Jenson Button kicked off his 2012 F1 campaign in fine style by winning the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne today. Button capped a strong weekend for the McLaren team by controlling the first round of the season from start to finish, only yielding the lead during the pitstop shuffles.
The Somerset-born racer, who won the world championship in 2009, started from second on the grid with his team-mate Lewis Hamilton on pole position. Button made a stronger start than Hamilton and seized the initiative into the first corner. The two McLaren drivers were able to control the pace and looked on course for a one-two result for the majority of the race, but Hamilton was deposed by world champion Sebastian Vettel during an inopportune safety car period.
The caution period occurred straight after the two McLaren racers had pitted for the second time and enabled the Red Bull Racing driver to nip in for fresh Pirellis while the two Brits slowed behind the safety car. When the race resumed, Hamilton had to focus on fending off the second Red Bull of Mark Webber and Vettel was able to cruise to the runner-up slot, with Hamilton and Webber finishing third and fourth.
Ahead of them, Button gauged the restart perfectly to keep Vettel at bay. “I was a little bit on edge during the caution period, but I was able to keep heat in the tyres, save some fuel and push hard for two laps when the race restarted,” he said.
Fifth was Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari. The Spaniard had lined up 12th on the grid due to a spin in qualifying, but made a terrific start and raced solidly to offer the Maranello team some joy after a difficult pre-season development period. Team-mate Felipe Massa also made a fast getaway, but struggled with excessive tyre wear before eventually retiring with damaged suspension, but Alonso’s performance suggests that this year’s Ferrari isn’t quite as bad as many had feared.