Button's flying start gives McLaren belief
Jenson Button hailed a big boost for McLaren on Sunday after his Australian Grand Prix victory wiped away the early season struggles of the last two years.
The 32-year-old, Formula One world champion with Brawn GP in 2009, won his third race in four years at Albert Park having started by powering past his pole-sitting teammate Lewis Hamilton, who finished third in the season-opener.
More significantly for a team that had to play catch-up with Red Bull last year, the Briton outpaced double world champion Sebastian Vettel after a mid-race safety car had robbed the McLaren driver of a 10-second cushion.
"Every race you win is special but starting the year strong for this team was really important," said Button, whose victory was the 13th of his career.
"The last two years have been tricky coming into the first race. Obviously Lewis's pole yesterday and the victory today puts us in a great position for the next few races. Fantastic day."
Hamilton, however, made no attempt to disguise his disappointment, describing his own efforts as a "pretty poor standard compared to some others".
"It was obviously a tough race but congratulations to Jenson, it was a great finish for him," the 2008 world champion, who had a troubled season last year, told Sky TV.
"It would have been great to have a one-two but it just wasn't the day for me. I just struggled out there and got a shocking start which really was the beginning of it all.
"I've just got to re-focus and get my head down, there's lots of races ahead. these championships it's all about consistency and that's what I'm going to focus on."
Team boss Martin Whitmarsh was delighted with Button's performance and said the team had some responsibility for Hamilton's poor start.
"I think Lewis was a little bit unlucky at the start," he said. "Bogged down just a little bit and that was a combination of him and our engineers."
Button's performance, he thought, marked him out as a strong contender for a second world title to add to the one he won for Brawn GP in 2009.
"Jenson in particular I think stands out," Whitmarsh said. "Just the calmness with which he controlled his pace, Sebastian got within three seconds and he just stretched it again. He ended the weekend with the fastest lap in the race.
"People underestimate him, he's such a calm, mature and easygoing fellow that people don't realise necessarily the hunger that's in him to compete and to win.
"I think he's just got stronger and stronger since he's been in our team and he must now fancy his chances for a real championship assault this year."
As for the team, which finished a distant second in the constructors' championship last year, Whitmarsh agreed with Button that a good start had been key.
"We've had a great win and we've proved we've got a great car and to start the year with a win like that really gives confidence to the team and the belief within the team that we can really take this championship."