Button, Vettel, Webber, Barrichello: one of these men will be champion (Poll)

Jenson Button's championship lead is in jeopardy

Jenson Button's championship lead is in jeopardy

With Felipe Massa’s crash, Michael Schumacher’s return, BMW quitting the sport and a new FIA president about to be elected, I have a nagging feeling I may have overlooked something…

Oh yeah, there’s a drivers’ championship to be won. Jenson Button may have an 18.5 points lead over Mark Webber, but his car no longer looks capable of challenging for podiums, never mind wins. Can he hold back the charging Red Bulls?

Who will be world champion?

  • Jenson Button (43%)
  • Mark Webber (31%)
  • Sebastian Vettel (19%)
  • Rubens Barrichello (2%)
  • Someone else... (5%)

Total Voters: 2,482

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Mathematics

Here’s an odd thought: Michael Schumacher could be world champion this year. With seven races to go any driver that’s on the grid at Valencia in two weeks’ time could claim the crown.

The statistical likelihood of that happening is a different matter entirely, of course. Realistically it’s Button and the three drivers within 26 points of him – Webber, Sebastian Vettel and Rubens Barrichello – who are the only likely contenders.

Barrichello’s considerable deficit to Button, the difficulty he has had beating his team mate this year and Brawn’s lack of competitiveness as the season heads into the second half mean his chances are pretty slender too.

Brawn won’t be able to bring him into play to assist Button until he becomes mathematically incapable of winning the championship. However, as Barrichello is lagging behind both the Red Bulls, Brawn are more likely to be able to make use of that before Red Bull can.

The development race

Stop for a moment and marvel at just how unexpected the balance of power is in Formula 1 today. Twelve months ago Red Bull were falling behind their thrusting junior squad, and Brawn were called ‘Honda’ and languishing at the back of the pack.

After dominating the opening races, Brawn are on the back foot, with Red Bull finishing one-two at Silverstone and Hockenheim.

Red Bull’s Silverstone upgrade has moved the RB5 to the head of the field. It included a revised diffuser which successfully combined Adrian Newey unconventional pull rod suspension layout with a full exploitation of the ‘double diffuser’ principle used by Brawn since the beginning of the season.

Brawn faces the classic development dilemma: whether to push on with modifications to its current car, or start getting ready for next year. With limited resources the team might have to compromise its programme for the rest of the year to ensure it is competitive in 2010 – or vice-versa.

It faces the added complication of facing tighter resources next year. Its supply of funds from Honda were intended to be enough to get it through this year, but in 2010 it will have to fend for itself. They are likely to lose Virgin, who are switching allegiances to newcomers Manor (Brawn are paying the price of not breaking ranks with FOTA as the FIA’s Alan Donnelly is alleged to have played a role in the deal).

Circuits and weather

Earlier in the season it seemed as though hotter temperatures favoured the Brawn cars and circuits that put a premium on aerodynamic efficiency favoured the Red Bulls.

But recent events have not run true to that form particularly in the heat of the Hungaroring, where Brawn still struggled with low tyre temperatures.

Looking at the races to come we can expected Red Bull to thrive at Spa-Francorchamps and Suzuka. After three poor races Brawn’s competitiveness at any circuit is a concern.

The Malaysian and Chinese rounds at the beginning of the year suggested Red Bull also have an advantage in wet weather.

This raises the prospect of Button having to damage-limit his way to the championship. In order to be sure of the title he needs a minimum of five second places and a fifth. On the strength of his form in the last three races (sixth, fifth, seventh) that looks well out of his reach.

The competition

What’s most exciting about the run-in to the championship is that the title contenders are almost certainly going to have to mix it with other drivers not in the hunt.

Lewis Hamilton proved McLaren are back with an emphatic win at the Hungaroring. The slow circuit was always expected to play to his car’s strengths, but there’s no denying McLaren has made a gigantic step forwards with the MP4-24. Expect them to be a threat around Singapore’s many tight corners and possibly Valencia as well.

Ferrari’s F60 is also looking increasingly strong and they have the great unknown in the shape of Michael Schumacher. If the F60 is as good at Valencia as it was at Hungary, then I wouldn’t bet against Schumacher’s KERS-powered Ferrari winning the race. And the final rounds serve up two of his favourite tracks – Spa and Suzuka – where he will surely be on top form.

Wiliams have also shown flashes of form – enough for Nico Rosberg to beat Button in the last three races.

It all adds up to one of the most unpredictable championship conclusions we have seen for some time.

Red Bull are looking ever stronger (and are likely to take the lead in the constructors’ championship soon) but their drivers are taking points of each other. Although Brawn are struggling, a couple of decent points scores couple with slip-ups for Webber and Vettel could seal the championship for Button.

You wouldn’t have thought it three races ago, but the 2009 drivers’ championship looks ever more likely to be decided at that new season finale in Abu Dhabi.

Can you call the winner with seven races to go? Have your say below.

Remaining races

2009 European Grand Prix, Circuito Urbano Valencia
2009 Belgian Grand Prix, Spa-Francorchamps
2009 Italian Grand Prix, Monza
2009 Singapore Grand Prix, Marina Bay
2009 Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka
2009 Brazilian Grand Prix, Interlagos
2009 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Island

The world championship battle so far (click to enlarge)

The world championship battle so far (click to enlarge)

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100 comments on Button, Vettel, Webber, Barrichello: one of these men will be champion (Poll)

  1. Chris said on 9th August 2009, 15:24

    Since Formula One is more about entertainment than sport, it would be most entertaining for me if Hamilton won it! Of the top 4, I don’t think Button’s that good, Rubens is way past it, and Vettel makes too many mistakes. That leaves Webber, but none of them are convincing as Champion.

  2. Mutton said on 9th August 2009, 15:54

    What are the odds that not just one but both Red Bulls will be in front of JB in the championship at the end of the season?

    Thanks to the incapable Rubens, Jenson actually has a great shot at the championship. If Rubens didn’t just whine but actually raced JB in the first 7 races, he may have won a race or 2, leaving JB with less of an advantage than he enjoys today.

  3. Dane said on 9th August 2009, 23:18

    Webber will be the champ for ’09

  4. The Limit said on 10th August 2009, 4:55

    For those of us convinced that Jenson Button’s points lead will hold until Abu Dhabi, lets remind ourselves of Lewis Hamilton’s championship lead at this stage two years ago. How quickly that was pegged back!
    The problem for Brawn at the moment does indeed extend further than just the Red Bulls. At the beginning of the season, even in the races Button failed to win, he managed to get onto the podium. This was down to the fact that teams like Ferrari and McLaren were so far off the pace, podiums were like victories to them. Few and far between.
    This is not the case anymore, and that must concern Brawn Gp as their car does not appear to have that crucial advantage.
    Red Bull have an impressive team, that has taken several years to gel, but now is starting to bear fruit.
    Adrian Newey, Geoff Willis, and team boss Christian Horner are all some of the sports brightest and motivated individuals. Marry that to their driver line up in Vettel and Webber, and it is all looking very
    promising.
    As for Vettel, he is getting better and better but in many ways often reminds me of Lewis Hamilton. He has yet to iron out the costly mistakes, which often costs drivers the championship, as we saw when he was leading at Barcelona and at Monaco when he crashed.
    All this will go with a little more experience, experience that Mark Webber has in spades. He has impressed me this year in his determination to overcome his leg injury, and in his performances. He is a real threat, without a doubt the biggest threat Button has towards winning the championship.
    Rubens Barrichello, as much as I admire the man, will not win the title. I think deep down, even Rubens knows this, if he were honest with himself. Even worse for Rubens, he knows that Ross Brawn knows this too. I don’t care what Brawn Gp say in public, in private, I bet $1000 that they have their eyes on Jenson’s car more than the Brazilians.
    As I have said before, the biggest threat to the challengers are the partypoopers like McLaren and Ferrari, not to mention Williams, who have become very fast all of a sudden. Mark my words, one point will win it in November, and Jenson may, just may, be on the right side of that point.

  5. RedBullRacer said on 10th August 2009, 9:01

    I would dearly love Webber to win the championship although I would be happy to see Vettel clinch it. But I’d rather Mark got it as I’ve supported him for so long. I think Vettel will go on to win more than one F1 world championship during his career whereas this may be Webber’s only shot.
    However, I voted for Button as I think he will hang onto it despite the Brawn’s recent fall-off. I don’t really think he deserves it as I’ve always found him wholly unimpressive when not in a competitive car, unlike many other drivers (Webber, Vettel, Hamilton, Alonso etc) who give it their all regardless of what machine they’re stuck with.

  6. neracer said on 10th August 2009, 12:10

    I voted for Webber for similar reasons to some of the other posts. Button is panicking and IMO is not a good racer; Vettel seems a little disenchanted and keeps moaning about KERS, Barrichello isn’t good enough and Webber seems to driving with commitment and passion. I’m not a fan of any of these drivers but I see Webber winning the WDC unless….

  7. Broonbute said on 10th August 2009, 13:07

    I am french and therefore can not be accused of any “nationalism” in my comments below. Unfortunately it has been yonks since Fr saw a truly great F1 driver.
    Let’s remind us of Prost loosing the championship to Lauda by half a point due to Monaco being stopped before half race, that is a possibility that can easily happen to Button this year.
    A lot of people comments are based on who deserves it the most. Well considering this, in my opinion, Hamilton deserves it the most. Despite a dog of a car from day one of this new season he has managed to score a few points (not many but still…). This is the mark of a truly great driver. On top of that nobody can disagree with his racing spirit (fighting with Alonso for 15th place!!!).
    Now the question is can he do it? I don’t think it is possible but he (and others)can definitely come and mix things up for the second half of the season, taking scoring oportunities from the main contenders and especially from Button.
    So who then? Button do not have the car anymore and in my view nor does he have or ever had the abilities. He is fast, smooth but not the best around. If not Button then definately not Barrichelo either, as Button is on top of him and has been in previous seasons. At this point I need to stress out I have huge respect for both Brawn drivers but believe that they are not the most talented racers around. That leaves us with the red bulls. They have a better car at the moment (we still need to find out if Mc Laren and Ferrari resurection is long term or just flash in the pan). So Webber or Vettel? Talent wise I think Vettel is better. People commented about his lack of consistency may cost him a few points and that is a fair assesment. Remember though that Webber can be super agresive and that has costed him a few “accrochage” in the past. One race (0r more)without scoring any points and that’s bye bye to world championship.
    Sorry for the long message but I tried to explain my thought process and in conclusion:
    Vettel to get it (and I think by some margin).
    Look forward to get all your comments!!

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