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Brazilian GP preview

October 14th, 2009
Jenson Button is only a few points away from the world championship

Jenson Button is only a few points away from the world championship

Jenson Button doesn’t have to win the Brazilian Grand Prix to become world champion.

Third place will do, or less if his title rivals don’t beat him by several positions.

Anything worse than second place for Sebastian Vettel, and Red Bull’s title bid is over.

Anything worse than fifth for Rubens Barrichello, and it’s all over for the veteran Brazilian too.

Barrichello has to gain at least 15 points on his team-mate within two races, and although half the grid has chipped away at Button’s points lead in the last four months, the gains have been steady nibbles – no one has closed that much in such a short time.

So in all likelihood, the Brazilian GP will either see Button crowned as champion, or leave him on the brink of an Abu Dhabi coronation – and all he has to do is avoid doing anything daft, race wins are far from essential.

On the other hand, does Button have to win the Brazilian GP to safeguard his reputation in the annals of Formula 1 history?

That’s the question many are now asking, as with every scraped finish in the minor points places it looks ever more likely that Button will become world champion despite not winning any of the final ten races of the year.

The fear is that Button will not get due credit for his achievements, and will be remembered for limping to the title rather than for dominating the early rounds.

Whether history really recalls the fine details is a moot point though.

The F1 roll of honour won’t list the caveats of Button gaining an early advantage this year because his Honda/Brawn team had been so abject in 2007 and 2008 that it had been free to pour all its resources into getting the radically different 2009 regulations just right whereas McLaren and Ferrari’s frenzied 2008 title battle left them relatively little time to prepare for 2009.

And all of that is without mentioning KERS, double diffusers, tyre temperatures etc…

In ten years’ time, the rollercoaster narrative of Button’s season won’t matter – all that will count is the legend ‘2009 world champion’ after his name.

Jenson Button doesn’t have to win the Brazilian Grand Prix to become world champion.

Third place will do, or less if his title rivals don’t beat him by several positions.

Anything worse than second place for Sebastian Vettel, and Red Bull’s title bid is over.

Anything worse than fifth for Rubens Barrichello, and it’s all over for the veteran Brazilian too.

Barrichello has to gain at least 15 points on his team-mate within two races, and although half the grid has chipped away at Button’s points lead in the last four months, the gains have been steady nibbles – no one has closed that much in such a short time.

So in all likelihood, the Brazilian GP will either see Button crowned as champion, or leave him on the brink of an Abu Dhabi coronation – and all he has to do is avoid doing anything daft, race wins are far from essential.

On the other hand, does Button have to win the Brazilian GP to safeguard his reputation in the annals of Formula 1 history?

That’s the question many are now asking, as with every scraped finish in the minor points places it looks ever more likely that Button will become world champion despite not winning any of the final ten races of the year.

The fear is that Button will not get due credit for his achievements, and will be remembered for limping to the title rather than for dominating the early rounds.

Whether history really recalls the fine details is a moot point though.

The F1 roll of honour won’t list the caveats of Button gaining an early advantage this year because his Honda/Brawn team had been so abject in 2007 and 2008 that it had been free to pour all its resources into getting the radically different 2009 regulations just right whereas McLaren and Ferrari’s frenzied 2008 title battle left them relatively little time to prepare for 2009.

And all of that is without mentioning KERS, double diffusers, tyre temperatures etc…

In ten years’ time, the rollercoaster narrative of Button’s season won’t matter – all that will count is the legend ‘2009 world champion’ after his name.

But for the sake of his own satisfaction and the 2009 season’s immediate credibility, it would surely be so much more rewarding if Button could do as Damon Hill has urged and take this season by the throat again, winning one or both of the final two races to clinch the championship in appropriate style.

Four months ago, the question was just how many more races Button would win this year, rather than if he would win any more at all.

Six wins in the opening seven rounds put him among the legends – only Jim Clark and Michael Schumacher have started seasons so dominantly.

When he unleashes his searing mid-race pace at crucial pit stop phases, Button once again looks like the man who left his rivals trailing throughout the spring.

If he can deliver that form all weekend, and not get bogged down with handling quirks or mistimed qualifying runs, then he is more than capable of clinching the crown with a Brazilian GP win.

The Brawn is still a very quick car, so Barrichello also has a good chance of a win in Brazil – and after three years of being overshadowed by Felipe Massa, he will regain his local favourite status this weekend.

But will that work in his favour? The Interlagos adulation certainly boosted Massa, the crowds cheering him to two home victories and a second place in the last three seasons, but for years Barrichello’s home races were tales of bizarre misfortunes and pressure-influenced errors, and he has only once finished on the podium at Interlagos.

It has never been more important for Barrichello to win his home race, but will that pressure inspire him or hamper him?

Red Bull needs nothing less than victory from Vettel, and reckons it is now in good shape in all configurations – a fair assumption given that it dominated at the high-speed Suzuka and was set for a close second on the twisty streets of Singapore.

Vettel is in the ‘nothing to lose’ position that worked so well for Kimi Raikkonen in 2007, but this year’s title fighting teams do not enjoy the speed advantage over the field that Ferrari and McLaren did two years ago.

Back then, Raikkonen only needed McLaren to stumble and maximum points were guaranteed.

In 2009 pretty much any team could have a shot at the podium based on recent form, so Vettel will need to be as flawless as he was in Japan.

A bumpy, anti-clockwise mixture of twisty infield and long, flat-out, banked pits straight, Interlagos has plenty of unique characteristics and a famously volatile eco-system, as last year’s epic wet-dry-wet race demonstrated.

All of which means there are a huge number of uncertainties going into this weekend’s race, and that’s likely to help Button.

He can let all manner of chaos erupt around him and just concentrate on bringing home the points he needs to clinch a title that was absolutely unthinkable when he was trundling around in the midfield a year ago.

But it would be so much better for Button and for F1 if he took charge from the front and became world champion with a masterful drive – perhaps under huge pressure, or in crazy weather – that reminded everyone why he truly deserves the crown he now has almost within sight.

http://www.itv-f1.com


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