JENSON BUTTON/Vodafone McLaren Mercedes made it look like a drive in the park Sunday afternoon for the Qantas Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. He started on the front row at Albert Park, besides his pole-sitting teammate, LEWIS HAMILTON, who finished third behind SEBASTIAN VETTEL/Red Bull Racing.
Button grabbed the lead at the start, and never looked back. Except for his two pit stops, Button led 56 of the 58-lap race. It was his lucky thirteenth F1 win, and the 176th victory for McLaren.
“Today means a lot to me, and I’m sure it’ll mean a lot to all of them too: it’ll make those extra hours worked in the early hours of the morning all the more worthwhile, because we know we can do great things with this car.”
Button turned the fastest lap of 1:29.187 on Lap 56. His Margin of Victory was 2.1 seconds. The driver’s personal fastest laps were relative to where they were in the race, with the majority driving fastest in the last ten laps.
Local lad, MARK WEBBER/Red Bull Racing finished fourth, ahead of FERNANDO ALONSO/Scuderia Ferrari. Webber, who had fallen back, had pushed ahead and was closing on Hamilton, only a 0.4 seconds behind at the flag.
The weather was beautiful – warm, sunny, blue skies and a fresh breeze.
A near record 114,900 fans turned out for the race, the highest since 2005. With attendance up all four days for a total of 313,700, the locals should be a bit happier about the event.
With KIMI RAIKKONEN/Lotus F1 Team coming in seventh behind KAMUI KOBAYASHI/Sauber F1 Team, there were five F1 World Champions in the top seven.
Eighth was SERGIO PEREZ/Sauber F1 Team, who had run as high as second. He was the only finishing driver to do it on one pit stop – Lap 24 of 58. How does he do it?
Although losing the last lap dash to Perez, DANIEL RICCIARDO/Scuderia Toro Rosso was off to a good start, finishing ninth, followed by PAUL DI RESTA/Sahara Force India F1 Team.
MICHAEL SCHUMACHER/Mercedes AMG Petronas faded early, being craned in and retiring mechanical after 10 laps. He rode back in the crane – second day in a row he stuck with his car rather than taking a lift with the Boundary Rider. The Recovery Marshal said Schumacher was very nice, especially after she kept photographers from bothering him.
The race was relatively processional without much drama, with one exception. PASTOR MALDONADO/Williams F1 Team lost it in Turn Six on the last lap, and drove into the wall. He scattered parts all over, but the mandated wheel tethers held the tire. Maldonado was running sixth, chasing Alonso.
Thirteen of the 16 Classified drivers finished, with 12 on the lead lap.
McLaren leads the Constructor’s Championship, followed by RBR, Sauber, Ferrari, Lotus, Toro Rosso and Force India.
The race finished at 6:35pm, in fading light and cooler temperatures. Sunset was an hour later.
His nibs was not present at AGP … again.
The next race is next weekend in Malaysia. HEIKKI KOVALAINEN/Caterham F1 Team will start that race five grid spots behind his qualifying time for passing two cars before the Safety Car line.