Jenson Button dominated in a brave but fruitless attempt to prevent Sebastian Vettel from clinching his second consecutive world championship yesterday. The closing laps saw Button under attack from Fernando Alonso, as third place was all that Vettel needed to clinch his title.
The 24-year-old German cut so hard across Button at the start that the Englishman had to put two wheels over the right-hand kerb and on the grass.
"He's got to get a penalty for that!" Button declaimed over the radio. But the stewards eventually decided not.
"My start was good, maybe too good," Button said afterwards. "Sebastian didn't give me any room."
Vettel said: "I thought I had a good start and kept moving to the right before I saw him and realised I was too far to the right. But we can race with two wheels on the grass, can't we, Fernando?" he asked impishly of the second-placed Spaniard, who put him on the grass at Monza last month.
Button had to back off and lost a place as team-mate Lewis Hamilton sped round the outside. Vettel sprinted into a lead. Hamilton soon got a rear puncture, however, and had new tyres on lap eight. But when Vettel did likewise only a lap later, followed next time round by Button, Alonso and Mark Webber, it was clear that tyre wear was highly significant. Vettel led until his second stop on the 19th lap. Once again Button stopped a lap later, but this time he was able to rejoin ahead of the Red Bull and the final pattern was established. A safety car on lap 24 threw Vettel a lifeline. As the track went green on lap 28 Button sprinted ahead, and built an advantage again, as Vettel fell prey to Alonso as the Spaniard ran four laps longer before his third and final stop on the 37th lap to switch to the medium Pirellis.
The closing stages were a fight between the three, and between laps 45 and 50 Alonso slashed Button's lead. The Englishman was still 1.1sec ahead by the flag, while Vettel finished a further 0.8sec adrift.
After the race, Button said. "We have a great affinity with the fans here; they are so supportive of the sport and we tried to help them and plant a good memory in their minds after a tough year for Japan."Reuse content