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Page last updated at 10:22 GMT, Monday, 28 September 2009 11:22 UK

The F1 championship is not over yet

Lewis Hamilton

Singapore Grand Prix in 90 seconds

By Martin Brundle
BBC F1 analyst

Jenson Button told me after the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday night that he was just half a lap from running out of brakes with a wafer thin front-right disc, worn through in the toughest race of the year, which lasted almost to the two-hour limit.

World championships can hang on such slender threads.

Earlier in the race, meanwhile, Button had delivered some of his most important laps of the season.

In a critical five-lap phase starting from the 47th of the 61-lap race, he put in a spectacular performance to leapfrog Heikki Kovalainen and, critically, his main championship rival and Brawn team-mate Rubens Barrichello.

This gained Button effectively three points in the title fight. He increased his lead by one point instead of losing two to Barrichello and at the same time minimised the loss to Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, who was on for as many as eight points before his pit-lane speeding infringement.

Vettel is having a season of brilliance tempered by crucial errors at the wrong time

Button said afterwards on the BBC: "Why can't I do that in qualifying?" His heart was on his sleeve in that respect but he is absolutely right.

His qualifying errors keep leaving him needing banzai overtakes off the start and in the first couple of laps of the race, and have ensured that winning the championship has become a laborious task.

The championship is not over yet and I would be surprised if he wins the title next week in Japan.

There are a maximum of 30 points to be won and Button is 15 ahead so two retirements through incidents or reliability from Button and we go down to the wire in Abu Dhabi.

Incidentally, on race-win count-back now, Barrichello needs 16 points more than Button to beat him. Fifteen will not do it.

Button should be plenty fast enough at Suzuka this weekend but his team-mate will be quick, too, so he must match or beat him because Barrichello will have home advantage at the following race in Brazil - and he is mighty around that track.

Vettel is having a season of brilliance tempered by crucial errors at the wrong time.

Jenson Button

Button pleased with fifth place

The Red Bull driver is mathematically still in the title hunt - just - but Brawn's season-long reliability will scupper his chances even if he wins everything from here on.

Vettel made his fourth significant error of the year in Singapore, when he was found guilty of speeding in the pit-lane before running wide in the impressively fast Turn Five, where he tobogganed his car along the aggressive exit kerb, shedding crucial aerodynamic parts along the way.

He tripped over Robert Kubica's BMW in Melbourne, dropped it into the Sainte Devote barrier in Monaco and ran wide on the first lap of Istanbul, which gave Button the race. When Vettel makes mistakes they are very costly.

Vettel still managed to finish only 20 seconds off the lead in Singapore, even with a 17-second drive-through penalty. It was a fiery recovery drive, given the compromised performance of his car.

Mark Webber in the other Red Bull is now mathematically out of the championship race. He said to me after the race that he felt his penalty for passing Fernando Alonso's Renault in the run-off area of Turn Seven on the opening lap was very unfair.

Alonso, Hamilton and Raikkonen can still pull in the results even in difficult seasons -they're special

He accepts that he passed Alonso while off the track but the Spaniard ran wide, too. So when Webber looked in his mirrors Alonso was nowhere to be seen because he was recovering from his own problems and fending off Toyota's Timo Glock, who actually passed him into Turn Eight.

So when Webber was told by the race stewards to let Alonso back past he also had to let Glock through first.

Mark has a fair point in "mate, where could I go other than avoid a shunt?" but he did pass by being off the road. A judgement call for sure and I would have given him the penalty.

Even without the penalty Webber was not going to finish the race because, like Button but much earlier on, he ran out of front brake disc material and crashed into the Turn One barriers.

Webber can, though, look back on this season and see he had his first race win in Germany, held his own even though a lot of people thought Vettel would finish him off and was given a new contract with Red Bull for 2010.

Rubens Barrichello

I'll fight to the end - Barrichello

I would never say this year was Webber's one and only chance of winning the championship - many thought at one time that Button's chances of winning another race were gone let alone the drivers' title.

If Lewis Hamilton's McLaren had been working from race one, I wonder where he would have been in the championship?

It was a champion's drive from Hamilton to take the flag in Singapore.

When he dropped the clutch a little bit early at his second stop, we heard him say on the radio "Is everything OK?" He meant the mechanics as well as his car. He is achieving more and more capacity to work out what is going on around him while he drives with metronomic precision - and that is very significant.

Hamilton is so much more relaxed than this time last year when he was trying to win the world title. He is a different man.

The pretenders to Hamilton's race win - Vettel and Nico Rosberg of Williams - made some silly mistakes.

Rules are rules for Rosberg. He crossed the white line twice coming out of the pit lane, albeit because he was slipping around on the dust rather than gaining any advantage. His drive-through penalty compounded by a safety car cost him an easy podium.


The world champions on the grid - Alonso, Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen - can still pull in the results even in difficult seasons. They are special.

Alonso carried his Renault to third place in Singapore. After Vettel and Rosberg wrecked their own races, he seized a podium from a car that did not deserve it.

That is the difference between the great and the merely good.

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see also
Positive Button eyes Japan chance
27 Sep 09 |  Formula 1
Boost for Button as Hamilton wins
27 Sep 09 |  Formula 1
'Stupid' Rosberg sorry for error
27 Sep 09 |  Formula 1
Piquet Jr the villain
26 Sep 09 |  Formula 1

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