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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Jenson Button wins dramatic Australian Grand Prix

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Jenson Button won an incident-packed Australian Grand Prix after the leading Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel slid out of the race with brake failure.

An early swap to dry-weather slick tyres proved crucial in a race dominated by changing weather, crashes and breathtaking racing.

Vettel’s lead looked secure until his mid-race problem allowed Button in.

A stubborn Robert Kubica claimed second for Renault, holding off the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso.

Button’s team-mate Lewis Hamilton was challenging Alonso for fourth in the closing stages but finished up sixth after a collision with the Red Bull of Mark Webber.

The Australian clattered into the back of Hamilton’s car when he misjudged his braking as Hamilton pulled out of an attempt to pass the Ferrari.

Hamilton was fighting back after a decision by McLaren to bring him in mid-race to fit new tyres.

It made Hamilton much faster than those in front of him, who were still on the tyres they had fitted in the early laps as the track dried following a wet start. But he was frustrated in his attempts to pass and blamed his team for making a mistake on strategy.

“It was one drives of my life,” Hamilton said. “Unfortunately due to the strategy I got put back and then I drove my heart out today and I think I deserved better. Everyone else in front of me did one stop and I did two.”

In a sign of the drama to come, positions at the front of the pack were immediately jumbled into the first corner, with Massa making the biggest gain as he took advantage of the dry side of the track to pick his way up from seventh from second.

Ferrari team-mate Fernando Alonso made a slow start from third on the grid and tangled with Button at the first corner, while Hamilton moved up to seventh from 11th and Vettel kept clear of the raging battle behind him.

BMW Sauber’s Kamui Koybayashi slid across the track without his front wing to take out Williams Nico Hulkenberg and Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi, further depleting the field and prompting an early appearance from the safety car.

Michael Schumacher took the chance to scurry back down the pits with sparks trailing from his front wing, damaged in the incident between Alonso and Button, but the race’s crucial strategic decision was soon to follow from Button.

The defending world champion had seen Hamilton sweep past and into sixth but more than made back the ground by stopping for dry-weather tyres on lap six.

Despite slipping off the track as he emerged from the pits, Button’s decision was vindicated as he took more than two seconds off previous fastest lap by Vettel and moved into second as the rest of the field pulled into the pits a lap later.

As Button chased up on Vettel, team-mate Hamilton was unable to take such an advantage due to pit-lane traffic and was drawn into an engrossing four-way battle for fifth.

The 2008 world champion saw Webber slide wide in front of him, before stalking down Massa and slipping past Rosberg with a daring move on the turn 11 of lap 23.

Vettel’s failure to convert pole position in the season-opener in Bahrain recurred as he ploughed straight into the gravel after a brake failure on turn 13 and, with clear track in front of him, Button soon prised open a 12-second lead over Robert Kubica in second.

Hamilton fell to fifth as he took new tyres on lap 34 and, like Button, it appeared the decision may pay off as he closed in on Alonso towards the end.

The Ferrari driver had seen his rival looming after a sustained period, toiling behind team-mate Massa as the Brazilian struggled to get close enough to launch a strike at Kubica.

But Hamilton was ultimately fortunate to finish the race after his aborted pass was swiftly followed by a significant shunt from Webber.

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