"After 15 laps I just wanted to radio in and tell the team 'this car is outrageous,'" Jenson Button admitted yesterday. "But I thought that might be tempting fate, so I left it until the end."
It took Button's rival Sebastian Vettel less than half a lap to come to a similar conclusion, as the Englishman flattened his opposition in Turkey to take his sixth win in seven races in such crushing fashion that the German and his Red Bull partner Mark Webber, who finished in second place, were left open-mouthed and heavy-hearted.
Vettel led from pole position but as Button's Brawn team-mate Rubens Barrichello made a terrible start from the clean side of the grid, the championship leader held on to second place. It was one of the two key moments of his race. The other one followed moments later when Vettel ran wide in Turn 10. Button pounced immediately, and the punishment he meted out was merciless.
"It worked out okay at start and I stayed ahead, then nearly lost the car in Turn 10," Vettel said. "There was a tail wind there and actually I nearly lost it on the second lap there too. It was quite tricky, but it wouldn't have made such a big difference, my mistake, because Jenson was just too quick today. There was no holding him after that."
"I was very happy to get away second, after starting on the dirty side of the grid," Button said. "Sebastian covered inside the inside, which surprised me because it's dirty there, and I sat behind for the first half of the lap. Then he ran wide on the exit to Turn 10 and that was my opportunity. We were slightly undergeared today after the wind changed, and my engine was sitting on the rev limiter for five seconds on the straights, so it was good I got him there because otherwise I wouldn't really have had a chance to pass him."
Soon it was apparent that the news was even worse for Red Bull. Vettel was on a three-stop refuelling strategy, so really he should have disappeared into the lead; as it was, despite a lighter car, he lacked the pace to do anything about Button. Webber, heavier due to the same two-stop strategy as the Brawn, was doing well but not running anywhere near its speed.
"I knew my strategy, so I knew the win was not going to happen," Vettel said. "It turned out that a three-stop was possibly not as quick as two today." Indeed, Button said he was very surprised when he realised the Red Bull plan.
There were moments, for example when Vettel was running at his lightest between laps 23 until his second stop on 29, that he put the heavier-fuelled Button under pressure.
"I nearly passed him in the last corners," Vettel reported, "but it was a bit too tricky." It was Button's sole moment of danger.
"It's never a nice feeling to see another car catching you at a second a lap even though you know the reason is that you have more fuel," Button said. "I just made sure I covered the lines and as soon as Sebastian pitted I pushed hard again and got the lap times down."
When Red Bull kept Vettel on his strategy instead of switching to a two-stop, which the driver himself would clearly have preferred, Button knew he was home and dry.
"I'm not happy but we can be very satisfied as a team to take second and third places," Vettel said. "Today we just had to accept that they [Brawn] were on a different planet."
Webber kept up his pace throughout and went back ahead of Vettel when the German made his final stop. On fresher tyres Vettel hounded him, but when he was told over the radio, "save your car, Mark is faster," he reluctantly eased off.
He did not appear to be sore about it afterwards, but admitted the temptation had been high to keep racing. "What would you have done?" he said. "I started from pole position, my strategy didn't work, the situation was not what I wanted it to be... I enjoy driving and would rather have continued to go quick rather than slow down and carry the car home."
Webber echoed Vettel's views on Brawn. "We expected to be closer to them," he said, "but we got caned today."
Button wore the biggest grin of his outstanding season as he savoured his 26-point championship lead. "Today the car was the best it's felt all year," he said. "Previously it's been a bit loose and not really suited my style, but today it was immense. In Bahrain and Barcelona, Red Bull were on our pace but today we were a step ahead.
"This is the first race where the car really has been absolutely perfect for me. Definitely this was a victory for all of us at Brawn. To beat these Red Bull guys fair and square was a great victory for us."
Before the race there was speculation of a boycott by the FOTA teams, following meetings in the morning with their drivers, but that made no sense days before the FIA announces the accepted entries for 2010. But, as one cynic put it, had the teams chosen to do so, they could not have gone for a better venue since, unlike Indianapolis in 2005, Istanbul Park had virtually no spectators to upset.
"They gave us the heads up and brought us up to speed," Webber said, "and our position is totally to support FOTA. We hope there is a compromise where they can work with the FIA so we can all have a great championship next year. The teams are so strong together, and we are trusting them."
Turkish Grand Prix Result and standings
*Result of the Turkish Grand Prix at the Istanbul Park Circuit yesterday.
1 J Button (GB) Brawn-Mercedes 1hr 26min 24.848sec
2 M Webber (Aus) Red Bull Renault +6.714sec
3 S Vettel (Ger) Red Bull Renault +7.461sec
4 J Trulli (It) Toyota +27.843sec
5 N Rosberg (Ger) Williams-Toyota +31.539sec
6 F Massa (Br) Ferrari +39.996sec
7 R Kubica (Pol) BMW Sauber +46.247sec
8 T Glock (Ger) Toyota +46.959sec
9 K Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari +50.246sec
10 F Alonso (Sp) Renault +1:02.420sec
11 N Heidfeld (Ger) BMW Sauber +1:04.327sec
12 K Nakajima (Japan) Williams-Toyota +1:06.376sec
13 L Hamilton (GB) McLaren-Mercedes +1:20.454sec
14 H Kovalainen (Fin) McLaren-Mercedes +1 lap
15 S Buemi (Swit) Toro Rosso-Ferrari +1 lap,
16 N Piquet Jr (Br) Renault +1 lap
17 A Sutil (Ger) Force India-Mercedes +1 lap
18 S Bourdais (Fr) Toro Rosso-Ferrari +1 lap
Retired R Barrichello (Br) Brawn-Mercedes; G Fisichella (It) Force India-Mercedes.
*Drivers' standings (after 7 of 17 races): 1 Button (Brawn) 61 points; 2 Barrichello (Brawn) 35; 3 Vettel (Red Bull) 29; 4 Webber (Red Bull) 27.5; 5 Trulli (Toyota) 19.5; 6 Glock (Toyota) 13; 7 Rosberg (Williams) 11.5; 8 Massa (Ferrari) 11; Alonso (Renault) 11. 10 Raikkonen (Ferrari) 9; Hamilton (McLaren) 9. 12 Heidfeld (BMW Sauber) 6; 13 Kovalainen (McLaren) 4. 14 Buemi (Toro Rosso) 3. 15 Kubica (BMW Sauber) 2; Bourdais (Toro Rosso) 2.
*Constructors' standings 1 Brawn 96 points; 2 Red Bull 56.5; 3 Toyota 32.5; 4 Ferrari 20; 5 McLaren Mercedes 13; 6 Williams 11.5: 7 Renault 11; 8 BMW Sauber 8.
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