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GP Week : Issue 75
F1 AUSTRALIA >> EVEN Jenson Button's staunchest supporters would have turned down this bet: that by his second race for McLaren, he would overshadow Lewis Hamilton and storm to victory from fourth on the grid. It was a 58 lap race, but Button won it on lap six. By coming in earlier than everyone as they slid around on a damp but drying track, Jenson was able to then surge ahead on dry tyres. And -- and this is the skill that may see Jenson win several more times this year -- he was able to last the remaining 52 laps on that same set of soft rubber. That early stop -- two laps before most people came in -- was questionable at first: "I thought I had made a catastrophic decision as it was soaking wet in the pitlane", said Button. When he emerged he suffered a brief slide off the track, but quickly found a dry line and started "picking people off as they came back onto the circuit." Sebastian Vettel had built a lead big enough not to feel challenged. But then, on lap 26, his left front brake failed and he was thrown into the gravel at Turn 13. By the midpoint of the race, many drivers were suffering graining of the rears and pitted for fresh rubber, among them Mark Webber, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton. Button, however, had no such concerns and, as his team-mate came in, he set the fastest lap of the race up to that point, despite being on the oldest tyres of anyone. It was a real testament to his smooth driving skills. Soon, Hamilton was lapping two seconds a lap quicker, but Button gambled on staying out. He had, after all, built a lead of 15 seconds over Robert Kubica before slowing to a crawl as John Travolta waved the chequered flag. "It feels so good," he told his team on the radio. He said afterwards that he figured his first McLaren win would be longer coming: "I thought it would take longer than this, but a lot of it depends on what sort of a car you come out of the box with. This race was obviously unusual. "I don't know where we would stand in general pace but it's not what racing is about. It's about strategy, it's about thinking and it's about conserving, and we did it correctly today and we came away with a good victory." In many ways, his race was the opposite of Hamilton's who charged dramatically through the field, made two tyre stops and was fighting for fourth before being hit by Webber and limping home to sixth. His pass on Nico Rosberg was sensational -- the move of the race -- but by not looking after his tyres as well as his team-mate, he was never in contention for victory. Jenson proved on Sunday that Lewis is going to have to work very hard this year to keep up ... 29