Button most deliver in Monza, writes Forumula1.com’s Hugh Podmore.
Jenson Button today qualified sixth on the grid for tomorrow’s Italian Grand Prix, knowing that with a relatively heavy car he stands a good chance of scoring points. The Brawn driver professed himself happy with the car, and although team-mate Rubens Barrichello out-qualified him by the smallest of margins, Button will be confident of overtaking him with a long first stint.
The Englishman desperately needs to score points and profit from Red Bull’s Monza malaise, which saw them end up ninth and tenth. More importantly, getting on the score board will provide a much-needed boost for Button’s confidence. In a recent interview with Sport magazine, Button did not sound like a champion-elect, saying that he would have to “see what happened” in the rest of the season. Not for him the bravado of a Senna or a Schumacher. And his lack of thrust on track too has failed to inspire. Accordingly, the press have had a field day with stories about Button’s lack of nerve.
So Button ought to score tomorrow, if only to silence the naysayers, and for his own peace of mind. What exactly has gone wrong with his season, which started out so well? The answers are myriad and hidden, and many at Brawn wish they knew. But there can be no doubt that ever since the Brawn BGP 001 got its much-needed upgrades after Red Bull began being competitive, Button has lost his touch with the car. It reached a nadir for him at the Hungaroring. Conversely, the car seems to have come to his team-mate – never a thing that pleases racing drivers.
But Button’s competitors’ lack of ability to capitalise on his woes may yet be the story of the season. From looking dominant around the time of the German Grand Prix, Red Bull have singularly failed to score repeatedly in the open goal that Button has left since. They still trail him by 16 points, a margin that Button could maintain simply by finishing races sensibly in the five events that remain.
Whether he can do that, we will discover tomorrow. Meanwhile, fellow Brit Lewis Hamilton, never a man afraid to wring every last ounce from his car, may well be the better bet for victory tomorrow. If Adrian Sutil doesn’t take the win, that is.