Button stakes his claim on the title by dominating the race of the year.
Jenson Button established himself as a world champion-in-waiting with a flawless charge to victory in the Monaco Grand Prix, carrying Brawn GP to their third 1-2 finish of the season.
The Briton gave his rivals a Formula One masterclass around the streets of Monaco, seeing off pressure from his teammate Rubens Barrichello and the Ferrari drivers to make it five wins out of six.
Unsurprisingly, Button described his Monaco win as the best of the lot. “This victory was massive for us and it’s the best one of the season,” he said. “Before the weekend I said that this grand prix doesn’t mean anything more than the others, but it was more to stop the pressure on myself – but we know the truth.”
“To win here is fantastic, this circuit is very different to anything else. I struggled at the start of the weekend so it makes it even better to get the victory.”
The result puts Button in pole position for the world championship with a 16 point lead over Barrichello, while Brawn now head the constructors standings by over 40 points.
Things couldn’t have worked out better for Button at the start. The threat from Kimi Raikkonen and his KERS-fitted Ferrari never came and not only was Button able to lead the field into St. Devote, but teammate Rubens Barrichello also got the jump on Raikkonen, slotting into second place.
“I got off the line clean and had Rubens behind, and he had problems with his rear tyres and I was able to pull a gap,” recounts Button. “And it didn’t change much from there apart from traffic and the normal Monaco things where walls seem to get closer and closer the further you get into the race.”
Sebastian Vettel meanwhile was the first driver to struggle on the supersoft tyres. He held up Massa, Rosberg and Alonso in the early stages and was forced to pit early to change tyres. Not long after he crashed out of the race at St. Devote trying to make up ground.
Barrichello’s getaway proved to be decisive at the front. The Brawn pair also struggled on the super soft tyres and had Barrichello not acted as an ideal buffer Kimi Raikkonen would have been right on the gearbox of Button. As things played out, Button went into the first round of pit stops with a fifteen second lead.
And with both Ferrari drivers running shorter first stints the Brawn driver was able to retain his advantage. Crucially, Barrichello was able to stay ahead of Raikkonen and that gave Brawn the perfect slingshot into the middle stint.
Ferrari demonstrated that they have made a significant step forward in performance in recent weeks as Felipe Massa traded fastest lap times with the Brawn drivers, but the team were unable to mount a serious assault on the win. When they switched to the supersoft it was effectively game over – even though they managed the tyres better than Brawn.
Kimi Raikkonen lead Massa home in third and fourth giving Ferrari their best result of the season.
Rivals McLaren meanwhile had a disastrous race with Lewis Hamilton unable to make up ground from last on the grid, while Heikki Kovalainen crashed out on Lap 52 after running as high as seventh.The Finn got out of shape on the kerbing at the entry of the swimming pool complex, dropping his McLaren into the inside barrier which pitched him into the armco at the exit of the complex. It was an opportunity missed for McLaren with Monaco providing the team with an ideal opportunity to put aside their aerodynamic problems.
Mark Webber took fifth place giving some consolation to Red Bull.
Nico Rosberg put in a strong showing for Williams keeping Fernando Alonso at bay to finish sixth.
The pair were right on the gearbox of Felipe Massa in the early stages as Sebastian Vettel struggled on the super softs and backed the pack up. Rosberg was even able to get past Massa when the Brazilian ran too deep into the chicane trying to pass Vettel, but a long middle stint on a heavy fuel load – a strategy mirrored by Alonso – ultimately saw the German drop to sixth.
Sebastian Bourdais took home the final points paying position after making just one stop. It is the first time that the Toro Rosso driver has had the measure of his teammate Sebastian Buemi this year, the Swiss star this time falling foul of inexperience around a track where experience is everything.
Buemi overcooked it into St. Devote and ploughed into the back of Renault driver Nelson Piquet. Buemi spun Piquet around enabling the Brazilian to limp back to the pits for retirement, while his own race ended in the St. Devote barrier there and then.
Big spenders Toyota and BMW Sauber did little to redeem themselves in the race after getting knocked out in the opening qualifying session. Timo Glock climbed to eleventh ahead of Nick Heidfeld while Jarno Trulli finished in thirteenth.
Force India’s Adrian Sutil finished fourteenth while Williams’ Kazuki Nakajima crashed out from tenth place at Mirabeau on the final lap to classify fifteenth.
1 Jenson Button Brawn 2 Rubens Barrichello Brawn 3 Kimi RÃ¤ikkÃ¶nen Ferrari 4 Felipe Massa Ferrari 5 Mark Webber Red Bull 6 Nico Rosberg Williams 7 Fernando Alonso Renault 8 Sebastien Bourdais Toro Rosso 9 Giancarlo Fisichella Force India 10 Kazuki Nakajima Williams 11 Timo Glock Toyota 12 Nick Heidfeld BMW 13 Jarno Trulli Toyota 14 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 15 Adrian Sutil Force India 16 Robert Kubica BMW 17 Heikki Kovalainen McLaren out 18 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull out 19 Nelson Piquet Renault out 20 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso out