The storm has blown over

Jenson Button is the only driver in the field of 20 to have finished every lap so far this season, but reliability will mean nothing if the next 70 laps are not completed at the front.-PICS: AP

After months of soul-searching, it’s time for action and a serious challenge for championship leader Jenson Button, writes Maurice Hamilton.

Max Mosley’s decision to stand down could not have been more timely. The president of the FIA made his choice a few days after the German Grand Prix had indicated that action on the track deserved to take precedence over the political fighting and posturing that has caused serious damage in the past few months.

Mosley’s conclusion — that his 16-year run should come to an end — removes not only the worry of a breakaway world championship but also an influential figure whose tactics and behaviour, both professionally and privately, have created division and tarnished a reputation that otherwise should be remembered for his significant work in safety on the roads and the race tracks.

Typically, Mosley delivered a controversial parting shot by endorsing Jean Todt as his successor, an action that appears to fly in the face of a democratic election and Mosley’s reputation in the past for expressing indignation over anyone suggesting a replacement for his high office.

Mosley made no mention of Ari Vatanen, the former world champion rally driver and member of the European parliament, who is vastly more popular than Todt and would be likely to bring moderation and reason to the presidency, qualities for which Todt was scarcely celebrated by rivals during his time as the obdurate head of Ferrari.

Of more immediate importance is the long-awaited signing of the Concorde Agreement, the document covering technical, sporting and commercial regulations in F1 until the end of 2012. Bernie Ecclestone’s signature as F1’s commercial rights holder is likely to appear on the agreement, but the absence of his mate Mosley and outrage over comments about Adolf Hitler will clip Ecclestone’s wings and reduce an influence that has seen profit dominate his thinking at the expense of the sport’s traditional values.

Running hard.. Sebastian Vettel (left) and Mark Webber, the winner of the German Grand Prix, celebrate on the podium at the Nurburgring track. The Red Bull drivers pose a big challenge to the championship leader Jenson Button.-

One such acceptable quality was evident at Nurburgring last weekend, when Mark Webber won for the first time in 130 attempts and did it with the straight-talking style that has made the Australian so popular. Webber’s victory and the second one-two in succession for Red Bull has put the brakes on any notion that Jenson Button would run away with the championship long before the season’s conclusion, in Abu Dhabi on November 1. It is true that Button holds a healthy 21-point lead, but, with eight rounds remaining, there is time for Webber and his team-mate, Sebastian Vettel, to continue making serious inroads now that the Red Bull has been improved.

Brawn will be adding modifications to their car for the next race in Hungary (July 26), but Button will be depending just as much on an improvement in weather conditions that played such havoc with the Brawn’s performance at Silverstone and Nurburgring. Button has been paying a high price for having a car that is kind to its tyres, an advantage that worked well at tracks such as Monaco, but which meant it was very difficult to get temperature into the rubber during the unseasonably cold conditions that contributed to Button finishing a distant fifth in the German Grand Prix.

There should be no such trouble at the Hungaroring, where the proliferation of tight corners — ideal for the Brawn — and high temperatures ought to return Button to his more customary position at the front. There could, however, be the added complication of unwelcome attention from Lewis Hamilton, as the reigning champion finally has a car worthy of his talent thanks to a massive reworking of the McLaren.

Above all, though, Button needs to find out where the revised Brawn stands in relation to the latest Red Bull. Button is the only driver in the field of 20 to have finished every lap so far this season, but reliability will mean nothing if the next 70 laps are not completed at the front.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2009