Mathematically, there are only four drivers who can win the world championship this year.
The Red Bull drivers aren’t giving upi yet, despite Sebastian Vettel now 26 points behind Button. Mark Webber, whose first-lap exit today completed a hat-trick of no-scores, is now 28.5 behind with 40 left to be won.
Vettel is not yet ready to concede defeat. Despite scoring only one point today he told the press:
The championship isn’t over – our target is to do our best, we’re here to win races and the championship, so we have to focus on that, all the rest is out of our hands.
But if the maths look bad for Vettel and Red Bull, the reality of the situation is even worse. They are running low on their allowed supply of engines, and are unlikely to reach the end of the season without needing at least one new unit – and the accompanying ten-place grid drop.
The Red Bull duo are now more likely to be overtaken by Kimi Raikkonen than take on the Brawn pair. Raikkonen has scored 30 points in the last four races – the Red Bull drivers have only managed 13 between them.
Before the Hungarian Grand Prix, Red Bull were rapidly closing Brawn’s lead in the constructors’ championship. Barring an unprecedented disaster in the final rounds, that trophy looks to be on its way to Brackley.
Before the Italian Grand Prix Lewis Hamilton was talking about how he wasn’t giving up on his slim chance of retaining his title. Perhaps that was at the back of his mind today when he asked just a little too much of the kerb at the exist of Lesmo 1 on the final lap.
The most likely situation we now have is an inter-team battle for the drivers championship. We had one two years ago, between Hamilton and Fernando Alonso at McLaren, which ended up Raikkonen snatching the championship from the pair of them. But don’t expect the Brawn drivers to lose the championship in the same way.
Ross Brawn told the BBC at Monza “everything will be above the table” when it comes to discussions between the drivers over the final races. Presumably that will involve strategy, which could be a problem for Barrichello.
That’s because Button’s best way of guaranteeing the championship now is to do the same as Barrichello does. It doesn’t matter if he finishes right behind Barrichello for the next four races, that will be enough for him to win the championship.
What Button needs to avoid is other drivers getting between him and his team mate. Which is why his pass on Kovalainen on lap one today was crucial – if he’d spent a couple of laps stuck behind the Finn, Button could have ended the race third or worse.
Barrichello, meanwhile, simply cannot afford another one of the botched starts that have blighted his season. He may rue the points thrown away at Istanbul and Spa (and thank his good fortune that none were lost at Melbourne).
What’s particularly compelling about this year’s championship is it isn’t being fought by drivers who are qualifying in the front two rows and disappearing off into the lead. They’re qualifying in the middle of the top ten and having to battle their way past KERS cars to the front.
It adds an extra layer of unpredictability to the title race as the championship heads to some exotic locations and unusual tracks: Singapore, Suzuka, Interlagos and the unknown Yas Island. Who will be in front at the end of it?
More on the Italian Grand Prix
- Barrichello leads one-two as Brawn are back on top (Italian Grand Prix)
- Rate the race: Italian Grand Prix
- Italian Grand Prix result
- Rate the race: Italian Grand Prix
- Hamilton’s light car leaves him vulnerable (Italian GP fuel weights and strategy)
- Lewis Hamilton beats Adrian Sutil to pole (Italian Grand Prix qualifying)
- Italian Grand Prix qualifying in pictures
Image (C) Brawn GP