SAO PAULO, Brazil — Jenson Button clinched his first Formula One drivers’ title with a fifth-place finish at the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday and his Brawn GP team made history by becoming the first to take the constructors’ crown in its debut season.
“This race was the best race I’ve driven in my life,” Button said. “I knew I had to make it happen.”
He was ecstatic at the finish, singing Queen’s We Are The Champions over the team radio as he crossed the line.
Red Bull’s Mark Webber claimed only his second Grand Prix win ahead of Robert Kubica of BMW Sauber and defending champion Lewis Hamilton of McLaren.
Home-crowd favourite Rubens Barrichello — Button’s Brawn GP teammate and his closest rival at the start of the race — began from pole but finished only eighth after a puncture, while Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel couldn’t place higher than fourth after starting well down the grid.
Fifth-place was good enough to give Button an insurmountable 15-point lead over Vettel in the drivers’ standings ahead of the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi on Nov. 1.
Button’s triumph gives Britain back-to-back F1 titles for the first time since Graham Hill won in 1968 and Jackie Stewart in 1969. Hamilton won last year, also clinching at the Brazilian GP.
“I am the world champion. I’m going to keep saying it all night,” the 29-year-old Button said. “I’m going to enjoy this moment like you wouldn’t believe. I’m sitting here as the world champion and that’s something you cannot take away.”
In his 10th year in Formula One, Button had a historic start to the season by winning six of the first seven races, then was consistent enough the rest of the year to arrive in Brazil with a comfortable lead.
It was a fairy tale finish for the Brawn GP team, who came to Interlagos with a commanding lead in the constructors’ standings, needing only half a point to clinch the title.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet, it hasn’t sunk in yet,” team principal Ross Brawn said. “It’ll take awhile.”
The team was created only a few weeks before the start of the season using the infrastructure of the former Honda team after the Japanese carmaker decided to withdraw from the sport because of the global recession — a decision it may now be regretting.
Button started only 14th after a poor qualifying performance in heavy rain on Saturday, but he drove aggressively from the start to quickly move up the grid.
All three title contenders got away cleanly, but the safety car was brought out before the first lap was over after a crash between Toyota’s Jarno Trulli and Force India’s Adrian Sutil. Trulli immediately confronted Sutil after the incident and it looked for a moment as though the two drivers would come to blows. FIA decided it was a “racing accident” and fined the Toyota driver US$10,000 for “aggressively confronting” Sutil on the track.
Button was up to ninth place after the safety car left the track on the third lap, and then he made bold passes to overtake the Renault of Romain Grosjean and the Williams of Kazuki Nakajima to move to seventh. He moved up to fifth following the last round of stops. Vettel also had a good race after starting only 15th, finishing fourth, but it was not enough to keep his title hopes alive.