Button stands tall

Jenson Button celebrates victory with his crew at the Brawn GP pit at the Istanbul Park racetrack.-AP

With his job made easier by Sebastian Vettel’s error, the Englishman drove a perfect race at Istanbul Park to post his sixth win and extend his lead in the drivers’ standing. By Maurice Hamilton.

Jenson Button towering over the Red Bull drivers, Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel, on the podium in Turkey said everything about how the Englishman had seen off the most pressure he has experienced in his six victories so far this season. On a day when Button yet again failed to make a single mistake, Vettel had been the architect of his own downfall. The 21-year-old German wasted the advantage of starting from pole position.

Button tucked in behind the Red Bull when Vettel made the better getaway but the Brawn driver did not have to wait long for Vettel to crack. On the 190mph downhill run to Turn 9, Vettel was caught out by a change in wind direction and arrived too quickly into the 70mph corner, where he then ran wide. Button seized his chance and assumed his now customary position at the front of the field, one he would not lose for the remaining 57 laps.

“I did a good job from (the) line and defended first position,” said Vettel. “I suddenly found there was a tailwind at a point where the track was very slippery. It was difficult to get the entrance to the corner right and I went wide. I lost the lead but, to be honest, they (Button and Brawn) were on a different planet today.”

More had been expected of Red Bull on a track with a number of high-speed corners that should have suited the car from Milton Keynes. But Red Bull appeared to help Brawn’s cause further by not adjusting Vettel’s strategy once he had made his error. Vettel had taken pole by running with less fuel on June 6, a tactic which would call for an early pit stop to refuel but should have allowed Vettel to stay in front thanks to stopping three times.

That advantage had been thrown away at Turn 9 but Red Bull chose not to switch Vettel to the two-stop strategy employed by Brawn and most of the field. The gamble failed badly, Vettel not only losing the chance to win but also dropping behind his team-mate, Mark Webber, who now lies one and a half points behind Vettel’s third place in the championship.

If Vettel made Button’s job easier, then Rubens Barrichello reduced a dilemma for the Brawn-Mercedes team by having a disastrous race that seriously diluted the Brazilian’s claim to fight Button for the championship. Having started the day 16 points behind his team-mate, Barrichello saw the gap grow to 26 as he posted the first retirement during an otherwise exemplary season for Brawn.

Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull makes a critical error as Jenson Button pushes ahead in the second lap of the Turkish Grand Prix.-AP

Barrichello’s difficulties began when clutch trouble caused the Brawn’s anti-stall to kick in at the start and dropped him from third to 12th. The Brazilian then found the engine power limited in top gear, his frustration bubbling over as he span down to 17th place while trying to overtake the McLaren of Heikki Kovalainen. When Barrichello then collided with the Force India of Adrian Sutil, the damage to the nose of the Brawn made an unscheduled pit stop inevitable.

Barrichello clearly knew he had blown his chances, his irritation evident when, after retiring for good on lap 48, he suggested to a BBC reporter that it was strange that his car seemed to be suffering all of the team’s problems. Button had no complaints about his car. On the contrary, the leader of the championship said he had never known the Brawn feel so good.

Lewis Hamilton experienced another afternoon driving the McLaren-Mercedes as hard as he could but finishing outside the points, in this case in 13th place. “I’m satisfied because I could have done no more,” said Hamilton. “I actually had quite a busy race and it was fun. I’m looking forward to the British Grand Prix.”

Silverstone, with even more fast corners than Istanbul Park, will give Red Bull another opportunity to deal with Button but the Brawn team will have noted the increasing tension between the Red Bull drivers as Webber, for the second race in succession, finished ahead of Vettel. “We thought we would be a bit closer to Brawn here,” said Webber. “We’re improving but we need to keep going down this path and bite further into Brawn’s development — and do it soon. It was a very good afternoon for me and my strategy worked well.

“I knew what was happening with Sebastian and it gave me a sniff of a chance to finish second. It would’ve been nice if there had been one car less ahead of me but Jenson is in an amazing position. He’s in fantastic shape but we expect to be closer at Silverstone. It’s going to be a brilliant atmosphere.”

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2009