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Page last updated at 14:58 GMT, Monday, 14 September 2009 15:58 UK

Piquet 'now unemployable in F1'

Rubens Barrichello

Italian Grand Prix in 90 seconds

By Martin Brundle
BBC F1 analyst

Formula 1 is nervously awaiting the outcome of the inquiry into Nelson Piquet Jr's claim to have crashed intentionally under instructions during last year's Singapore Grand Prix in order to help his Renault team-mate Fernando Alonso's race.

We will have an answer around 21 September and before the next GP in Singapore, ironically where all the troubles began last year.

The word in the paddock is that team boss Flavio Briatore will step away from F1 - possibly even before the hearing.

Briatore and director of engineering Pat Symonds deny the allegations that they asked Piquet to crash and Renault have stated that they have initiated a criminal case against the Piquets for extortion and attempted blackmail. Heavy stuff.

Nelson Piquet Jr crashes in Singapore

Analysis - Renault race-fix controversy

The sad thing is that the damage to F1 is already done because of the leaked information.

I'm disappointed in Piquet father and son.

Like many of us in the paddock, they have benefited enormously from being in the privileged inner sanctum of F1, and the boy's career opportunities and funding existed only because of F1.

So crashing deliberately in the first place, as he claims he did, and then lobbing this nuclear bomb into the paddock is not impressive to say the least.

They've cut off their noses to spite their face because surely Nelson Piquet Jr is unemployable in F1 now.

Which team and sponsor wants to be associated with all this? Anger has got the better of them here.

F1, though, will survive it and move on.

All Jenson Button has to do to stop the erosion of his lead is beat his team-mate in one or two of the remaining races, and follow him home in the rest - the title is his to lose

The Monza weekend was dominated by the Renault controversy but the race itself had a big impact on the 2009 drivers' championship.

It has changed, realistically, from a four-horse race to a straight fight between Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello after a great weekend for their Brawn team and a dismal race for Red Bull at Monza.

Barrichello may have won the Italian Grand Prix but second-place man and team-mate Button went to the race with a new mindset.

Some solid sports psychology obviously worked when he decided to view himself in a five-race season in which he was gifted a 16-point head start.

That approach works just as well now, with four races remaining and a 14-point advantage.

The previous race in Spa was an extreme low point for Button as he was run off the road without completing a lap and chalked up his first non-finish this season.

He knew at that point that driving carefully to defend his lead in the drivers' standings wasn't going to work anymore. He drove aggressively in Monza and really pushed the car, even though he was still a bit tippy-toe into Turn One at the start.

Jenson Button, Ross Brawn and Rubens Barrichello celebrate their Monza one-two
I hate to say it, but I can't help but think Brawn will be quietly hoping that it's Button who is their world champion moving forward

All he has to do to stop the erosion of his lead is beat his team-mate in one or two of the remaining races, and follow him home in the rest. It's his to lose.

Barrichello's victory back in Valencia two races ago kick-started his season into life and he has been regularly out-qualifying Button of late. He is definitely more aggressive because he has got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

The Brazilian, at 37 the oldest man on the grid but in the form of his life, now has to take three-and-a-half points per race off Button in the same car. So realistically he's going to need his team-mate to crash or have a reliability issue.

And we will have to see how he copes with the pressure if he is suddenly facing a championship-deciding race. It's much easier to chase than be chased and all the signs are that Barrichello will handle it.

The championship battle will have to be well managed at Brawn GP.

They say both drivers will receive the same development parts, service and opportunities; and providing they don't take each other off the track they will be free to race.

If Brawn clinch the constructors' title and one of their two drivers is guaranteed the drivers' crown, then the management will relax to an extent, but it will be very tense on each side of their garage.

Team boss Ross Brawn is a calm hand at the helm but he's only used to having one dominant driver up for the championship, namely Michael Schumacher.

I hate to say this because Barrichello is a top man all round, but if we consider the stage that he is at in his career, along with his age and his profile, I can't help but think the team will be quietly hoping it's Button who is their world champion moving forward.

ANDREW BENSON BLOG

Red Bull lucked into a point at Monza when Lewis Hamilton spread his McLaren down the Lesmo corner barrier on the last lap, meaning Sebastian Vettel inherited eighth place, but they need some kind of miracle now.

Only an eternal optimist would believe Red Bull could win either of the two championships. This is especially the case given that they are running out of the eight engines per driver allowed in the rules.

They may well have to take a grid penalty at some point but more importantly still they are very limited in the amount of laps they can do in practice at each race.

The Italian Grand Prix also drew attention to some of the longer-term issues Formula 1 is facing.

At the end of the race, every driver was talking about the Kers power-boost and how they did or did not have it available in their various battles during the race.

There is a voluntary agreement among the teams not to use Kers next season, so the excitement of the different relative performances in the charge down to the first corner and variable straightline speeds will not exist in 2010.

It must be said, though, that if everyone had Kers the advantages would largely be cancelled out with similar strategies and utilisation.

Kers is still in the 2010 regulations and the minimum weight of the car is increasing next year, which will give the energy recovery system slightly more of an advantage.

If the governing body, the FIA, had made Kers more powerful (instead of the 80 bhp it currently provides for seven seconds per lap) and allowed a few more engine revs over the 18,000rpm limit when it's deployed, then it would be a no-brainer to have it on the car.

ANDREW BENSON BLOG

But the teams are saying "we have to cut costs" and I'm sure developing and manufacturing Kers systems and then transporting them and the extra technicians around the globe is a very expensive exercise.

The teams seem united and assuming nobody breaks ranks they may well have abandoned the concept too hastily.

The Italian GP was also fascinating because there were two completely different race strategies at play; the one and the two-stop fuel loads.

Formula 1 is definitely losing refuelling next year, which I believe will take away a level of intrigue and uncertainty.

Let's be honest, every so often there is a refuelling issue and teams can change pit-stop strategies even during the race by short or long-fuelling. I like all that unpredictability and it often throws a bit of a 'double six' into proceedings.

What we'll see next season is everybody starting on full tanks of fuel and it will come down to who has the most efficient engine along with whose 'fat' car handles well and keeps its brakes intact.

Someone with a more economical engine can carry 10kg less fuel at the start of the race - and 10kg is worth nearly 0.4 seconds per lap on most tracks.

I've experienced this in the turbo F1 days and sports car racing; I don't like fuel economy being the dominant factor.

There will still be some strategising due to pit stops for tyre changes but I'm concerned that dumping Kers and getting rid of refuelling will leave F1 with rather predictable races.

We can only hope that the relative performances of the cars change through the race as they burn off fuel and become much lighter.

One upside of the refuelling ban is that in final qualifying all the cars will have minimal fuel on board so the grid order will finally be solely down to raw speed and not fuel strategies.

Martin Brundle was talking to BBC Sport's Sarah Holt



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see also
Highlights - Italian Grand Prix
13 Sep 09 |  Formula 1
Brawn to allow 'open' title fight
13 Sep 09 |  Formula 1
Button back as Barrichello wins
13 Sep 09 |  Formula 1
Head wants firm 'fix' punishment
13 Sep 09 |  Formula 1
Renault to launch Piquet lawsuit
11 Sep 09 |  Formula 1
Whitmarsh defends Hamilton crash
13 Sep 09 |  Formula 1
Italian Grand Prix race results
10 Sep 09 |  Results
Italian Grand Prix photos
13 Sep 09 |  Formula 1
Italian GP as it happened
13 Sep 09 |  Formula 1


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