F1 News, Views and Reviews

Australian GP 2010: Button Wins First Race For McLaren

Jenson Button turned a race of the highest quality today in Australia to win his first race for the McLaren team, on a circuit where he dominated with Brawn last season.

Robert Kubica grabbed a heroic second place for Renault, and Felipe Massa hung on to third mostly thanks to his team mate Fernando Alonso.

Race Review

There was always an outside chance of rain at the Melbourne circuit, and it came just before the race leaving everyone to start on intermediates on a damp, cold circuit.  The race was always going to deliver the excitement that we didn’t get in Bahrain and it came thick from the first corner.

Fernando Alonso got a poor start, in contrast to team mate Felipe Massa.  Alonso came into turn 1 and was punted from the inside by Jenson Button, pushing the Spaniard into Michael Schumacher.  The two former World Champions got damage and were forced to the back of the field, Schumacher by a pit stop and Alonso by the virtue that he was spun 180.

Further down the first lap, Kamui Kobayashi’s Sauber lost its front wing on the straight for no reason, sending him in an out of control slide into Sebastien Buemi and Nico Hulkenberg knocking all 3 out of the race and bringing the safety car out for the first time.

This allowed Alonso and Schumacher to bunch up the back of the field, and Alonso cut through the field brilliantly, while Schumacher got held back and only ended up finishing in 10th place, his overtaking less competent than Alonso’s and certainly less competent than we are used to from the former master.  Is it the car or is it Schumacher?

Massa had got in front of Webber before the safety car, but lost position when it went into the pits, leaving the Brazilian scrapping with Kubica and Rosberg for 3rd, 4th and 5th.   Jenson Button pitted early for some slick tyres, a move which seemed crazy but eventually led him to win the race.  He was setting hot lap times and the rest of the field pitted, but it was poor timing for Massa who ended up well behind the pack of McLaren’s, Red Bull’s, Kubica and Rosberg, while at this point he was being caught by Alonso and Hamilton both of whom had worked their way through the field.

Only the Red Bull’s did not pit, leaving it a bit late.  Vettel got away unscathed, but Webber on cold tyres made a mistake into turn 1, and cars zipped passed him with ease.  However only a handful of laps later, and Massa looked poor once again, with Webber slotting passed and Hamilton following.  Later on a similar move would cause Massa to force team mate Fernando Alonso off the track and to lose positions that he ultimately would not recover.

A scorching Hamilton now hassled Rosberg, whom he passed with ease around the outside into 13.  His charge only cooled by waved yellows from Sebastian Vettel’s stranded Red Bull, the young cocky German had stuffed it into the gravel trap with suspected brake failure.

The crash handed Button the lead, and allowed Kubica second place which would ultimately be the final positions for the two who decided not to pit for fresh slicks.  The optional second pit stop was instigated by Michael Schumacher, who down in 12th decided on some fresh soft Bridgestones and was lapping nearly 2s per lap quicker.  Hamilton and Webber were notable names to pit, but both Ferrari’s did not pit.

Felipe Massa appeared to be holding up Fernando Alonso but it was lucky for the Brazilian his resilient team mate was behind as Alonso began a heroic drive to the finish.  With Hamilton gaining 2seconds or more per lap on the Ferrari’s, Alonso managed to hold off the charge from the British former World Champion and his McLaren nemesis for over 10 laps to the finish a brilliant piece of driving skill which should have been rewarded with a trophy.

But with 2 laps remaining, a hot headed Mark Webber once again clashed with Lewis Hamilton leading them both to finish much further down the points than they should have done, but Alonso’s work was not done as Nico Rosberg charged to the back of the Ferrari but couldn’t make a move stick.

Liuzzi and Barrichello were 7th and 8th, having a quiet race amidst all the action.  Schumacher took the final points position, with Alguersuari just behind the young Spaniard giving the old German a hard time and no doubt learning more than ever before.  De La Rosa was 12th, but the best mentions have to go to Heiki Kovalainen who finished another race for Lotus and Karun Chadhok who managed to FINISH the race for Hispania, unbeliveable!  Congratulations to both teams.

Race Results

Pos Driver Team Time
1 J. Button McLaren Mercedes 1.33.36.531
2 R. Kubica Renault +12.034
3 F. Massa Ferrari +14.488
4 F. Alonso Ferrari +16.304
5 N. Rosberg Mercedes Benz +16.683
6 L. Hamilton McLaren Mercedes +29.898
7 V. Liuzzi Force India Mercedes +59.847
8 R. Barrichello Williams Cosworth +1.00.536
9 M. Webber Red Bull Renault +1.07.319
10 M. Schumacher Mercedes Benz +1.09.391
11 J. Alguersuari Toro Rosso Ferrari +1.11.301
12 P. De La Rosa Sauber Ferrari +1.14.084
13 H. Kovalainen Lotus Cosworth +2 laps
14 K. Chandhok Hispania HRT +4 laps

Retirements:

Driver Team Lap Reason
T. Glock Virgin 41 Fuel
S. Vettel Red Bull Renault 26 Brake Failure
L. Di Grassi Virgin 25 Hydraulic
A. Sutil Force India 12 Unknown
V. Petrov Renault 10 Accident
B. Senna Hispania HRT 5 Unknown
S. Buemi Toro Rosso Ferrari 1 Accident
N. Hulkenberg Williams 1 Accident
K. Kobayashi Sauber Ferrari 1 Accident
J. Trulli Lotus Cosworth 1 Fuel Pressure

Post Race Interviews

Jenson Button – McLaren Mercedes (1st):  “It is very special.  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.”

Robert Kubica – Renault (2nd):  “To be honest we were not expecting to finish on the podium, for Renault and myself it is a special result. We were pushing hard during the winter and this was the best result we could get for the beginning of the season. This is big thanks to all the guys.  We have to stay realistic, we are not up to pace to finish on the podium normally. We need to keep pushing and I am sure we will manage sooner or later to be on the pace.”

Felipe Massa – Ferrari (3rd):  “I had a fantastic start, without wheelspin, and I saw many cars, especially Fernando and [Mark] Webber having some wheelspin.  I did a very smooth start and passed them in a very good way. I was happy with the start and whole race was very difficult, very slippery and low grip everywhere.  My best result in Australia before was sixth, and in 2007 I had problems in qualifying and started last. It’s not the best race for me in terms of pace, and we lost some positions at the pitstop and a bit on track because of mistakes, so it is fantastic to have one second and one third.”

Fernando Alonso – Ferrari (4th): It was a fantastic result in the end for the team, and for myself as well. So, I was ready to sign before the race for this result – if you win the race you take seven points to your main competitor.  Now, I took 12 points to Vettel, to Michael and to some of the main rivals for the championship. So it has been a much better race in terms of points than Bahrain, if you compare with your main competitor.  I was not convinced that I could recover the positions to get into the points, [but] the car was perfect, and now even thinking through the race and all the analysis – there is the possibility that you can win the race even starting last because the car was so much quicker today than all the others.”

Vitantonio Liuzzi – Force India (7th):  “Another great race and another great result for the team,” said Liuzzi, who charged back from 13th place to score points for the second race in succession.  It’s a confirmation of the pace we showed in Bahrain and the work the team did over the winter.  We worked hard all weekend for this seventh place and it’s a brilliant result at the end of what was a crazy race.”

Michael Schumacher – Mercedes Benz (10th):  “I could have had a good race today so it was a pity that I was hit right after the start,” Schumacher said. “That incident decided my race obviously. But things like that happen and you have to just say ‘that’s racing’.  I had to take the remainder of the race from last position but I have to say that I was still having fun as our pace today was promising and for part of the race, we were going quicker than the top group.  It was nice to pick up a point and we can take that good feeling into the next race where we will look forward to another challenge.”

Heikki Kovalainen – Lotus Cosworth (13th):  “I enjoyed it today and had good fun out there. Our target was to finish the race and from the start we were quite comfortably ahead of the new teams. When [Virgin’s Timo] Glock dropped out I just focused on keeping up a decent rhythm, not making any mistakes and bringing the car home.  Now we go to Malaysia with a good feeling and we’re all looking forward to that.”

Karun Chandhok – Hispania HRT (14th):  “To finish was very difficult today, and all the more satisfying because of that.  I dedicate this race result to all the mechanics and engineers who worked so hard since Bahrain, without any pre-season testing. This is a fantastic day for the team and a great step forward.  I am proud to have ended our first race. We achieved the best result we could do today. We have to keep pushing and working and we will manage to finish even higher.”

Christian Horner – Red Bull Renault Team Boss:  “Ultimately an extremely disappointing day.  Having been in control of the race, the second in succession, Sebastian unfortunately retired with what looks like a wheel related issue (front left), which certainly cost him a comfortable race win today.  It was cruel luck for him for the second year in a row here in Australia.”

Tony Fernandes – Lotus Racing Team Owner:  “I’m disappointed for Jarno, but Heikki did us proud – three places away from a point, and he was keeping pace with most of the other cars throughout the race.  Maybe it would have been nice if three other cars had gone out so we could get a point, but, joking aside, it is good that at this stage of the season we’re already thinking about points. We’re in a nice position for Malaysia.”


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