Button sets the pace but Vettel remains favourite
2009 champion Jenson Button laid down the perfect marker to his 2012 Formula One season with a dominant victory in Melbourne.
An expert in wet conditions, Button had posted the fastest time in Friday practice in a rainy first session, but saw pole position go to teammate Lewis Hamilton when the conditions improved on the Saturday.
It had been a promising qualifying session for McLaren who topped the timesheets and ensured that for the first time since the 2010 Italian Grand Prix that a Red Bull driver failed to make it to the front row of the grid.
And with Melbourne famously favourable for drivers in pole – the driver starting from pole has won the Australian Grand Prix in seven of the last ten years and four of the last five – it was Hamilton who began the race favourite at evens.
But despite the dry conditions, added to the fact that a driver starting from second on the grid hadn’t won the Australian Grand Prix since Michael Schumacher in 2002, Button (at 5/2) was ahead of his McLaren colleague by the first corner, and didn’t look back.
It was Button’s third Melbourne win in the last four seasons, and McLaren’s fourth win in five.
Last year’s runner-up to Red Bull’s Seb Vettel, Button is now 9/4 joint second favourite alongside teammate Lewis Hamilton, while Vettel remains 2/1 favourite after pipping Hamilton to second place.
Arguably the biggest surprise of the day was the performance of another former champion, Fernando Alonso, who managed to claim fifth position for Ferrari despite a torrid qualifying session that saw him start 12th on the grid.
Expected to seriously struggle with an under-performing car this campaign, Alonso is now 14/1 to claim his third title, with Red Bull’s Mark Webber completing the top five at 16/1.