It is official now. Formula One will produce new champion this season. Only Jenson Button, Rubens Barrichello, Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel are now left with the chance to win the 2009 F1 title. All the previous champions on 2009 grid – Alonso, Raikkonen and Hamilton – now have no chance to do better than Button’s 80 points and 6 race wins.
With four races to go Button leads the championship by 14 points from Rubens Barrichello. Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber are 26 and 28.5 points behind the championship leader. The Red Bull drivers still have a mathematical chance. And as long as the chance exists on the paper the Red Bull drivers are still in the frame. Remember year 2007. With 2 races to go Kimi Raikkonen was 17 points behind Lewis Hamilton. Two race wins for Raikkonen and two disastrous races for Hamilton later Kimi was the champion.
To win the title either of the Red Bull drivers would very much need to win all the remaining races and hope that Jenson Button suffers from another performance slump (similar to his tally of only 11 points from 5 races between Silverstone and Spa). Difficult job especially for Vettel who is likely to suffer 10 places grid penalty in one of the final four races (he is now on his 8th engine). And do not forget, Vettel and Webber only have four career wins between them.
So no matter what the math says it does look like from now on it is only between Button and Barrichello. Barrichello has had the upper hand in recent races. He managed to cut 12 points off Button’s lead in last 3 GPs, it definitely is possible for him to cut another 14 in next four races. The concern for Barrichello may be his fragile gearbox possibly damaged during Belgian GP. It lasted the Monza race but will it last another two ? If the team decides to play safe and change it Rubens will suffer grid penalty. He already had one unscheduled gearbox change and 5 places grid penalty in Malaysia. Another unscheduled change should result in 10 places grid penalty…
Good news for Ross Brawn is that with only his drivers realistically left to fight it out for the 2009 title he can let them race till the end without favouring one or the other. We may actually see team mates seriously fighting each other on the track .
The earliest the drivers championship can be decided is in Japan. If Button collects in next 2 races 6 more points than Barrichello and does not loose more than 6 to Vettel or 8.5 to Webber he can pop the champagne at Suzuka. To have the championship going to the wire as in 2007 and 2008 (and to certain extent also in 2006) Barrichello will need to score at least 5 points more than Button in next three races in Singapore, Japan and Brazil (or Vettel 17 points or Webber 19 points more than Button in next 3 races).
If Bernie’s intended winner takes all system remained in the 2009 regulations Jenson Button would have the chance the seal the title in Singapore. All he would need is someone other than Barrichello or Vettel to win that race.
Photo: Bridgestone Motorsports