Button storms to Australian Grand Prix win

The drivers pose before the start of the race

The drivers pose before the start of the race

Jenson Button has won the first race of 2012, leading the Australian Grand Prix to the final lap. He inherited the lead on the first lap, getting by teammate Lewis Hamilton, who eventually finished 3rd. The Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were 2nd and 4th. Here is what happened:

At the start, Button squeezed past Hamilton to  take the lead, while Fernando Alonso tore up to 8th. Romain Grosjean slipped to 6th, and Bruno Senna spun to the back.

Button slices past Hamilton at the start

Button slices past Hamilton at the start

Sebastian Vettel made an incredible move around the outside of Nico Rosberg, while Pastor Maldonado clashed with Romain Grosjean, leaving the Frenchman on the sidelines.

Vettel began to close on Schumacher in 3rd, but a slip at Turn 1 lost him time, and put him under pressure from Rosberg behind. However, a failure on the Mercedes car allowed Sebastian to slip into 3rd place.

Felipe Massa suffered serious tyre degradation, and stopped at Lap 12. Rosberg, who began to hold up Fernando Alonso, stopped a lap later – whose on-track rival took on mediums.

Webber had had enough of his tyres by Lap 15, and switched to the primes. Button and Vettel pitted on Lap 16, with Hamilton stopping a lap later. Good pace from Fernando Alonso on the primes prompted the leaders to follow his strategy, with only Vettel using the option compound.

Hamilton’s race was quickly being torn apart, as he was held up by a 1-stopping Sergio Perez. He eventually got past, but the gap to Button was now 11 seconds.

Schumacher suffers a car failure under braking

Schumacher suffers a car failure under braking

Perez finally pitted on Lap 25, as Lewis began to repair the gap to his teammate. Meanwhile, Felipe Massa was trounced by Kimi Raikkonen and Kamui Kobayashi in quick succession.

A struggling Rosberg allowed Mark Webber and Pastor Maldonado to move up behind. After holding up the Aussie for several laps, Nico stopped on Lap 31 for primes.

With the McLarens backing off to conserve tyres, Sebastian Vettel was ordered to push, in order to catch Hamilton. The team opted to stop both cars on the same lap, which just about paid off. They stopped just at the right time, as the safety car was deployed for a stranded Caterham on the start/finish straight.

A quick stop by Vettel allowed him to slice past Hamilton, and get up behind Button. Webber got past Alonso in a similar situation, while the lapped cars in the pack were allowed to overtake the safety car – a new addition to the 2012 F1 rules.

Pastor Maldonado crashes his Williams on the final lap

Pastor Maldonado crashes his Williams on the final lap

The safety car pulled away on Lap 42, and Button streaked away from the pack. Kamui Kobayashi put an impressive move on Kimi Raikkonen for 9th, while Webber kept stuck to the back of Hamilton’s gearbox. Back in the battle for 13th, Massa clashed with Bruno Senna, dishing out heavy damage to both cars. Felipe retired, while Senna stopped for repairs.

As the race entered the final 10 laps, Webber got right up behind Hamilton, but failed to faze him. Behind, Pastor Maldonado binned his car on the final lap chasing Alonso, setting off a chain of accidents around the track. Nico Rosberg damaged his steering against Sergio Perez, backing up a large line of cars. Jean-Eric Vergne slipped, and Daniel Ricciardo went around his teammate. Paul di Resta slipped past the Toro Rosso in a drag race to the finish, snatching the final point.

Button takes a deserving lead in the championship

Button takes a deserving lead in the championship

It was a crazy end to an entertaining race, as Jenson Button crossed the line to take a well-deserved victory, with Vettel, Hamilton and Webber all close behind. Alonso was pleased to take 5th, while Kobayashi took a surprise 6th. From there on, the order – Raikkonen, Perez, Ricciardo and Di Resta – was shaken up on the start/finish straight on the final lap.

With this, Vettel’s stranglehold on the driver’s championship has been broken, and the 2012 championship battle is well and truly on.

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