How Button won the championship in Brazil After a very chaotic, rainy and red flag plagued qualifying session on Saturday, Jenson Button didn't have much hope of winning the championship in Brazil. He only managed to score a very disappointing...
How Button won the championship in Brazil
After a very chaotic, rainy and red flag plagued qualifying session on Saturday, Jenson Button didn't have much hope of winning the championship in Brazil. He only managed to score a very disappointing fourteenth place on the start grid, while team mate and championship rival Rubens Barrichello saved the day for Brawn-Mercedes and took pole position. Sebastian Vettel's day wasn't something to write home about either, he didn't make into Q2 and had to settle for a sixteenth place on the grid. Vettel was visibly annoyed, and when he returned to the pit lane, he angrily threw his $30,000 steering wheel out of his Renault powered Red Bull cockpit. He had to cool down for 20 minutes before he was able to attend the obligatory meeting with the media.
With his pole position Barrichello looked to be in good shape in the race for the drivers title, but for Button and Vettel it was going to be very difficult to even score points. Red Bull's Mark Webber and Force India's Adrian Sutil had qualified in second and third position and were also very optimistic about their chances to score a podium place. Jarno Trulli qualified his Toyota in fourth place and Kimi Raikkonen qualified his Ferrari in fifth place, also a good position to score some points.
On Sunday the weather gods decided that enough was enough and, although it was forecasted, it didn't rain at all during the race. At the start grid, Button got a big good-luck-hug from Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone, he also whispered something into Button's ear, what it was we will probably never know, but it seems he pushed the right button, and from that moment on Jenson showed us that he was prepared to put up a fight to win the championship in Brazil.
Chaos on the first lap
The first corner after the start is always a bit tricky in Brazil, and this year there were also a few casualties. Vettel was sandwiched between the two McLarens, Kovalainen spun and damaged his car, narrowly missing Vettel, and Giancarlo Fisichella had to steer his Ferrari onto the grass to avoid the spinning Kovalainen. Meanwhile, at Turn 3, Raikkonen misjudged Webbers pace and lost his front wing when he ran into the back of the Red Bull.
The party wasn't over yet, Sutil wanted to take advantage of Raikkonen's error and tried to overtake him, but the Finn kept his car on the race line and Sutil had to break hard to avoid contact with the Ferrari. Trulli saw this, and in his turn tried to take advantage of Sutil's mistake and positioned his Toyota on the outside of the corner, but his move went pear- shaped when he ran out of asphalt and went too far over the kerbs. His right rear wheel hit the grass and lost traction, sending him into the right rear of the Force India car.
Sutil was catapulted onto the grass, then crossed the track where he collected the Renault of innocent bystander Fernando Alonso, who was clearly in the wrong place at the wrong time. Trulli hit the wall on the left side and all three drivers were out of the race. In fact Trully made the same mistake as Sutil did just a few seconds before with Raikkonen, but he didn't break hard like Sutil did to avoid a collision and instead stayed on the outside of the corner. Although there was at least 3 feet of space between Trulli and Sutil, Trulli claimed Sutil pushed him onto the grass and out of the race.
Trulli was furious and ran to Sutil to file a complaint about his behavior, but Sutil didn't want to hear anything about it, and much to the delight of the spectators both drivers almost got into a fight in good old fashioned 1982 Piquet/Salazar style The stewards of the race were not thrilled about Trulli's off-track behavior and rewarded his actions with a $10,000 fine. The stewards also ruled that it was a normal race accident, and no further action was taken.
Both Kovalainen and Raikkonen went into the pit for repairs, but when Kovalainen was send on his way again by the lollypop man, the fuel hose was still connected to the car and he dragged the hose behind his car until the end of the pit lane. A few helpful Brawn mechanics disconnected the hose and Kovalainen could rejoin the race. Raikkonen was right behind the McLaren, and when the fuel from the hose sprayed over his car it ignited and caused a flash fire. Raikkonen slowed down until the fire went out and he could also rejoin the race, albeit with sore eyes caused by the fuel spill. The McLaren team got a $50,000 fine for unsafely releasing Kovalainen, who got a 25 seconds penalty.
Button, Barrichello and Vettel
Both Button and Vettel gained several places after surviving the havoc of the first lap. Button overtakes Nakajima's Williams on lap 5, but he then gets stuck behind the Toyota of rookie Kobayashi, while Vettel gets stuck behind Nakajima. Button aggressively tries to overtake Kobayashi several times, but he defends his sixth place in GP2 style, and Button complains over the radio the Toyota driver is weaving across the track in the braking zones. Button finally overtakes him at Turn 1, one lap later Vettel overtakes Nakajima.
On lap 22 Barrichello pits for the first time and rejoins the race in eighth place, but is soon overtaken by Vettel, who had the advantage of a much lighter car. More drivers make their pit stop and on lap 31Webber is leading the race followed by Vettel, Kubica, Barrichello, Hamilton, Grosjean, Raikkonen, Buemi and Button on ninth place. When Nakajima rejoins the race after his pit stop he runs into the back of Kobayashi, who again frantically defends his position. Nakajima's front wing gets stuck under the car and he helplessly slides over the grass into the inside wall and, while still at a high speed, crosses the track and slams hard into the outside barrier of Turn 4. He got out of the car unscathed, but was clearly not very happy with the actions of his compatriot Kobayashi.
Button then overtakes Buemi and takes eighth place, while Barrichello is in fourth place and Vettel in second place. Vettel pits for the first time, and rejoins the race in seventh position behind Button. At this stage of the race Button is sure of the title, Vettel is behind him and Barrichello is in third place, which would give him 6 points, not enough to beat Button. Barrichello makes his final pit stop on lap 51 and rejoins in sixth place. Webber makes his last pit stop without losing the lead, and when Kubica, Buemi, Hamilton and Vettel all made their last stop, the order is: Webber, Kubica, Barrichello, Hamilton, Vettel, Button, Raikkonen and Buemi.
Again, now in sixth position, Button is still on his way to win the championship. Hamilton passes Barrichello for third place at the first corner, but the McLaren's front wing slightly touches the right rear tyre of Barrichello's car. Hamilton's front wing endplate breaks and not long after that Barricelllo reports to his crew that he has vibrations in his rear tyres. The Brawn engineers check the data and report back to Barrichello that he has a puncture, and once again Barrichello is robbed of a good result at his home Grand Prix. After a quick tyre change he is back in eighth place, and with Vettel still in fourth place, Button is certain of the title. Although Hamilton was able to overtake Barrichello, he later confessed he couldn't get the most out of his KERS system in Brazil, simply because there are not enough breaking zones to fully charge the system.
As usual Ross Brawn kept his cool and was seen eating his famous banana during the last laps of the race, a habit he developed during the successes he enjoyed with Schumacher at the Ferrari team. The order stayed the same until the end of the race, and when Felipe Massa waved the finish flag in front of his home crowd, Webber was first, Kubica second and Hamilton third. Webber was of course delighted to take his second career win, while Kubica with his excellent performance showed Renault they made the right choice to contract him for next year.
Button, while still on his out lap, almost jumped out of his cockpit of pure ecstasy while singing "We are the champions", and soon joined the party in the pit lane. While the top three drivers were escorted to the podium, Button was jumping up and down on his car and was congratulated by a also very happy Barrichello. He was perhaps disappointed, but knew Button had defeated him and soon joined all the festivities together with the rest of the Brawn GP crew.
Ross Brawn, who was still at this seat on the pit wall, was interviewed by a BBC reporter and got tears in his eyes when he was asked what this double championship meant to him and his team. At that moment the big man Ross Brawn was lost for words and it took a while before he was able to speak again. Brawn and his team wrote history by winning both championships as a 'rookie' team, a truly great achievement.
Button showed an extraordinary fighting spirit during the Brazilian Grand Prix. This race made up for the lack of aggression he had shown during the last races. He was criticized by many during the second part of the season, because he took the 'careful' approach to slowly reel in the championship. But remember, Button was in a difficult situation, if he had adapted the aggressive approach and things would have gone wrong and he would have lost the championship, he would have been criticized for being too aggressive, it's hard to please everyone in the world of Formula One isn't it?
The fact remains that Button scored six wins sofar this season, he scored one second and one third place, and scored points in every Grand Prix but Spa-Francorchamps, where he was eliminated by Romain Grosjean during the first lap. He never lost his faith in Ross Brawn, who coached him through the ups and downs of the season and led him to the championship's title.
The Interlagos curse
There is one thing we forgot to mention, the 'Interlagos curse' once again robbed Barrichello of a possible victory, and after his puncture he also lost a possible podium place. Interlagos has never been a happy place for Barrichello. He participated in no less than 17 races in Brazil, but never won the race. He had an extraordinary strike of bad luck during those 17 races, he retired eleven times, scored only one podium place in 2003 when he finished third in his Ferrari. But Barrichello is an optimist, and he will probably be thinking about next year's race in Brazil. He never gives up.