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Why Button is a worthy champion

Jenson Button

Brazilian Grand Prix in 90 seconds

Martin Brundle column
By Martin Brundle
BBC F1 broadcaster

It was a wonderful, breathless Brazilian Grand Prix.

There were cars out of position on the grid, accidents galore, handbag fights on the side of the track, a safety car, wildly varying strategies, Finns setting fire to each other in the pit lane and brilliant overtaking moves.

And through it all came Jenson Button to clinch the world title with a champion's drive, yet again as the star overtaker in an era where passing is a rare treat.

Button seemed to know exactly when to push his luck and when to get out of the throttle. Several brave moves could easily have seen him tipped in the barriers. He also put a lot of faith in some new boys when he passed Romain Grosjean, Sebastien Buemi and particularly rookie Kamui Kobayashi.

Button's move on Renault's Grosjean was a classic; outside into Turn Four and then ducking inside at the next corner. But Grosjean determinedly came back at him so he finished the move around the outside of turn six. At any point in that 500m there could have been race-ending contact.

He was less clinical with Kobyashi but when he did make a move on the Toyota, which was the better of the midfield cars, it was relatively straightforward.

Jenson Button

Watch the moment Button won the title

For me, the really brave overtake was on Buemi - Button launched from about 20 metres behind a very fast Toro Rosso into Turn One and surprised him. When you surprise any driver, let alone a young one, they can often just turn in on you, especially with the ridiculous out-board rear-view mirrors that they have.

I suspect the new boys were very keen not to be the one to bin the champion elect. Not good for the CV.

Button clearly set about the race intending to take a do or die approach. His father John told me that Jenson had said to him before the race: "You're really going to enjoy this one, dad."

Button's recent cautious approach has prolonged this championship and generated talk of him not being a worthy champion. I know that got to him.

He is quite a sensitive soul and he said that he felt physically sick after his dismal qualifying, but that he didn't want to show any weakness because that feeds his competitors.

His first comments on BBC after winning the title were "after a drive like that it shows I deserve the championship". Followed closely by "yeah baby, I'm the world champion" as it happens.

He felt he needed to sell himself after the race but he is the champion with one race to spare. Many world champions would like to have won with six victories, many of which were top-drawer performances.

Jenson Button

Button elated after world title victory

A lot of other great drives were almost ignored because of the championship fervour surrounding Button and his Brawn team.

Mark Webber won the Brazilian Grand Prix fair and square with a great drive. He said the podium felt deserted as the mechanics were too far away and the focus was elsewhere. His drive deserved more credit.

Robert Kubica drove out of his skin in a BMW Sauber that wasn't worthy of second place.

Lewis Hamilton made his effective one-stop strategy work around the safety car and it was a superb drive from McLaren's outgoing world champion.

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel came into the race as an outside championship contender and he proved his worth with a wonderful drive, finishing 0.7 seconds behind Hamilton in fourth from 15th on the grid.

He overtakes Barrichello for second in the championship but, make no mistake, he is truly and deeply gutted not to have won the title. His time will come.

Button's closest title rival Rubens Barrichello had an unlucky day.

Jenson Button makes his F1 debut in 2000

Jenson Button's career in F1

I thought his first leading stint from pole position was very good but when he came out only in third place after his first stop I'm sure his spirit would have dropped, which has always been his Achilles heel.

Barrichello was unfortunate with traffic and his neck started going a bit towards the end of the race because of the uncompromising nature of this anti-clockwise track.

Then he got a puncture late on after Hamilton had clipped his right rear when he passed him for the final place on the podium.

Button was already heading for the championship despite that, though.

The competition we saw at Interlagos proves that Formula 1 is in rude health.

However, Button led the championship all the way. He earned himself a comfort zone with the string of early victories and tried to throw it away a little bit recently, but to anybody who says he's not a true world champion I'd say, 'tell me who deserves it more this year'.

I've watched every lap of 29-year-old Button's F1 career.


He's laboured at it a bit; it took forever for him to get his first podium, forever to get his first win in 2006 and now here he is, nine years after his debut, with his first world championship.

Button has taken some flack, changing teams and making some terrible decisions in the past, but the quality and the silky smooth style has always been there - it's just taken a while to deliver.

Last winter, when Honda morphed into Brawn Grand Prix, he kept his belief in team principal Ross Brawn, helped stabilise the ship, and now he has his reward.

The car has been bullet-proof and he has not had a single reliability issues all season. His only retirement was the collision with Grosjean in Spa.

Brawn also won the constructors' title handsomely in Brazil. For a team that was out of business last December that's impressive - certainly the most impressive constructor's victory that I've seen.

Can you imagine how hard it is to beat Ferrari and McLaren and mighty manufacturers like Toyota, BMW and Renault?

So Abu Dhabi, the stunning new facility for the final race in less than two weeks' time will be a gloves-off free-for-all. There are still minor places in both championships up for grabs.

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see also
Button savours dream world title
18 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
Brilliant Button clinches title
18 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
F1 salutes champion Button
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How good is Button?
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Button's F1 career in photos
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Brazil Grand Prix race results
18 Oct 09 |  Results
Brawn win title in debut F1 year
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Brazilian Grand Prix as it happened
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Brazilian Grand Prix photos
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