One of those laughing, mind you, was me because I never really deep down figured that Button – one of those guys who’d started more than 100 Grands Prix and had only won a couple – would really be able to do it.
|THE ASSOCIATED PRESS|
|Jenson Button, facing, embraces teammate Rubens Barrichello as they celebrate with mechanics after Button won the Formula One World championship during Brazil's Grand Prix on Sunday, Oct. 18, 2009.|
But Button had such a huge jump on the rest of the field this year that it was really going to be hard for him to lose. His team, Honda, were so outclassed last year that they gave up mid-season to start development of the 2009 car. Although Honda eventually dropped out of the sport, the designing and engineering of the new car remained sound and when Ross Brawn took over the reins of the team he took control of a potential winner.
And then there was the whole diffuser controversy, in which the Brawn GP car’s was deemed legal over the objections of the Old Guard, who then all took until mid-season or so to catch up and by then it was too late to overtake both Button for the driver’s championship and Brawn GP for the constructor’s title.
So it was a combination of a good head start and then a positive ruling that enabled the Button/Brawn combo to wrap up both championships at Brazil Sunday in a race that was won by Mark Webber (Red Bull), with Robert Kubica BMW) second and Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) third.
Hamilton’s podium was the result of a spectacular performance in which he started 17th as the result of a poor qualifying effort on Saturday and then carved his way through the field to make it all the way up to third.
Another spectacular run was turned in by Sebastien Vettel, who kept the driving championship interesting the latter part of the season. He finished fourth after starting 15th.
Button was fifth after starting 14th. His race wasn’t as spectacular as Hamilton’s or Vettel’s but he was probably just being careful. All he needed to wrap up the championship was a few points once the race started and there was no reason to take any chances once he got to where he had to be.
All of these championship-calibre tail-enders benefitted enormously when the lights went out and the brains of about a half-dozen of the other drivers turned into cement.
They say that you can’t win a race on the first lap but that is so much mumble-jumble once one starts because the red mist takes over and rational racing drivers suddenly turn into cowboys.
Heikki Kovalainen, likely driving his last race for McLaren, went sideways shortly after the start and hit Giancarlo Fisichella’s Ferrari.
Meantime, Jarno Trulli – normally a mild-mannered and polite fellow – went bananas in his Toyota and took out both Adrian Sutil in his Force India and Fernando Alonso in his Renault.
So while they were cleaning up the carnage on the circuit, Kovalainen wnt into the pits and the left with his fuel hose still attached (he, apparently, was told to go) and fuel splashing all over the place.
Kimi Raikkonen, driving his last race for Ferrari, also pitted at this point and was following Kovalainen out. His exhaust set the fuel from Kovalainen’s hose alight and suddenly the Kimster was in the midst of a flash fire. Thank goodness he had his visor down.
Nobody was hurt but there was certainly excitement and all of a sudden Button, who had started 14th, was running ninth and he hadn’t really done anything to deserve it.
At that point, it looked pretty certain that – barring disaster – he was going to pick up enough points to win the championship and that’s exactly what happened.
The race in Abu Dhabi in two weeks will be for bragging rights only but that’s okay.
Who wants to talk about a world championship fight when we can discuss whether Flavio Briatore will be reinstated in time for the 2010 season, and whether or not Nelson Piquet Jr. will be back in F1 as a driver for Adrian Campos’s new team?
Both are possibilities, you know.
Briatore will go into a French court Monday to officially launch a lawsuit against the FIA and Campos says he’s in negotiations with Piquet the younger.
So even though the season’s almost over, and the championships have been decided, there will still not be a dull moment, going forward.