Button calls shots for superb Melbourne F1 triumph
Jenson Button made an audacious early tyre call pay off to perfection as his smooth driving style and level-headed calmness earned the defending F1 World Champion a superb victory in the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne
The critics had written him off, he himself admitted that he thought he had made 'a catastrophic decision' early on in electing to becoming the first driver to change over to slick tyres in the 2010 Australian Grand Prix – but reigning F1 World Champion Jenson Button has kicked his challenge for title glory firmly into gear with a brilliant victory in Melbourne, twelve months on from the triumph that launched a successful title challenge.
With the biggest Albert Park crowd in years, precipitation hanging in the air in the build-up to the race and rain increasingly threatening, the heavens opening barely ten minutes before the start turned proceedings into a lottery, with all competitors heading out on intermediates and grip at a real premium. All the ingredients were there for a Formula 1 thriller – and that is precisely what we would get.
A textbook launch from pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel when the lights went out was not mirrored by those behind. Team-mate Mark Webber alongside the German made a more sluggish getaway, and was passed for second by the sprightly Felipe Massa in the Ferrari from row three, the Brazilian making a storming start at a circuit that has never really smiled upon him.
The real drama, however, came as world championship leader Fernando Alonso found himself caught in the middle of a pincer movement between the McLaren of defending title-winner Button inside him and Michael Schumacher in the Mercedes Grand Prix on the outside. As the three squeezed together and tangled, the Ferrari was tipped into a spin and left facing backwards as the oncoming pack darted left and right around him, with some – Schumacher and the fast-starting Lewis Hamilton amongst them – forced to leave the track in avoidance.
That left Vettel leading from Massa, Webber and Robert Kubica in the first of the Renaults, with the Pole having made a lighting getaway right down the middle to vault from ninth to fourth. Later around the opening lap, a front wing-less Kamui Kobayashi in the Sauber found himself out-of-control heading into Turn Three and quite literally harpooned the luckless Nico Hulkenberg in the Williams and the Scuderia Toro Rosso of Sebastien Buemi, with all three departing the scene on the spot in a nasty-looking coming-together that thankfully resulted in no injuries.
As the remainder of the competitors literally tip-toed around the lap on the tricky track surface, the safety car unsurprisingly emerged, enabling Schumacher to pit to replace his own dragging front wing. That left the order at the front Vettel from Massa, Webber, Kubica, Nico Rosberg, McLaren duo Button and Hamilton and Adrian Sutil, with Russian rookie Vitaly Petrov confirming the fast-starting abilities of the Renault R30 by leaping up from 18th to tenth. Bruno Senna has similarly profited well from the chaos to put his HRT an excellent 14th – though the Brazilian's race would unfortunately not last long.
At the re-start, whilst Vettel bolted away, Webber got very loose into the final corner to allow a racy Kubica to pull alongside on the start/finish straight as the Renault displayed superb traction in the wet, though the man from Krakow was unable to make a move stick on the outside line. Shortly afterwards, Hamilton asserted himself in the McLaren camp by diving up the inside of team-mate Button into turn three and aggressively squeezing him wide to make sure there was no comeback.
Further back, Schumacher was having fun and games with both feisty rookie Lucas Di Grassi and Lotus ace Heikki Kovalainen duelling energetically with the most successful driver in the sport's history and the former even having the audacity to re-pass the German legend once he had been overtaken in the unheralded Virgin Racing entry.
Up at the sharp end of proceedings, meanwhile, Webber found a way past Massa to re-instate the Red Bull one-two, with Kubica and Rosberg moving in to hassle the Paulista immediately afterwards, and Hamilton next up similarly on the attack. Button became the first driver to pit for slick tyres when he made a late call on lap seven, in an audacious bid that initially looked to have failed as the Briton shot off-track not long after – but the gamble would not take long to start paying off.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
1. Jenson Button Britain McLaren-Mercedes 58 laps 1hr 33m 36.531s
2. Robert Kubica Poland Renault-Renault +00m 12.0s
3. Felipe Massa Brazil Ferrari-Ferrari +00m 14.4s
4. Fernando Alonso Spain Ferrari-Ferrari +00m 16.3s
5. Nico Rosberg Germany Mercedes-Mercedes +00m 16.6s
6. Lewis Hamilton Britain McLaren-Mercedes +00m 29.8s
7. Vitantonio Liuzzi Italy Force India-Mercedes +00m 59.8s
8. Rubens Barrichello Brazil Williams-Cosworth +01m 00.5s
9. Mark Webber Australia Red Bull-Renault +01m 07.3s
10. Michael Schumacher Germany Mercedes-Mercedes +01m 09.3s
11. Jaime Alguersuari Spain Toro Rosso-Ferrari +01m 11.3s
12. Pedro de la Rosa Spain BMW Sauber-Ferrari +01m 14.0s
13. Heikki Kovalainen Finland Lotus-Cosworth +2 laps
14. Karun Chandhok India HRT-Cosworth +5 laps
Rtd Timo Glock Germany Virgin-Cosworth 41 laps completed
Rtd Sebastian Vettel Germany Red Bull-Renault 25 laps completed
Rtd Lucas di Grassi Brazil Virgin-Cosworth 24 laps completed
Rtd Adrian Sutil Germany Force India-Mercedes 9 laps completed
Rtd Vitaly Petrov Russia Renault-Renault 9 laps completed
Rtd Bruno Senna Brazil HRT-Cosworth 4 laps completed
Rtd Sebastien Buemi Switzerland Toro Rosso-Ferrari 0 laps completed
Rtd Nico Hulkenberg Germany Williams-Cosworth 0 laps completed
Rtd Kamui Kobayashi Japan BMW Sauber-Ferrari 0 laps completed
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Alonso not getting carried away by Ferrari 1-2
Fernando Alonso has admitted that little can be read into Ferrari's 1-2 finish in Bahrain, with other potential frontrunners looking strong during the weekend.
Fernando Alonso insists that Ferrari's 1-2 finish in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix does not make the Scuderia favourites to dominate this year's Formula One campaign.
Speaking after leading team-mate Felipe Massa to the chequered flag in a largely uneventful 49-lap race – the first under F1's new 'no refuelling' regulations – Alonso pointed to the performance of other teams through the weekend as reason to believe that Ferrari would face stiff competition in what many are forecasting to be the most closely-contested championship in years.
“The eight drivers in the top four teams are contenders for the championship,” the Spaniard maintained, “Maybe this is only the first race, but we saw the potential of the Mercedes in free practice and Q1, and we saw the potential of the McLaren today, being on the podium. We saw the potential of Red Bull, that they were quicker than us in qualifying, and maybe a little bit quicker than us in the race as well. And, of course, [there is] Felipe, with the same car…. There will be races that one of us will win and some races that the other will win.”
With interesting intra-team rivalries up and down the pit-lane, and his own history of acrimonious partnerships – Alonso was quick to underline the harmony that currently exists at Ferrari, even if some of his comments in the post-qualifying press conference appeared more than a little pointed.
“First of all, [Felipe]'s not an enemy, maybe a rival but not an enemy,” he underlined, “The important thing is to score many more points for the team and, hopefully, both Ferrari drivers will be on the podium.
“I think this will depend track to track. Here in Bahrain, for whatever reason, it was a little bit better for us, maybe we go to Australia for the next race and Mercedes or McLaren or whoever is a little bit ahead of everybody. We need to understand this and prepare our car perfectly for each grand prix, in terms of set-up, in terms of developing a programme in the wind tunnel, engine-wise and so on. There is a package that is a combination of many things that we need to get ready.
"I start from zero again in Australia, and we can have a bad race at any time, if we make some little mistakes or we are not fully concentrated, so we need to take each grand prix like a new one, like the last one. We need to do solid races now, at the beginning of the championship, and come back to Europe with some good points."
Having been out-qualified by his new team-mate, Alonso made a decisive move on Massa to claim second place on lap one, putting himself in prime position to inherit the lead when Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel ran into engine problems.
“The start was good,” the double world champion admitted, “I think being on the clean line here is a difference. There is a bit of sun close to the walls, so the start was more or less okay and the first corner was also good and I was lucky to overtake Felipe.
Fernando Alonso heads Ferrari 1-2 in season-opening F1 race after poleman Sebastian Vettel falters.
Fernando Alonso completed a famous debut for Ferrari by claiming victory in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, and heading a 1-2 result for the Scuderia.
The Spaniard ensured that he was best placed to take advantage of the problems that beset pole winner Sebastian Vettel in the closing stages after using the outside line at turn one on the opening lap to supplant Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa into turn two. From there, the pair kept a watching brief in second and third, although Vettel initially pulled out a five-second lead.
After the pit-stops, however, the gap to the leader began to shrink at a rapid rate and, when Vettel reported a loss of power believed to have been due to an exhaust problem, Alonso was able to sweep past heading onto the start-finish straight on lap 34. Massa soon followed his team-mate through, but had no answer to the Spaniard as Alonso pulled out a 16-second victory margin in the remaining 15 laps.
While the Prancing Horse galloped on, however, the increasingly lame Vettel also fell prey to Lewis Hamilton, and only just managed to hold off countryman Nico Rosberg on the final lap to confirm fourth place.
Rosberg duly headed high-profile Mercedes team-mate Michael Schumacher, who marked his return with sixth place, coming home ahead of reigning world champion Jenson Button and Mark Webber, who lost a strong starting spot when his Red Bull began belching oil smoke on the opening lap. The ensuing cloud accounted for both Robert Kubica and Adrian Sutil;, who touched and spun away top ten starts.
In their place, accepting the newly created scoring places in ninth and tenth, were Sutil's Force India team-mate Tonio Liuzzi and Williams veteran Rubens Barrichello. Kubica and Sutil recovered to eleventh and twelfth.
The only one of the new teams to make the chequered flag was Lotus, for whom Heikki Kovalainen finished a respectable 15th.
Bahrain Grand Prix, Sakhir – Race results
Fernando Alonso heads Ferarri 1-2 in opening race of the 2010 F1 season.
1. Fernando Alonso Spain Ferrari-Ferrari 49 laps 1hr 39m 20.396s
2. Felipe Massa Brazil Ferrari-Ferrari +00m 16.0s
3. Lewis Hamilton Britain McLaren-Mercedes +00m 23.1s
4. Sebastian Vettel Germany Red Bull-Renault +00m 38.7s
5. Nico Rosberg Germany Mercedes-Mercedes +00m 40.2s
6. Michael Schumacher Germany Mercedes-Mercedes +00m 44.1s
7. Jenson Button Britain McLaren-Mercedes +00m 45.2s
8. Mark Webber Australia Red Bull-Renault +00m 46.3s
9. Vitantonio Liuzzi Italy Force India-Mercedes +00m 53.0s
10. Rubens Barrichello Brazil Williams-Cosworth +01m 02.4s
11. Robert Kubica Poland Renault-Renault +01m 09.0s
12. Adrian Sutil Germany Force India-Mercedes +01m 22.9s
13. Jaime Alguersuari Spain Toro Rosso-Ferrari +01m 32.6s
14. Nico Hulkenberg Germany Williams-Cosworth +1 lap
15. Heikki Kovalainen Finland Lotus-Cosworth +2 laps
Rtd Sebastien Buemi Switzerland Toro Rosso-Ferrari 46 laps completed
Rtd Jarno Trulli Italy Lotus-Cosworth 46 laps completed
Rtd Pedro de la Rosa Spain BMW Sauber-Ferrari 28 laps completed
Rtd Bruno Senna Brazil HRT-Cosworth 17 laps completed
Rtd Timo Glock Germany Virgin-Cosworth 16 laps completed
Rtd Vitaly Petrov Russia Renault-Renault 13 laps completed
Rtd Kamui Kobayashi Japan BMW Sauber-Ferrari 11 laps completed
Rtd Lucas di Grassi Brazil Virgin-Cosworth 2 laps completed
Rtd Karun Chandhok India HRT-Cosworth 1 lap completed
Fernando Alonso Spain Ferrari-Ferrari 1m 58.287s lap 45