Jenson Button admits he was lucky his championship lead was cut by just two points after crashing out on the first lap of the Belgian grand prix. Button failed to score for the first time this season but his three main rivals for the world title all failed to take full advantage of his accident. The Brawn driver now has a 16-point lead with five races to go.
Button’s team-mate Rubens Barrichello struggled into seventh place as Sebastian Vettel took third to score six points and leapfrog into third in the drivers’ championship ahead of his Red Bull colleague, Mark Webber, who finished ninth and failed to score. “I lost two points of my championship lead, which is not good,” said Button. “I’ve just got to try and make sure it goes the opposite way at the next race. It could always be worse but it could also be better.
“My start was OK and I was up to 11th or 12th and that could have been a good race for me. Lewis Hamilton had a bad start in front of me but I was able to get round him. Then, at turn one, I was pushed wide; there was nowhere to go because it was three abreast. I saw [Fernando] Alonso and [Adrian] Sutil touch in front of me, but I was OK. But then I got hit at turn five by [Romain] Grosjean. I can’t believe he’s blaming me. He hit me but I don’t really care. It’s not important. I didn’t score any points – that’s what’s important. Having Rubens behind at the start and the Red Bulls not going so well was a good position [for me] to be in, so it was disappointing when I crashed. All I could do was watch the race. I saw Rubens get a couple of points but there was a problem with Webber’s pit stop and he wasn’t able to score any points – which is good for the championship from my point of view.
“This was a race which we had expected Red Bull to win easily. The fact that they didn’t shows that a lot of teams are strong now. When your weekend doesn’t go perfectly, it’s difficult to win from that far back on the grid.”
With five races remaining and 50 points available, Button has 72 points, Barrichello 56, Vettel 53 and Webber 51.5. Having won six times and finished third in the first seven races to collect 61 points, Button has scored just 11 points in the last five races. Ross Brawn, Button’s team principal, said: “Yes, Jenson is under pressure, but he’s got to get used to it.”
Hamilton was eliminated at the same place after making a poor start from 12th on the grid. “When it goes bad, it goes bad,” said Hamilton. “I’d got off to a bad start and I was under attack all the way through the first corner and up the hill. When Button spun in front of me going into turn five, I had to back off and got hit from behind. That was it.”
Meanwhile, Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, is investigating “alleged incidents” from a previous race, believed to be an accident at last year’s Singapore grand prix that helped Fernando Alonso secure victory for Renault.
The Brazilian TV station Globo reported today that Nelson Piquet Jr was ordered to crash into a wall at the night race so that his team-mate Alonso could take advantage of an early pit stop. The FIA would not confirm that it was investigating that particular incident, only “alleged incidents at a previous Formula One world championship event”.
Piquet was fired by Renault last month after a season and a half and the Brazilian driver complained about unequal treatment by the team principal Flavio Briatore compared to his two-time world champion team-mate.
Jenson Button was left a frustrated onlooker at yesterday’s Belgian Grand Prix, but he still walked away smiling after failing to score a point for the first time this year.
Button’s record as the only man to finish every race, and in the points this season, was wrecked after just 40 seconds of a highly eventful race at Spa.
Button’s Brawn GP was hit from behind by Romain Grosjean in his Renault, spinning the Briton into the gravel and a barrier at Les Combes.
In attempting to avoid the incident, reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton was broadsided by Jaime Alguersuari in his Toro Rosso.
With all four out, the chaos brought the safety car into play, the departure of which saw Kimi Raikkonen pass Force India’s Giancarlo Fisichella for a lead he held onto by 0.9 seconds at the finish.
Sebastian Vettel was third to close the gap to Button to 19 points, with Rubens Barrichello 16 adrift after he trailed home seventh due to a clutch problem at the start that relegated him from fourth on the grid to last by the first corner.