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The McLaren driver demolished all of his competitors in the first race of the F1 season.
Jenson Button got his latest world championship campaign off to a flying start in Melbourne, Australia, winning the Australian Grand Prix in the opening round of the 2012 Formula 1 World Championship. In the Australian twilight he left in his wake the current world champion, Sebastian Vettel in a Red Bull as well as his McLaren teammate, 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton. Button started the race from the first row alongside pole position winner Hamilton.
The former got off to a perfect start as he overtook his teammate quite easily from the grid and down the straight to the first corner. He entered that corner easily to take lead, which was never challenged until the end of the race. He lost the lead twice, on lap 16 to Hamilton and on lap 36 to Vettel, both times during his pit stops that followed by the stops of his pursuers whom only enjoyed the briefest of leads. It was a great race for Button but less so for Hamilton who lost second place to Vettel during his second pit stop and was baffled after the race by his car's poor pace relative to teammate's.
For three drivers, Vettel, Fernando Alonso in a Ferrari, and Kimi Raikkonen in a Lotus, the race saved a poor weekend. Vettel started the race from 6th place and Alonso from a lowly 12th after he failed to make it to Q3, the final phase of qualifying. It was suspected that Ferrari would function poorly, however it wasn't expected to function this poorly. However, Alonso made a great start and was 6th by the end of the second lap battling Nico Rosberg for fifth place. During the remainder of the race Alonso climbed to fourth place and finished fifth, behind Mark Webber.
This was after he was chased by Maldonado in a Williams who showed a great pace, but crashed on the penultimate lap causing a havoc that changed the order of the cars behind him. Vettel got past his teammate and local hero Webber, who started from 5th place, when they arrived at the first corner and gained second place in the second round of pit stops. However, he couldn't challenge Button even following a safety car, when a 10 second gap was completely erased. In the ensuing restart Button easily pulled away from Vettel and secured his win.
Kimi Raikkonen, on his return to the circuit after a two year hiatus, started the race from a disappointing 18th spot on the grid, and climbed steadily towards the points. He would have finished 10th but for the melee on the last lap, following Maldonado's crash that assisted him in gaining three places to finish in 7th, just 1.3 seconds behind Kamui Kobayashi in a Sauber, who finished 6th. It was a disappointing start for Mercedes. The high point of the team's weekend arrived too early, on Saturday, when Michael Schumacher achieved 4th position on the grid in qualifying, his best since his comeback from retirement.
Rosberg started from 7th. Schumacher, the seven-time world champion, gained one place to third at the start of the race, but retired on lap 11 due to a mechanical problem in his gearbox. Rosberg climbed to fifth but an early strategic pit stop clearly cost him places he couldn't gain later in the race. On the last lap he was involved in an incident that cost him a few more places as he finished in 12th and out of the points. One of the weekend's surprises turned out to be Lotus driver Roamin Grosjean, who qualified in third.
However, he couldn't convert this performance into something tangible like championship points because of a poor start and a crash with Maldonado on the second lap that broke his right front wheel and ended his weekend. The next race is the Malaysian Grand Prix, which will take place this weekend. Photos courtesy of formula1/Sutton Images.