Button vs Barrichello decided by non-safety car (Singapore GP analysis)

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The safety car was not needed after Webber's crash, which helped Button

A crucial gamble provided the pivotal moment of the Singapore Grand Prix for championship leader Jenson Button in his battle with team mate Rubens Barrichello.

Here’s how it unfolded along with an analysis of the rest of the race and the drivers’ fastest lap times.

The start

Singapore Grand Prix lap one position change

Singapore provided a near-textbook example of what happens when one side of the grid has more grip than the other. It was visible from the amount of dust kicked up at the start (see below) that those starting off-line were at a significant disadvantage.

Indeed, although Fernando Alonso lost one place on the first lap he actually gained one to begin with, but was then passed by Mark Webber and Timo Glock (Webber was later ordered to hand both places back, a highly questionable decision).

Start, Singapore Grand Prix, 2009

Button passes Barrichello

Jenson Button vs Rubens Barrichello, Heikki Kovalainen and Sebastian Vettel

In a race that was very short on action, the pivotal moment for the championship came when Button overtook team mate Barrichello by means of a delayed pit stop.

This may have been partly down to Barrichello’s race engineer Jock Clear wishing to cover the potential appearance of the safety car, and bringing Barrichello in early. Several other cars did the same.

Button stayed out, lapping more quickly than Barrichello as the graphic above shows. In all likelihood he was then brought in earlier than he was able to go with the fuel he had left, but most probably his race engineer wanted to get him out in front of Barrichello. Barrichello lost time behind Kimi Raikkonen on lap 52, but even without that he wouldn’t have got back ahead of Button.

Button backed off considerably in the late stages with brake worries. Indeed, he allowed Barrichello to close up rather too much on the penultimate tour and had to speed up again. Spectacular it ain’t, but it gets championships won.

Lap times and consistency

RankDriverFastest lapDeficit to fastest lapLaps within 1% of personal best
1Fernando Alonso108.2409
2Lewis Hamilton108.3450.10536
3Nico Rosberg108.3520.11215
4Jenson Button108.3690.12910
5Kimi Raikkonen108.3910.1512
6Timo Glock108.3960.15627
7Sebastian Vettel108.3980.15828
8Rubens Barrichello108.5980.35821
9Jarno Trulli108.8160.5764
10Robert Kubica108.8470.6079
11Heikki Kovalainen109.2831.04337
12Mark Webber109.3191.07920
13Kazuki Nakajima109.3711.13121
14Giancarlo Fisichella109.4171.1777
15Vitantonio Liuzzi109.8521.6126
16Sebastien Buemi110.6362.39619
17Nick Heidfeld111.3463.1064
18Jaime Alguersuari112.4834.24319
19Adrian Sutil112.6234.3838
20Romain Grosjean117.1928.9521

Race charts

Singapore Grand Prix race chart

Last week Ruudje asked to see the drivers’ positions compared to the race leaders’ average, which some people find easier to read – here you go:

Singapore Grand Prix race chart - average times

If there’s any analysis of this or future races you’d like to see, please suggest them in the comments.

Singapore Grand Prix race chart

Singapore Grand Prix

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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78 comments on “Button vs Barrichello decided by non-safety car (Singapore GP analysis)”

  1. The first SC disadvantaged Button, remember. But, a SC was expected by most teams, and so Brawn are to blame there for fuelling Button so much heavier than Rubens. The second SC, which I also agree was unnecessary, helped Button, so I guess you could say that the two incidents cancelled each other out. However, like I said, Brawn had made a mistake in leaving such a large room for error in Button’s first stint; with the second SC, it was more unpredictable and less easy to cover.

    Now, Button isn’t Brawn and he wasn’t the one who selected his strategy (I assume so at least, from what we know of the general orthodoxy we found from the did-Alonso-suspect-the-2008-strategy analysis), but if you were going to make the Lucky-Button argument, it would seem that overall things went his way. Apparently, he also only had 1/2 a lap worth of brakes left on his car, and Barrichello had a problem in his pitstop that lost him 4.5 seconds (source: BBC 5 Live podcast). With Barrichello much closer, he could have either threatened Button or forced him to use all his brakes up, which would further lend weight to the argument.

    1. There was no second safety car; why do people keep saying this?

      1. It’s just the ghost of last year’s infamous SC that pops up now and then.

        1. @Kester
          when webber crashed everyone flinched and reacted to a saftey car that never came.

          1. Yeah I know, but even Lee McKenzie from the beeb referred to it, as if it actually came out, when all that happened was a slight worry that another might come out.

  2. Keith- I really like the speed and consistency chart you have posted. Really shows how utterly dominant Lewis was in this race.

    1. I agree, and what I find even more amazing is that Kova is as consistent as Ham, albeit almost 1 sec slower!

      1. ^ lol, this, you beat me to it kiwi!

        An excellent graphic, cheers Keith. I think it demonstrates just what a good race Ham put in, especially as he was being hounded by Rosberg and Vettel (for a while anyway).

        1. …more a list than ‘graphic’, but you get what I mean!

        2. Exactly what I first thought too. That McLaren must be easy to push to the limit right now.

      2. yeah me like the speed and consistency chart as well..is kova consistency going as fast as he can or is he consistency slow?


        1. As far as Kova is concerned, it looks as he needs to be 1 sec slower than Ham to be consistent. Same applies to Alguersuari, I’m afraid ;)

        2. He lamented that while the car can obviously go quicker in Lewis’s hands, his pace was the most he could get out of it. Obviously what lewis (and apparently kimi) like in a car doesn’t really suit kova.

          1. Kova fares better in practice than in the races (although I’ve been wondering lately). In practice, you don’t need to be consistently fast. In the race, it’s a must. The above data indicate clearly what happened in Sing. Consistency cost Kova 1 second per lap compared to Ham. It would be interesting to see similar data from other races.

      3. I think what you are trying to say is that Kov was consistently slow.

        1. No. In order to be consistent, Kov needs to be slower than Ham; that’s different, and I am not “trying” to say something.

    2. Really shows how utterly dominant Lewis was in this race.

      Interesting is to find that next driver who has consistently operated in low bandwith around his personal best lap is McLaren Team-mate Heikki Kovaleinen. Given that all other drivers had to run in “Dirty Air” and Traffic throughout the race. This analysis gives explanation of the standard statements from team Fuel Corrected A Qualified better B, but running in traffic compromised the strategy and hence A couldn’t get the most out of the car blah blah blah

    3. Great chart!!!

  3. Heikki and lewis both far more consistent than anyone else.

    Decent scores from te two toro rosso drivers as well they are improving slowly, they need a test day!

    1. I think Glock put in a relatively good performance.

  4. is it just me and Button that cant remember the second safety car?

    1. I’m sure there wasnt a second safety car, but if there was I must of fallen asleep

    2. There was just one.

    3. There was possibility of 2 second saftey car after Webber’s brake faliure incident. That triggered Jock Clear to make the pit stop call, which was one reason why Barrichello ended up behind Button, Though he was consistently running ahead of Button, before that pitstop.

      1. That’s really poor judgment on Clear’s part. It really runs against the old yachting adage: “when you’re in front, cover”. In other words, the leader should copy the strategy of the follower, not run its own.

        1. It might be a bit tricky with team mates sharing the same pit box.

  5. Great addition of the consistency table to the analysis feature. make it permanent for all races from now on Keith :-)

    It shows that Vettel did a great job maintaing consistency inspite of a car that was falling apart.

    Although 1 % is pretty large. on a 108 second lap, it amounts to 1.08 seconds which is huge in formula1.

    May be you could try a threshold at 0.5%, which will give us real consistency and won’t distort it with the variable fuel loads.

    1. Great addition of the consistency table to the analysis feature. make it permanent for all races from now on Keith :-)

      Glad you like the new addition – will include it from now on.

      I’ve added the same information to the Italian Grand Prix analysis: https://www.racefans.net/2009/09/15/italian-grand-prix-analysis/

      1. …and again Ham was the most consistently fast in Monza, while Kova gets within 3/10 but loses consistency :D

  6. Excellent analysis Keith.

  7. Jenson is going to be the luckiest champion ever. Its such a sad time for F1

    1. Or Rubens will be the most unlikely champion ever.

      1. Not at all.

        Rubens has a solid record throughout his career. He has been second in the WDC TWICE in this decade–second to Schumacher. And we all know how Ferrari and Todt loved their team orders in the Schumacher days.

        Without team orders, Rubens might well be dicing for his third WDC instead of his first.

        And he has delivered far more consistent results in the last 7 races than has Button. Apparently it took him a bit longer to get comfortable with the 2009 cars…or Button was a whole lot luckier the first 7 races.

        In any case, I’ll put my money on Rubens for WDC, and consider him a well-deserved champion, not an unlikely one.

        1. The thing is that Button was far more consistent in the first 7 races. When it really mattered. When their car was competitive and the points were really up for grabs.

          Barrichello got utterly slaughtered in the first 7 races. Button finished ahead of Barrichello in all 7 races (Barrichello tok himself out at Turkey). Button scored 61 points vs Barrichello only a shameful 35 points.

          In the last 7 races Barrichello finished ahead of Button 3 times, vice versa also 3 times and Button was punted out of Spa by Grosjean. So performance wise they are pretty much on the same level too. Barrichello has a small edge there.

          Barrichello scored 34 points and button 23. Obviously a much smaller difference than during the first 7. It’s about a point and a half per race.

          At that rate Barrichello would still need 10 races to beat Button to the WDC!

        2. Im just trying to get a laugh here, and I mean no offense to either Brawn driver. I just cant imagine what kind of odds you could have gotten with a bookie (before this season started) on Rubens winning the WDC :)

    2. Can’t agree with you more
      The guy is just so lucky!
      It must be written in the stars

  8. thanx for the comparison with the average lap time. I must admit the safety car kinda ruins the graph.

    1. Indeed, thanks for that one. It’s usually much better.

      It’s nice to see the laptimes go down gradually as the fuel level goes down.

      I guess in this case the average time should be adjusted to the actual average time. But then, that defeats the purpose of average times of course.

      I often draw these charts myself and then I usually chop them up to get rid of the safety cars. I create a chart from start till safety car and then another from the end of the safety car period till the end (or next safety car).

  9. I’ve been having very bad luck with everything sportsy lately – all my football teams are loosing and my chess players and my F1 drivers… but I still can’t help and be optimistic; Barrichello will be champion this year. Button’s had all the luck in the world; in the first races he added his talent to the mix and scored a lot of points. Lately it has been only luck, no talent. Now I expect he will run out of luck and grandpa will finally win.

    1. Now I expect he[Button]will run out of luck and grandpa will finally win.

      You know, I’ve had much the same thought myself. Leaving out the seeming miracle of 6 out of the firt 7 wins, Button has looked pretty mediocre these last 7 races, while “the old man” has been delivering consistently.

      Rubens has a great record on the whole throughout his career, finishing second in the WDC twice(and one must wonder, without team orders at Ferrari, might he not have won?).

      Frankly, I hope he blows away everyone and wins it this year.

      1. one must wonder, without team orders at Ferrari, might he not have won?


        Seriously, ROFL!

    2. “A bold general may be lucky, but no general can be lucky unless he is bold.”
      – Field Marshal Archibald Percival Wavell

      “I do not want a good General, I want a lucky one”.
      – Napoleon

      Two quotes that I think summarise Button and Brawn this year. Jenson has made the best of every situation – he may have been lucky, but he had to be in the right place to benefit. Roll on his WDC – he deserves it for his perseverance and loyalty.

  10. This lap time consistancy chart is great, but the lap time on its own without the fuel load factor, the time one driver stuck behind traffic is not very helpful.

  11. Wont it be nice next year when we dont have the fuel as an issue.

    1. True, then team won’t be able to compromise driver A over driver B in name of Covering the strategies.

      And no more of that “Fuel Corrected A was faster than B” BS. Reading between the lines it always sounds like “We like B over A and are giving him better chance to go for pole and win”.
      Next year onwards it will clearly boil down to Tyre and fuel management. Provided both cars/drivers have identical cars (upgrades), only difference then would be Driver Capability, and Tyre choice that individual driver makes to start his race.

  12. Keith you got it wrong here. Barrichello lost position because of the messed up last pit stop when he could not get in to neutral and stalled. He lost about 5 seconds in that pitstop which was a gap after Buttons last stop.

    “Unfortunately I had a problem on my second pit stop when I couldn’t engage neutral and the engine stalled which lost me the crucial time needed to stay ahead of Jenson.” – Rubens Barrichello in the Brawn PR after the race

    1. You’ve got a very good point here – I did know he’d stalled but until I checked the lap times for their pit stops just now I’d underestimated how much time it cost Barrichello:

      Lap 47 Barrichello 2’15.356
      Lap 52 Button 2’08.440

      Barrichello’s stop took almost seven seconds more. Of course, some of that was fuel, but even so that stall was costly.

      1. Barrichello’s total pit time was about 4 seconds longer than Button.

      2. Proposition: If Barrichello could change gears, he’d be world champion.

      3. Barrichello could not shift to neutral, so he must pit on 1st gear. He was too cautious about his transmision (not to overload it).. so much that his engine conk up. Its restart done by one of mechanics took 5 sec.

  13. Love that table about the consistency. Makes me laugh that Kimi did 2! Classic Kimi, A few epic laps then just calms down again. Great consistancy from Lewis and Vettel

    1. Made me laugh too until I remembered that he was caught in traffic for most of the race, especially when he caught Nakajima in the third stint, when he usually wakes up ;)

    2. A few epic laps then just calms down again.

      Its actually other way round for Kimi, he has penchant to drive the “Fastest Lap” of race in fag end of race when many times that fastest lap is inconsequential from Race classification perspective. If some one digs into his race history stats most of his fastest laps are in last 2-3 laps with fuel all drained out.

      1. Not a Kimi fan but he was stuck behind someone for pretty much the whole race (Nakajima I think for most of it). So a couple of laps in clear air then stuck behind a slower car for the rest… logical.

        1. The statement I responded to was referencing Trend in Kimi’s races historically, It was not in specific reference to last weekend’s race where he had genuine pace problem, and inconsistencies in lap times which is typical for any driver who has to race in traffic and dirty air of cars ahead.

          The previous poster had referred that Kimi puts epic fast laps and then fades, which actually is not the case. Time and again in his career he has shown, he may have inconsistent race, but in dying laps, with fuel load reduced he weaves “Fastest lap of the race”

  14. I’m a right statto when it comes to F1, yet I can barely make sense of some of those charts. Have I been out-anoraked by everyone else?

  15. I can see it now in f1 2025. Nelsinho Alonso Jnr puts a wheel on the digigrass causing a “moment” on corner 71 of the McDonalds Moon circuit, causing him to lose 7th place in his tesco f1 car.

    The rogue spec of dust that caused this was found in the vacuum and a full investigation is underway….

    Meanwhile 2 billion anoraks debate the angles on the spec of dust and ponder if the driver didnt “make the most of it”

    yes f1 is seemingly headed this way.

    1. There is only one all important question: who is his father?

    2. OMG ! Absolutely fantastic !

      Thank you, I did so need a good laugh today.

  16. Let’s face it. If Lewis can get ‘in the zone’ he is without a doubt, unbeatable. He just needs to get back into it more!

    Keith as ever outstanding work. Leagues ahead of anything. It’s this kind of stuff I have going round my head during a race which is why I thoroughly enjoy every race. Live timing of course essential. For me one of THE killer apps on the internet!

    The consistency chart is nothing short of a revelation. Please continue this brilliant addition.


    1. Thank you very much. Anything extra you’d like to see?

  17. (Webber was later ordered to hand both places back, a highly questionable decision)

    i think it was entirely the right decision. what is questionable is the inconsistency of the officials.

    1. I think it’s more a question of urgency in this case than consistency.

      The stewards have been surprisingly consistent in saying that overtaking outside of the white lines is not allowed. With the exception, of course, of Kimi at Spa.

      Thing is, F1 stewards appear to think they have all the time in the world, in a world that runs at 200 miles per hour. Officials simply can’t draw out these sorts of decisions. The decision must be made immediately.

      Also, it needs to be made clear with no waffling and no wavering that if you put just ONE tire outside the white line on overtaking, it was an unsuccessful overtake and you MUST give back the position immediately.

      Consistency is less of an issue on many things in F1 than urgency. I’ve been saying this for years. You can’t have decisions made after the race ends, you can’t take 20 minutes to suss out if something was a penalty or not. If it takes THAT much time to figure out, then the racing rules are simply not clear enough and require some serious revision.

      1. True, A faster reaction of the stewards wouldn’t have ruined Rosberg’s race so much. because he would have had his drive-through before the safetycar. He could have been in the points, just as Vettel was after his drive through.

        And Webber’s penalty was correct. It was either that or a drive through, which would have cost him more places.
        And yes, Kimi and Sutil should have got one too in Spa.

    30th September 2009, 6:13

    The Lap Times and Cosistency list makes great reading!! Love to see that for all the future races Keith….looks like a true indicator of actual performance per driver. #:)

    30th September 2009, 6:21

    and Webbo definitely did not deserve apenalty from what i could see!!! It was pretty clear Fernando let him past out of T4, as he seemed to stay off the gas until he saw MW going past him.! Then by the time FA squeezed the throttle it was too late to stop Glock getting a run at him so he lost p4-5? . Glock should never have had the chance to attack Alonso if Fred had been pedal to the metal!!!!

    1. Webber past Alonso outside the track, so he should have given his position back. Since Glock past Alonso, Webber could either choose to give both places back or accept a drive-through penalty, which would cost him more places.

  20. Rank Driver Fastest lap Deficit
    11 Heikki Kovalainen 109.283 1.043

    Poor Pity :( Lucky for him that Simon Cowell isn’t the boss of McLaren.

    1. Does anyone know if Kovalainen had the same car as Hamilton in Singapore? If Kovalainen didn’t get the upgrades this could explain his consistency yet slower time.

  21. Consistency chart is a great thing, thanks for that Keith.

    In any case, I think standard deviation of the average speed of each driver could give us more accurate figure.

    And doing it by each stint drivers did, I think it will work better than compare all laps to their fastest one.

    Oh! I’m not pretending to give you more “homework”; sorry, just a thought. :-)

  22. I think it’s also worth pointing out that Jenson had something like 9 more laps of fuel in his car than Rubens and yet Rubens was hardly pulling away from Jenson like he had a significantly lighter car.

    Jenson’s not the only person to get stuck behind Kova only to have their race compromised. Last year a ‘lucky’ call put Rubens on the podium. This year a similar judgment lost him points to the leader in the title race.

    You win some you lose some. JB put in some great laps too, to leapfrog Rubens.

    How many significant on track over taking moves did anyone see . . . . . ? Anyone . . . . . ?

    1. Well, we had the brilliant move on Algersuari by Sutil ;)

  23. It looks like a “cuddle” from Nick Fry was all the motivation Jenson needed!!

    I think the sight of Nick approaching me with open arms would be enough for me to jump in the car and drive away as fast as I could LOL!!!

  24. great analysis..lap time and consistency table is must for future posts

  25. Jelle van der Meer
    30th September 2009, 13:28

    Very interesting the info on fastest lap and consistency of a driver.

    Both Mclarens are by far the best in consistency unfortunately for Koveleinen it also clearly demonstrates that either he it too slow or was stuck. Having watched the race I know it is not the 2nd option.

  26. Hi Keith, I agree with everyone else that the Consistency charts are great, any chance of including the Stewards performances to that graph? ;)

  27. Nothing against Lewis, but the leader would of course be more consistent…. he has a clear track in front of him. He can run at his own pace. I didn’t examine the data (or recall from the race), but perhaps Heikki had a big gap up to whomever he was following & likewise basically had a clear track as well?

Comments are closed.