That's a 'W' for winner! A perfect start for Button as Vettel and Co are left trailing
22:31 GMT, 18 March 2012
Jenson Button admitted his victory salute still needs a bit of work but a few more afternoons like the one he enjoyed here at the Albert Park circuit and he will have plenty of opportunities to perfect it.
After storming to victory in the Australian Grand Prix, his third win in four years down under, Button fashioned a ‘W’ for winner with his hands.
“W” is for winner: Button celebrates after his victory at the Australian Grand Prix
Perfect start: The British star led from start-to-finish after sailing past Hamilton on the run down to Turn One
‘I actually did the ‘W’ with a water bottle in my hand, which didn’t really work very well,’ said Button after starting McLaren’s 2012 campaign in magnificent style. ‘I tried to think of something new but I just can’t beat Seb’s finger.’
That comment referred to Sebastian Vettel’s one-digit salute which accompanied every one of the Red Bull champion’s 11 victories last year en route to his second world title.
‘I’m sure we will see the crooked finger again,’ conceded Button, who had become heartily sick of Vettel’s method of proclaiming his No 1 status. ‘But, hopefully, not very often this year and we’re going to fight as hard as we can to stop that from happening.’
Early charge: Jenson Button leads at turn one after pipping team-mate Lewis Hamilton at the off
Button could not have hoped for a better start, both to the race and to his bid for a second world title.
Having been pipped to pole position by Lewis Hamilton, he needed just the run to the first corner to take the lead from his team-mate. It was a lead Button would not relinquish, despite having to re-establish his advantage following a safety car deployment on lap 37 to retrieve Vitaly Petrov’s stricken Caterham.
Leading the way: Button was supreme in Melbourne, controlling the race from the start ahead of team-mate Hamilton
It was exactly the kind of dominant performance Red Bull and Vettel produced race after race last season, when the German stormed away from the front row to claim a lead sufficient to keep him out of range of a DRS overtaking manoeuvre; a lead which enables a driver to look after his tyres and manage the pace from the front.
But this time — as McLaren’s winter testing promise translated into true race pace — it was Button holding Vettel at bay, the 2009 world champion even managing to pull out a 3.4 second gap in two laps after the safety car went into the pitlane.
Thirsty Vettel covers race-winner Button with champagne
That he was able to do so was all the more impressive as both McLarens were marginal on petrol going into the race in a bid to maximise their speed.
‘Frankly, we didn’t have enough fuel, so both drivers really had to control their pace to try to make it last,’ conceded McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh after the race. ‘From lap eight we were on saving fuel. We were not quite in the fire but close to it and hot.’
Making ground: World champion Sebastien Vettel managed to climb the grid after beginning in sixth
Commenting on his delicate balancing act, Button added: ‘I was a little bit on edge but I was able to keep heat in the tyres, save a lot of fuel, which was quite important for us, and get a good restart.
‘The team said push as hard as you can for two laps after the restart to get a gap. I was able to do that, which I was very happy about.
‘Even when you have a lead you are still wondering what is going to happen. We haven’t been here since I have been with the team, so strong at the start of the season. It was very important to us to get this one in the bank very early on. I actually did pinch myself in the race just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.’
Caught up: Williams driver Bruno Senna – nephew legend Ayrton – was involved in a big collision but managed to stay on track
There was certainly no dream for Hamilton, who, after losing the lead to Button at the start, then found himself losing valuable time stuck behind Sauber’s Sergio Perez following his first stop.
Worse was to come when, after McLaren had opted to pit Hamilton directly behind Button, Vettel changed tyres under the safety car two laps later. Red Bull’s call enabled the double world champion to emerge in second place ahead of Hamilton, who had been forced to spend a lap trundling along at the pace of the silver Mercedes road car.
In a spin: Senna glides across the track to cause turmoil
Hamilton’s ability to fend off Red Bull’s Mark Webber, whose fourth place was his best finish on home soil, for the final podium spot was scant recompense, even though he did eventually manage to pick his chin up off the floor.
‘They were good points and a good way to start the season,’ said Hamilton, displaying a philosophical attitude which was largely absent during his tumultuous 2011 campaign.
‘Championships are based on points and consistency, so it’s something to work on. Overall, it was a strong weekend and I felt like I did quite well in the race, I just had a couple of unfortunate situations which I could not do anything about.’
Make a move: German Vettel overtakes compatriot Mercedes driver Michael Schumacher as he runs onto the grass
/03/18/article-2116629-12388FE0000005DC-185_634x411.jpg” width=”634″ height=”411″ alt=”Over and out: Schumacher spins on the grass before being forced to retire after a promising start” class=”blkBorder” />
Over and out: Schumacher spins on the grass before being forced to retire after a promising start
The last lap was far more favourable for Force India’s Paul Di Resta. The Scot pinched 10th place and a point with a dab of KERS yards before the finish line.
/03/18/article-2116629-12388F6F000005DC-911_634x423.jpg” width=”634″ height=”423″ alt=”Middle men: Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso was engaged in a battle with Red Bull's home favourite Mark Webber throughout” class=”blkBorder” />
Middle men: Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso was engaged in a battle with Red Bull's home favourite Mark Webber throughout
After spending Sunday night in his lucky room in the Crown Towers hotel — he has stayed in the same suite on each occasion he has won the Australian Grand Prix — Button heads to Kuala Lumpur on Monday for next weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix.
Better get working on that celebration, Jenson.
Safety first: Button was forced to tail the safety car, which was deployed after Vitaly Petrov spun out