Button keeps his cool to win Malaysian Grand Prix as torrential rain cuts the race short.
Jenson Button charged to his second win of the season for Brawn GP but was once again forced to celebrate under safety car conditions after the race was stopped due to torrential rain.
Heavy showers were always on the cards in Sepang as the race which had already been pushed back to an evening start to accommodate European audiences kicked off under gloomy skies and dark clouds.
But nobody could have predicted the sheer scale of the deluge that was to come.
Not least Jenson Button who first had to rectify a poor getaway. The Briton was usurped by a charging Nico Rosberg at the start line, the German making good use of the KERS device on his Williams to vault into the lead from fourth place, while Jarno Trulli and Fernando Alonso also managed to get ahead of the Brawn GP driver.
“My start was pretty bad,” said Button. “I don’t think I’d got enough heat in the tyres and had a lot of oversteer. But I went back to fourth, got up to third, eventually got back up to the front, and I was pretty happy with that, our pace was pretty good.”
Button quickly despatched Alonso using the superiority of his Brawn GP car through the corners and it wasn’t long before Rubens Barrichello, Kimi Raikkonen and Mark Webber also got past the Renault driver.
Nico Rosberg and Jarno Trulli were fuelled lighter than third place Button and that enabled the Brawn GP driver to leapfrog them at the first round of pit stops after setting a searing pace on light fuel.
The showers first hit the track on lap 21 after most of the front-runners had made their first pit stops.
The rain came too late for Kimi Raikkonen who had gambled on wet tyres as early as lap 18 and had subsequently lost touch with the leaders. But the rest of the field dived into the pit lane for full wets as soon as the showers fell.
Timo Glock gambled on the intermediate wets, a decision which couldn’t have worked out better for the Toyota driver as he carved his way through the field up to second place.
The German’s pace which was over ten seconds quicker than the Brawn GP drivers prompted the field to follow suit and change to the intermediate tyres as the Malaysian climate continued to tease the paddock with only light showers at certain parts of the track.
But no sooner had the field pitted for intermediate wets than the full force of the thunderstorm unleashed itself on the Sepang International Circuit. Thunder and lightening bolted the grandstands, momentarily cutting out the race transmission, while paddock reporters leapt for cover. All the drivers came in for the full wet tyres and tip-toed around the deluged track.
On Lap 31 the safety car was deployed in response to the rain-hit chaos, but even then the drivers were aquaplaning off the track in the torrential conditions. Race director Charlie Whiting then made the decision to stop the race.
The drivers sat on the grid for over half an hour as confusion swept through the paddock about whether the race could be re-started.
With the clock ticking down to the two hour time limit for a grand prix event, and the light worsening, race directors eventually declared the race over.
The final classification was amended to reflect the race order on Lap 31 at the moment the red flag was issued, this was complicated by the fact that some drivers had peeled into the pit lane.
Jenson Button was awarded the win, his second victory of the season and the third of his career, ahead of Toyota’s Timo Glock.
“What a crazy race,” exulted Button afterwards. “My start was pretty bad. I don’t think I’d got enough heat in the tyres and had a lot of oversteer. But I went back to fourth, got up to third, eventually got back up to the front, and I was pretty happy with that, our pace was pretty good.
“Choosing the tyres was very difficult, because normally here when it rains it pours, but it didn’t to start with. We went for the full wet tyre and it destroyed itself, and then I saw Timo (Glock) flying up behind us with the inter, so we put the intermediates on.
“Just as he came by I saw his tyres were bald and it was raining out the back, so he was struggling quite a lot and had to pit.
“I got one lap in on the inter at a reasonable pace and was able to get in and put the wet tyre on and get back in front.”
Nick Heidfeld was promoted to third place having elected to stay out on his original set of full wet tyres, while Jarno Trulli and Rubens Barrichello, who did pit, dropped back to fourth and fifth.
Lewis Hamilton was sixth ahead of Nico Rosberg, another driver to get caught out by the final pit stops.
Mark Webber, who was running as high as fourth in the early stages wound up seventh ahead of Ferrari’s Felipe Massa. The Renault drivers of Nelson Piquet and Fernando Alonso completed the top ten.
Half points were awarded because the race was stopped before three quarters of the race was completed.
Pos Driver Team Time
1. Button Brawn GP (B) 1h10:59.092
2. Glock Toyota (B) + 34.000
3. Heidfeld BMW Sauber (B) + 1 lap
4. Trulli Toyota (B) + 1 lap
5. Barrichello Brawn GP (B) + 1 lap
6. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes (B) + 1 lap
7. Rosberg Williams-Toyota (B) + 1 lap
8. Webber Red Bull-Renault (B) + 1 lap
9. Massa Ferrari (B) + 1 lap
10. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) + 1 lap
11. Piquet Renault (B) + 1 lap
12. Alonso Renault (B) + 1 lap
13. Nakajima Williams-Toyota (B) + 1 lap
14. Raikkonen Ferrari (B) + 1 lap
15. Sutil Force India-Mercedes (B) + 1 lap
16. Vettel Red Bull-Renault (B) + 2 laps
17. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) + 2 laps
18. Fisichella Force India-Mercedes (B) + 4 laps