at Turn One, while there was a collision, which saw a spin for Bruno Senna, and a Toro Rosso go straight through the gravel. Sebastian Vettel got away well from sixth and was soon up to fourth. After his contact with Maldonado and Hulkenberg, Webber reported "some damage" to his team, but this wasn't found.

Sebastian Vettel had a busy race, finishing 2nd
On the second lap, Romain Grosjean's awful start was continued, when Pastor Maldonado tried to put an overtaking move on him, but they banged wheels and Grosjean's front suspension broke, meaning after such a brilliant qualifying, his race was over after less than two laps. Also on the second lap was the retirement of Nico Hulkenberg, who stopped with suspected damage after his first corner contact with Webber. On the second lap also, Sebastian Vettel proved his overtaking prowess, with a brilliant move around the outside of Nico Rosberg at Turn Three for fourth place, with the move certainly overtake of the day. Ferrari looked to have good race pace at this point, with Alonso up to sixth and Massa up to eighth on Lap Four. At this point Button led Hamilton by three seconds, who was a further two ahead of Schumacher. Despite Ferrari's strong early pace, Felipe Massa appeared to be struggling with his rear tyres, with both Maldonado and Perez, who had made a brilliant start from 22nd, passing him on Lap Eight.

Schumacher was running 3rd until his mechanical issue
On the tenth lap, Michael Schumacher retired from the race. The German veteran was looking very good and aggressive, until he ran wide at Turn One. This allowed Vettel through for third place, and a couple of corners later, Schumacher pulled up and reported "gear problems" on his radio. It was a sad end to a very promising weekend for Schumacher, who has showed good pace all weekend. The first round of stops started on Lap 15, with Felipe Massa coming into the pits and getting a new set of soft tyres. His team mate Alonso was in shortly after. Kimi Raikkonen was now up to eighth after starting eighteenth, showing good pace in the Lotus car. Mark Webber was next in, for prime tyres, but the two McLarens stayed out on track. When the two McLaren men came in, Hamilton had a terrible in lap, meaning Button's lead was strengthened, and Hamilton was now being chased hard by Vettel. Both McLarens put on the prime tyres, while Red Bull split their strategy, with Webber on primes and Vettel on options.

Sergio Perez was in very strong form today
On Lap 19, Hamilton found himself behind Sergio Perez - who was yet to stop. Hamilton was stuck behind the Sauber, and was losing time to Button, who was now a massive ten seconds ahead. Hamilton eventually got through three laps later, as did Sebastian Vettel - though the German was much quicker about it. Fernando Alonso soon got past the Mexican as well - the Spaniard's brilliant race continuing, before Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber also made it through - Perez now down to seventh. Button's lead over Hamilton was up to twelve seconds by Lap 24, by which time Vettel was all over Hamilton. Also on that lap, Kimi Raikkonen's strong race continued, the Finn putting an impressive move on Kamui Kobayashi on the outside of Turn Four. Raikkonen and Kobayashi passed Felipe Massa almost simultaneously using the DRS two laps later. Massa soon pitted, as did Nico Rosberg, with their tyres degrading badly. Alonso was then in from fourth and put the medium tyres on, while McLaren had both drivers in one after another, meaning they only had a matter of seconds to turn it over. Sebastian Vettel hadn't stopped at this point.

Fernando Alonso was in fine form today
On the next lap, Lap 37, the safety car was called out for the first time this season. Vitaly Petrov's Caterham debut ended badly as he had to park the CT01 on the start finish straight, somewhat awkwardly. We don't really know what happened, just that he ground to a halt. The safety car was expected to play into Hamilton and Alonso's hands, but in fact, it worked out very well for Sebastian Vettel. He pitted after the safety car was called out, and as he didn't have to slow down for the yellow flags for Vitaly Petrov, Vettel took 2nd place from Lewis Hamilton. Under the new rule for 2012, lapped cars are allowed to unlap themselves under the safety car. This meant that the safety car period was slightly longer than it would've been in 2011, and the safety car eventually came in on Lap 41. The order when it came in was Button, Vettel, Hamilton, Webber, Alonso, Maldonado, Perez, Rosberg, Raikkonen and Kobayashi.

It was a terrible day for Caterham
Kamui Kobayashi was right on the ball when the safety car came in, putting a brilliant move on Kimi Raikkonen into Turn Three for ninth place. Caterham's torrid weekend was complete on Lap 43, when Heikki Kovalainen retired, the fifth retirement of the day. After the race, Kovalainen was handed a five place grid drop for next week's Malaysian Grand Prix, for overtaking under the safety car. Hamilton soon went very  quick, as did Mark Webber, meaning there was a good fight on for the last thirteen laps. Then, a ridiculous incident involving Felipe Massa and Bruno Senna occurred. The Brazilians tangled at Turn Four, with Senna making a move on the outside, but the Ferrari man closed the door. Then the two simply couldn't seem to get away from each other, as they stuck together. Bruno Senna made it back to the pits and continued in the race, but Massa retired with damage, completing his weekend, which was forgettable at best.

Jean-Eric Vergne was in a midfield battle today
At this point now, Pastor Maldonado was all over the back of Fernando Alonso, for fifth place. The Venezuelan, who has been impressive all weekend, was in a position to score more points in this race than Williams scored in all of 2011. Furthermore, Maldonado's tyres were much better than Alonso's. On Lap 51 Kamui Kobayashi had a look at Nico Rosberg, but messed it up, allowing Rosberg back for eighth place. Raikkonen, followed by the two Toro Rosso's, were now right behind the Japanese man. With five laps to go, Webber was all over Hamilton, just 0.4 seconds seperating them. On the very last lap, Pastor Maldonado crashed. Desperately chasing down Alonso, he put his wheels on the artificial grass at Turn Seven, and hit the wall heavily. It was a shame, as he was very close to getting his best ever Formula One result. Then, on the last lap, drama. Maldonado's crash promoted Kobayashi to sixth, while Kimi Raikkonen passed Sergio Perez for seventh on the last corner. Earlier on the lap Daniel Ricciardo had got ahead of his team mate Jean-Eric Vergne, and finished ninth, for his first ever points finish, but it didn't end there. On the finishing straight again, Paul di Resta passed Vergne for tenth place and the final point, in a crazy finish.

Button can celebrate his third Melbourne win
Jenson Button took the victory, his third of the last four Australian Grands Prix, with a calm but dominant drive, ahead of Sebastian Vettel, who held off Hamilton for 2nd. Mark Webber wasn't far off beating Hamilton, but will settle for fourth, his best ever result at his home race. Fernando Alonso drove surely one of his best ever races to take fifth, ahead of the scramble in the midfield. Button said of his great start to the year: "Every win means a lot. As a team, the win shows how important the winter is. We've had a strong winter and yesterday we showed that in qualifying. It's nice to come away with victory in the first race of the new season. The guys have done an amazing job this winter. This win will definitely help them push hard in the extra hours their doing for that extra part. A big thank you to everyone at Woking for this victory. It's a pretty amazing day."

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