Button Wins Formula One Championship in Brazil

October 19, 2009 Updated: October 19, 2009

Jenson Button of Great Britain and Brawn GP celebrates clinching the F1 World Drivers' Championship during the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix at the Interlagos Circuit on October 18, 2009 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Jenson Button of Great Britain and Brawn GP celebrates clinching the F1 World Drivers' Championship during the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix at the Interlagos Circuit on October 18, 2009 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Jenson Button became the second British World Drivers’ Champion in a row on Sunday, clinching the title with an aggressive drive in the Brazilian Formula Grand Prix at Interlagos.

Button started fourteenth and finished fifth, driving with the abandon fitting a man eager to grab the championship before anything more could go wrong with his season.

After winning the six of the first seven races, Jenson Button, lead driver for the Brawn GP team, had a string of bad finishes, while his teammate, Rubens Barrichello, suddenly ignited, scoring well in every race. Fans and experts alike began to ask if Button’s early wins were due merely the Brawn’s technological edge; many pointed to his uneven performances throughout his ten-year career.

As he crossed the finish line, Button broke into an impromptu chorus of “We Are the Champions,” pumping his arms in the air. As soon as he parked his car, he ran to his crew to thank them.

After qualifying terribly in Interlagos, Button’s hopes for clinching the championship in Brazil seemed slim, particularly since Barrichello put his Brawn on the pole. But Jenson Button was not waiting for luck or fate to assist him—though it did. Button jumped ahead from the start, battling past everyone in his way, earning the title through effort and skill.

Webber Wins Race

Red Bull driver Mark Webber celebrates his victory in Brazil's Formula One Grand Prix. (Vanderlei Almeida/AFP/Getty Images)
Red Bull driver Mark Webber celebrates his victory in Brazil's Formula One Grand Prix. (Vanderlei Almeida/AFP/Getty Images)
Red Bull’s Mark Webber won the race, beating BMW’s Robert Kubica to the line by 7.6 seconds.

“We’ve had quite a few victories this year off the back of some tough seasons at Red Bull, totally confirming second for us in the Constructors,” Webber said. “Obviously we weren’t good enough over the whole season to win any championships but we’ve done ourselves very proud as a team, as a unit.”

Kubica drove a fast, drama-free race to take second after starting in eighth. Though it was jnot evident from his pace, he was nursing an ailing engine for the entire race.

“I was a bit surprised about the slow pace from Rubens and Mark initially. I was able to keep up with them,” said Kubica. “We had a problem with the water temperature straightaway. I already had to reduce rpm on lap ten of the race, so for most of the race I drove with lower rpm because our engine was overheating. Yeah, I had to pull out of slipstream every time on the straight. I was just trying to cool down the temperature and bring the car home.”

Giancarlo Fisischella drives of course toavoid the spinning Heikki Kovalainen while Kazuki Nakajima passes in the foreground. (Vladimir Rys/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Giancarlo Fisischella drives of course toavoid the spinning Heikki Kovalainen while Kazuki Nakajima passes in the foreground. (Vladimir Rys/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Lewis Hamilton finished third, fighting his way up from fifteenth. “Today’s been an extremely tough day, tough weekend, and today was a huge surprise to me,” he said. “I had no idea that we would even be able to get into the points.”

Sebastien Buemi Scuderia Toro Rosso leads a pack of cars during the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix at Interlagos. (Vladimir Rys/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Sebastien Buemi Scuderia Toro Rosso leads a pack of cars during the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix at Interlagos. (Vladimir Rys/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Carnage at the Start

The start was simply a mess. First Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen collided with Force India’s Adrian Sutil. The Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull hit McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen, spinning him almost into Giancarlo Fisichella’s Ferrari.

The carnage was not over. Near the front of the pack, Kimi Raikkonen, who used KERS to charge from fifth to third, tried to get past Red Bull’s Mark Webber who cut him off sharply, breaking off the Ferrari’s front wing.

Seconds later Toyota’s Jarni Trulli made a desperate outside overtaking attempt of Adrian Sutil, who slowed to avoid the Ferrari wing. Trulli spun the Force India driver across the track into Renault’s Fernando Alonso, knocking all three out of the race—a huge boon for Jenson Button.

The drama was not over. Many cars dove for the pits under the ensuing yellow, including both McLarens. Lewis Hamilton swapped to Prime tires and made a clean escape, but Heikki Kovalainen’s crew chief, wanting to get his driver out ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, gave to “Go” signal while the fuel hose was still attached.

Kovalainen pulled out trailing a plume of gasoline, which ignited when it hit the hot exhaust of Raikkonnen’s Ferrari, engulfing the Finn in a fireball. Raikkonen, called “The Iceman,” coolly continued on his way despite having gasoline in his eyes.

Trulli was later penalized for ignoring the commands of the stewards, as Trulli chased down Sutil after the crash, grabbing Sutil’s arm shouting and gesturing wildly. The collision was deemed a “racing incident,” and no penalty was given for the contact.

After the race, McLaren and Heikki Kovalainen were penalized for the pit stop incident. McLaren received a $50,000 fine for unsafe operation, and Kovalainen was penalized twenty-five seconds, dropping him from ninth to twelfth.

It is difficult to see why Kovalainnen would be penalized, as the error was exclusively that of the crew chief, who ordered Kovalainen to go without checking with the rest of the crew.

Jenson Button (R) of Brawn GP overtakes Timo Glock of Toyota, during the Brazilian Grand Prix at the Interlagos racetrack, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Mauricio Lima/AFP/Getty Images)
Jenson Button (R) of Brawn GP overtakes Timo Glock of Toyota, during the Brazilian Grand Prix at the Interlagos racetrack, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Mauricio Lima/AFP/Getty Images)

The Rest of the Race

After the restart, Rubens Barrichello retained the lead, but could not open a gap on Webber. Barrichello needed four seconds to be able to pit and reenter with good track position, but Webber was too fast. The Red Bull driver took over the lead when Barrichello pitted, and never gave it up.

Button had a tough battle with Toyota drive Kamui Kobayashi, driving his first Formula One Grand Prix. Koybashi held off Button for several laps, withstanding the pressure of a veteran driver and soon-to-be world champion on his wing, lap after lap.

After Button got by, Kobayashi had a good dice with Kazuki Nakajima in the Williams. Unfortunately, Kobayashi defended too forcefully, knocking Nakajima into the tires. Still, it was the most impressive rookie performance of the year. Rumor is, Kobayashi will be a fulltime Toyota driver next season.

Barrichello fell off the pace after his first pit stop. Either he got a bad set of tires, or his car didn’t respond well to the full fuel load. He managed to hold onto third place after his final stop, until Hamilton passed him.

Behind Webber, Button, Vettel, and Hamilton were all driving with pace and passion. Vettel managed to finish fourth, just behind Hamilton. Hamilton had an unfortunate coming-together with Barrichello, puncturing Barrichello’s left rear tire, dropping the Brawn driver to eighth overall.

Jenson Button (L) is congratulated by team mate Rubens Barrichello (R) of Brazil and Brawn GP as he celebrates in the pitlane after clinching the F1 World Drivers' Championship. (Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Jenson Button (L) is congratulated by team mate Rubens Barrichello (R) of Brazil and Brawn GP as he celebrates in the pitlane after clinching the F1 World Drivers' Championship. (Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Brawn GP clinched the constructors’ championship, outscoring Red Bull 161–135.5. McLaren managed to edge past Ferrari into third 712 points to 70, continuing the long-lasting battle between the two. Abu Dhabi will decide that contest.

The debut race at the new Yas Marina course in Abu Dhabi will be the final race of the 2009 Formala One season. The 2009 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix starts at  8:00 a.m. on Sunday, November 1. Qualifying starts at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday. For travel and ticket information, visit the Formula One Web site.

 

Formula 1 Grande Premio Petrobras do Brasil 2009

Pos

No

Driver

Team

Laps

Time/Retired

Grid

Pts

1

14

Mark Webber

RBR-Renault

71

1:32:23.081

2

10

2

5

Robert Kubica

BMW Sauber

71

+7.6 secs

8

8

3

1

Lewis Hamilton

McLaren-Mercedes

71

+18.9 secs

17

6

4

15

Sebastian Vettel

RBR-Renault

71

+19.6 secs

15

5

5

22

Jenson Button

Brawn-Mercedes

71

+29.0 secs

14

4

6

4

Kimi Räikkönen

Ferrari

71

+33.3 secs

5

3

7

12

Sebastien Buemi

STR-Ferrari

71

+35.9 secs

6

2

8

23

Rubens Barrichello

Brawn-Mercedes

71

+45.4 secs

1

1

9

10

Kamui Kobayashi

Toyota

71

+63.3 secs

11

 

10

3

Giancarlo Fisichella

Ferrari

71

+70.6 secs

19

 

11

21

Vitantonio Liuzzi

Force India-Mercedes

71

+71.3 secs

20

 

12

2

Heikki Kovalainen*

McLaren-Mercedes

71

+73.4 secs

16

 

13

8

Romain Grosjean

Renault

70

+1 Lap

13

 

14

11

Jaime Alguersuari

STR-Ferrari

70

+1 Lap

12

 

Ret

17

Kazuki Nakajima

Williams-Toyota

30

Accident

9

 

Ret

16

Nico Rosberg

Williams-Toyota

27

Gearbox

7

 

Ret

6

Nick Heidfeld

BMW Sauber

21

Out of fuel

18

 

Ret

20

Adrian Sutil

Force India-Mercedes

0

Accident

3

 

Ret

9

Jarno Trulli

Toyota

0

Accident

4

 

Ret

7

Fernando Alonso

Renault

0

Accident

10

 

*Kovalainen originally finished ninth, but had 25s added to his race time due to an unsafe pit stop release.