Button in good position to win F1 title in Brazil
Jenson Button can clinch his first Formula One title by playing it safe at Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix. With a comfortable lead in the drivers' standings, Button only needs to avoid disaster and stay near the front to lift the trophy with one race to go in the season.india Updated: Oct 14, 2009 21:50 IST
Jenson Button can clinch his first Formula One title by playing it safe at Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix. With a comfortable lead in the drivers' standings, Button only needs to avoid disaster and stay near the front to lift the trophy with one race to go in the season.
A third-place finish at the 4.3-kilometer (2.6-mile) Interlagos track will be enough to put the title out of reach for Brawn GP teammate Rubens Barrichello and Red Bull's Vettel, the only other drivers still in contention.
Button arrives in Brazil with 85 points, 14 more than Barrichello and 16 more than Vettel.
Button can secure the title even if he finishes out of the top three. A fifth-place finish will do if Barrichello fails to win in front of his home crowd. Button can actually finish worst than fifth and still win the title as long as he crosses the finish line in front of his opponents.
He can also lift the trophy if he finishes out of the points or fails to finish the race, but then Barrichello and Vettel also would have to falter. A victory is worth 10 points, and second through eighth are 8-6-5-4-3-2-1.
"It's an important race for me and for the team," the 29-year-old Button said. "We will be working hard to get the best results possible from the weekend. It's going to be a challenge but one that we are all looking forward to."
He is trying to give Britain back-to-back F1 titles for the first time since Graham Hill won in 1968 and Jackie Stewart in 1969. Lewis Hamilton took the title last year, also at the Brazilian GP. Button had a stellar start to the season, winning six of the first seven races. His dominance faded as Brawn GP's superiority diminished, but he was consistent enough the rest of the season and avoided major trouble to arrive in Brazil with a significant lead. He needs to pick up the pace, though, if he wants to clinch the title in Brazil without depending on what happens to Barrichello and Vettel.
Button has finished on the podium only once in the last eight races _ second at the Italian GP on Sept. 13, failing to finish better than fifth after that.
He has been constantly outperformed by Barrichello, who won twice in the last five races to keep his title hopes alive. Barrichello will be boosted by about 70,000 fans at Interlagos, a track he knows well even though he is yet to win in 17 home races. His best finish was third in 2004 with Ferrari, but the 37-year-old veteran came close several times and is hoping this will be his time.
"The Brazilian Grand Prix is always a special weekend for me," Barrichello said. "I was born very close to Interlagos and used to visit the circuit as a young boy, and began my karting career there when I was 6 years old. The circuit has become almost like a second home to me. I will be giving it my all to achieve the best possible result here."
Barrichello will be the only Brazilian in the race this year after Nelson Piquet Jr was fired from Renault in midseason and with Ferrari's Felipe Massa out for the season following his serious accident at the Hungarian GP in July.
Vettel is the title contender with the most momentum coming into Brazil. The 22-year-old German won the Japanese GP two weeks ago for his third win of the season, while Barrichello finished seventh and Button eighth.
"The championship is still open," said Vettel, who has finished on the podium only one less time than Button this season. "We will try to do our best and try to win the last races. It's a long way but we are here to fight."
If Button holds on to clinch the title on Sunday, it will mark the fifth consecutive time that the season ends at the Brazilian GP, which this year is not the season-ending race for the first time since 2005. The final race will be in Abu Dhabi on Nov. 1. McLaren's Lewis Hamilton edged Massa by a single point last year in Brazil, while Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen erased a 17-point deficit with two races to go to win the title in 2007. Fernando Alonso had won back-to-back titles in Brazil with Renault in 2005 and 2006. Hamilton struggled at the beginning of the season and his best result in the first nine races was fourth in Bahrain on April 26. But he has won twice since then _ in Hungary and in Singapore _ and reached the podium two other times.
"It will be the first time I've traveled to Sao Paulo without being in contention for the championship," Hamilton said. "I'm actually looking forward to enjoying the experience of driving on one of the world's greatest race tracks."
McLaren and Ferrari were not able to keep up with Brawn GP at the beginning of the season. The former Honda team better adjusted to rule changes that included the reintroduction of slick tires, the addition of the KERS energy system and drastic aerodynamic modifications. Brawn also has a big lead in the constructors' championship and has all but secured the title.
Button _ who made his F1 debut in 2000 touted as the next British star but wasn't able to shine much after that _ made the most out of Brawn's surprise advantage early in the season. Now, he is poised to win a title that seemed unlikely for a driver who was virtually out of a job after Honda decided to fold its F1 operations last year. "It's going to be such an exciting weekend," Button said.