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Jenson Button takes victory in a sensational Australian Grand Prix

McLaren’s Jenson Button took his third win at Albert Park in a memorable Australian Grand Prix which marked a brilliant start to the 2012 Formula One season. Red Bull’s Sebastien Vettel and Lewis Hamilton finished second and third, respectively, in a race which saw all possible drama in a F1 race, with numerous accidents, crashes, technical failures, safety car, breathtaking overtaking and intelligent race strategies. Comeback man Kimi Raikkonen drove a perfect race from 18th on the grid to a seventh place finish.

The five red lights illuminated and as the cars were  out and running to start the new season. To start off with, McLaren had planned their starting strategy to perfection as Hamilton and Button, starting from the front of the pack, picked up superbly, going side-by-side into turn 1. Button took advantage of traction from his counterpart and slipped ahead. Behind the leaders, the two Mercedes had quickly occupied the 3rd and 4th places, Rosberg up 3 places from P7. Saturday’s sensation Romain Grosjean started off poorly, getting caught up in the back-of-the-grid mess into the congested first corner.

Bruno Senna, Mark Webber and a few backmarkers were involved in a melee at turn 1, with Webber reporting damage to his Red Bull, the home-curse had started to kick in. Defending champion Sebastien Vettel, starting from P6, made his intentions clear as he raced through the field, making a smart move on Nico Rosberg to move into the 4th spot, right on the tail of Schumacher on Lap 6. Meanwhile, Nico Hulkenberg, was the first retirement of the race, a big disappointment for the German in his first race for Force India and that too after a commendable P8 in the qualifying run.

As the McLaren’s pulled away in front, Vettel and Schumacher dueled for the final podium spot, but the 7-time champion went off-track into the bumpy grass surface on Turn 1 after some sustained pressure from the young German. Schumacher’s Mercedes sustained a gearbox failure as a result and a promising race ended in misery for Schumi. Away from all the cameras and spotlight, the two Ferraris and Kimi Raikkonen had made up some stunning ground, all three drivers had moved into the top-10. Romain Grosjean’s race went from bad to worse as he retired with a broken left-front suspension.

By Lap 18, all the leading drivers had made their first pit-stops and changed to Pirelli’s soft compounds.  Sergio Perez slowly moved up the order, signaling a repeat of last year’s one-stop strategy. The middle laps of the race saw some exciting racing with drivers making heart-stopping maneuvers in the DRS zones, as Raikkonen and Kobayashi slingshot past Massa on Lap 27. Meanwhile, Rosberg-Webber-Maldonado were tied up in a 3-way tussle for 5th place, until Webber eventually made the move on the German. The Australian was really pushing his RBR8 to the limit, as he clocked the fastest lap of the race.

The drivers headed into the pits for their second stop of the race, most opting for the medium compounds. On Lap 37, Vitaly Petrov’s Caterham came to a halt on the front-straight, prompting the stewards to deploy the safety car, the seventh such instance in the last 11 Australian GPs. Vettel made shrewd use of the safety car, heading into the pits and heading out into the second spot between the two McLarens. Brilliant work from the Red Bull crew. The safety car lasted 4 laps and the race resumed on Lap 41 with Button making an assured restart. Only 6 seconds separated the top 4 while Maldonado and Alonso battled for the 5th position.

Massa and Senna were involved in an accident on Lap 48, both cars suffering damage after colliding at Turn 4 resulting in Massa’a withdrawal from the race. The mini-battles continued as Webber closed in on 3rd placed Hamilton to make it a 3-way fight for the second podium position. Button led Vettel by just over 3 seconds with 5 laps to go.

Things remained as they were at the head of the order until the final lap, which saw some thrilling late drama. Pastor Maldonado revisited his last lap blues as he crashed out after losing control of his Williams and banging into the wall. What a disaster for the Venezuelan! Meanwhile, Button crossed the finish line in pole position for his third victory at Albert Park, followed by Vettel and Hamilton in second and third place.

Alonso, Kobayashi rode home in 5th and 6th spot, respectively. Kimi Raikkonen’s spectacular run from 18th to 7th was a drive to cherish; the Iceman is surely back with a bang. Sergio Perez, homeboy Daniel Ricciardo and Paul di Resta rounded off the points positions after a spectacular photo-finish. A technical failure on the last lap robbed Nico Rosberg of some well-deserved points, the German coasted past the chequered flag in 12th position. Australian Grand Prix, overall was a perfect start to a brand new Formula One season.

Final Classification:

PosNoDriverTeamLapsTime/RetiredGridPts
13Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Mercedes58Winner225
21Sebastian VettelRed Bull Racing-Renault58+2.1 secs618
34Lewis HamiltonMcLaren-Mercedes58+4.0 secs115
42Mark WebberRed Bull Racing-Renault58+4.5 secs512
55Fernando AlonsoFerrari58+21.5 secs1210
614Kamui KobayashiSauber-Ferrari58+36.7 secs138
79Kimi RäikkönenLotus-Renault58+38.0 secs176
815Sergio PerezSauber-Ferrari58+39.4 secs224
916Daniel RicciardoSTR-Ferrari58+39.5 secs102
1011Paul di RestaForce India-Mercedes58+39.7 secs151
1117Jean-Eric VergneSTR-Ferrari58+39.8 secs11
128Nico RosbergMercedes58+57.6 secs7
1318Pastor MaldonadoWilliams-Renault57+1 Lap8
1424Timo GlockMarussia-Cosworth57+1 Lap20
1525Charles PicMarussia-Cosworth53+5 Laps21
1619Bruno SennaWilliams-Renault52+6 Laps14
Ret6Felipe MassaFerrari46+12 Laps16
Ret20Heikki KovalainenCaterham-Renault38+20 Laps18
Ret21Vitaly PetrovCaterham-Renault34+24 Laps19
Ret7Michael SchumacherMercedes10+48 Laps4
Ret10Romain GrosjeanLotus-Renault1+57 Laps3
Ret12Nico HulkenbergForce India-Mercedes0+ 58 Laps9
DNS22Pedro de la RosaHRT-Cosworth23
DNS23Narain KarthikeyanHRT-Cosworth24
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