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Thursday 14 December 2017

Button joy as move pays off

Champion feared tyre change would prove 'catastrophic'

Jenson Button feared he had made a "catastrophic" decision after switching to slick tyres early in yesterday's Australian Grand Prix -- a move which ultimately proved an inspired choice as he secured his first win with McLaren.

The race got off to a dramatic start as Ferrari's Fernando Alonso -- winner of the season opener in Bahrain two weeks ago -- spun at turn one on the first lap after hitting Button and then the Mercedes of Michael Schumacher.

A crash between BMW Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi and Williams' Nico Hulkenberg brought the safety car out and once it had left at the end of lap five Button made the call to enter the pits first and switch to slicks.

With the circuit still damp from the rain that had fallen shortly before the start of the race, it initially appeared as though he had acted prematurely as he struggled on the dry tyres, taking a brief gravel detour on his out lap.

But as the track dried he soon took control to surge up to second and then claimed the lead for good when Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel again endured a mechanical problem that brought an end to his race.

"I thought I'd made a catastrophic decision and I feared it was a massive mistake on my part because it was soaking wet there -- and when I left the pits I went off the circuit and just thought, 'Oh no'," said the reigning world champion.

"I got to grips with it pretty quickly, though, and soon started to feel really good in the car."

The victory was all the more impressive considering it was just Button's second race for McLaren since making the switch from Brawn GP.

"I want to say a massive thank you to the whole McLaren-Mercedes team; they've done a brilliant job," he added. "To not only be on the podium, but to be on the top step after just two races is amazing."

Button's team-mate Hamilton had delivered a charging drive, having climbed from 11th to second at one stage, but a late clash with Webber saw him drop away from challenging for a podium finish.

Webber will no doubt be disappointed with his finish at his home race after the Australian's clash with Hamilton ensured he finished ninth.

Mercedes' Michael Schumacher -- who has four wins to his name in Australia -- came out on top of a late tussle with Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari for 10th place.

Hamilton has vowed to keep on fighting after enduring a difficult weekend both on and off the circuit in Australia. It looked as though Hamilton had put his troubles behind him in the best possible fashion as he quickly made his way through the pack, profiting from some early drama which saw Ferrari's Fernando Alonso spin on the first turn of the opening lap.

The 25-year-old McLaren driver climbed as high as third at one stage but a decision from his team to call him into the pits for a second tyre change proved to be his undoing as his challenge for a podium finish faded away.

"All I know is that my team are a brilliant bunch of guys and they usually get it spot on, but the strategy was not right," Hamilton said after the race.

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh conceded: "If we look at how the race played out then if Lewis could have made those tyres last he could've finished at least second today and we could have had a one-two".

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