Jenson Button had another low key weekend in Valencia, his fourth in a row. It’s not the end of the world, championships are won by keeping the scoreboard ticking over and Button has scored in every race.
But unlike the previous races, Valencia was a race where the Brawn car was the fastest – for time really since Monaco – and this meant a chance to take a much needed win or podium to release some of the pressure which has been building on him.
Instead Rubens Barrichello was the faster car all weekend, qualified well on a high fuel load and won the race. Jenson made a mistake in qualifying when his finger was jolted as he went over a kerb and he went up two gears by mistake.
It put him 5th on the grid. From there with Vettel retiring and Kovalainen fading, he should have finished third at worst.
However he was tentative at the start and from there he raced to seventh place.
After the race he said that he would be more aggressive in Spa, which is a message he needed to send out, because what we saw at the start in Valencia gave his opposition a clear message that he was thinking of the championship as he steered into the first corner. Vettel might have been expected to be doing the same, but there was a whisper around the pit lane before the race that his engine might not last so he had nothing to lose. Button knew this.
Neither do Raikkonen or Rosberg, who surged past Button, have anything to lose. They are not in the championship fight. Button is likely to find himself surrounded by the same characters in Spa, where the Red Bull should be the fastest car again and he will be scrapping for a podium.
However the picture is more complicated; with this win, Rubens Barrichello is now most certainly in the championship hunt. He’s had the upper hand on Jenson lately and this result adds to Jenson’s woes because with Mark Webber breathing down his neck, he would be thinking that soon the Brawn team’s main effort would be focussing on him for the title. Instead Barrichello’s win has opened up the championship again and made Jenson’s life more complicated.
“It is better to be consistent and not crash, but if you are consistent and get two points it is not enough,” said Button after the race. “I am going to go to Spa and be more aggressive, for sure. In every way, not just driving, but with the strategy and with the tyres.
“It is where we have got to be, because otherwise it is going to be slowly eaten away. It is a very difficult season this year because we have had some really poor weekends and some really strong weekends, and this was the first time when we have had a strong car that I have not been able to get the most out of it.
“That is the most frustrating thing. We have to turn that around.”
Button looked pretty edgy all weekend, you can tell a lot from a drivers’ body language and he has looked remarkably relaxed at time when you wouldn’t have expected him too. Last weekend after a nice long break, with a big points lead and knowing he had the fastest car there he should have looked a lot more at ease than he did.
Perhaps the realisation that the finish line is in sight and the greatest dream of his life is within reach, could have made him tense up a bit. We saw the same thing with Damon Hill in 1996. But he came through in the end.