• Australian Grand Prix

Button storms back with thrilling win

Laurence Edmondson March 28, 2010
Jenson Button takes the plaudits after his victory © Getty Images

McLaren's Jenson Button won a mesmerising wet/dry race in Australia that was a perfect antidote to those who argued after Bahrain that F1 in 2010 was never going to be anything but boring.

Button managed the race masterfully as his competitors made mistakes, experienced failures and crashed into each other behind him. Robert Kubica also drove impeccably to finish second in the Renault, ahead of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso in the Ferraris. Lewis Hamilton should have been a contender for a podium, but a flat-out drive failed to pay off when he was rear-ended by Mark Webber's Red Bull in the closing stages while trying to find a way past Alonso for fourth. He still finished sixth behind Nico Rosberg in fifth but demanded to be told whose call it was to adopt a two-stop strategy, a decision which forced him to fight through the field twice.

The race started in wet conditions, but Sebastian Vettel on pole position was unfazed and assumed a comfortable lead at the front as it all kicked off behind him. Alonso tangled with Button in the first corner, and in turn clipped Michael Schumacher, subjecting Alonso and Schumacher to a fight through the field during the race. Kamui Kobayashi's Sauber suffered a front-wing failure after he tagged a kerb or another driver in turn three, eliminating him immediately and wiping out Nico Hulkenberg and Sebastian Buemi in the process.

The racing became cleaner over the next few laps and Hamilton put an impressive overtaking move on team-mate Button for sixth place. The pass triggered Button to take a massive risk and stop for slick tyres on just lap seven while the track was still wet. The decision, which team principal Martin Whitmarsh later revealed was entirely his driver's, appeared to be taken too early as he slithered off the track at turn three. However, it proved to be inspired and ultimately gave Button the win. Two laps later the rest of the field followed Button's decision, but by that time the McLaren had its tyres up to temperature and was lapping quickly, allowing him to fight his way up to second.

The other factor that gave Button the win was Vettel's retirement. The Red Bull looked comfortable at the front, but on lap 26 he radioed his team complaining about nasty vibrations under braking. Just two corners later he was in the gravel trap and out of the race as the car snapped away under braking.

Fernando Alonso goes sideways on the first corner as Michael Schumacher goes over the grass and the McLarens take evasive action © Sutton Images
The favourite's race may have been over but the entertainment was just beginning. A great battle had been brewing between Rosberg, Hamilton and Webber and the yellow flags for Vettel's accident allowed an audacious move by Hamilton around the outside of Rosberg in turn 12 to stick. That promoted Hamilton to third and he immediately started to challenge Kubica who was still pacing himself in second.

If Hamilton could have slipped by he would have been let lose for an all-McLaren battle at the front. However, it wasn't to be. Hamilton tried everything to put Kubica off, but the Pole calmly stuck to the racing line as the McLaren's tyres visibly degraded behind him. As a result Hamilton had to pit for another set of softs, dropping him to fifth behind Massa and Alonso. He soon reeled in the Ferraris, who like Button and Kubica had decided not to make a second stop, as he set times up to two seconds faster than his team-mate in the lead. It set up a tantalising battle in the final stages as Webber was also closing on Hamilton.

In theory Hamilton's fresher rubber should have given him a crucial advantage over Alonso, but in catching the Ferraris at such pace, he too was struggling on worn rubber. The chance to pass finally came at turn 13, but as Hamilton lined up Alonso, Webber came ploughing into the back of the McLaren, putting them both in the gravel and allowing the Ferrari to get away scot-free.

Hamilton eventually recovered to finish sixth ahead of Tonio Liuzzi in seventh, while Rubens Barrichello was eighth ahead of Webber who had to pit for a new nose. Schumacher rounded off the points finishers in tenth.

However, all eyes were on Button, who crossed the line to take a brilliant win in only his second race for McLaren.