Jenson Button has won the season opening Grand Prix in Australia. Button led McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton into the first corner and was never challenged from then on, as the McLarens translated their qualifying pace into blistering race pace.
Michael Schumacher passed Romain Grosjean into the first corner to take third, but was unable to keep pace with Button and Hamilton, who quickly pulled out a commanding lead. Schumacher was quickly under pressure from Vettel’s Red Bull, but a gearbox failure for Schumacher ended what was becoming an entertaining battle. Schumacher’s team-mate Nico Rosberg had a flying start to be fourth on the opening lap, but then struggled with to keep pace with the leaders, running eighth towards the end of the race before a problem on the final lap dropped him down to twelfth.
The Red Bull pair of Vettel and Webber were much stronger in the race than their qualifying pace had suggested. Vettel had a good start to beat Webber off the line and, after Schumacher retired, spent some time hunting down the McLarens. Button was too quick for the Red Bulls, but Vettel managed to pass Lewis Hamilton in the second round of pit stops, aided by the safety car that came out when Vitaly Petrov’s Caterham stopped on the pit straight.
After Ferrari lacked pace in qualifying, Alonso and Massa were both expected to struggle in the race, but Alonso put in a typically determined performance to finish fifth, behind the McLarens and Red Bulls. Massa was less competitive, fighting out of the points with the Saubers and Toro Rossos. His race ended in a collision with Bruno Senna. Senna had executed quite a neat pass round the outside of turn 4, but Massa gave him no space on the exit of the corner and crashed into the side of the Williams. It meant an early shower for both drivers.
Williams showed good pace, with Pastor Maldonado harrying Fernando Alonso until the final lap of the race, when Maldonado made a small mistake on the exit of turn 6 of the final lap and ended up in the wall. It was an unfortunate end to a strong race for the Williams team, but perhaps necessary experience for Maldonado.
There was disappointment for Romain Grosjean, who had a slow start and then found himself fighting with Maldonado. Contact when Maldonado passed the Lotus broke Grosjean’s right front suspension, which was the end of his race. After a very strong qualifying performance, it was disappointing to see Grosjean out so quickly, but team-mate Kimi Raikkonen showed what the Lotus can do, fighting through the field from 17th on the grid to finish seventh.
Mclaren will go away from Australia with confidence after a clinical and commanding performance. Red Bull look like they may be able to challenge the McLarens, but there is a gap back to Mercedes, Ferrari and Lotus. Williams may be in there somewhere as well. The front of the grid has certainly tightened up compared to last year. It looks like the season will be very close.
Formula One now heads to Malaysia for the second race next week.