An early switch to dry tyres reaped spectacular rewards as Jenson Button raced away with the Australian Grand Prix to clinch his first victory for his new McLaren-Mercedes team on Sunday.
Button, who switched from Brawn GP as the reigning world champion, seized on brake failure for Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel mid-race to storm to a 12-second win in a highly eventful second GP of the season.
The 30-year-old held off Renault’s Robert Kubica and Ferrari's Felipe Massa to claim his eighth win in 172 GPs and back-to-back Australian victories. Ferrari's Fernando Alonso finished fourth to retain the world drivers' championship lead with 37 points, ahead of teammate Massa (33), with Button improving to third spot on 31.
The big moment in the 58-lap race on the street circuit, initially greasy from light rain, came on lap 26 when Vettel veered off the track into the gravel with brake trouble ending his race. Button roared past and was never troubled as he completed the race with his only trip to the pit lane on lap six for what proved to be an inspired change to dry tyres.
“I made the call to pit early because I felt I was going to keep going backwards,” Button said.
“It was a terrible call initially because the pit lane was so wet and after my first lap out on the course I thought it was a pretty catastrophic mistake.
“But after that I got into a rhythm and I found the dry parts on the circuit and I was able to push pretty hard, and then it was about picking people off when they came out on to the circuit (from changing tyres). It was a nice feeling because they're searching for the grip and I knew where it was and I was able to overtake.”
While it was a triumphant day for Button it didn't prove the same for teammate Lewis Hamilton, already embarrassed this weekend after being pulled over by police for "over-exuberant" driving in his Mercedes road car.
Hamilton finished sixth but had two run-ins with Australian Red Bull driver Mark Webber, on lap 16 and on the second-last lap as the pair were dicing with Alonso.
It was more heartbreak for Webber, who started off on the front row but could not convert it into a cherished home victory at his ninth frustrating attempt and had to settle for ninth.