Webber takes Brazil victory as Button takes the title

18/10/2009
NEWS STORY

Today's Brazilian Grand Prix, pretty much like yesterday's qualifying session, is all about one thing, the weather.

We saw yesterday that a number of drivers found their qualifying efforts compromised after they opted for a dry set-up in the hope that today's race would take place in altogether different conditions to those witnessed for much of Saturday. Other drivers pressed ahead, confident that conditions would remain the same.

After a marathon qualifying session lasting almost three hours we were left with a scintillating final few minutes in which local hero, and championship contender, Rubens Barrichello took pole, while his main rivals start from fourteenth and fifteenth.

To add to the drama, Mark Webber starts from second position this afternoon, ahead of Force India's Adrian Sutil, Jarno Trulli, Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastien Buemi. With the two Williams drivers, both of whom have looked good all weekend, particularly in the wet, both making it into the Top Ten.

This afternoon however, the weathermen appear to have got it wrong, for the dark overcast skies of Friday and Saturday are replaced with blue skies and sunshine. For many, strategy has gone out of the window.

Unsurprisingly, Barrichello was running on fumes in qualifying, and along with Heidfeld and Raikkonen will be among the very first to stop. Indeed, fuel load wise, Trulli is the best placed of those at the front of the grid, along with Buemi, Sutil and Rosberg.

While Barrichello is very light, Vettel is the second heaviest and Button fifth. However, it should be noted, particularly on the first lap as the field heads through the notorious Senna S, that just ahead of these two are three (relative) rookies, Kobayashi, Alguersuari and Grosjean, each of whom has 'history'.

However, bearing in mind what happened yesterday, and the uncertainty of the weather, today's race is almost impossible to call, for not only will the drivers have opted for all manner of set-ups, there has been minimal running on the option (super-soft) tyre this weekend, indeed, as the sun shines down on Interlagos, most of the running yesterday was on full wets and intermediates.

Therefore we have a unique race ahead of us, and let's not forget we have a World Championship title at stake - assuming that Brawn GP already has the Constructors' Championship in the bag.

Out front Barrichello must do all he can to convert his pole position into a win while teammate Button needs to finish in the first three if he is to avoid the title fight going on to Abu Dhabi. As for Vettel, his already thin hopes appeared to finally disappear yesterday afternoon.

Both McLaren drivers are starting from the back of the grid, however, like the Ferraris, it will be interesting to see how much they make of their KERS here, where the controversial device should come into its own on certain sections of the track.

The mixed up grid, the experimentation in terms of set-up and, of course, the uncertainty in terms of the Sao Paulo weather, means we could be in for a cracker of a race this afternoon. Last year we witnessed the drama of Hamilton winning the title in the last corner of the last lap while yesterday, despite the delays, we were served up one of the most thrilling qualifying sessions for years.

Tyre options for today are medium (prime) and option (supersoft).

Although it is bright and sunny, it is predicted that there could be a shower or two in the closing stages of the race. Considering some of the processions we've had in recent months (years?) bring it on we say.

As the field prepares to head off on the warm-up lap, the air temperature is 27 degrees C, while the track temperature is 36 degrees, both considerably higher than anything we've seen previously this weekend, and just the sort of temperatures the Brawn cars enjoy.

They head off on the warm-up lap almost all the field of the prime (medium) tyre. The main exception is Raikkonen who is running the option tyre.

"Engine is hot," Vettel is told, "we need to watch the engine temp," not the sort of thing the German wants to hear on a warm-up lap.

As Barrichello leads the field up to the grid, the crowd roars, the atmosphere is electric.

They're away, and despite a hard charge from Raikkonen, Webber shuts the door removing the Finn's wing, Further back a McLaren collides with Fisichella. On the back straight there is further incident involving Trulli, Alonso and Sutil. The Italian loses control of his car, hits Sutil who in turn clouts Alonso. All three are out on the spot. The Safety Car is immediately deployed.

Kovalainen and Raikkonen both pit, however, the McLaren driver makes a complete hash of it knocking over a member of his crew and leaving the pits with the fuel hose still attached. The hose - full of fuel - promptly catches fire and it's a miracle that Raikkonen - who drives through the flames - isn't affected. Thankfully, the incident is over in a flash and both are able to continue. Looked a lot nastier than it was.

Behind the Safety Car, it's Barrichello, Webber, Rosberg, Kubica, Buemi, Nakajima, Kobayashi, Grosjean, Button and Alguersuari.

After 4 laps they're still behind the Safety Car, and as Hamilton is told that he's in a strong position, Race control announces that the Safety Car is coming in at the end of the lap.

The Safety Car pulls off and the race is on, Kubica putting an immediate move on Rosberg while Button nails Alguersuari in a brave move.

Button is on a real charge, as is Vettel, both make short work of Grosjean while the Briton soon despatches Nakajima. Some brave driving out there, including Grosjean who does his best to hold off Button.

Button is all over Kobayashi, as Vettel takes to the grass in his efforts to pass Nakajima.

Out front, Barrichello posts a new fastest lap (14.454), as he stretches his lead over Webber to 1.7s. Kobayashi does well to keep Button at bay while Nakajima is proving equally resourceful in his fight with Vettel. Nothing says they have to give way, far from it.

Despite the earlier drama, Kovalainen is running in twelfth, just 1.5s behind his McLaren teammate in tenth.

Webber goes quickest (14.411), as tries to hold on to Barrichello and break free from Kubica.

Despite his earlier charge, Button is now stuck behind Kobayashi, the Brawn losing grip every time it closes in on the Toyota. Vettel is still stuck behind Nakajima, who is only 0.9s behind Button.

After 14 laps, Barrichello leads Webber by 2s with Kubica just 0.7s behind. Rosberg remains fourth, ahead of Buemi, Kobayashi, Button, Nakajima, Vettel and Heidfeld.

On Lap 15, Race Control announces that Kovalainen is under investigation, almost certainly for the pitlane incident. The other (first lap) incident involving Trulli and Sutil is also being investigated.

After that initial burst of frenzied activity, the race has now settled down as we await the first round of pit stops.

On lap 20, Barrichello posts a new fastest lap (13.950) as Heidfeld is the first driver to pit. Barrichello, who was on a similar fuel load, is also sure to be stopping very soon.

Sure enough, next time around the Brawn GP driver pits. Sadly the official stopwatch malfunctions, however, he rejoins in ninth just ahead of Vettel. The German makes short work of the Brazilian on his relatively cool tyres and heavy load.

At the end of lap 23, Kubica pits, as Button passes Kobayashi at the entry to the Senna S but runs too deep and allows the Toyota driver back through. The Japanese rookie is performing well, punching way above his weight.

Webber posts a new fastest lap, as Button tells his crew that Kobayashi is weaving in the braking zone.

Rosberg and Buemi both pit at the end of lap 24 as Button finally nails Kobayashi. Meanwhile, Barrichello - now running seventh - has really lost out during the pit stops.

As Button pulls away, Kobayashi is embroiled in a titanic fight with Nakajima, the two appearing to touch in the Senna S.

When Webber pits at the end of lap 26 he appears to hand the lead to Button who has a 3.6s advantage over Kobayashi. However, the Red Bull driver rejoins still leading.

Rosberg slips down the timesheets, the German diving into the pits and driving straight into his garage. It looks like an engine problem. Elsewhere, Heidfeld's race is over, the German seemingly having run out of fuel.

After 29 laps, Webber leads Button by 0.8s, though the Brawn driver pulls into the pits, as does Kovalainen. The Briton rejoins in twelfth, behind Buemi and ahead of Alguersuari.

Kobayashi I and Alguersuari both pits at the end of lap 30, as Nakajima crashes heavily at the end of the pit straight. The Japanese driver appear to hit the back of Kobayashi's Toyota and loses control, the Williams threatening to take off. He skates across the gravel trap and into the tyre barriers. Thankfully, he's OK and climbs from the car. The replay shows Kobayashi appearing to weave in front of the Williams.

After 33 laps, Webber leads Vettel by 6.4s, however, the German has still to stop. Kubica is third, ahead of Barrichello, Hamilton, Grosjean, Raikkonen, Buemi, Button and Fisichella.

Button gets up close and personal with Buemi as he battles to pass the Swiss driver for seventh. Elsewhere, Grosjean pits.

Hamilton closes in on Barrichello the Brazilian looking a shadow of the man who took pole yesterday.

At the end of lap 37, Vettel finally pits, leaving Fisichella as the only driver still to stop. The German rejoins in seventh right behind Button.

Much to Barrichello's relief, at the end of lap 42 Hamilton pits. That said, The Brazilian's pace has not been good, giving away almost 0.5s a lap to the two leaders, Webber and Kubica. As he leaves the pits Hamilton gets totally out of shape and is lucky not to go into the barriers.

Next time around it is Raikkonen who pits, this time there is no McLaren to cause him problems. Of the leading eight drivers, Barrichello remains the slowest, either the Brazilian has a problem or else he has given up, totally dispirited.

As Kubica pits - at the end of lap 46 - Button is told that he needs 14.4s as Hamilton, who is fuelled to the end, is in contention. The McLaren driver is currently running seventh, around 11s behind the Brawn driver.

After 47 laps, it's Webber leading Barrichello by 15.8s with Kubica a further 11.2s down the road. Button is fourth, 2.4s down on the BMW driver, and only 1s ahead of Vettel. Buemi is sixth, ahead of Hamilton, Kobayashi, Kovalainen and Raikkonen.

Barrichello pits at the end of lap 50, 6.3s later he's heading down the pitlane rejoining the race in sixth, 4s adrift of Buemi and only 18.s ahead of Hamilton.

Webber pits at the end of lap 52, rejoining the race still leading 8s later. Barring a major upset the Australian appear to be heading for his second Grand Prix victory.

Buemi pits at the end of lap 54, The Swiss driver looking very impressive here today.

Next time around, Button makes what may well be the most important pit stop of his career. 6s later he rejoins the race in sixth but is immediately passed by Kovalainen.

Vettel makes his final stop at the end of lap 56, as does Kobayashi. The German rejoins in fifth, ahead of Kovalainen and Button.

At the end of lap 59 Kovalainen pits, handing sixth place to Button.

As Barrichello complains of problems with grip, Hamilton makes his move and takes third place from the Brazilian. The Englishman is subsequently told that the endplate on his right-front wing is broken, possibly after touching Barrichello.

Sure enough, on lap 63, Barrichello is told that he has a puncture to his left-rear, while its sadness in one half of the Brawn garage it's utter joy in the other half as Button appears to be destined to take the 2009 title.

The pit stop drops Barrichello to eighth, almost out of the points but certainly out of the title race.

Webber leads Kubica by 8.1s, with Hamilton a further 14.2s down the road. Vettel is fourth, ahead of Button, Raikkonen, Buemi, Barrichello, Kovalainen and Fisichella.

With 4 laps remaining, Button is warned that there could be a "few drops of rain" before the end of the race. Softly, softly, winnee title.

Webber begins his final lap, the Australian surely destined for his second F1 victory, however, all eyes are on the white car running in fifth position.

Webber crosses the line, the chequered flag waved by Felipe Massa, and 29s later it is Button who takes the flag and with it the 2009 crown.

While Button will steal all the headlines - and rightly so - we should recognise some sterling performances this afternoon, not least that of Mark Webber. The Australian drove a faultless race never putting a wheel wrong.

Fine performances also from Kubica, Hamilton, Buemi and Kobayashi also, even if the Japanese driver was a little too eager at times.

Barrichello will be bitterly disappointed, but on the day, for reason only he can know, he didn't deliver. As for Vettel, there are plenty more season ahead, plenty more chances to win a title or two.

As for Button, the 2009 Formula One World Champion, despite the media criticism, the Englishman has done it, and, putting aside those wins at the start of the season, drove a solid and convincing race here today, most notably in the opening stages of the race when he knew what he had to do and did it.

Some rain would have spiced it up, for sure - as Jenson would say - but in the end it wasn't as bad as some races we've endured recently, and after the heart stopping drama of 2008 it would have taken something mighty special to cap it.

A fine win for Mark Webber and a very worthy World Championship for Jenson Button.

Congratulations to Ross Brawn and his team also. When one considers how things looked just ten months ago this is a magnificent achievement, as Jenson says, it is a story worthy of a Hollywood script.

Let's hope that the Brackley outfit can convert these two titles into some serious sponsorship and tell Richard Branson precisely what he can do with his money.

In the aftermath, Ross Brawn, who has enjoyed so much success, so many titles, is clearly moved. "This was special," he says. And so it is.

Hey, how about Ross for FIA president.

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    Published: 18/10/2009
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