Jenson Button has been moved back five places on the grid for not observing the yellow flags warning him of debris on the circuit. Not ideal, but he is quite calm about it because his team mate Rubens Barrichello got the same penalty for the same offence.
No-one has the slightest idea of exactly where on the grid he will start; estimates vary from 9th to 12th, depending on how you calculate it.
So little changes between them and Button can watch his team mate closely in the race. Even without the penalties it was another less than perfect qualifying day for Button, he didn’t have a great lap in Q3, having been on the pace in the earlier sessions. He has given himself some work to do on Sundays quite a few times lately.
This evening there was a lot of waiting around for the stewards to decide the penalty. Within the Brawn hospitality area the atmosphere was only slightly tense. They know that in all probability they will win both championships anyway and it was quite noticeable that Ross Brawn was radiating calm and cheerfulness. Everyone else in the team seemed to feed off that.
When he appeared, ten minutes or so after the penalty was announced Button seemed very calm and measured. There were a dozen or so of us waiting for him, along with the BBC, who did a long sit down interview with him. Jake Humphrey kept trying to get him to talk about maybe clinching the world title tomorrow, but Button didn’t bite.
But he spoke very well,
“We got a five place penalty for not slowing sufficiently under the yellow flag,” Button explained. “From my point of view I did the right thing. I took avoiding action and when I saw the yellow flag, it was just before where the incident was with the front wing. I moved to one side. I thought, for me, it was unsafe to lift off because there could have been a car behind and you also don’t want to be moving across the circuit at high speed and lifting. Then, as soon as I passed the front wing I saw the green flag down the circuit, so I knew it was clear – and kept my foot in. That was it.
“The regulations say that you have to slow down enough and you have to lift off the throttle, which I didn’t do. So I got penalised. I respect their decision, but for me at that moment in time it was the best thing to do in that one second to make my decision. But I respect the decision. I am down in 12th, Rubens is just in front in 10th, and there are a couple of slow downs in front of him. So it is going to be an exciting race for us I think, the first few laps.
“Trying to sort out a strategy from here where we have low fuel and the cars in front have 25 kg more fuel than us, which is a lot of laps – 10 laps – makes tomorrow’s race very difficult. For us, tomorrow is an important day. We have to try and pick up some points, and even if it is one or two points those points could be very, very important going into the next two races.”
Button doesn’t want to win the world championship by crawling across the line, he wants to do it in style; the kind of style he showed in Monaco or Melbourne earlier on this season.
Bold recovery drives from disappointing grid slots have become his stock in trade lately. It’s time for another swashbuckling performance to seal the deal.
Tomorrow everyone is chasing Vettel. But it’s a long race and with four cars crashing in qualifying today, you’d have to say a pretty good chance of a safety car. That could turn everything on its head.