• Oct 18, 2009
2009 Brazilian Grand Prix – Click above for high-res image gallery

"Everything can change in a New York minute." It's a good thing Don Henley wrote his hit song twenty years before this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix. Because "in an Interlagos minute" just doesn't have the same ring to it. But it does go to show how quickly fortunes can be reversed over the course of a race distance. Especially when the championship is on the line.

With two races to go, the F1 circus rolled in to Sao Paulo with Jenson Button – winner of six grands prix this season – leading his Brawn GP team-mate, hometown hero and chief rival Rubens Barrichello 85 to 71, with Red Bull challenger Sebastian Vettel – fresh from victory in Japan – trailing with 69 points. The most likely scenarios placed Button clinching the title right here at the penultimate championship round, if not at the final race in Abu Dhabi two weeks from now.

But the heavens seemed to have a different plan when torrential downpours put a hamper on Saturday's qualifying session. Once the rain stopped, yesterday's proved to be the longest qualifying session in Formula One history, and the order came out all messed up. Instead of placing up at the front of the grid, Button and Vettel found themselves way down the pecking order in 14th and 16th positions. In their place, their respective wingmen Barrichello and Webber started 1st and 2nd on the grid, with half a field's worth of back-markers separating them. Follow the jump to read how the race unfolded.

With the stage set, it looked like Barrichello would mount a challenge and possibly even take the lead in the title fight. But once the lights flashed green on a dry track between the lakes in Sao Paulo, all bets were off.

The opening lap turned into pure unmitigated pandemonium as the world's elite racing drivers appeared to have mistaken the race for a game of bumper cars. Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen did what he does best and charged up the field off the line from fifth place on the starting grid nearly up to second, only to collide with the back of a defending Mark Webber's Red Bull. McLaren number two Heikki Kovalainen then bounced off Vettel and straight into Ferrari's struggling Giancarlo Fisichella. Jarno Trulli then steered his Toyota wide through the second turn, came back on track and hit Adrian Sutil's Force India, pushing him into Fernando Alonso's Renault and taking all three out of the race. A furious Trulli confronted Sutil trackside, but that wasn't nearly the end of the drama.

With the yellow flag deployed just one lap in, the Twin Finns – Kovalainen and Raikkonen – entered the pit lane to repair damage incurred from their respective first-lap collisions. Heikki, however, left the McLaren pit prematurely with the fuel hose still attached, dragging it behind him. Kimi pulled out straight into his countryman's spraying fuel, which ignited over the Ferrari in a flash fire. Fortunately no one was hurt, and both continued their race, however the marshals were still investigating the incident at race's end to determine fault.

Once all the debris was cleared and the green flag waved again, Button and Vettel – both eager to catch up with their front-running team-mates and take hold of the title – charged up the field. Surprisingly however, it was the pair of Toyota-powered Japanese drivers who put up the biggest fight to the title contenders on their way up.

Williams' Kazuki Nakajima held back Vettel for several laps. But more impressive was Kamui Kobayashi, filling in at Toyota for an injured Timo Glock, who managed an impressive ninth-place qualification and proceeded to keep Button at bay for about a third of the full race distance until the championship-leading Brit managed to squeeze by. The remarkable performance on Kobayashi's part – on his grand prix debut and his first time on the Interlagos track, no less – will surely play a part when Toyota settles its line-up for next year.

Finally clear of Kobayashi on lap 24, Button proceeded to work his way up the field. Unfortunately his team-mate, poised for a pivotal checkered flag, didn't fare quite as well. By race's end, Button had leapt up to fifth place, scoring a fatal blow in the form of four points for his title aspirations, while a series of unfortunate pit stops drove Barrichello down to eighth across the finish line for just one point.

Ahead of both, Mark Webber sailed to a smooth and well-earned victory, his second this season and of his career. Robert Kubica, now confirmed to fill Fernando Alonso's seat next year at the embattled Renault team, carried off a strong performance for BMW Sauber in its second-to-last race, taking the second step on the podium. Defending champion Lewis Hamilton rounded out the podium with a strong third-place finish.

Despite scoring the top result of the three title hopefuls and leapfrogging Barrichello in the standings, Sebastian Vettel's fourth-place finish was not enough to keep him in contention for the championship. One race from the end of a remarkably embattled season and nine years since joining the circus, Jenson Button was crowned world champion with an unassailable fifteen point lead over Vettel and seventeen points over Barrichello. Further entrenching his well-earned reputation as the finest sportsman and the classiest driver in the field, Rubens pulled up alongside his team-mate to offer his applause in the middle of the cool-down lap.

Of course Button had to be crowned below the podium, but that didn't stop him from celebrating. Nor did it deter the rest of the Brawn GP team, which likewise locked in the constructors' championship with a rock-solid 25.5-point lead in the standings ahead of Red Bull.

In the midst of all the chaos, both Williams drivers Nakajima and Rosberg joined Sutil, Trulli and Alonso on the sidelines, as did BMW's Nick Heidfeld, before the race was done, leaving only fourteen of the twenty drivers who started the race to cross the finish line. Behind Webber, Kubica, Hamilton, Vettel and Button came Kimi Raikkonen in 6th and Toro Rosso's rookie Sebastian Buemi (tying his best result so far) in 7th ahead of Barrichello in 8th. Kovalainen, Kobayashi, Fisichella, Liuzzi (Force India), Grosjean (Renault) and Alguersuari (STR) completed the finishing order.

All of which goes to show how much context counts for, and how quickly it can change, in the fast-paced world of Formula One racing. If this were any other race, a 1-4 finish would have been an outstanding result. But for Red Bull, it wasn't enough to put the cap on its strongest season yet. Locked in for second in the constructors' championship, Vettel and Red Bull will surely be fighting to keep his narrow second-place lead over Barrichello in the drivers' standings when the circus rolls in to the new Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi for the first time for the season finale in two weeks. The others will be fighting for table scraps. But Button and Brawn will already be celebrating.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      And this time Glock wasn't there to mess up the championship title....
      Anyway it was a great race once again, from the qualifying session all the way to the end, great race Webber, well earned, and congrats to Button, a REAL british F1 champion. I felt kind of sad to see that Barrchelo had a lot of trouble, it really looks like that everytime he tries to win at Brasil something always happens...weird
      • 5 Years Ago
      How does Barrichello always get gimped by his pit crew?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Cause Ross Brawn is always his team boss?
      • 5 Years Ago
      I am so glad that F1 this year was more engaging than it has been in quite some time. I love to see all these lesser ranked teams come out on top despite what people were predicting early on.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Here is a tip, if you dont want a spoiler don't log into twitter or facebook and don't visit a website that reports on the race.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I've tried to watch F1 on a couple of occasions (SPEED coverage) and just could not get in to it. There's almost no info displayed on the status of the race, this is especially frustrating when you come in to the coverage late and all you see is one or two cars. Also the lack of any banter between the commentators makes for pretty dull coverage.

        I like being able to turn on a race and in seconds know, who the leader(s) is/are, the overall running order, laps completed/remaining and have commentary that's excited about the race, championship standings etc. Just watch a couple minutes of ALMS, IRL or even NASCAR to see what I mean by "info" and "banter"

        This is nothing against F1 at all, they're incredible cars, fantastic circuits and talented drivers. The comment "a field of backmarkers between them" is rather telling of the disparity in teams though.
      • 5 Years Ago
      F1 again shows their commitment to safety comes after a commitment to the show.

      F1 simply must make the penalties for safety infractions high enough that teams prioritize safety over 0.2 seconds in the pits. Even for first offenses when they are like this. Leaving the fuel hose in the car should be an automatic disqualification the first time and every time.

      The actual racing wasn't bad after the chumps got done running each other off the track at the start.
        • 5 Years Ago
        What kind of ridiculous argument is "they didn't leave the hose on, just the lollipop guy went too early"? If the hose is still connected, then yeah, it's too early.

        You cannot blow my bollocks out of the water by quoting stuff about Massa. Every series has helmets. Nor people walking away from crashes, again, it happens in every series.

        Here's Joey Hand's crash in a Rolex GT car. He walked away.


        How about the Vette at Laguna Seca in ALMS last week? What about Catherine Legge at Road America in Champ?

        Maybe we could look up how many lives the HANS device has saved? You know, the one F1 delayed for years making mandatory after other series had.

        As to the idea that accidents will happen, you're absolutely right. Humans make mistakes. That why you build in margins for error. But in F1 pit stops, they don't, because there's not enough incentive to do so. 0.2 sec could lose you a spot on the track, so you don't take 0.2 sec to actually check to see if the filler hose is out before lifting the lollipop.

        Le Mans doesn't have problems with people not getting the filler out, despite using humans to fill the cars. This is because they penalize you if you don't do the filling procedure properly. You won't shave it so close if the penalty for doing it wrong is 50 seconds (drive through).

        Spraying fuel at cars as they go away? I think you're confused by F1 again. That was water they sprayed at cars as they went away. And hell, it's not a terrible idea, given how many fires F1 has had lately.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Well, applying that same logic your gf should ban you from sex for finishing too early...
        • 5 Years Ago
        Commitment to safety comes last? Oh come on.

        Glock walked away from his crash last race and was unlucky not to race today. Trulli hit a wall at 150mph and still had enough energy to argue at Sutil.

        Or should i mention Massa to blow your bollocks out of the water. If it wasn't for the safety features on his helmet he would be dead.

        Besides they didn't leave the fuel hose on...the lollipop guy lifted it far too early because he wanted to get it out in front of the Ferrari. No safety feature could stop human error. I suppose we could go back to the cart/irl days of spraying fuel at the cars as they pulled away...
        • 5 Years Ago
        Why would you post that video? You and I both know that one big impact is far more damaging to the driver than several small ones. Look up Kenny Brack or Robert Kubica for some serious accidents.


        Interesting vid on F1 safety
        • 5 Years Ago
        Won't happen next season. No refuelling for 2010.
        • 5 Years Ago
        McLaren fined $50,000 for unsafe pit-release, Kovi handed 25-sec penalty:
        • 5 Years Ago
        Show a decent crash with some peak G data and it will help make your point. Drivers have been walking away from crashes like that for decades because they really aren't that bad so I'm just not sure point you are trying to make by including it. It's got nothing to do with safety standards, just the laws of physics.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Congratulations to Jenson Button.

      Anyone who thinks he is an undeserving champion does know much about how some past F1 champions have won their titles.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Sorry my above statement should have read:

        -Anyone who thinks he is an undeserving champion doesn't know much about how some past F1 champions have won their titles.-
      • 5 Years Ago
      Interestingly, the trophies were made from recycled bottle caps from today's race.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Button drove like a champion! Congrats to him and the rest of Brawn GP for winning both titles!
      • 5 Years Ago
      A lot more should be saying this - fantastic race and victory by Mark Webber.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Webber did an outstanding job today. He drove only as hard as he needed to when it was required. The gap to Kubica was held steady around the 5 second mark for most of the race. Perfect way to make sure the last race in Abu Dhabi gives him a decent engine.

        Well done Mark.

        BTW the BBC commentators were so furiously masturbating over Button I had to turn the sound off. It was disgusting.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "He drove only as hard as he needed to when it was required."

        Why isn't Webber getting flak about that? Button is sure getting drilled for exactly that. Button may not have won any races in the 2nd half of the season, but he didn't need too and I'm sure he knew that. All he had to do was score points and that is exactly what he did. Why risk getting into accidents or having mechanical failures when it isn't required, right?

        Great race from Webber btw.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Congratulations to Jenson Button. Before this season he had only one career victory.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Congrats to Button! I only caught a bit of this but it was sweet
      • 5 Years Ago
      More than a Button win. And he deserves a lot of praise. It was a Brawn win.

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