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Button Wins Action-Packed Australian GP

March 28, 2010

Jenson Button took his first victory of the season this morning, letting his rivals know they have a fight on their hands if they want to steal his crown.

The reigning world champion took an early gamble, changing his intermediate tyres to slicks on lap six, and while everyone thought it was a bad move, he proved he was a worthy champion when, after the rest of the front-runners pitted, he found himself in second, behind pole sitter, Sebastian Vettel.

Button said of his early pitstop: “It was the right call and I am happy I made it.” Of his first win with Mclaren he said: “It is very special.”

Button’s race started poorly, when contact in the first corner with Fernando Alonso saw the champion lose ground. Alonso came out worse off, spinning 180 degrees, being forced into last place. Michael Schumacher got caught up in the spin, and a broken front wing saw him take an early pitstop, and he spent the majority of his race at the back of the pack caught up behind Jaime Alguersuari.

A broken front wing for Kamui Kobayashi saw him slide off the track at turn three, collecting Nico Hulkenberg and bringing out the safety car. Sebastian Vettel led the way behind the safety car, with Felipe Massa, Mark Webber, Robert Kubica and Nico Rosberg rounding out the top five.

On lap four the safety car came in, and Button, who by that point was down to sixth, was forced to defend himself against teammate Lewis Hamilton, up in seventh from 11th on the grid. Hamilton made a brave move on Button, making it stick, and it wasn’t long after that, that Button pitted for slicks.

His outlap was hit and miss, running off into the gravel in the first sector, but setting the fastest time in sectors two and three. Massa, Kubica, Rosberg and Hamilton then pitted for slicks, leaving Vettel leading Webber, with Button down in 19th.

By the time the Red Bulls pitted on the next two laps, they lost ground. Vettel, who pitted first, was eventually able to hold onto the lead, while Webber slipped through the pack, eventually ending up behind Massa. By the time the mid field, who momentarily had hold of the lead, pitted, Button was back in the mix, second behind Vettel, with Kubica, Rosberg and Massa in third, fourth and fifth.

Hamilton found himself behind Rubens Barrichello momentarily, after getting held up in the pitlane while other cars passed his pitbox, but after passing Rubens he soon had Webber and Massa in his sights. Webber made his move on Massa for fifth on lap 16 in the first corner, and Hamilton seized the opportunity, taking Massa as well to line up Webber in turn three. When Webber ran wide into turn three, nearly colliding with a dicey Hamilton, Massa saw a gap and passed both drivers to reclaim fifth.

Hamilton was then forced to stare at the back of Massa’s Ferrari until lap 22 when he got into Massa’s slipstream, passing him into turn one, while appearing to lose a bit of his front wing. Alonso, who had made his way up to seventh, passing Webber when he ran wide on lap 16, also fancied a look at his teammate, but Webber saw a way through and passed the unsuspecting Ferrari.

Hamilton then charged on, catching and passing Rosberg for fourth on lap 26. It soon became third when Vettel’s race came to an end on the same lap, suffering with brake failure.

Webber and Rosberg were the first to pit for the second time on laps 33 and 34, putting them both back behind Massa and Alonso, with a considerable gap of around 20 seconds.

Hamilton was then left to hunt down Kubica for second, and was all over the back of the Renault when he was pitted unexpectedly for a fresh set of tyres on  lap 35. Had it not been for the stop, Hamilton may have joined Button at the front, fighting for the first position Button had inherited from Vettel, but it wasn’t to be, and with a fresh set of tyres, Lewis, in fifth with Webber behind in sixth, began gaining a second or two a lap on the Kubica-Massa-Alonso train. A 20 second gap soon became no gap at all, but Hamilton, caught in Alonso’s dirty air had problems trying to pass, as his tyres started falling apart. On lap 56, Hamilton saw his chance, but while making a move on Alonso into turn three, Webber braked too late sending Hamilton into a spin, sending himself off the track. Hamilton recovered, but Rosberg was already through, having caught up with the pair. Webber was forced to pit for a third time for a new front wing, while Button was free to start his final lap on his way to victory.

Kubica kept it together to cross the line in second, just ahead of Massa, Alonso and Rosberg, with Hamilton down in sixth.

The McLaren driver said of his race: “I had probably one of the drives of my life. I am happy with the job that I did. I drove my heart out today” Of his unscheduled stop he said: “The strategy was not right.”

Vitantonio Liuzzi crossed the line seventh, ahead of Barrichello, Webber and Schumacher in tenth.

Schumacher’s main rival for the race, Alguersuari, narrowly missed out on some points, finishing in 11th, with De la Rosa in 12th, Heikki Kovalainen once again finishing for Lotus in 13th, and Karun Chandhok finishing his first race for HRT in 14th.

Button’s win elevates him to third in the championship standings with 31 points, with Massa just ahead on 33. Alonso retains the lead on 37 points, while Hamilton drops to fourth with 23 points. Ferrari extend their lead in the constructors’ championship with 70 points, with McLaren just behind on 54 points.

The next race is next weekend, with qualifying on Saturday 3rd April, and the race live on BBC1 at 9am on Sunday 4th.

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