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Thoughts on the state of the championship
Posted By: James Allen  |  05 Oct 2009   |  4:50 am GMT  |  122 comments

Sebastian Vettel’s win at Suzuka hasn’t exactly brought the championship to life, because it is still very much Jenson Button’s to lose, but it has brought it to within a range which is achievable.

Butt helm
Kimi Raikkonen turned around a 17 point deficit in 2007 and Vettel now trails by 16. With memories of 2007 still so fresh, a psychological barrier has been crossed. Neither of the remaining races will be straightforward. Lewis Hamilton has two years’ experience of how unpredictable the race in Brazil can be and then we have the great unknown in Abu Dhabi, which looks like a KERS track with only one fast corner.

Vettel needs to win both races, with Button scoring less than four points, which looks unlikely but then it looked unlikely in 2007 as well.

There is no doubt that the 3 extra points for second place, which Vettel missed out on in Singapore, would be handy now as would the 6 points for third place he potentially dropped by taking on Robert Kubica in Melbourne when trying to defend second place in the closing stages.

Vettels’ big problem this season has been his five non-finishes. In the races he has finished he’s averaged 6.9 points. Of the races Button has finished, which is all but one of them, he’s averaging just 6 points.

Anyway the situation is what it is and looking at the championship, this is the picture since Silverstone, which was the turning point of this championship:

Vettel 40pts
Raikkonen & Barrichello 36 pts
Button 24pts
Rosberg 23 pts.

Prior to Silverstone Vettel had scored 29 points at an average of 3.1pts per race. SInce Silverstone Button has scored 24 at an average of 3pts per race. If he keeps that up he will crawl across the line as champion in Abu Dhabi with a point to spare.

Silverstone was the turning point, the moment when Red Bull fitted its definitive update package with the double diffuser. It had an interim diffuser for Monaco and Turkey, but Silverstone was the turning point for Red Bull.

It looks like they have made a similar step recently with the update pack they put on the car in Singpore.

It looks very fast now; in Suzuka the Red Bull’s fastest race lap was 7/10ths of a second faster than the Brawn and half a second faster than the Toyota or McLaren.

They promise more, with a new front wing in both Brazil and Abu Dhabi.

However it is not all about the Brawn’s lack of pace, as Barrichello has scored 36 points since Silverstone. At the beginning of the season he had a problem with the brakes on his car and the solution he found early on meant he wasn’t able to run the rear wheel covers on his car on some occasions, which made it slower.

Since he has found a fix for his braking issues, he has set the pace, outqualifying Button in six of the eight races from Silverstone onwards and finishing ahead of him in four, with one retirement for Button.

From Button’s point of view the key thing to remember going into the next race is that, whatever happens in Brazil, Button will have at least a four point lead over Barrichello going into the last round and at least seven points lead over Vettel.

Once again, Button’s saving grace may be the performance of the man he is set to replace as champion, Lewis Hamilton. The McLaren with its KERS system is expected to be fast in both Brazil and Abu Dhabi. Hamilton could well be the one who stops Vettel getting maximum points in the final races and as long as Button keeps Barrichello close by him, he should be able to clinch the championship.

Button wants to win this title in style, he doesn’t want to limp across the line.
“We are doing the best job we can in a difficult situation,” he says. “I got a five place penalty yesterday. We are getting ourselves into these tricky situations and we are getting ourselves out of them. Hopefully in Brazil we won’t have to fight back from a bad grid slot, we can start at the front and finish at the front.”

Barrichello will be inspired in Brazil, you can be sure of that.

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1

If Button is not worthy, tell me who is?

2

To Ahmad Albashrawi (I couldn’t reply directly to your point, so posted a new comment – I hope you get to see it)… ok, that’s a valid point about Kubica being slightly heavier and I take that on-board.

I’m up for debate and constructive ideas n thoughts, without it becoming a slanging match, so thanks for that 🙂

KERS is irrelevant though as neither BMW or Brawn use it.

Button was out of position due to his deserved penalty – both Brawn drivers were compromised in quali, yet that’s no excuse for “ignoring” yellow flags.

We’ve seen all season faster and lighter cars have been stuck behind slower and heavier cars, yet have not been able to get past on-track and thus they have their strategies utterly ruined. Why? Because the cars are ultimately designed to run in clean-air, rather than “dirty air”.

The aero has been clawed back as the season has progressed making over-taking much harder, regardless of fuel-loads.

I believe Liuzzi was very light in Singapore started near the back and couldn’t get past anyone… Sutil had a similar scenario and he clobbered people in Japan and Singapore. My point re: Button’s pass on Kubica, was how clean and precise the pass was.

I’m not saying Button is the world’s best driver… ever. Nor is he “always” out of position. I’m saying he makes places when he needs to… earlier in the season I was convinced this had something to do with the adjustable front wing… I figured Brawn had done something cagey that allowed them better aero, when stuck in the turbulence behind another car.

Any person who becomes WDC deserves it. Not at the start or the finish, but across the whole season and if Vettel “does a Kimi” and wins from miles back I’ll be happy too as it will have been an exciting end to an interesting season.

Button himself said “…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”. He admitted that, knew what he needed to do and got a point – that, to me, deserves some credit.

3
Mike from Medellin, Colombia

Button will win the championship with a small margin. Then some fool will say something nonsensical such as “he’s better than Lewis Hamilton because Hamilton won by 1 point and Button by xx points”.

The driver market says it all. Button is not the target of one of the other top teams. If I am not wrong, he’s a free agent in 2010. If he was so good wouldn’t one of the top teams come running after him. Ross Brawn probably knows that in the longer term he will have to let Jenson go.

4

Er, he isn’t a target of one of the ‘top’ teams because the last time I checked they were full?

Button will stay at Brawn.

5

Top Driver fine their way into top cars regardless of contacts, re: Ferrari.

I do believe Button will stay at Brawn but he certainly wont attract top dollar and I think Rosberg will only lower his stocks next year (I’d be happy if he proves me wrong.

6

Provocative mode:

With a Vettel 1-2 and a Barrichello 1-2 or even 1-3 jenson could finish 3rd in the championship if he doesn’t score more than a point…

Hardly something to bet on but in motor racing anything can happen and there are only 2 races to come. Remember in 2007 Lewis could only score 2 pts in the last 2 races…

Besides Jenson has a highly unexpected rate of finishes in the points (14/15 this year) with the exception of his team mate (13) nobody comes close (Rosberg 11/ Vettel 10) so that too might come to an end…

I will be happy whoever wins.

7

Jenson Button deserves the title and if anyone thinks Rosberg will beat him next season then go down the bookies and bet on that, waste your money! I find it funny how most people seem to forget how easily Jenson completely trashed Rubens in 2006… yeah short memories and all.

Unfortunetly for every team out there Alonso’s move to Ferrari has sent a fear rippling through Mclaren and we are likely to see a Alonso victory next season as long as they don’t build a mediocre car.

8

Vettel’s win keeps the title race open,but its pretty much Button’s.Brawn’s may not be ahead of the rest anymore but given their amazing reliability DNF seems unlikey,and red bull’s being handicapped by the engine is an additional advantage for them,button will keep scoring points and not take risks.

Brazil is always a question mark,and abu dhabi being a new Track is unknown for everyone.

would like to see vettel win the title on last race last lap 🙂

9
Mike from Medellin, Colombia

Ross Brawn is no idiot and knows that Button was flattered by the double diffuser advantage earlier in the season, this is why he is playing hardball over salaries.

What seems to interest Ross more are the Nos.1 and 2 on the front of his cars rather than Jenson sitting in one of them.

If Brawn really want to up their game they need a superstar for 2011. Vettel is committed as are Hamilton and Alonso. Kimi will have quit by then. Who is the next likely superstar that they should be looking at?

10

So glad to see the posts giving Button his due. 34, 39, 41, 42 for example. Couldn’t agree more. Tired of the style talk. Too often sounds like darned if he does and darned if he doesn’t.

11

Unfortunately I believe Button will win the championship although I rate this win similarly to that of Damon Hill or Nicky Haddon in Motor GP, shallow victories. I was as surprised and thrilled as everyone in the way Brawn and Button commenced the season (even with their technical advantage through rule interpretation). However the great shame is how Button has performed in the second half of the season. He bagged most if not all of his advantage when it was Brawn 1st and daylight second and now that some of the other cars are competitive he’s pathetic, even RB has out driven him. Now Button wants a pay rise, I think he’s foggeting who he works for, Ross Brawn has worked with the Best and I’m sure the difference between the two of them is blindingly obvious to Brawn.

Watch out for a Merc powered Redbull next year.

12

Who is Nicky Haddon?

Did you mean Hayden?

13

hey! Jenson Button ain’t a rookie anymore 🙂 he’ll be the coolest worldchampion ever!

I’d advice him to stop reading forums like this because I am getting nervous allready.

Jenson world champion

Barrichello winner of the Brazilian GP

Vettel winner of the Abu Dhabi GP

everyone happy 🙂

14

Barrichello track record in Interlagos is dismal (include I believe something like 10 straight retirements). That said he has always being pretty fast there (he was once leading it on merit in a Jordan), but very unlucky. The good thing for Button is that Rubens – who is known for his psychological up and downs – will be driving in track where he usually felts the pressure, the bad thing is that despite his usual bad results Rubens will probably be fast there.

15

“Vettel needs to win both races, with Button scoring less than six points, which looks unlikely but then it looked unlikely in 2007 as well.”

You seem to be mixing up Barrichello’s points and Vettel’s.

Button only needs 4 points even if Vettel wins both races.

If Button doesn’t score any points then Vettel still needs a win and a second place. Which seems highly unlikely. KERS cars should be strong and surely Vettel will need an engine change or otherwise he will suffer an engine failure.

With Vettel really only winning from pole, an engine change would finish every hope of the title.

Barrichello scored 36 points and Button 24 over the races since Silverstone. The thing is 8 points out of that 12 points difference comes from Valencia. Barrichello won there while Button was pushed off track by Vettel. Otherwise Button would have been right on the tail of Hamilton and Kovalainen and pretty nicely in the points.

So there is only one race where Barrichello really outperformed Button and it’s not really because Button was driving poorly.

People are making way too much out of Button’s “slump”. The car is simply much less developed than the Red Bull and the McLaren. Even the Toyota, Williams, Force India and Ferrari are faster on many occasions. It’s amazing that Button and Barrichello even manage to score points. Of course it’s mostly because so many teams have only one “real” driver these days.

What is another rather common misconception is that the Brawn is supposed to have been the fastest car for most of the year. In fact it has only been the fastest car at Australia, Malaysia, Valencia and Italy.

The Red Bull was faster than the BrawnGP in 9 races (basically most races since China). Yet still they managed to be trailing Button by 16 points. How about them apples?!

Red Bull and Vettel should really be embarassed that they so royally messed things up this year. They really had the title up for grabs, but they failed quite badly.

Poor strategy, lack of overtaking of KERS cars (while Button DID overtake KERS cars) and masses of driver errors put them at this disadvantage. Even though they have had the fastest car for most of the season.

Now people start complaining about Button for performing less with what is quite obviously an underperforming car on the high speed corner circuits, but they easily forget how he got this huge lead to begin with. By driving in superior fashion while the competition was being incompetent.

16

Vettel had many DNFs because of technical failures. How can you blame him for that, explain. You forgot to mention those. Brawn had the fastest car until Turkey, then a few more races later on, everyone agrees on this. Get your facts straight.

If Button is driving in competent fashion since Turkey, I don’t wanna know what incompetent is.

He is a false champion and so he will be remembered. The real champion in mind is Vettel.

17

Simtek,

As you’re a man keen on facts:-

Who has done more movertaking moves this year

Vettel or Button?

You admit that Red Bull had the faster car in Turkey…are you suggesting that your ‘real Champion’ Vettel kindly moved over & allowed Button to pass as a kind gesture to an old incompetent driver?

I look forward to your fact filled reply! 🙂

18

Simtek,

Australia – Crash

Malaysia – Crash

Monaco – Crash

Hungary – Suspension

Europe – Engine

So only two retirements due to technical failures, then.

I think Patrick has slightly more points in his post that are valid, and accurate, than you do in your response.

19

Well I count Hungary as a crash too since he damaged the suspension by ramming into Raikkonen.

20

Well then name all these technical failures?

I don’t think crashing a car into Kubica or Raikkonen qualifies as a technical failure. I don’t think crashing a car into the Monaco armco counts as technical failure, I don’t think spinning out of the Malaysian GP counts as a technical failure …

The only technical failure that he had was the engine failure at Valencia. That’s 1 (one) instance.

Brawn did NOT have the fastest car till Turkey. Indeed, get your facts straight!

The fact that Red Bull messed up the strategy and that Vettel messed up the races and wasn’t able to overtake KERS cars, does not negate the fact that the Red Bull was inherently faster (or as fast as) the Brawn.

China and Bahrain, the Red Bull was 4 tenths faster. Monaco and Spain they were equally fast. Turkey, the Red Bull was fastest again by 2 tenths.

China: Vettel won

Bahrain: overtaking problems

Monaco: bad strategy and crash

Spain: Vettel was struggling behind Massa and got beaten even by Webber

Turkey: Vettel blundered in the first lap and a poor strategy again got him behind Webber

Seriously, Vettel has only himself and his team to blame for their poor performance over the first 7 races.

Sure, when they got the car back up to half a second a lap faster they were winning again (GB, Germany). if the car is any less faster than the competition they tend to throw the win away. In fact Vettel tends to crash like a rookie in those cases.

21

Even if Button wins the championship I say he will be one of the worst champions ever.

His constant complaining of understeer, oversteer, tyres not working shows his character to be one who likes everything to be perfect.

He would attract more respect if he showed a bit more fire in his belly

22

Don’t you think his concerns about tyre temp. & handling issues are:-

1. Because he wants to win (has fire in his belly)?

2. Because he’s giving feedback to his engineer to help improve the car?

23

You are entitled to your opinion…

But “constant complaining”? Really? What we hear on the TV feed from the radio, are snippets (small bits) of the overall comms between the driver and crew, edited and fed to us by FOM – who will want to “enhance” the show.

All the drivers talk about tyres not working, graining, over-heating, over-steer, under-steer etc, because that’s what they do… drive their car. Any driver wants their car to be perfect to their own driving style.

And finally, I would suggest Rubens has done more complaining than Jenson, this year. To quote Mr Barrichello “all this blah de blah de blah!” 😉 How apt!!!

24

I think you’ll find all the best drivers are quick to relay anything they’re unhappy with back to their engineers. It’s a common rookie mistake to try and drive around problems. We’re just hearing it more from Jenson because the radio transmissions are now public.

25

I think there might be a slight error in the article; with Vettel 16 points behind and only 2 races left surely Button only needs 4 points to end Vettel’s title hopes? He needs 6 to end Barrichello’s.

26

We should all be thankful that we don’t have a stupid medals system.

Or what would be the result? I’m sure someone is able to work out how it would have been with Bernie’s preferred system.

(I Suspect Bernie had done a deal at a fixed gold price, when he suggested this.)

As a matter of interest who currently supplies and who pays for all the trophies?

27

Vettel winning both is probably tough, but I can well imagine Button failing to score 6 or 7 points over the two races, given his current rate of scoring.

In fact given the nature of this title battle I fully expect Button to chalk up two no-scores or a pair of 8ths and still win the championship by a margin because Barrichello scores equally poorly and Vettel DNF’s the two, one through engine mechanical failure and the other driver error.

28
Paige Michael-Shetley

James,

Here’s an interesting tidbit from the Twitter page of James Roberts of F1 Racing from Saturday:

“Just spotted Red Bull supremo Helmut Marko in deep conversation with Kimi and his manager in the Ferrari motorhome…”

http://twitter.com/JRobertsF1/status/4595328641

I’d like to get your thoughts on this. Could Red Bull be considering going back on Webber’s deal for next year to get Raikkonen? Surely they extended him based both on his form at that point of the season- which has fallen badly since Hungary- and the assumption they wouldn’t be able to get anyone better- which we now know to be false, since Raikkonen is on the market.

Perhaps this is posturing from the Raikkonen camp to get McLaren to ante up?

29

Kimi would be a fantastic fit for Red Bull!! Although I really think it is highly doubtful that they will not honour Webber’s contract considering he’s been a loyal workhorse for them for so many years.

But the fit is perfect – KR would be able to fill his adrenelin whims with virtually anything imaginable which ticks the box of his corporate obligations. The car is a proven winner this year which will most likely flow onto next season. And when he fancies a tipple; he’ll still be on song with his vodka and red bull. Perfect.

30

KR was saying recently he will only consider going to a team with a “winning car”. Newey’s cars are known as speedy but fragile and Kimi’s had a heavy dose of fragile cars 2003 to 2005

31

If Jenson were to finish were he did in the last couple of races the championship is gone with Vettel on-form and Rubens in the hunt Button should be worried.

32

Can Button lose the title? Even if Vettel wins both races Jensen needs just one finish in the top 5 to thwart that.

What odds would you give in Vettel winning the last two races? 4/1 ? Givens the Brawn’s reliabity I’d guess the chances of Jensen scoring fewer than 4 points in the last two races at 10/1 – That gives Vettel a 2.5% chance of winning this years WDC. Can’t see it happening TBH.

As for Rubens, can he take 7.5 points out of Jensen’s lead in each race? In my opinion, no, he can’t.

Two nondescript 5th place finishes is all Jensen needs to secure the WDC, and even then Rubens or Vettel would have to win both their remaining races.

33

James,

I disagree with all the rubbish regarding Button not being a worthy champion.

Critics pick statistics to suit their argument. You talk about points picked up since Silverstone, fair enough, first race Button didn’t win.

I say that the points collected after 15 races are Button 85, Barrichello 71 and Vettel 69.

Button quite cleary is a deserving champion. Aside from being punted off in Belgium, he has scored points in every race.

Consistency is the key. The best champions score points even on bad days… at least thats what Schumi fans say… Does that not apply here?

On a side note… are Toyota really planning an audicious for JB? Surely more optimistic than realistic?

34

And if my Auntie had balls…….

Gents and probably a few ladies too, you are all coming up with ‘what ifs’ “Jenson scored two more points than he should have as Webber crashed etc”. The fact is there is only one measure of whether a driver is a deserving WDC or not and that is the table and last time I looked it showed Jenson top by quite a few points. In fact if we had Bernie’s new medal system he would have already been crowned champion by now. There is a saying in football, “the sign of a good team is one that can still win when they are playing badly”. In the last few races Jenson has got the most out the positions he has qualified, other drivers have had plenty of opportunity to top the table but they haven’t!

I am not blinkered, I would like to see him get a podium in the next two races but this does not diminish his standing should he win the WDC. And yes I think Vettel is great driver too, maybe better when he is out front without the pressure to make a passing move but still a lightning quick driver.

35

Hi James

Thoroughly enjoyed your blog over weekend! I’m sorry if the topic of this comment is not particularly in line with your latest post, but I was curious as to whether you could shed some insights into the extent of the politicking as a journalist; when you have to compete for the drivers’ and power brokers’ attentions!

There was a recent clip on the BBC website of Kimi in the middle of a media scrum, when Ted Kravitz (I assume!) asked 2 or 3 questions in a row and before he could continue with another question; an Italian journalist (assumption again!) interrupted with a short “this isn’t a one-on-one Ted! Let other people have a go!”, which stopped him straight away. Personally found this little exchange highly amusing!

My questions which I hope you could answer are: Is there a pecking order within the media? Is it ultimately based on nationalities, or is it simply whoever the drivers (or their rep with the ‘team’ recorders) nod to? And in terms of finding newsworthy scoops, do journalists try to inflitrate as many members of teams as possible or is there a restriction of who is ‘authorised’ to speak on behalf of the team (and visa versa, are personnel of teams therefore not allowed to speak to the media at all?). Are there frequently any ‘off-record’ discussions that take place too? And are there times when managers, engineers, drivers approach you to let you know they weren’t best pleased with any of your postings/articles (or the reverse!)? If I remember correctly, there was a period when Michael Schumacher did not grant any interviews with British journalists. Is this a one-off or does this type of interaction occur behind the scenes frequently?

Lastly – from the outside, F1 sometimes gives the imagie of an exclusive club. Is there a similar atmosphere within the media in that they are initially dismissive of ‘newbies’?

Perhaps it’s much friendlier than I imagine!

36

Really really hope Jenson wins one of the last races just to silence all the doubters.

37

What a year…real hare and tortoise stuff.

I for one am glad that Brawn and JB dipped mid-season. Imagine how boring it would have been had they maintained their dominance and wrapped it up already.

RedBull’s year may be their best yet, but I think they’ve had a shocker…so many missed opportunities. That car should have won the championship.

The whole being greater than the sum of it’s parts, Team Brawn deserve the title.

If JB does limp over the line to win the WDC, he’ll be cool with it.

I’d love to see Ruby win Brazil,but I have a feeling it’s also on Hamilton’s “to do” list.

1F backwards ‘n all…JB’s lucky he’s only had one Ferrari to deal with for a while.

We all expect Ferrari and McLaren to be back with a vengeance in 2010, but I hope Brawn and RedBull can take their form into next year…and some of the “unknowns” surprise us.

38

Jenson will win the WDC. It is just too difficult for him to lose.

– Rubens has a terrible record at Interlagos

– Sebastian Vettel’s engine is more vulnerable and he has used up all his engines

– McLaren, Toyota, Ferrari or Force India also has a reasonable chances to the remaining races

I feel Jenson should take the offensive and try to win the WDC in style, at least in Interlagos. If he wins, he can claim the crown more or less and silent his critics. Worst case, he still have a good safety margin going down the wire depending how Ruben and Seb finish in Brazil.

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