F1 Australia Results & Full Race Report: Button Wins After Reliability Strikes Vettel Again


What Happens When Karma is a Pain

3:51am EST — Jenson Button won the 2010 Australian GP as Sebastian Vettel yet again suffered reliability issues while leading, this time a brake failure.  Robert Kubica and Felipe Massa finished on the podium, with Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg completing the top five.  Lewis Hamilton finished sixth after some angry radio conversations with his team in the closing laps and a failed passing attempt on Alonso, which ended with Mark Webber running into the Briton and finishing ninth, just ahead of Michael Schumacher, who spent most of the day fighting with young Jaime Alguersuari.  Rain and interesting tire strategies made the Australian GP a considerably more exciting race than Bahrain two weeks ago.

Sebastian Vettel started on pole, with teammate Mark Webber beside him and Ferrari rival Fernando Alonso behind after a qualifying session that saw Nico Rosberg again out-qualifying teammate Michael Schumacher (and the two Mercedes teammates the only top-ten starters beginning the race on hard tires), and Lewis Hamilton not make Q3.  Rain threatened and fell off and on throughout the day Sunday, though the heat kept the circuit pretty dry.  Weather reports were conflicting, though most suggested that there would be some rain during the race, and some suggestions were floated that the race could be called early, as was Malaysia 2009, due to low light.  Both Virgin Racing cars started the race from the pit lane as, “We’ve opted to start both cars from the pitlane, as we’ve changed the fuel collectors to optimize fuel pickup,” according to the team’s Twitter account.  Similarly, Jarno Trulli’s Lotus had an issue, and he also started from the pit lane as rain began earnestly falling upon Melbourne and teams scrambled to switch to intermediate tires to start the race.

Another heavy start for the field, as got Vettel got away cleanly and led Massa and teammate Webber, but Fernando Alonso was caught and subsequently spun between Jenson Button and Michael Schumacher, dropping Alonso to 22nd and damaging Schumacher’s wing.  Robert Kubica got quite the start, moving up from ninth to fourth.  After Sebastien Buemi and Nico Hulkenberg went off into the gravel, both collected by Kamui Kobayashi after what looked to be a front wing failure (as happened to the Sauber during Friday practice), the safety car was deployed and Schumacher came in for a new wing.  The top five behind the SC were Vettel, Massa, Webber, Kubica, and Rosberg.  Trulli did not start the race, while Schumacher had dropped to 20th, Alonso to 18th.

Lap 4 brought the SC back in, with no tire change required by the rules due to the use of intermediates.  At the re-start, Kubica and Webber had quite the dice for P3, with Webber coming out the victor, for the moment.  At the back, Alonso and Schumacher were attempting to storm through the field, as Timo Glock managed to keep Schumacher behind his Virgin.  There is no way to say that these early laps weren’t exciting, with Hamilton and Button dicing for sixth, and Webber around Massa for 2nd, and Kubica and Rosberg moving about and fighting for third with him.  On L6, Button was the first to go in for slicks, and promptly went off into the gravel.  He continued, in 19th.  In the rear, Schumacher was around Kovalainen for 14th as the track dried out.

With a sick-sounding engine, Adrian Sutil was dropping back, and dramatically.  On L8, a huge portion of the field came in for slicks, except for both Red Bulls, just as Button posted the fastest lap of the race.  As Button posted another fastest lap, including some time passing and fighting with Kubica, Vettel pitted and Webber stayed out.  Petrov was out in a gravel trap on L10 as Webber finally pitted and returned to the track in 5th, and he promptly had a minor off and was passed by Massa, with Hamilton quite threatening.  Perhaps the best way to “improve the show” would be to wet down the track, periodically throughout the race?

By L13, Alonso had moved up to 10th, with Vettel still leading and having posted the race’s fastest lap, followed by Button, Kubica, Rosberg, and Massa as the top five as rain drops seemed to start again.  Sutil had retired by this point as well.  Alonso continued his charge, passing de la Rosa and Barrichello to move into 8th.  L14 brought this information from Lotus’ Mike Gascoyne, “On the option tyre and plan to run to the end.”  Meanwhile, in a bit of heart-stopping passing, Webber took Massa, went wide, Hamilton moved past Massa, went after Webber, forcing both wide and Webber into the gravel, and allowing Massa back around.  Interestingly, Schumacher was having quite the difficulty moving up through the pack, still in 13th and fighting Alguersuari while Alonso had gotten around Webber, who promptly posted the race’s fastest lap.

A very clear dry line was forming and the rain seemed to have stopped with forty laps to go in the race; a far more exciting race than two weeks previously in Bahrain, even as Vettel was pulling away from Button at the front.  L20 had Hamilton around Massa, losing a bit of front wing in the process, as Alonso looked very close behind, but was passed by Webber when he looked to the inside of Massa, but went wide, allowing the Australian around.  Hamilton’s front wing looked quite wiggly, and continued to do so.  As Webber took a hard look at Massa, Alonso was coming from behind.  Seven tenths covered the three, fighting for sixth.

L26 had Hamilton and Rosberg fighting over fourth, but Hamilton came out on top as they came upon the local yellow for Vettel who was out from the lead with a possibly flat left rear or suspension issue.  That put Button into the lead, with Kubica, Hamilton, Rosberg, and Massa the top five in the second horrible race in a row and a bad start for the 2010 season for Vettel.  Webber was around Massa, then Alonso attempted to pass his teammate, who kept his position.

At the halfway point (only half!), Button had a five second lead over Kubica, with Hamilton, Rosberg and Webber the top five.  Schumacher pitted from 11th for new tires, and di Grassi was yet again unable to finish the race in the Virgin, leaving one one car from each new team still running.  Barrichello also pitted from 8th, as Schumacher set a race fastest lap on L32.  Webber also pitted with a tiny bit of front jack issues, as the tires were seemingly unable to make the race distance.  Rosberg was the next in, as a radio replay from Red Bull suggested that Vettel felt a left front brake failure caused his race-ending off.  Hamilton also pitted for fresh tires as teammate Button set the fastest lap in the lead.

Webber passed Hamilton after the Briton had an off into the grass on L37, but Hamilton managed to get back around as Rosberg snuck up behind the two.  Those three were over twenty second behind fourth place Alonso, though the top four had yet to stop for a second time.  Weather reports, at this time, were suggesting that rain might be close enough to make an appearance for the final few laps.  With seventeen laps left, the field seemed to have settled down, despite Hamilton’s hard-charging times.  Button had a 13+ second lead, over Kubica, Massa, Alonso, and fifth place Hamilton.

While the top four would be forced to attempt a one-stop race, despite Kubica’s unhappy looking right rear tire, Lotus’ Tony Fernandes explained, “jarno had hydraulic issue . same issue other cosworth new teams are having.”  Kubica, Massa, and Alonso were quite close, all fighting over second with fourteen laps to go.  Timo Glock made it so neither Virgin Racing car would finish by retiring.  Meanwhile, Hamilton was only seven seconds behind Alonso and catching him by nearly two seconds a lap and twelve to go as Ferrari engineer Rob Smedley encouraged Massa to pass Kubica over the radio.

As Hamilton came ever closer to the struggling Ferraris, Alonso said, “I don’t want to know” over the radio about the gap behind him to Hamilton.  Barely over two seconds covered Massa, Alonso, Hamilton, and Webber with eight laps to go, as Button continued to lead comfortably over Kubica.  Despite a slight mistake from Alonso, Hamilton could not find a way around Alonso, even with Webber right behind him.  Hamilton nearly frantically radioed back to the pits that his tires were going off, which might mean great things for the home crowd, with Webber so close.  Having to hold of Hamilton allowed Massa to develop a slight cushion over his teammate, as Hamilton kept looking at Alonso, but not attempting a pass with five laps left. Meanwhile, Schumacher had been fighting with Alguersuari all day, and finally, through a bit more dicing, got around him for 11th.

With just over two laps left, Hamilton was demonstrably angry on the radio with the McLaren’s call to bring him in for new tires earlier, and quite rude about how bad of an idea it was.  As Hamilton attempted to pass Alonso, the Spaniard held him off with some late braking, which allowed Webber to run right into Hamilton, taking both men off track, and Webber’s front wing off, forcing a nose change with a lap and a half to go.  Hamilton lost a place to Rosberg.  Button won, with Kubica, Massa, Alonso, and Rosberg finishing off the top five.  Webber finished ninth in his home GP, with Schumacher scoring the first points of his comeback in tenth.  Kovalainen’s Lotus and Chandhok’s HRT were the only new team drivers to finish the race.

Final Positions for the 2010 Australian GP:
1. Button
2. Kubica +12
3. Massa +14.4
4. Alonso +16.3
5. Rosberg +16.6
6. Hamilton +29.8
7. Liuzzi +59.8
8. Barrichello +60.5
9. Webber +67.3
10. Schumacher +69.3
11. Alguersuari +71.3
12. de la Rosa +74.0
13. Kovalainen +2 Laps
14. Chandhok +5 Laps
Glock
Vettel
di Grassi
Sutil
Petrov
Senna
Buemi
Hulkenberg
Kobayashi
Trulli

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