Australian Grand Prix: Jenson Button Cruises to Opening Victory

James Rossi@JRMondoCorrespondent IMarch 18, 2012

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 18:  Jenson Button of Great Britain and McLaren celebrates on the podium after winning the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at the Albert Park circuit on March 18, 2012 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

As the sun set on a glorious Melbourne afternoon, Jenson Button joined his contingent in celebrating a fantastic victory at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

He made a better start than his pole-sitting teammate, Lewis Hamilton, and never looked back. In fact, Hamilton was unlucky as he emerged from his first stop behind the one-stopping Sergio Perez, which lost him a chunk of time.

He was then leapfrogged by Sebastian Vettel when the world champion took advantage of a safety car to pit, whilst Hamilton had to obey the delta time behind the pace car and held off Mark Webber to claim the last podium place.

Mercedes’ promise faded as Michael Schumacher retired with a gear-box problem after running a strong third. Nico Rosberg fared no better, running at a pace slower than the leaders and eventually limping home with a punctured tire after a last lap collision with Sergio Perez.

On a brighter note, Fernando Alonso once again hustled the much-criticised Ferrari to an excellent fifth-place finish. He was hounded by Pastor Maldonado, who twice made contact with other cars, until the Venezuelan collided heavily with a concrete barrier with a couple of laps to go. 

Dark horse Lotus will be relatively pleased, if a little disappointed at what could have been. Romain Grosjean was involved in an incident with the Williams of Maldonado which put him out of the race, whilst Kimi Raikkonen drove solidly and achieved a commendable seventh-place finish.

This, after starting 18th and then taking advantage of Rosberg and Perez’s coming together to overtake four cars in the last two corners.

Before jumping to conclusions, it would be worth waiting until a purpose-built race circuit for a clearer picture of how the field is shaping up. McLaren have without a doubt closed the gap to Red Bull, and it seems as if the main protagonists from last year will provide us with a thrilling fight for both championships this year.

Onto Sepang for the Malaysian Grand Prix. Five days and counting…