Jenson Button won the Australian Grand Prix for the second year in a row, leading home Robert Kubica and Felipe Massa. The game changing moment for Button was an early gamble he made to opt for dry tyres on a damp track.
The start was chaotic; rain fell on the grid and everyone opted to run the intermediate rain tyres. On a greasy track, Fernando Alonso got away slowly from third on the grid and was passed by Massa. Alonso tagged Jenson Button into turn 1, which spun the Spaniard around and into Michael Schumacher, breaking his front wing. The incident dropped Alonso down to 22nd place.
Vettel led them away, with Massa into second ahead of Mark Webber, with Kubica fourth, Rosberg fifth and Button sixth. But the safety car was deployed lap 1 for a nasty crash between Kamui Kobayashi and Nico Hulkenberg.
The safety car was out for five laps and at the restart Button pitted for dry tyres. He went off on his first lap, but it turned out to be the right move and it took him up to second place and he was soon the fastest car on the track, which led to a mass rush to the pits for most drivers.
Red Bull left both cars out, pitting Vettel a lap later. This delay cost Webber massively, as he was on the wrong tyre for three laps and when he rejoined after his stop on lap 9 he was in sixth place.
Red Bull should have pitted one of their cars on lap 7, when most people came in. Operationally the team made costly mistakes last season and they did it again here, they were lucky that Button went off track on slicks, otherwise he would have taken the lead from Vettel with his early pit stop gamble.
Everyone fitted the soft tyre at the stops and most were hoping to make it to the finish on them, which required them to be careful on the tyres. In the end it paid off for the front four cars.
Vettel led from Button, Kubica and Rosberg, while Webber passed Massa but then went off track defending from Hamilton.
At this stage of the race, Alonso and Webber were consistently the fastest drivers in the field. Webber passed Alonso after the Ferrari driver was caught up in the aftermath of a pass by Hamilton on Massa.
While all this overtaking was going on, it was strange to see Michael Schumacher was struggling to get past Jaime Alguersuari.
The race changed on lap 26 when Sebastian Vettel went off the track after a brake failure, meanwhile Lewis Hamilton pulled off an astonishing pass on Rosberg around the outside of Turn 11.
The tyres started graining around lap 30 on some cars. Schumacher pitted for new tyres as did Webber as everyone waited to see when the others might stop. Hamilton pitted for a new set of tyres at the very moment Button set the fastest lap up to that point of the race, despite having the oldest tyres of anyone, illustrating that his smoothness was paying dividends.
But Hamilton was soon lapping 2 seconds a lap faster and Button had to decide how long to stay out before pitting for a second set of tyres or whether to gamble on staying out and trying to make the tyres last to the end. He chose to stay out.
Kubica and the Ferraris took the same gamble. In the closing stages as their tyres struggled, they were caught by Hamilton and Webber, but the pair collided as Hamilton came up behind Alonso.
Button went to McLaren partly to prove that his world championship win last season was not solely because he had the fastest car. He certainly proved today that his legendary smoothness and his instinct for making the right choices at key moments are also important reasons why he’s a winner.
AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX, Melbourne, 58 laps
1. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1h33:36.531
2. Kubica Renault + 12.034
3. Massa Ferrari + 14.488
4. Alonso Ferrari + 16.304
5. Rosberg Mercedes + 16.683
6. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes + 29.898
7. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes + 59.847
8. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth + 1:00.536
9. Webber Red Bull-Renault + 1:07.319
10. Schumacher Mercedes + 1:09.391
11. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1:11.301
12. De la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari + 1:14.084
13. Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth + 2 laps
14. Chandhok HRT-Cosworth + 4 laps