Button commandingly wins Australian Grand Prix
18 March 2012 – Jenson Button has claimed his third victory in the Australian Grand Prix, controlling the first race of the 2012 season in style. After losing the lead to his McLaren team-mate at the first corner, Lewis Hamilton lost a further position to World Champion Sebastian Vettel when a mid-race Safety Car reshuffled the order.
Unlike in past seasons, it was a clean start for the front-runners, as Button out-braked Hamilton at the first corner. Behind, Mark Webber was squeezed by both Nico Hülkenberg and newcomer Jean-Éric Vergne, with the latter cutting across the grass as the former became the season’s first retirement. Attempting to avoid his compatriot, Daniel Ricciardo was forced to brake early, allowing Bruno Senna to take the outside line as the two cars made contact, spinning the Williams across the charging pack. A lap later, Romain Grosjean’s brilliant third-place qualifying came to nothing after contact at Turn 13 with Pastor Maldonado.
When the McLaren cars followed each other into the pits for their final stops on Lap 36, the Caterham of Vitaly Petrov ground to a halt on the start/finish straight, resulting in the deployment of the Safety Car; this allowed Vettel to enjoy one chiefly quick lap back to the pits, easily jumping Hamilton for second when he rejoined. On a clean restart, the front positions remained static for the final 17 laps, with Mark Webber marking his best ever home result with fourth.
The Mexican ran seventh, but last-lap contact with Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes dropped both cars down the order as Kimi Räikkönen took advantage to finish seventh from 17th on the grid. A promising day for Williams ended in disaster on the ultimate tour; shortly after Bruno Senna retired, Pastor Maldonado - chasing Alonso for fifth place – touched the grass and slammed into the wall at Turn 7, throwing away a strong points finish. As Räikkönen took advantage, eighth to 11th places were locked together over the line, with Ricciardo ensuring two Australians were in the top ten - despite being at the back of the field after the start - and Paul di Resta making up for a disappointing weekend by scoring another point in Melbourne, with Vergne just missing out.
Button took the chequered flag from Vettel by two seconds. The victory marks the Frome man’s 13th win in Formula 1, equalling the sums of David Coulthard and former double World Champion Alberto Ascari. In a season which features no less than six title winners, the year begins with an all-Champion rostrum.
- Post-race feelings from winner Jenson Button
The 2012 Formula 1 season begins with back-to-back races; Round 2 will take place at Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit next weekend