“The statistics, and the points, are on Button’s side, but the run of form is not.”
Forumula1.com’s Hugh Podmore asks whether Jenson Button has it in him to fend off Rubens Barrichello in the remaining four races.
Rubens Barrichello became the biggest threat to Jenson Button’s title aspirations by winning the Italian Grand Prix at Monza on Sunday. The Brazilian drove an exemplary race, pushing hard throughout despite a suspect gearbox and merited the win.
Jenson Button will have mixed feelings about having finished second today. On the one hand this afternoon represents a real return to form for the Frome flyer, who has not been on the podium since the Turkish Grand Prix. A solid eight points, it takes him well clear of the Red Bull team that have been his biggest challengers since his early season dominance. He is still, moreover, in front of Barrichello; a threat who he may feel more comfortable with than the Red Bulls. He certainly was comfortable enough to be magnanimous towards his team-mate in the press conference.
On the other hand Button will be disquieted by Barrichello’s form. He outdrove the Brazilian in the early season, and many thought it the natural order of things. But recently Rubinho has found a rich vein of form which sees him comprehensively outperform his British team-mate. Barrichello was simply faster today, as he was all weekend at Spa and in Valencia, where he won.
Their team principal, Ross Brawn, has effectively said that as long as his drivers co-operate for the team, and don’t drive into each other, they are free to race. The mid-season whisperings about preferential treatment of Button will ensure the two receive identical equipment and treatment from Brawn’s side. So in the absence of any help from the team, Button will simply have to up his game to fight off the threat from the other side of the garage. The statistics, and the points, are on his side. But the run of form is not.
But this was the weekend when Red Bull faded. Unless they return to absolute dominance at the next race, they may have to say goodbye to any possibility of a world championship. It is still mathematically possible; but again on the basis of form, the Milton Keynes team have dropped off. Vettel’s sole point today will be of scant consolation.
Jenson Button may well be happy with eight valuable points that represent a great result for him recently. But when the dust settles, he will know that he has a very big fight still on his hands from a man who is looking better and better every weekend.