Button's win good sign for Formula One

McLaren-Mercedes driver Jenson Button of Britain leads team-mate Lewis Halmilton during Formula...

McLaren-Mercedes driver Jenson Button of Britain leads team-mate Lewis Halmilton during Formula One's Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 18, 2012. (QMI Agency/AFP/Paul Crock)

Dean McNulty, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:42 PM ET

There is no denying that Jenson Button deserved his stunningly dominate victory at the Australian Grand Prix.

At the same time he announced that the anointment of Sebastian Vettel by Formula One followers (including this one) as a three-time champion prior to the first race of the 2012 season might have been somewhat premature.

Button flew past his McLaren Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton on the first corner of the race and never was really challenged again.

If not for a late race safety car, Button likely would have won by 10 or more seconds.

As it was, Vettel used that full-course yellow to dive in and out of the pits and pull in front of pole sitter Hamilton and prevent a 1-2 McLaren result.

The McLaren team worked hard the whole off-season to bring their race cars up to par with the two-time defending champion Red Bull Renaults. The long hours in the shop obviously paid dividends in Melbourne.

“Every victory means a lot — but today shows just how important it was to have a strong winter,” Button said after the race. “At the start, I really wanted to get away fast in the first two laps ... it wasn’t easy because I had Lewis right on my tail. But the race went smoothly after that. My biggest worry was the late-race safety car. I had a 10-second advantage, which was pretty healthy, but the safety car cut that to nothing.”

For his part, Hamilton, rather than pout at another missed opportunity as has been his wont the past few seasons, manned up and saluted his teammate while taking the blame for his poor start.

“I struggled out there a little — it wasn’t my day,” he said. “But what’s most important is that we showed today that we have a very quick racing car — that’s a massive positive for the team.”

Vettel’s second-place finish — after an uncharacteristic sixth-place qualifying session on Saturday — gave hope to the rest of the grid that Red Bull may be coming back to the pack.

It also showed, however, that the 24-year-old Vettel can overcome adversity.

“I’m very happy to come away with second place, it’s a lot of points and I think people would not have expected it after (qualifying),” he said.

FINISH LINES

Last week it was the Roush Fenway Ford teammates Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth who beat on one another late in the Las Vegas race. On Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway it was Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. ... Speaking of Bristol, NASCAR has to be concened about the dramatic drop in at track attendance. It looked like less than 100,000 at the 160,000-seat Tennessee facility ... Audi made off with the big hardware at the 60th 12 Hours of Sebring with veterans Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Rinaldo Capello sharing in the honours in the LMP1 win in the No. 2 R18 TDI. In the very competitive GT class the BMW Team RLL with Joey Hand in the car for the final laps was first with the Corvette No. 03 second and the Ferrari AF Corsi third. Other class winners included Starworks Motorsport (LMP2), Level 5 Motorsports (P2), Dyson Racing (P1), CORE autosport (PC), Team Felbermayr-Proton (GTE) and Alex Job Racing (GTC). ... Canadian stock car racer Mario Gosselin, who is a veteran of the U.S. short track circuit and who owns a car in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East was arrested Friday after being caught in a police sting operation. According a police news release news release, the 40-year-old Gosselin offered money for oral sex to an undercover detective conducting an online vice operation targeting online adult ads for the Polk County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Office. ... Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher looked ready to challenge for a podium position in Australia before the gearbox on his Mercedes failed ... One has to wonder at what’s going on at JR Motorsports. Saturday at Bristol Earnhardt finished fifth in the No. 5 Chevrolet but teammates Danica Patrick was 19th, two laps down and Cole Whitt, 16th, one lap down at the Ford EcoBoost 300 NASCAR Nationwide race that was won by Elliott Sadler.

NUT & BOLTS

NASCAR SPRINT CUP

It was deja vu for Brad Keselowski on Sunday winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway in the No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge.

Keselowski held off Matt Kenseth in the No. 17 Roush Fenway Ford on the final re-start to win at the half-mile Tennessee track for the second time in five months.

It was also a great day for Michael Waltrip Racing with Martin Truex Jr. finishing third in the No. 56 Toyota, Clint Bowyer fourth in the No. 15 Toyota and a fifth for Brian Vickers in the No. 55 Toyota.

It was extra special for Vickers, running in his first Sprint Cup after losing his job to a combination of illness and Red Bull closing up shop in NASCAR last season.

Five-time Bristol winner Kyle Busch was taken out early in the race in a six-car pileup that also eliminated Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne.

FORMULA ONE

Team McLaren gave warning to two-time champions Red Bull that this season there will be no run away victory in Formula One.

Jenson Button passed his pole sitting McLaren teammate Lewis Hamilton on the very first turn and stayed out front until the checkered flag flew for the Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne’s Albert Park Circuit — F-1’s first race of the 2012 season.

Red Bull’s two-time defending world champion Sebastian Vettel finished second after he got in front of Hamilton on late full course yellow.

It was Button’s third victory in Melbourne, where he won in a Brawn car in his 2009 championship season. It was the 13th victory of his F-1 career.

Mark Webber, Vettel’s teammate, came in fourth, which was the Australian’s best finish at his home Grand Prix.


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