Button wins Thriller Down Under

Formula One is Never Dull.

Button capitalises on damp conditions to storm to first McLaren win; Kubica and Ferraris hold on despite late Hamilton and Webber charge; Technical issues for Vettel once more

Jenson Button took advantage of a changing track to rise to the top step of the podium again, at the 2010 Australian Grand Prix.

The reigning world champion judged the conditions perfectly and pitted before the rest of the field for slicks, allowing him to climb up through the field.

Button was also able to take advantage of Sebastian Vettel’s misfortune as the Red Bull driver was eliminated from the lead with a brake failure.

Robert Kubica was second for Renault, with the Ferraris of Massa and Alonso right behind.

Lewis Hamilton came close to sealing an unlikely podium, until a late tangle with Red Bull’s Mark Webber.

Wet Start

The tension became even more unbearable ahead of the start of the 2010 Australian Grand Prix, with the heavens opening and rain lashing down throughout the circuit. Ultimately this forced the drivers to opt for intermediate tyres, but such a decision could not prevent the first corner incident between Button, Alonso and Schumacher.

After making a poor start Alonso was powerless to hold off his team-mate Massa, and as the cars streamed into turn one the Spaniard cut across the McLaren of Button which forced him into a spin – with Michael Schumacher helplessly being collected and breaking his front wing.

Both men were dropped to the back of the field, but would soon come back into play.

The first lap drama did not end there, however, with the safety car being immediately sprung into action following a huge collision between the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi and Nico Hulkenberg in the Sauber.

The former appeared to suffer yet another front wing failure, and was resigned to being a passenger as his car smashed into the Williams at turn 6 – eliminating both cars on the spot.

After five laps the safety car pulled in, forcing the field to once more master the challenging conditions at racing speed.

Perfect tactics from Button

On lap 7 Button would make an inspired choice as the Briton rolled the dice and pitted for slick tyres. Initially it appeared to be the wrong move for the 2009 champion, as he immediately went off at turn 3, after exiting the pits. However, by lap 9 Button was able to move swiftly up the order as a number of teams also took the opportunity to change onto the soft compound.

Despite the rain subsiding, the Red Bull drivers would stay out longer than anyone else  on their tyres. Although Vettel was able to emerge in the lead, the decision cost local hero, Mark Webber, who fell behind Button, Kubica and Rosberg.

Meanwhile Fernando Alonso was able to charge through the field and back into the points. However, the Spaniard did not have an answer for team-mate Felipe Massa who was clearly holding the pack up.

One man who did make it past the Brazilian was the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton, who was looking to banish the bad memories of the past few days. The Briton made his move on lap 22, and was soon on the back of Nico Rosberg, who was next up the road.

Once again Hamilton’s race craft was sublime, as the 2008 champion made an opportunistic move around the outside of the Mercedes driver into turn 11 and held on to the place.

Vettel’s race ended by brake failure

Although he lost time in the pits sequence, Sebastian Vettel remained comfortably out in front and looked set to make up for his misfortune in Bahrain, by winning race. However, the young German’s race would again be blighted by bad luck when on lap 26 a left-front brake failure sent the Red Bull careering off at the Ascari corner.

This allowed Button into the lead, and with this the Brit never looked back.

Tyre change costs McLaren 1-2?

By half distance the majority of the teams took the opportunity to change rubber, with Hamilton, Rosberg and Webber all deciding to pit. Despite this Button, out in front, decided not to pit – reporting that he had no issues with his tyres. Robert Kubica, in second and the Ferraris also decided to stay out, but ultimately became sitting ducks as both Hamilton and Webber, on fresh rubber, quickly reduced the deficiate by an extraordinary rate of knots.

Therefore with 8 laps to go Kubica, Massa, Alonso, Hamilton and Webber ran line astern, with the latter two falling fowl of the dirty-air effect and being denied the chance to overtake their slower rivals.

Consequently disaster would strike for Hamilton. Although he managed to pull alongside Alonso in to turn 13 with two laps to go, the 25-year-old was hit up the rear by Webber – sending both cars into the gravel and ending their chance to climb higher up the order.

This allowed Kubica to take a superb second for Renault and further underline the potential of the R30 for the season ahead. Massa, despite looking ragged throughout the race, was able to hold off Alonso for third, with Nico Rosberg able to take advantage of Webber and Hamilton’s collision.

Hamilton was able to hold on for sixth, with Webber recovering in ninth, after pitting to change his damaged front  fwing.

It was another strong performance for Rubens Barrichello (Williams) and Tonio Liuzzi (Force India) with both drivers enjoying a quiet race on their way to seventh and eighth respectively.

Aforementioned Michael Schumacher’s race was compromised at the start, and subsequently the seven-times champion failed to make much of an impact for the rest of the race – finishing tenth after battling Jaime Alguersuari’s Toro Rosso.

Of all the new teams, Heikki Kovalainen once again managed to finish the race for Lotus, with Karun Chandhok bringing his Hispania car home, albeit four laps down.

But the day belonged to Button, who mastered the Albert Park circuit to win his first ever race for McLaren. This will give the 30-year-old plenty of confidence ahead of the next round of the championship in Malaysia, next weekend.

Round 2 - Australia (58 Laps)

Pos  Driver        Team                       Time
1.   Button        McLaren-Mercedes           1h33:36.531
2.   Kubica        Renault                    +    12.034
3.   Massa         Ferrari                    +    14.488
4.   Alonso        Ferrari                    +    16.304
5.   Rosberg       Mercedes                   +    16.683
6.   Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           +    29.898
7.   Liuzzi        Force India-Mercedes       +    59.847
8.   Barrichello   Williams-Cosworth          +  1:00.536
9.   Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +  1:07.319
10.  Schumacher    Mercedes                   +  1:09.391
11.  Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +  1:11.301
12.  De la Rosa    Sauber-Ferrari             +  1:14.084
13.  Kovalainen    Lotus-Cosworth             +    2 laps
14.  Chandhok      HRT-Cosworth               +    4 laps
Ret. Glock         Virgin-Cosworth       After    41 laps
Ret. Vettel        Red Bull-Renault      After    26 laps
Ret. Di Grassi     Virgin-Cosworth       After    25 laps
Ret. Sutil         Force India-Mercedes  After    12 laps
Ret. Petrov        Renault               After    10 laps
Ret. Senna         HRT-Cosworth          After     5 laps
Ret. Buemi         Toro Rosso-Ferrari    After     1 lap
Ret. Hulkenberg    Williams-Cosworth     After     1 lap
Ret. Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari        After     1 lap
Ret. Trulli        Lotus-Cosworth        After     1 lap

World Championship standings, round 2 of 19:                

Drivers Championship:        

1.   Alonso        37
2.   Massa         33
3.   Button        31
4.   Hamilton      23
5.   Rosberg       20
6.   Kubica        18
7.   Vettel        12
8.   Schumacher     9
9.   Liuzzi         8
10.  Webber         6
11.  Barrichello    5    

Constructors Championship:

1.  Ferrari                    70
2.  McLaren-Mercedes           54
3.  Mercedes                   29
4.  Red Bull-Renault           18
5.  Renault                    18
6.  Force India-Mercedes        8