Britain’s Jenson Button won the opening race of the 2009 Formula One season after dominating the Australian Grand Prix for the newly-formed Brawn GP team.
Button, who started from pole at Albert Park, was claiming the second victory of his 154-race career to complete a remarkable reversal of fortunes for the former Honda team who were facing an uncertain future when the Japanese car manufacturer withdrew from F1 late last year. Button’s teammate Rubens Barrichello, who started second on the grid, made an appalling start and damaged his front wing in a first corner collision, but he completed a 1-2 for Brawn after profiting from a late collision involving Red Bull’s Sebastien Vettel and Robert Kubica of the BMW-Sauber team. Promising young German Vettel was coming under pressure from Kubica for second place when the pair collided on turn three, the race finishing under the safety car as the debris was cleared off the track. Button was emulating the feat of the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio, who won for Mercedes in their Formula One debut in 1954, and paid immediate tribute over race radio to technical guru Ross Brawn, who led a management buyout with Nick Fry to rescue the team from extinction. “Thank you, you’re a legend, it’s going to be a great year,” he said. Toyota’s Jarno Trulli, who had started the race from the pit lane after a technical infringement in qualifying, finished third, but lost the position to world champion Lewis Hamilton after incurring a time penalty. Hamilton had started at 18th on the grid..
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Timo Glock finished fifth in the second Toyota with two-time world champion Fernando Alonso of Spain sixth for Renault. Nico Rosberg (Williams) and Toro Rosso rookie Sebastien Buemi completed the points-scoring positions. In contrast to his teammate Barrichello, Button made a perfect start and quickly built a commanding advantage. The safety car was deployed for the first time after 18 of 58 laps when Kazuki Nakajima of Japan crashed heavily in his Williams. But Button quickly rebuilt his advantage from the restart, briefly coming under pressure from Vettel and the charging Kubica after the second round of pit stops before crossing for a fairytale victory. “An amazing day,” he said. Hamilton was delighted with his high finish after what looked set to be a disastrous weekend for last year’s dominant dominant teams with the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen out of the points. “We did the best job we could, it just showed the true spirit of the team,” he told BBC Sport. The build-up to the first race of the season has been dominated by a row over an aerodynamic device used by the Brawn, Toyota and Williams teams. The three teams are racing under appeal after rival manufacturers questioned the legality of their rear diffusers which are said to give them an unfair advantage. The FIA, motorsport’s world governing body, will consider the appeal after next weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix where Button and the Brawn GP team will start strong favorites.