What difference does eight additional years make at one's craft? Ask Sebastian Vettel. His second full season in Formula One couldn't overcome Jenson Button's decade in the series Sunday. Brawn GP driver Button took advantage of the younger...
What difference does eight additional years make at one's craft? Ask Sebastian Vettel. His second full season in Formula One couldn't overcome Jenson Button's decade in the series Sunday. Brawn GP driver Button took advantage of the younger driver's bobble at Turn 9 on Lap 1 to take the race lead then motor away to easy victory in the Grand Prix of Turkey. Button built a 20-second lead before backing off in the final laps to let runner-up Mark Webber halve the cushion. Oh, yeah, the Englishman snagged fast lap (1 minute, 27.579 seconds), too.
"Thank you!" came Button's radio response to his team. "You have built me an absolute monster of a car!"
Button's boss Ross Brawn found a perfect summation for BBC television: "It was a beautiful drive from Jenson, perfect. We knew he was fuelled longer, but he managed the engine, the tires and so on perfectly, while still pushing the car brilliantly. I gave him a hard time because he went off in practice -- that's the first mistake he's made all year and it's quite remarkable. Yes, we've done a remarkable job with the car but it's a marriage and Jenson has been perfect."
Button was typically gracious in victory and grateful to his team.
"Today the car was the best it's felt all year," he said. "It was immense. It just keeps getting better. Maybe it suits this track more than others. I wish I could have had all the boys on the podium."
Vettel, whose pole position was the first among five races at this venue not to produce victory, finished third behind Red Bull teammate Webber. First Webber then Vettel led when Button pitted but those laps were their only sniffs at victory as Button, 29, dominated. A team decision to put Vettel on a three-stop strategy -- one that depended on his pulling away from pole and using his blazing speed to build a lead -- went awry in the first-lap mishap. Vettel, 21, couldn't recover in the face of Button's mastery although he whittled into the Englishman's lead and got racy just past the one-third mark. Webber, on a two-stop strategy, benefited when the team didn't change Vettel's race plan on Lap 2.
Vettel owned up to his mistake -- or mistakes: "It was my mistake and I nearly did it again on the second lap," he said -- but reckoned no one could have beaten Button.
"I don't think it made a big difference as Jenson was too quick today," Vettel said. "I am not happy, but it is a good result for the team."
Fifth-starting Jarno Trulli finished fourth for Toyota ahead of Nico Rosberg for Williams F1, Felipe Massa for Ferrari, and Robert Kubica of BMW Sauber in his first points finish of the season. Toyota's Timo Glock took the final points place. Rosberg, who has topped nearly half of all practices this season, made his best finish all year.
Out of the points were Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen in ninth, who faded early, followed by Renault's Fernando Alonso, who told his team, "I cannot do that," when advised to stop racing Kubica -- for points -- to let the R29's engine cool. BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld came 11th followed by Williams F1's Kazuki Nakajima, whose would-be points finish was cratered by a sticky wheel nut on his final pit stop, and Lewis Hamilton of McLaren Mercedes, who again experienced the ignominy of being lapped as the current World Drivers' Champion although he pushed -- or Button eased -- enough to be counted on the lead lap by race's end.
Hamilton told BBC television he enjoyed the race thoroughly for having gotten as much as he could from a one-stop strategy in the under-everythinged MP4-24. Hamilton's teammate Heikki Kovalainen followed his team leader ahead of Scuderia Toro Rosso's Sebastien Buemi, Renault No. 2 Nelson Piquet, who briefly raced his team leader, Alonso, Force India's Adrian Sutil, and Toro Rosso's Sebastien Bourdais. The day's retirements were Brawn GP's Rubens Barrichello and Force India's Giancarlo Fisichella.
Barrichello was at the helm of a monstrous race. The Brazilian stalled his Brawn GP BGP001 in his third spot on the grid and dropped 10 places. In a display of the car's superior pace, he stormed back but connected with KERS-wielding Kovalainen, lost seventh gear, advanced to make contact with Sutil, which required a new front wing, and thereafter slogged around at the rear until the gearbox gave up altogether on Lap 49 of 58. The retirement was Brawn GP's first of the season and Barrichello's first finish out of the points.
Another 10 points add to the rolling boulder that is Button's lead in the FIA World Drivers' Championship, now 61 points and 26 ahead of the next driver, his hapless teammate. Button toiled in F1 for nearly seven years -- sniggered about as the Anna Kournikova of motorsport: prettiest competitor never to win -- before he won his first race, the Hungarian Grand Prix of 2006. Now he has won six of seven races in 2009. Only Jim Clark and Michael Schumacher have made such storming starts to an F1 season; each ended the year championship in hand.
Brawn GP remains the World Constructors' Championship juggernaut on 96 points. Red Bull-Renault follow on 56.5 points ahead of Toyota on 32.5. Ferrari is up to 20 points, leading McLaren Mercedes (13.5), Williams-Toyota (11.5), Renault (11), BMW Sauber (eight), and Scuderia Toro Ross-Ferrari (five). Force India has not scored.
The race, rumored to be target of a boycott by the eight teams who have submitted only conditional entries for the 2010 season, was run before an estimated 11,000 fans.
The circus next stops in a fortnight's time at Silverstone, England, for the anticipated final British Grand Prix at that track.