Jenson Button’s winning performance in the Turkish Grand Prix took him another step closer to a world championship title.
Having won six of the first seven races of the season, he sits alongside Michael Schumacher and Jim Clark as the only ones to do so. He has now scored 61 of the potential 65 World Championship points so far on offer. Had the ‘winner takes all’, gold-silver-bronze medal championship formula been introduced as suggested by Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone, Button could possibly have clinched the title at the next race.
However, Jenson hasn’t sealed it as yet. A couple of non-finishes could see the Briton get pushed to the final rounds, though, he and Brawn deserve every bit of the title as and when it comes.
Although Sebastian Vettel snatched pole position for Red Bull on Saturday, the race remained a salutary reminder that the real winning is done on the Sunday.
Vettel looked good - for the first two laps - before a mistake dropped him briefly off the outside of Turn 10 and put him behind the flying Brawn. However, even at that point the race could easily have gone either way.
Red Bull have clearly developed a car that is now a match for Brawn GP in performance on the track. They need to be a bit sharper on the tactical front.
While Mark Webber drove a solid race to a well-deserved second place, the decision of the team to switch Vettel to a three-stop strategy was a gamble that lost him two championship points.
Meanwhile, Rubens Barrichello’s performance in the second Brawn revealed a chink in their armour. Not for the first time, a mistake by Barrichello’s engineers in programming the clutch release mechanism left him crawling off the start line.
Also, the Brazilian’s driving bore the mark of a hooligan than of sport’s elder statesman. First, he bounced off Heikki Kovalainen’s McLaren, then wrecked his wing on Sutil’s Force India before damage to Barrichello’s gearbox from the botched start forced his retirement.
While Barrichello scored no points, he still lies second in title chase, but the boys from Red Bull are closing in fast. Vettel is just six points behind and Webber a mere 1.5 points behind him. Meanwhile, Ferrari and BMW continue their fight back to form.
Even if Jenson continues an unopposed winning streak, it would be the Hungarian Grand Prix at the earliest where he could clinch the title.
He probably faces more pressure in the next race than in any other this season. There is the weight of expectations of the British fans.
Remember the ‘Hamilton-mania’ that gripped the British Grand Prix last year? Well, this year the British fans are switching their loyalties en-masse from the struggling world champion, to their new hero, Button.
Then, there is pressure of being the home team too at the British GP.
(Steve Slater is a veteran Formula One commentator for ESPN-Star)