Red hot Jenson Button secures Australian Grand Prix with thrilling win
Mar 29 2010 By Frank Haynes
JENSON BUTTON secured a thrilling Australian Grand Prix victory in Melbourne yesterday – but no one was more shocked than the world champion.
The 30-year-old was behind the wheel of his McLaren for only the second time in a competitive race and admitted he did not expect to be winning races so early into reign with the British team.
After a disappointing start to the season in Bahrain the critics were sharpening their knives ahead of Albert Park but a race filled with drama and overtaking to help diminish complaints the sport was boring.
The excitement was aided by a spell of rain shortly before the start which forced teams to quickly change to intermediate tyres.
Seconds after the five red lights went out, Fernando Alonso spun at the first turn after hitting Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes as Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel comfortably held on to first place.
A crash between BMW Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi and Williams’ Nico Hulkenberg brought the safety car out and once it left at the end of lap five, Button was the first to enter the pits to switch to slicks.
It proved an inspirational decision as he charged into second place before Vettel suffered brake failure to bring an end to his race, leaving Button firmly in control as he breezed to victory in Melbourne for the second successive year.
The 30-year-old had felt his car was not quite capable of challenging the pace of rivals Red Bull and Ferrari but made the right tactical choice.
Asked about winning his first race with McLaren, Button said: “I thought it would take longer than this. A lot depends on what sort of car you come out of the box with.
“I don’t know in general pace where we would stand but that is not all racing is about. It is also about strategy, thinking and conserving.
“We did it correctly today and we came away with a good victory. This is very special and whatever happens over the next few races this means a lot to me.”
Button, who made the switch to McLaren after winning the world title with Brawn GP, was expected to play second fiddle to team-mate Lewis Hamilton this year, but that would not seem to be the case.
He said: “After being with one team for years and then clinching the title, getting a victory here after two races is very special for me.
“When you can get good points finishes like this it really does mean a lot when you have a car you don’t think is quick enough really to win races every weekend. We just have to work hard and hope we can bring a good package to the next few races.”
Vettel lamented reliability issues after a problem with his Red Bull once again denied him victory this season.
After starting on pole in Bahrain two weeks ago, a spark plug glitch saw the 22-year-old drop from first to fourth.
He was again fastest in qualifying in Melbourne to take his place at the front of the grid but after starting well on a damp circuit the German ended up beached on the gravel on lap 26 and out of the race.
Although Vettel initially blamed brake failure, Red Bull confirmed after the race there had been a problem with one of the wheels.
He said: “I felt that something was wrong one lap earlier than I went off. I had some sparks coming up from the front left wheel – we didn’t know what it was and so wanted to pit.
“But then, a couple of corners before, I had huge vibrations building up and as soon as I touched the brakes I had some sort of failure going in to Turn 13 and ended up in the gravel.
“There was nothing I could have done, I lost the car and that was it. It’s a shame as I think we had the race in total control at every stage, even though the conditions were difficult. But to win you have to finish.
“We’re working hard to get on top of the reliability issues and we hope to have a solid race and see the chequered f lag in Malaysia.”
Team-mate Mark Webber also endured a disappointing day as he finished ninth after the Australian had been hopeful of claiming a maiden victory at home.
The 33-year-old had started second but endured an eventful race before a crash with Hamilton while in sixth saw him drop down the field.
Webber said: “I apologise to Lewis about that. I lost all downforce in the front of the car when I got close to them, the car lifted and I slid into the back of him.
“I went down fighting. I wasn’t happy with sixth and wanted to get a podium but in the end it was a tough day for the team.”