Button bravura held in check by Schumacher

Michael Schumacher won the German Grand Prix yesterday, but Jenson Button may have lost it on Friday afternoon. Even the world champion admitted to the power of the Englishman's performance, and conceded that he would have been even tougher opposition had he started from his rightful third place on the grid instead of losing 10 places because his Honda engine suffered a valve failure in practice. That may well have made the crucial difference between Schumacher's 81st win, and Button's first. But in the most electrifying grand prix of the season, which confirmed that when Formula One is good it is very, very good, the BAR-Honda driver lost with honour.

Schumacher boiled away from pole position in his Ferrari, and as Juan Pablo Montoya fudged his start, Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen, Jarno Trulli and David Coulthard took up the cudgels in a Renault v McLaren pursuit. Raikkonen was pushing Schumacher hard from a distance of three seconds when he made a spectacular exit at the first corner at the start of lap 14. The main plane of his McLaren's rear wing failed, pitching him into a violent multiple spin and eventual contact with the tyre wall.

Alonso's Renault, Coulthard's McLaren-Mercedes and Montoya's Williams-BMW continued to chase Schumacher, but Button was already on their tails. Where they had all stopped to refuel early (laps nine, 10 and 11 respectively), Button went as far as 14, leading for the three laps preceding his stop. He would lead again later, on laps 30 to 34, but by then he had disposed of Montoya (who helped him by briefly running off the road), and Coulthard.

Button's second stop was the prelude to some of the most exciting racing we have seen in a long while. As he rejoined, Alonso swept by to regain second place, and a fabulous duel ensued. First the Englishman tried the inside, then the outside, going into the hairpin. At one stage he nosed ahead, but Alonso had the line for the next corner and went ahead again. Formula One, dull and boring? Not when it's like this.

Sixteen laps later they were at it again, after the final refuelling stops had thrown Button momentarily back into the lead on lap 48. Alonso came barrelling along for an exact repeat of their previous encounter and Button was repelled initially, until finally he forced Alonso to concede, and later the Spaniard faded momentarily with an aerodynamic imbalance problem.

"It was great, very exciting," said Button of the duel. It also confirmed Button's burgeoning class. Despite a loose helmet that, he said, "threatened to choke" him, he kept the pressure on Schumacher until the finish while Alonso nearly succumbed to Coulthard as the Scot underlined that his F1 career is far from over with a fighting drive. Montoya was fifth, ahead of another tense fight involving Mark Webber, who kept his Jaguar in sixth, his former team-mate Antonio Pizzonia, standing in strongly at Williams, and Takuma Sato in the second BAR-Honda.

Button's display, however, overshadowed everything, including Schumacher. Asked if he had had any problems, the champion looked at Button and replied: "Yeah, he's sitting next to me!" Compliments don't come much higher than that.

"It was tough," Schumacher admitted, "but I was always in a safe situation in terms of distance. I couldn't be sure what times Jenson could do, so I was a little bit concerned and was pushing flat out to make sure I didn't leave anything open so I'd might be sorry later."

"Considering that I only expected to be fifth come the end of race, I'm happy," Button said. "This year it's been very difficult for people to come through the field, so I was not holding out too much hope. It wasn't the best first lap of the year, either. I tried to move up but actually moved back after locking my wheels and going off, but it made the race very exciting. It was the best one of my career."

But there was a bitter sweetness to it. "I have to admit that I'm disappointed, too," he added, "because if I had started where I qualified we would have had a good chance to challenge Michael. It's tough to come to terms with that."

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine