The day a dream came true for Jenson Button

18 October 2009 - Brawn GP and Jenson Button claim championships

The 2009 Formula 1 season was somewhat of a fairytale season, with Jenson Button winning his first – and only – world championship. Not only that, but he did it with Brawn GP in their debut season.

Late in 2008, Honda announced their withdrawal from F1 at the end of the 2008 season, leaving Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello without a drive for next season. In a management buyout of the Honda Racing F1 Team led by Ross Brawn, Brawn GP was instated with Button and Barrichello as their driver line-up for the 2009 season.

The season started incredibly for the new team, as Button won six of the first seven races. However, his winning streak ended with the British GR and no further wins would follow that season. The car was competitive, but the team lacked the budget for massive upgrades or improvements over the course of the season. Button would claim the championship running the same chassis for the entire season, effectively making his car the oldest on the grid.

12 years have passed since Button fulfilled his dream of becoming world champion and here’s how it went down in Brazil in 2009.

The background

The Brazilian Grand Prix had become a title decider in recent years, with Fernando Alonso winning the title at Interlagos twice in 2005 and 2006, and Kimi Raikkonen being crowned in 2007 saw Kimi Raikkonen. We all remember the heartwrenching pictures of the 2008 Brazil GP, when Lewis Hamilton overtook Timo Glock in the final corner of the race, taking the title from the already celebrating garage of Felipe Massa. The 2009 Brazilian Grand Prix should once again be the stage of a final title fight.

The title was largely going to be decided between the two Brawn GP drivers. However, Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel was still a contender. Heading into the weekend, Button had led the championship by points all season, and only needed to finish within four points of Barrichello to claim the title. Barrichello on the other hand had to score maximum points and hope for a low finish from Button. Vettel needed to finish first or second to remain in the running for the title. In the constructors’ standings, Brawn GP required just half a point to be declared champions, while Red Bull needed to finish first and second in both Brazil and Abu Dhabi, with Brawn not scoring in either round, to take the title.

Qualifying was heavily affected by a tropical storm that would interrupt the session for over an hour. The session lasted 2 hours and 41 minutes, making it the longest qualifying session in the history of F1. Q1 saw the elimination of Fisichella, Heidfeld, both McLarens, and championship contender Vettel. The rains set in after the first session, delaying qualifying until the circuit could be declared safe. Jenson Button was knocked out after Q2, and would start the race from 14th position. His teammate Rubens Barrichello claimed his first pole position since the 2004 Brazilian Grand Prix, and went into the race a clear favorite.

The action

The opening lap of the race was dominated by a series of incidents, which allowed Button to move up to 9th place in the opening stages. Kovalainen made contact with Vettel and ran wide. Jarno Trulli and Adrian Sutil tangled, with Sutil taking out Alonso in the process and causing a safety car phase. The third and final incident took place in the pit lane: after his contact with Vettel, Kovalainen pitted, followed closely by Kimi Räikkönen, who had damaged his front wing after light contact with Mark Webber. Kovalainen was released from his pit while the fuel hose was still attached, taking it with him and with it, a spray of fuel. Räikkönen’s exhaust ignited the spilled fuel in a fireball, but no one was injured and both drivers were able to continue once Brawn mechanics extricated the McLaren fuel hose from Kovalainen’s car.

After dominating the opening laps of the race, Barrichello was unable to keep the pace up and keep Webber behind, and in the first round of pit stops, was passed by the Australian before coming under fire from Robert Kubica. Halfway through the race, Webber led ahead of Vettel, Kubica, Barrichello, Hamilton, Räikkönen and Button in 7th. Both Hamilton and then Vettel successfully passed Button after Button’s second stop and the Briton was caught behind Kovalainen. Though, with Barrichello fading into the back of the points positions, Button would still be declared world champion had the race ended there. Button inherited sixth position when Kovalainen pitted, while Hamilton managed a pass down the inside of Barrichello into the first corner. In the move, Hamilton damaged Barrichello’s tyre, causing a puncture and forcing the Brazilian to pit. Barrichello rejoined the field in 8th position.

Webber won the race, with Williams’ Robert Kubica in second and Hamilton third. Jenson Button crossed the line in 5th place, and this was all he needed. At the end of the race, he led the standings with 89 points ahead of Sebastian Vettel with 74 points. Back then, the winning driver was awarded 10 points, which meant the title was sealed. Jenson Button was declared the 2009 Formula One World Champion.

“I’m world champion baby”

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