Things soon went from bad to worse for Ferrari as Massa suddenly slowed, beginning to echo Maranello's nightmare 2008 Melbourne outing when they had left Australia with nul points
in the bag. Button, though, had worries of his own, as a sticking left-rear tyre and fuel hose problem at his final pit-stop saw him only narrowly preserve his lead over Vettel and the charging Kubica, as Massa climbed out of his car into retirement and Fisichella halted Trulli's progress in the last of the points-scoring positions.
Rosberg was now once again the man on a charge, setting the fastest lap of the race as Button endeavoured to get away from Vettel, with the Red Bull Racing a scant 1.5 seconds in his mirrors and ten laps remaining until the chequered flag. Behind third-placed Barrichello, Kubica – on the stronger of the two tyres – was only 4.5 seconds off the lead himself, as Glock pitted for a quick splash n' dash, losing out to Buemi on the exit. The Swiss ace would, however, relinquish the position again with a mistake into turn three.
Barrichello pitting with seven laps to go released Kubica to chase after Button and Vettel, the 36-year-old rejoining in fifth place just behind Rosberg as Glock went all the way around the outside of Alonso at turn four, much like he had done to Buemi on only the previous lap. Barrichello was back on the move again, too, steaming around the outside of Rosberg towards the end of the lap as the Williams' pace slipped away once more and he fell swiftly into the clutches of Trulli, who similarly found a way past around the outside of the increasingly grip-less and defenceless German.
With little ability to slow his car down, Rosberg next ceded to Hamilton as the laps ticked down at the front and the tension mounted. The bigger of the two battles now was between Vettel and Kubica, affording Button some much-appreciated breathing space. A slight mistake from Vettel into turn one enabled Kubica to get a run on him, and as Kubica went for the outside line into turn three, Vettel on the inside could not slow down in time and the pair touched, pushing the BMW into a half-spin and subsequently into the wall, and leaving both with major damage that brought out the safety car for the second time.
That double retirement elevated Barrichello to second place and Trulli to third – a perfect way for the Abbruzzese to celebrate his special milestone – with Hamilton fourth, Glock fifth and Alonso, Rosberg and the incredible Buemi completing the points-finishers, and with the race continuing until the penultimate corner under the safety car, that is precisely as it would stay.
The only team to have previously secured both pole position and victory on its F1 debut was Mercedes-Benz with the legendary Juan-Manuel Fangio in the French Grand Prix more than half a century ago back in 1954, and prior to this weekend, Jenson Button had never won from pole position. He has now.
Crash.net Driver of the Day:
Jarno Trulli (19th – 3rd)
To see the race result in full, click here