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Had it been for Bernie, Button would be champ

india Updated: Sep 29, 2009 01:20 IST
Steve Slater

Once again, the Singapore Grand Prix delivered a stunning visual treat. It may not have ambushed our senses in the same way as it did in its inaugural year, but it surpassed expectations as the city shone out from the darkness as a backdrop to another intriguing race.

The bumpy and dusty Marina Bay circuit, combined with the air turbulence from cars running in high-downforce configuration was never going to give too much wheel-to-wheel racing. However, there was certainly plenty to talk about.

For example, the comedy of errors in the pit lane that robbed both Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel of their chance of victory.

Rosberg was all set, I think, to run Lewis Hamilton close for the win, before he messed up the pitlane exit.

A simple driver's error, but crossing the white line as he overshot the exit road earned him a drive-through penalty. It was then compounded by his being forced to take his punishment just after the safety car had been deployed, bunching up the field. Instead of losing one or two places he lost more than a dozen, writing off any chance of even scoring points.

In contrast, Vettel, who had arrived too fast at the opposite end of the pit road, took his penalty under normal racing conditions. It merely dropped him from third to fourth position, giving Fernando Alonso and the beleaguered Renault team the final podium place.

Behind Vettel, whose five points for fourth still give him a theoretical chance of claiming the drivers championship title, the two Brawn drivers finished fifth and sixth to continue their battle for the crown. However, the title race could have been over in Singapore, with Button crowned champion.

Remember back at the start of the season, Bernie Ecclestone advocated a new way of settling the championship, based on 'gold' medals for a win, 'silver' for second and 'bronze' for third? Thankfully, the teams vetoed the idea.

Otherwise this weekend, if that (I think rather daft) notion had made the rulebooks, Jenson, courtesy of his six wins at the start of the season, would have claimed the title. The tally with three races remaining would have been Button 6, Hamilton, Vettel and Barrichello 2, Raikkonen and Webber 1.

While Singapore would have been a great place for Jenson to party in celebration, I am rather glad that the champagne has to remain on ice a little longer yet. Next weekend, the Japanese Grand Prix could see Button turn his 15-point lead into the title, but I doubt it.

Jenson will need to finish 1st with Barrichello 4th or lower. If Rubens wins in Suzuka the battle could go to the Brazilian's home track in Sao Paolo, or to the final round in Abu Dhabi.

We could be set, as in the last two years, for another championship cliffhanger. So please Bernie, save your medals for the London 2012 Olympics!

(Steve Slater is a F1 race commentator on STAR Sports)