The day Button scored his “best win” – until next time!

Reigning champion Jenson Button declared the 2010 Chinese Grand Prix to be “my best victory in Formula 1” – at least until his next win, in Canada a year later!

The day Button scored his “best win” – until next time!

Just like Canada 2011, this was a race defined by mixed weather conditions, which played into Button’s super-sensitive hands. Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber had locked out the front row, but Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari rocketed ahead at the start. Race director Charlie Whiting immediately pointed at Alonso from his starter’s stand, and a penalty soon followed for a jump start.

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F10 leads at the start

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F10 leads at the start

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F10 leads at the start

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F10 leads at the start

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

The race was quickly neutralised, however, for a three-car pileup at Turn 6 that was triggered as Vitantonio Liuzzi lost control of his Force India in the slippery conditions and spun into Kamui Kobayashi’s Sauber and Sebastien Buemi. The latter had ‘gone viral’ in practice, when both front wheels parted company with his Toro Rosso under braking for the hairpin (below)!

Sébastien Buemi, Scuderia Toro Rosso STR5 crashed in the first practice session

Sébastien Buemi, Scuderia Toro Rosso STR5 crashed in the first practice session

Photo by: Sutton Images

Several cars opted to stop under the safety car, switching to intermediate tyres as the rain intensified. The race restarted with Nico Rosberg leading for Mercedes, ahead of Button, and the rain then relented, causing those who’d switched tyres to head back into the pits for slicks again.

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During the pitstops, Lewis Hamilton and Vettel battled wheel-to-wheel – both on the pit entrance and then banging wheels as they left their boxes. Vettel complained: “At the stop I was ahead, I don't know why he pulled to the left and was keen to touch me.”

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing RB6, Lewis Hamilton, McLaren MP4-25 Mercedes during the pitstop

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing RB6, Lewis Hamilton, McLaren MP4-25 Mercedes during the pitstop

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing RB6, Lewis Hamilton, McLaren MP4-25 Mercedes during the pitstop

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing RB6, Lewis Hamilton, McLaren MP4-25 Mercedes during the pitstop

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing RB6, Lewis Hamilton, McLaren MP4-25 Mercedes during the pitstop

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing RB6, Lewis Hamilton, McLaren MP4-25 Mercedes during the pitstop

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

Hamilton had the last laugh, however, passing Vettel as he attempted to outbrake Force India’s Adrian Sutil at the hairpin – the McLaren ace moving ahead of both cars. 

At the front, Button (who had started fifth) grabbed the lead from Rosberg at the end of Lap 19, just before the rain returned. This time, Button did pit for intermediates, but his advantage from the long first stint was wiped out due to a second safety car period, this time for Jamie Alguersuari’s Toro Rosso, which had lost its front wing and scattered debris all over the circuit.

Jenson Button, McLaren MP4-25 Mercedes leads Nico Rosberg, Mercedes GP W01

Jenson Button, McLaren MP4-25 Mercedes leads Nico Rosberg, Mercedes GP W01

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

Safety car

Safety car

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

At this point Alonso passed teammate Felipe Massa coming into pits – much to the latter’s anger, as he was forced to swerve on to the grass to avoid him. After the race it was judged to be a “racing incident”.

After backing up the field, Button pulled away out front as the race went green, leaving Rosberg to deal with a charging Hamilton, who had stormed his way through the field. With their intermediate tyres wearing out, a final round of pitstops was required – and during this cycle Hamilton got ahead of Rosberg for second.

Race winner Jenson Button, McLaren MP4-25 Mercedes

Race winner Jenson Button, McLaren MP4-25 Mercedes

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

Podium: race winner Jenson Button, McLaren, second place Lewis Hamilton, McLaren

Podium: race winner Jenson Button, McLaren, second place Lewis Hamilton, McLaren

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

Button survived an off at the hairpin, which halved his lead over Hamilton, but they maintained their 1-2 finish in that order, Jenson winning by 1.5s. “We really earned that one!” he screamed on the radio at the finishing line.

After the race, Button said: “This was my best victory in Formula 1. Every race you win becomes your best, but this was an extremely special win in very tough conditions. And it's especially satisfying because it was a really dominant victory for the team.

“We scored a one-two today, and the reason we did so was that every single element within the team worked perfectly. From the strategy calls to the pitstops, you need to get everything just right if you're going to win in conditions like these. And today we did indeed get everything just right.”

Podium: race winner Jenson Button, McLaren, Tim Goss, McLaren Chief Engineer, second place Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, third place Nico Rosberg, Mercedes GP

Podium: race winner Jenson Button, McLaren, Tim Goss, McLaren Chief Engineer, second place Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, third place Nico Rosberg, Mercedes GP

Photo by: Sutton Images

Race winner Jenson Button, McLaren

Race winner Jenson Button, McLaren

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Hamilton added: “Towards the end of the race, my tyres really weren't in good shape. So, while I was able to get past a lot of cars, I wasn't able to catch Jenson. But we both had an absolutely fantastic afternoon, and I think the whole team deserves this incredible one-two result.”

Third-placed finisher Rosberg said: “Following advice from Jock [Clear] and the team, I decided to stay out on slicks and give it a go when the first showers hit. I was out there just thinking please stop raining! 

“But it was the right call and it was a nice feeling to be leading the race for a while. When it started raining again, I suffered quite badly from tyre degradation on the intermediates and Jenson was able to get past. We didn't seem to quite have the pace on inters, but third place is great.”

Alonso bounced back from his drive-through penalty to finish fourth, ahead of Robert Kubica’s Renault and Vettel. His teammate Mark Webber could only manage eighth, and said: “It was a difficult race for us and we got a bit blown away – we weren't quick enough, simple as that.”

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Author Charles Bradley
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