Button dominates Australia, and Vettel doesn’t
Jenson Button took home the first 25 points of the 2012 season after a dominant drive at the Australian Grand Prix.
The 2009 World Champion and now three times Melbourne winner rocketed from P2 on the grid to lead the race home, virtually leading from start to finish.
Button swiftly passed his team-mate Lewis Hamilton on the way down to the first corner after the younger Briton pulled slowly off the line. He quickly established a three second buffer, from which point he remained untouchable.
Reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel hauled his Red Bull into second place, despite an uncompetitive qualifying session that had him starting from P6.
Vettel jumped one place to fifth off the line after Mark Webber suffered from a problematic getaway, from which point he applied pressure to fourth-running Nico Rosberg, and quickly passed him.
Although Vettel succumbed to an early and uncharacteristic mistake in the chase for third-placed Michael Schumacher, a brief excursion onto the grass triggered a mechanical failure in the W03, gifting the younger Champion P3.
Vettel and Hamilton then went on to battle for P2, before a safety car triggered by stopped Caterham on the front straight allowed him to jump the McLaren driver by way of a ‘free’ pit stop. Both drivers held their positions through to the end of the race.
Mark Webber came home in fourth, improving his qualifying position by one place. Despite heaping pressure on Hamilton to surrender the final step on the podium, the Australian failed to close the deal – though picked up his highest Australian Grand Prix finish in the process.
Fernando Alonso once again showed why he is one of the field’s finest drivers, dragging his out-of-sorts Ferrari into fifth place, after failing to make the cut for Q3 on Saturday evening.
Alonso jumped up to eighth on the opening lap, from where he chipped away to send some decent points home to Maranello. His team-mate Felipe Massa failed to finish, succumbing to accident damage in a scrap with Williams’ Bruno Senna.
Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez looked to put right the wrongs of Saturday qualifying, proving that the 2012 Sauber challenger had more bite than their grid positions suggested.
Finishing sixth and eighth, the young driver pair were split only by Kimi Räikkönen, bolting through the field after a communication error during qualifying left him as far back as P18.
Rounding out the top ten were Daniel Ricciardo, who scored points at his first home race, and Force India’s Paul di Resta.
The battle for the final two points-paying positions went down to the wire, with the Toro Rosso pair of Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne charging towards the top ten.
Vergne, the then leading STR, passed di Resta before Ricciardo followed suit. However, a mistake amidst the chaos had the Frenchman steer wide off the road, opening the door for Ricciardo and di Resta, leaving Vergne without points in his debut race.
Contributing to this round’s DNF list were Nico Hulkenberg, who’s adventurous first lap resulted in a clash with Mark Webber, forcing the born-again Formula One debutant out of the race.
Romain Grosjean was also disappointed to find himself out of the running after a single lap. He dropped from third off the line down to sixth, before a tangle with Pastor Maldonado’s Williams caused too much damage from which to recover.
Michael Schumacher was a disappointing retirement, making his way back to the pits with a gearbox problem, while Vitaly Petrov’s Caterham experienced terminal steering problems on lap 35, triggering the safety car.
The sister Caterham, piloted by Heikki Kovalinen, also posted a DNF. Massa’s accident with Senna made him the last of the non-finishers.
Senna and Maldonado were both classified despite stopping before the end of the race, while the Marussias of Glock and Pic finished one and two laps down, respectively.
While the Formula One action in Melbourne has come to an end, racing will resume in one week’s time in Sepang for the 2012 Malaysia Grand Prix.