Jenson Button paid tribute to the McLaren team after romping to victory in the opening race of the 2012 Formula One season at Albert Park. The Briton outdragged teammate Lewis Hamilton on the run down to the first corner to take a lead he would never relinquish.
Not even a late safety car period could deny him as he comfortably held off Sebastian Vettel to take the lead in the World Championship for the first time in nearly two years. Button dedicated the win to the team which designed and built the car that powered him to victory.
“Every victory means a lot – but today shows just how important it was to have a strong winter. The starts of the past two seasons have both been tricky for us, so today is really encouraging. The guys at the circuit and all the men and women back in Woking have done an amazing job to get us here. Today means a lot to me, and I'm sure it'll mean a lot to all of them too: it'll make those extra hours worked in the early hours of the morning all the more worthwhile, because we know we can do great things with this car.”
“At the start, I really wanted to get away fast in the first two laps to avoid the threat of DRS – 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. And, since it was 6.00pm, with the sun going down, it was quite difficult to keep temperature in the tyres when we were running slowly behind the Safety Car. That was a big worry for me, but it worked out okay in the end: I got clear of Seb [Vettel] and the DRS zone pretty quickly and was able to pull out an advantage and hold it to the end.”
“There's a huge amount of positives to take away from this weekend: we've got a great car and we can fight for the world championships. This is a perfect start to my season and I'm already looking forward to Malaysia.”
His mood was in stark contrast to Hamilton's with the polesitter appearing dejected on the podium. The polesitter struggled to preserve his initial set of tyres and was among those disadvantaged by the safety car period, losing second to Vettel.
Hamilton tried to stay positive though and feels he has a car capable of challenging for victories on a regular basis this season.
“Congratulations to Jenson and the whole team for such a great result today. While it's a bit disappointing not to have been able to convert pole position into victory, I'm not downhearted – there are still plenty of races ahead and lots more opportunities to score points.”
“I struggled out there a little – it wasn't my day. 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. I'm not sure what happened at the start, but I lost ground and then suffered from tyre degradation at the end of the first stint. Then, at the end of the race, I wasn't able to close the gap to Seb – he was very quick on the straights which meant that it was always going to be difficult to pass him – so I dropped back into some clear air, then Mark [Webber] put me under pressure.
“I'll just re-focus now, get my head down and look to the next race. The world championships are all about consistency, so that's what I'll be aiming for.”
Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh heaped praise on his drivers as McLaren took the early lead in both championships.
“Jenson was utterly immaculate today. He made a brilliant start, slipping past Lewis who got bogged down momentarily, and after that he controlled the race with consummate authority.”
“Lewis, too, drove extremely well, but was unfortunately deprived of second place when the Safety Car was deployed late in the race. A Vodafone McLaren Mercedes one-two had been there for the taking; but I guess it's a very good sign when you feel a little disappointed by a one-three, so we'll settle for that!
“We never under-estimate our opposition, and undoubtedly there's a long hard road ahead of us between now and the end of the season. But we've started well, and in a few days' time we'll roll into Sepang, Malaysia, hungry to score a repeat victory.”
“I want to thank everyone at not only Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, but also at Mercedes AMG HighPerformancePowertrains, for a fantastic effort over the past few weeks and months. We've all worked incredibly hard – and, today, in dappled late-afternoon sunshine in Melbourne's Albert Park, all that hard work paid off.”