Brawn GP the first team to win on debut since 1977

MELBOURNE: Jenson Button led Brawn GP to an astonishing one-two at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Sunday in Formula One’s most successful team debut for 55 years.

The 29-year-old Briton, written off by some as overpaid and overrated after two dismal seasons with Honda, cemented a fairy-tale comeback that left team owner Ross Brawn lost for words.

Brazilian teammate Rubens Barrichello started and finished second, but only after Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and BMW-Sauber’s Robert Kubica drove each other off the track while fighting for the runner-up position with three laps to go. The safety car came out and led the field until the final corner of the race.

Catastrophic

McLaren’s World champion Lewis Hamilton, starting last on the grid after a catastrophic gearbox failure in qualifying, showed his fighting spirit by clawing his way back to third place while the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen failed to finish.

“It wasn’t my best race, but I still won,” said Button, whose teammate got off to a terrible start after he hit the anti-stall button and dropped to seventh.

“This win is for me and the team. That’s what I care about. I don’t need to poke anyone in the eye about what was said in the past.”

No Formula One team had won on its debut since Wolf in 1977 while the last to secure the top two places first time out was Mercedes, Brawn’s current engine suppliers, in 1954.

Fifty five years on, Button and Barrichello followed in the footsteps of the great Argentine champion Juan Manuel Fangio and Germany’s Karl Kling.

Pole to podium

Button led from pole to chequered flag, despite two safety car periods, to take his first victory since Hungary in 2006 and score more points in a single afternoon than he had in two years with Honda.

The victory marked a remarkable turnaround for a team which was fighting for its Formula One survival earlier this year after Honda pulled out.

With Barrichello well behind in fourth place, the one-two looked an impossible dream until Kubica tried to pass Vettel on the outside and Vettel drove into him.

Brawn was stunned with the result.

“You don’t find Ross speechless very often,” said Button. “But in the last 15 minutes I’d be surprised if he said a word. The big bear was just speechless.”

The first race of a new-look Formula One, with radically-revised aerodynamic regulations, slick tyres and the new KERS energy recovery systems, turned the starting grid upside down and shook up the pecking order as many had predicted.

Italian Jarno Trulli finished third but was demoted to 12th.

“We scored way more points than we could have realistically expected,” said Hamilton. “I was looking to try and get one point, so to get six is a great achievement.

“I wrung every last ounce of pace out of the car, drove one of my best ever races and absolutely raced my heart out. I’m so satisfied.”

Germany’s Timo Glock, who started behind Trulli in the pit lane after Toyota were disqualified from qualifying for using an illegal rear wing, was elevated to fourth ahead of Renault’s Fernando Alonso and Williams’ Nico Rosberg.

Buemi’s distinction

Toro Rosso’s Swiss rookie Sebastien Buemi became the 58th driver to score on his debut with seventh place while French teammate Sebastien Bourdais took the final point.

McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen retired after being caught in a first lap coming together with Australian Mark Webber’s Red Bull and Nick Heidfeld’s BMW-Sauber.

The first safety car came out on the 20th lap after Williams’ Japanese driver Kazuki Nakajima crashed into the wall with Button already 36.4 seconds clear of Vettel.

Red Bull was fined $50,000 and Vettel demoted 10 places on the starting grid for the next race in Malaysia for causing the incident with Kubica.

The results (read under driver, car, laps, time, ‘x’ denotes penalised 25 seconds for overtaking under safety-car conditions): 1. Jenson Button, Brawn GP, 58, 1:34:15.784; 2. Rubens Barrichello, Brawn GP, 58, 1:34:16.591; 3. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, 58, 1:34:18.689; 4. Timo Glock, Toyota, 58, 1:34:20.219; 5. Fernando Alonso, Renault, 58, 1:34:20.663; 6. Nico Rosberg, Williams, 58, 1:34:21.505; 7. Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso, 58, 1:34:21.788; 8. Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso, 58, 1:34:22.082; 9. Adrian Sutil, Force India, 58, 1:34:22.119; 10. Nick Heidfeld, BMW, 58, 1:34:22.869; 11. Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India, 58, 1:34:23.158; 12. x-Jarno Trulli, Toyota, 1:34:17.388; 13. Mark Webber, Red Bull, 57; 14. Sebastien Vettel, Red Bull, 56; 15. Robert Kubica, BMW, 56; 16. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 55. Not classified: 17. Felipe Massa, Ferrari; 18. Nelson Piquet, Renault; 19. Kazuki Nakajima, Williams; 20. Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren. — Agencies

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