SHANGHAI, April 18 – Defending champion Jenson Button Sunday delivered a perfectly judged drive in treacherous wet conditions to win a dramatic Chinese Grand Prix ahead of his McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
The two Britons, champions in successive years, delivered their first one-two of the season in style to prove that if Red Bull have the fastest car in qualifying, McLaren have great race performance, strategy and tactics.
The two Red Bulls of German Sebastian Vettel and Australian Mark Webber, who had scored a one-two in Malaysia two weeks ago, came home sixth and eighth.
Button’s triumph in a winning time of one hour, 46 minutes and 42.163 seconds was his second in four races since joining McLaren this season and the ninth of his career.
His early decision not to pit for intermediate tyres, when others acted hastily during an early rainstorm proved decisive.
It lifted him 10 points clear at the top of this year’s embryonic drivers’ championship ahead of German Nico Rosberg, who finished third for the new Mercedes team.
Rosberg’s veteran team-mate and compatriot, 41-year-old seven-times champion Michael Schumacher, struggled home 10th to claim a single point.
"Wow, what a victory! What a win!" screamed Button over the team radio during his slowing-down lap. "We really earned that one. Well done everybody."
After climbing from his car in parc fermee, where Hamilton was the first to congratulate him, he admitted: "When the safety car came out to clear debris from the track, my heart was in my mouth. This victory is very special, it means a lot. It was a tough race and we made the right call."
If Button demonstrated smooth style, perfect skills and great management of tyres, it was Hamilton who produced the thrills in a race punctuated by rain storms, accidents and two safety car periods by charging through the field in a flurry of passing moves.
Hamilton was also involved in a dramatic pit-lane wheel-to-wheel racing duel with Vettel of Red Bull, an incident that was due to be investigated after the race by the stewards.
The 25-year-old 2009 champion said: "The team released me at what they thought was the right time. I got quite a bit of wheel-spin when I left and I noticed Sebastian was there and he pushed me a little to the right. But I think it was OK."
Rosberg, who also made the right strategic calls and led for 19 laps, came home third, ahead of two-times champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso of Ferrari. Pole Robert Kubica was fifth for Renault and Vettel, who started from pole, was sixth for Red Bull.
Russian Vitaly Petrov proved his flair in the wet conditions to finish seventh for Renault ahead of Webber in the second Red Bull.
Schumacher looked set to finish eighth until the closing laps when he was passed by Webber and then Brazilian Felipe Massa, who took ninth for Ferrari. Schumacher was 10th.
The two Red Bulls started from the front row of the grid, but lost their advantage almost immediately when, after Alonso had jumped the start, the first safety car call was followed by rain.
The leaders rushed to pit for intermediate wet-weather tyres but these were soon worn out and the changing conditions created chaos ahead of a second mid-race safety car period.
Button, having chosen not to rush for an early change of tyres, rose to second and then took the lead from Rosberg after 19 of the 56 laps and stayed there.
The result gave McLaren their first one-two finish since the Italian Grand Prix at Monza in 2007, when Hamilton was second to then-team-mate Alonso.
It is the first British one-two in Formula One since 1995 when Damon Hill and David Coulthard dominated the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Button now leads the title race on 60 points ahead of Rosberg on 50 with Alonso and Hamilton equal third on 49.