British ace stakes his claim on title with six wins out of seven
Jenson Button continues to dominate the 2009 World Championship after breezing to his sixth win of the season in Istanbul.
Pole sitter Sebastian Vettel Button’s biggest rival this year was forced to settle for third place behind his Red Bull teammate Mark Webber after gifting Button the lead on the opening lap and switching to a three stop strategy.
Rubens Barrichello gave Brawn GP their first retirement of their season pulling out of the race with a gear selection problem. The Brazilian’s race was over much earlier though; he had a poor start dropping to thirteenth place before colliding with Heikki Kovalainen and Adrian Sutil.
Barrichello’s retirement sees Button extend his championship lead to twenty six points, while Brawn continue to dominate the constructors standings with a forty point lead over Red Bull.
“I had a smile on my face for pretty much every lap today,” exulted Button after the race. “The car felt that good, and I was able to back off in the last stint to conserve the engine.”
“This is the first time that the car has been absolutely perfect for me and it means so much to the team to see just how good this car is.
“To go to Silverstone for our home race leading the Championships is a wonderful feeling but we know that we have to keep pushing to maintain our advantage.”
Jarno Trulli was fourth for Toyota ahead of Nico Rosberg and Felipe Massa.
Robert Kubica and Timo Glock picked up the final points paying positions while Kimi Raikkonen had to nurse a damaged suspension after minor collision with Fernando Alonso’s Renault on the opening lap.
Lewis Hamilton, who started at the rear end of the grid after a poor qualifying session, could only manage thirteenth as McLaren continue to struggle this season.
How the race unfolded…
At the start, Jenson Button had only one objective: snatching the lead away from pole sitter Sebastian Vettel, the man he fears most in this year’s title battle.
With a 28 point lead over the German in the standings he didn’t need to of course, but the manner in which he positioned his Brawn car aggressively pointing towards the racing line was indicative of the Button mentality this year: race to win, attack to defend.
Despite his best efforts, Button was unable to break tradition at the Istanbul Speed Park with as Vettel held his ground at the first corner. At least he didn’t have to worry about keeping his teammate at bay; Rubens Barrichello had a disastrous start dropping thirteenth place as the anti-stall on his BGP001 kicked in.
Button didn’t have to wait long before the pressure he had put on Vettel played dividends. The Red Bull driver ran wide at Turn 9 gifting the lead to the championship leader.
“I had a good start from the dirty side of the grid and it was really important to maintain second position into the first corner,” reflected Button.
“I took my opportunity on the first lap when Sebastian went wide and from there we controlled the race.”
A string of quick laps quickly gave the Briton the advantage and the gap to Vettel was over five seconds when the Red Bull driver made his first pit stop.
Barrichello’s race meanwhile went from bad to worse. The Brawn driver found himself glued to the gearbox of McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen and every time he found a way past he was re-passed by the Finn and his KERS power. Becoming increasingly frustrated the Brazilian launched his nose up the inside of the McLaren at Turk 9 only to collide with Kovalainen and spin.
Next to feel the wrath of the Brazilian’s frustration was Adrian Sutil. Barrichello lunged his car up the inside of the Force India driver at the final corner and damaged his front wing in the process.
At the front, Red Bull tried to mix things up by switching Vettel to a three stop strategy and a short stint on the less desirable softer tyres, but without track position it was doomed to failure. Vettel came close to achieving that in the middle stint as he closed the gap to Button and almost passed him.But with one extra stop to make Vettel and Red Bull were pinning their hopes on Button running into problems.
They never came, and Button was left free to canter to victory. “Once we knew that Sebastian was going for a three-stop strategy, we filled the car up at my first stop and I just tried to be as consistent as possible to keep him behind me,” said the Brawn driver.
“It’s not nice to see a car catching you so quickly, even when you know he is on low fuel, but once he pitted I was able to push harder.”
Such was the inappropriateness of Vettel’s strategy that the Red Bull driver even found himself losing out to teammate Mark Webber at the chequered flag, which could prove decisive for his title hopes.
Behind the front-runners Nico Rosberg was the biggest mover in the race making use of a long first stint to leapfrog both Ferrari’s and Robert Kubica to take sixth place behind Jarno Trulli’s Toyota.
Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, who has dominated the race for the last three years, was unable to repeat his success and was forced to settle for seventh place, while teammate Kimi Raikkonen dropped to ninth after a collision with Fernando Alonso in the early stages.
McLaren’s nightmare season continued with Lewis Hamilton climbing to thirteenth place from sixteenth on the grid.
“It was quite an uneventful race but I actually enjoyed myself this afternoon,â€ Lewis said. “I was very heavy at the start but I just pushed and pushed. That s why I can smile because I think I drove to my full potential.
“The most important thing is for us to keep our heads up and to keep pushing. I see my role from now on as helping the team to cure the problems with this year s car and to make next year s car the best it can possibly be. When the team gives me a car to win, I will win.”
Istanbul specialist Heikki Kovalainen meanwhile picked up damage from his collisions with Rubens Barrichello and was forced to settle for fourteenth place.
“This was a character-building race for everybody in the team,â€ Heikki said afterwards. “At the start of the race, I really got the maximum out of the car and I m pleased about that. I had a good fight with Rubens too it was great to be racing hard and fair and it was very satisfying to keep a faster car at bay with some good old-fashioned racing tactics and also our KERS hybrid.”
“In the final stint, the engineers elected to turn down the revs to protect my engine. Still, we have to be realistic: we finished 14th and we all know we can do better. We ve had some great days in the past and we ll continue to push hard to enjoy some great days in the future.â€
Toro Rosso continue to struggle for pace with Sebastian Buemi and Sebastian Bourdais classifying fifteenth and eighteenth.
Nelson Piquet put in another lacklustre performance to take sixteenth place ahead of Adrian Sutil.
Giancarlo Fisichella was the only other retirement alongside Barrichello. The Italian dropped out of the ace on lap 4 with a mechanical problem.
1 Jenson Button Brawn 1:26:24.848 2 Mark Webber Red Bull 6.714 3 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 7.461 4 Jarno Trulli Toyota 27.843 5 Nico Rosberg Williams 31.539 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 39.996 7 Robert Kubica BMW 46.247 8 Timo Glock Toyota 46.959 9 Kimi RÃ¤ikkÃ¶nen Ferrari 50.246 10 Fernando Alonso Renault 1:02.420 11 Nick Heidfeld BMW 1:04.327 12 Kazuki Nakajima Williams 1:06.376 13 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:20.454 14 Heikki Kovalainen McLaren at 1 lap 15 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso at 1 lap 16 Nelson Piquet Renault at 1 lap 17 Adrian Sutil Force India at 1 lap 18 Sebastien Bourdais Toro Rosso at 1 lap 19 Rubens Barrichello Brawn out 20 Giancarlo Fisichella Force India out