Formula One: Sebastian Vettel's Win Puts Pressure on Jenson Button

Patrick AllenAnalyst IOctober 4, 2009

SUZUKA, JAPAN - OCTOBER 03:  Jenson Button of Great Britain and Brawn GP prepares to drive during qualifying for the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix at Suzuka Circuit on October 3, 2009 in Suzuka, Japan.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

What a strange race that was when all was said and done.

At certain stages, Brawn GP were Constructors Champions, Jenson went from poor to great and Rubens went the other way.

One key moment may also determine the World Championship. Vettel’s supreme win earns him not only the prestigious title of one of Patrick’s drivers of the day; it also keeps him in a close distance of the title.

After all the madness yesterday including crashes, red flags, and penalties I expected to see Jens line up in P12 and Rubens in P10. However, after more playing around and a gear box change for Kovalainen, Jens in fact started P10 and Rubes P6.

The start would be critical. Rubens's main goal, keep clean and hold onto that P6, any pass will be a bonus. Jenson’s task, keep Kovalainen at bay and try to make some places up.

The lights went out and the front rows got away cleanly. It was harder to make out the midfield so….shock horror…..I had to rely on Jonathan Legard’s commentary to help me understand the start!

Rubens got away well and held on to that crucial P6.

However, Jenson had had an awful getaway. A mixture of unlucky blocking and slight tentativeness meant that he had been passed by Kovalainen and Fisichella. Jens was P12 as the cars snaked around turn three.

The Briton fought back to take P11 from Fisi but he was unable to pass the heavier Kubica for P10. Vettel led the front runners off into the distance, whilst Jens continued his battle to keep his Grand Prix alive.

The Brit's opportunity came on lap three at corner ‘130R’. Jenson put a classic inside move on his Polish rival and it stuck. Well done Jens, but it was far from over, he now had to pass Sutil and Kovalainen to have a real shout at points.

By lap four, Rubens was 8.718s off the lead and Jens was 15.128s off. Webber was having immense troubles at the back of the pack as he made three stops in three laps with various issues.

The Australian’s problems were nothing compared to Jenson, though, who was struggling in dirty air with heavier cars behind him.

By lap nine, Rubens was almost one second faster than his teammate, but the Brazilian was beginning to fall away from Raikkonen’s P5.

Now, the next race incident was absolutely crucial. It was arguably one of the largest strokes of luck I have seen and could even prove to be vital for the Championship.

Jenson had to pass Kovalainen to have a serious shout at points, but Sutil was in between the McLaren and the Brawn. Sutil was lighter than his Finish rival and was quickly losing patience.

The young German driver stuck his car up the inside of Kovalainen and pulled off what looked like a complete move…however, Kovalainen didn’t back off and his front wing made contact with the Force India’s rear.

Sutil span and Kovalainen darted off the track, Jenson simply glided past into his gifted P8.

This single moment changed Jenson’s race completely and seemed to trigger a complete change in both Brawn drivers.

Jenson was revitalised and in clear air, and although it wasn’t happening yet, Rubens would begin to drop off the pace steadily from here on.

The Brazilian gained two places after stops from Hamilton and Trulli as Jenson put in personal bests and moved up to the back of Rosberg.

Jenson’s charge was temporarily put on hold when he stopped on lap 17 for 8.4 seconds of fuel. The Brit rejoined the race in perfect clean air and pushed on.

Rubens was in one lap later and took on 9.5 seconds of fuel. After their first stops, both drivers were in clean air, Rubens in P9, Jenson, P14.

It was from this point onwards that Jenson would take time off Rubens almost every lap. Rubens’s day was getting worse though as Rosberg (now in P2) was lapping fast enough to leap frog the Brazilian.

Fortunately, there wasn’t enough time and Rosberg had to stop earlier than expected. Rubens kept his place, but his potential 2010 replacement would not go away.

Kovalainen stopped on lap 24 and re-joined thankfully, but expectedly behind Jenson. The race was summed up by this stage as an event in which everyone was going fast….but no one was overtaking!

A special mention should go out to Webber who was lightning quick all afternoon, but racing for nothing.

The most exciting ‘race’ at this stage was between Trulli in P3 and Hamilton in P2. Again, though it was only a race if you were watching the lap times.

Trulli (who is my second driver of the day), eventually did enough to beat Hamilton and proved that he has real potential in there.

Kubica’s stop on lap 26 re-joined the Pole crucially behind Jenson who was now up to P9.

After Alonso’s stop one lap later, Rubens was P6 and Jenson was back into the points. The Constructor's title was Brawn’s again at this point.

Rubens was really hurting and had dropped down to 13 seconds behind his closest rival Raikkonen.

Meanwhile, Jens was moving ever closer, but was under pressure from Kubica. The only thing keeping Jenson off of Ruben’s back was Rosberg in between the two fighting Brawns.

However, the luck swung back Jenson’s way when my third driver of the day (Raikkonen) exited the pits with 18 laps left and stuck himself in between Jens and Kubica.

Raikkonen had done a fantastic job, putting in mega laps and looked as if he would leapfrog Heidfeld for P4.

Raikkonen and Jenson’s reward came when Heidfeld stopped and rejoined one lap later in front of Kubica, but behind the Finnish Ferrari. With 15 laps left, Rubens was slow but in P4, Jens was lookinf good in P6 and Kubica looked out of the picture.

Trulli’s immense speed paid off when he beat Hamilton in the pit stop race, but I was more interested in Jenson’s stop.

The Championship leader entered the pits with 13 laps to go. He took on 6.8 seconds of fuel and super soft tyres before joining in P8. If Jens really pushed now, he might have a shot at Rosberg.

Two laps later, Rubens went to the pits and took on 6.1 seconds plus super softs. He rejoined in P7 tantalisingly close to his team mate.

Rosberg was in P4 at this stage and his rejoining place would be crucial. He could end up between the Brawns (thus locking Jens out of the points), or behind them, or even in front!

It all became academic when Alguersuari span off at 130R, causing a safety car period with nine laps to go. Williams did well to get Rosberg in and put him out again in P5.

Everyone’s attention now went to the re-start.

Jens had been faster than Rubens, but Kubica would now be right up behind the Briton. With just four laps left the race was back on and there were initially no dramas.

The front runners sped off into the distance but the fight between the Brawns and the BMW was on. Rubens was slower than Jenson, who was slower than Kubica!

It was pretty tense but there simply wasn’t enough time, and thankfully the Brawns crossed the line in the last two points-paying positions. They were one point off the Constructor's title, so the irony of winning the championship on Honda soil never came.

It was absolutely lovely to see Vettel do that Schumi jump on the podium. It was like seeing a small excited boy emulate his hero after a kart race or something.

However, with the smile that came from that jump, I was also forced to frown.

I frowned because I feel, as Martin Brundel does, that Jenson’s title hopes look considerably more wobbly than they somehow did before the race began.

Jenson picked the pace up and drove excellently after his stroke of luck.

However, his qualifying positions are really messing up his races and although he looked strong today, Vettel will now be on a real charge. As for Rubens? Well he simply didn’t turn up today. He hasn’t really done enough over the past few races to comfortably challenge his team mate and you’ve got to argue that Jenson’s biggest threat comes from Red Bull's garage.

I hope that Rubens will improve for his home race. We head to Brazil with both Championships up for grabs and the potential for both of them to be won.

If Rubens can find his form again, he is the favourite. If not, well Vettel’s got to look good. The key for Jenson will be Saturday. It is all shaping up to be a very exciting weekend!

If Bernie’s written the script right (wink), the 2009 Brazilian GP should be awesome!

Drivers Title Top Three

Jenson: 85 points

Rubens: 71 points

Vettel: 69 points

Constructors Title Top Three

Brawn GP: 156 points

Red Bull: 120.5 points

Ferrari: 67 points


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