While many race fans two weeks ago were treated to one of the most uneventful races in Bahrain and blamed the new rules for the result; Sunday's Grand Prix of Austraila at Albert Park proved that that opinion was way far from the mark as defending World Driving Champion Jenson Button, taking advantage of a mid race slick tire change, went on to take his eighth career win and his second in a row at this park circuit. In a big surprise, Robert Kubica, hung on to many threats and finished his Renault in second place, while Felipe Massa, who never finished anywhere better then sixth on this track, took third for Ferrari.
"I think it is easier for the drivers to feel the conditions, for me," stated Button after the race. "I did not have a balance on the car so I thought I would stick the slicks, since there was a dry line. When I entered the pit lane, I thought it was a catastrophic decision because it was soaking wet in the pit lane. But I got it going and the pace was very good and overtook four cars when they stopped for tires. It was the right call and I am very happy that I made it"
The predicted light rain conditions started at the beginning, even before the starting lights went out. Right at the first turn like it always has, carnage broke out when Button clipped Fernando Alonso, with Michael Schumacher getting involved in the melee, losing his front wing and having to pit for a new one. All three cars went on to complete the race. However, not everyone on that lap made it through.
Jarno Trulli never started the race in his Lotus, and Sebastian Buemi also retired before the second lap. If this was not bad enough, Kamuri Kobyaschi in his Sauber, lost his front wing and also complete control of his car, striking the wall, and flying across the track, striking a helpless Nico Hulkenberg and his Williams. With all the debris on this back part of the circuit, the safety car came out for its only appearance of the day, before the race resumed on lap five.
Sebastian Vettel, who won the pole the previous day, had no trouble staying out in front of the grid by the time the dust had cleared from all the starting chaos. The German by lap 11 had only a one second lead over Kubica, who survived the first lap fiasco and moved up quickly. By this point, Button had already made his decision to put slicks on, since the rain was now beginning to subside.
Behind the top two, there was a huge battle going on as Lewis Hamilton, Massa, Alonso and Mark Webber were jostling for position. This went on for the rest of the race, even when the final tire stops occurred, the positions kept changing between these four.
Vettel, holding a commanding lead, encountered brake failure on lap 27 and with the Red Bull driver now gone from the race, Button pushed himself into the lead, after Kubica made his last tire stop. The fight from third to sixth continued, and finally came to a boil when Hamilton tried to pass Webber one lap from the end, and was struck by the Australian, having to drop out of the fight. Massa took advantage of this, and moved into third, passing his teammate Alosno. Hamilton regained his composure, but the battle was now over. The Englishman himself thought that the strategy that his team gave him was not good, and he made it clear on the car radio and afterwards.
"To sum up the race I think I probably had one of the drives of my life and unfortunately, due to the strategy, I was put further back and then I got taken out by Webber. I'm happy with the job that I did. I think I honestly drove my heart out today and I think I deserved better than what I ended up with, but I'll keep fighting to the next race," said a very upset Hamilton.
Button finished 17 seconds clear of Kubica, and considering the gap, the Pole was pleased that the goal of a podium finish for the Anglo-French team was already achieved. But Kubica stated afterwards that the team still has more to do if they have to get competitive with the top four.
"Second place today is a fantastic result for the team after all the hard work we have done over the winter." said Kubica. "It was a difficult race to call in terms of strategy and I pitted to change my intermediates for slicks as soon as we saw Button's pace. I managed to jump Massa in the pits and I came out ahead of Button, but it was my first lap on slicks so I could not hold him off. I thought I would pit again later in the race, but the team said we didn't need to if I could look after the tyres until the end of the race. I tried to take care of them as much as I could, which wasn't easy because I had Hamilton behind me and then Massa, but in the end my tyres lasted and we managed to get this great result. We have put in so much hard work this winter, and we know there is still a long way to go before we are really competitive with the fastest teams, but this is a brilliant boost for everybody in the team."
Alonso took fourth, while Nico Rosberg came close to challenging the Spaniard, but had to settle with fifth in his Mercedes. Hamilton was seventh, while Vitantonio Luzzi was eighth. Webber came back with a fresh front wing and took ninth, while Schumacher, who was not competitive all race, took the last point in tenth. Button felt glad afterwards, and is hoping that his run of success will continue into next week when the F1 teams roll into the hot, humid, and possibly wet conditions of Malaysia.
"It is very special," concluded Button. "It is taking a while to get to grips with inside the car and the team and it took a while to adapt to it. It is difficult to put into words and we will take this into the next race, because it feels very good."