Jenson Button has claimed the first win for McLaren in a wet and windy Australian GP.
Rain began to fall just before the Grand Prix got underway, meaning that the whole field started on intermediate tyres.
The two Red Bulls and Felipe Massa and the Renault of Robert Kubica got away cleanly. However, the slippery surface caused havoc at the first corner, with Button colliding with Fernando Alonso, who was in turn shunted into Michael Schumacher.
Alonso fell to the back of the field while Schumacher was forced to pit for a new front wing, also demoting him to the back of the pack.
There was also heavy contact on the first lap between Kamui Kobayashi and Nico Hulkenburg, causing both to retire and forcing the safety car onto the track.
When the safety car pulled in conditions started to improve and a dry line began to emerge. On lap seven Button was the first to be brave enough to attempt slicks. At first it looked like a foolish gamble, with button floundering in the gravel trap at turn three.
However, it would turn out to be an inspired decision. Button was quickly the fastest man on the track and everybody was now coming in to copy his tactic.
The drying track gave both Alonso and Hamilton the opportunity to carve their way through the field. Unfortunately for Schumacher, he was unable to make the same kind of progress, getting stuck behind Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari for a large part of the race.
On lap 22 Hamilton made a daring move on Felipe Massa to claim fifth spot, losing part of his front wing against the Brazilian’s rear tyre in the process. Alonso was unable to fight his way fast the plucky Brazilian.
Hamilton continued his fight back on lap 24 when he passed Nico Rosberg to move up to fourth. This would almost immediately become third position as race leader Sebastian Vettel spun into the gravel at turn 13. The cause of the spin was a front right brake failure.
This is the second race in succession that reliability issues have cost Vettel an almost certain win. However, despite losing out on 25 points, he remained optimistic about the season ahead.
“It’s still early. But for sure it would be better at this stage, after today to be there with 50 points and go with 50 points to Malaysia instead of only 12, but that’s life, we can’t change it now.”
Hamilton was chasing down second place Kubica and his team mate Button, looking to try and get into the lead. However, his charge was held up when he could not find a way past Kubica.
His team brought him in for a set of new tyres with 23 laps remaining, but this effectively ended his chances for a race win. He emerged from the pits behind the two Ferraris, Kubica and Button, who all intended to finish the race on the one set of soft tyres.
From here on in all Button needed to do was take care of his tyres and the race would be his. He made his soft tyres last a staggering 51 laps, longer than any other driver in the field.
Two-stoppers Hamilton and Webber caught the Alonso, Massa and Kubica in the closing sections of the race, but were unable to pass. Both of their afternoons would end in disappointment when they collided with one another at turn 13. Hamilton limped home to sixth position, while Webber managed to nurse his car home to ninth.
Button took a comfortable win, finishing twelve seconds ahead of Kubica with Felipe Massa completing the podium. Alonso made a great effort fighting back from last to fourth position. Rosberg benefited from Hamilton and Webber’s collision and managed to finish fifth, equalling his result in Bahrain.
Vitantonio Liuzzi and Rubens Barichello took seventh and eighth positions respectively and Michael Schumacher came home in tenth position to claim the final world championship point.
Race winner Jenson Button hailed his team for their patience and emphasised how important this victory was for him and the team
“It has taken me a little while to get to grips inside the car, but the team has been fantastic and welcomed me in. It is difficult to put it into words, it is a very special feeling and we will take a lot from this. I feel I am building in confidence, and I hope in the next rate we can do something similar as this feels too good."
The next race takes place in just seven days. The 2010 Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix will take place on 4th April at 8:00am GMT.