This is the Sidepodcast F1 Advent Calender 2010 and we have reached Day 8. We're recapping the season one three minute show at a time, picking out the important events that shaped the year. Today, we have reached Australia - Day 8, Rain dance.
Melbourne usually provides a chaotic race as it is, the perk up that everyone needs after a miserable start to the year in Bahrain. Throw in a little bit of water, and everything is ten times more eventful. The McLaren drivers looked strong through practice, but they couldn't keep the pace up in qualifying. Inexplicably, Lewis Hamilton couldn't get to grips with his car during the second session of quali, and ended up 11th - meaning he would miss out on the chance to shoot for pole. Button scraped through, and he managed fourth, whilst the top honours went to Red Bull again - Vettel ahead of Webber.
Come Sunday, the race was also declared wet, meaning tyre choices were less limited. Rather than just sticking to one softer and one harder compound, there were wet tyres to throw in to the mix as well. Most drivers started on intermediates, and the first lap was chaotic. Alonso and Button had a brief coming together, which put the Ferrari in a spin and saw him drop to the back of the field. Jenson lost a couple of places. Kobayashi had a front wing failure, and whilst he spun out, he took two drivers with him. The safety car came out.
On the restart, Button lost yet another place to his teammate, leaving him down in seventh. The track began to dry out, and that's when the strategy came in to play. Jenson made the call for dry tyres, and he was the first to do so. He later admitted that it was a pretty big risk, as he struggled to keep the car in a straight line, and found it even more tricky to get around corners. As I commented in the Factbyte Factbox at the time: "Button ran crazy wide at Turn 4 - looking like the wrong decision."
At the same moment, other drivers were being warned that there could be more rain on the way. It really looked like Jenson and McLaren had made the wrong call. However, that rain did not appear, and as the other drivers took later pit stops, Button made his way up to second, behind Vettel.
The Red Bull driver had started from pole, for the second race in a row, but he was to be denied the win, for the second race in a row. He retired about halfway through, with some mechanical troubles. Whilst technically inheriting the lead from another driver's retirement, Button went on to win the race, over ten seconds ahead of second place Robert Kubica. Felipe Massa finished third for Ferrari.
It was Button's first win of the year, his first for McLaren and his first real stamp on defending his title. The victory propelled him to third in the driver's championship, the first non-Ferrari driver down the list. After the race, Button was naturally very happy, he said: "We didn't have the pace of the quick cars on the front row in qualifying, but our race pace has been better over the past two grands prix. The conditions helped us today and we made some good calls – but F1 is not just about being the quickest out there. It is about making the right calls, conserving the car and the tyres, and I think we did everything right."
However, he made sure to note he was keeping his expectations in check. It was going to be a long season, and there was still plenty of work to do.
That's all for this episode of the Sidepodcast Advent Calendar. Do you remember that race in Melbourne? What were your thoughts of Button's tyre choice at the time? Let me know in the comments at Sidepodcast.com. Thank you for listening today and I hope you'll join me tomorrow for Day 9.
All content in the series F1 Advent Calendar 2010
Filed under Mini Series
References Felipe Massa, Lewis Hamilton, Robert Kubica
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