The Unlikely champions

By on Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Almost 2 years ago, with Hamilton being crowned the F1 world champion after a season long battle with Massa, one had the feeling that the F1 world would be back to the days of Ferrari- McLaren tussles at the top of the standings at least for a few years to come. Not much was thought of the seventh placed team Red Bull and the 9th placed team Honda, even less might have been expected from a certain 2 drivers – Mark Webber and Jenson Button. This can be made justifiable because Honda always was one of the largest funded teams in the paddock and Red Bull is owned by the energy drink billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz and have arguably the best engineering brain in the F1 industry (Adrian Newey) at their service. Though Button and Webber have been appreciable respected for their driving, but most accepted that neither of them had the outright speed. With Honda pulling the plug at the end of 2008 and forcing Ross Brawn and Nick Fry to dig deep into their pockets in order to save the team. Save they did, mere weeks before the start of the 2009 F1 championship, with the new team being called Brawn GP. The rest is what one calls “history”, with Brawn GP providing the shock of the season and ending up winning both championships.
With Honda pulling the plug in 2008, all doors seemed closed for Button, and his denial to leave the team at its current state only complicated matters for him; but that proved to be a masterstroke by Jenson, as he went on to become the World Driver’s Champion, on the way surprising all in the paddock. All knew him to be very consistent and dependable as a driver, but none expected such a result at the end. Critics (which include me) still do say that he will not win another championship and the only reason he won it last time, was due to the sheer dominance of the Brawn that helped him to win; but one cant ignore the level headedness with which he approached the second half of the championship when things were not going right for him, never did one see him panic and he always seemed to be at the right place, hence delivering the title against all odds (betting ones that is).
With 2009 complete and with Red Bull emerging to the fore from the mid-point of the season along with McLaren’s and Lewis Hamilton’s resurgence in the latter part of the season, one assumed that Button’s chances of another title wouldn’t be there due to the apparent lack of resources and sponsors with Brawn GP’s grasp. True to form, it was Red Bull and McLaren on top at the start of the season and the now rebadged Mercedes team (With Mercedes taking over Brawn GP) floundering in the middle of the pack; but Button was no more at Mercedes, after another surprising decision being made by the British driver to move onto McLaren to team up with Lewis Hamilton. Several people criticized Button as he had left a team fully behind him and gone to a team which was expected to be in Hamilton’s pocket, but with the full season complete, Jenson finished 5th in the championship 26 points behind Hamilton and 40 points behind eventual winner Vettel. 26 points might seem more but it is only a little more than a win away from Hamilton and he was in with a shot for the championship with 2 races to go.
Now, we move over to the Red Bull side of the pit lane. Ever since Sebastian Vettel’s triumph in a Toro Rosso at Monza, great things were expected from him, and with his promotion to Red Bull and Adrian Newey’s toy showing very strong pace during testing, all eyes were on him. True to expectations, he did deliver and was in contention for the title until the second last race. With Mark Webber having a poor string of races in the second half of the season, he was given the ‘disliked’ Number 2 driver status in the team. In his defense, Mark had broken his leg before season start and had hampered him for at least the first few races of the season, but the writing on the wall seemed clear as to who the favored son of Red Bull was going to be. With 2009 complete and red Bull looking strong once again for 2010, once again Vettel’s name was being bandied about as a possible WDC with no mention of Webber. Mark did not have a great start to the championship, but soon found his feet and soon displayed himself as a serious championship contender with 3 consecutive poles and 2 wins, the last pole at turkey perhaps not being converted to victory thanks to his teammate. From that point of the season things started going downwards for Mark with some key members of the team trying to shift the blame on Mark for the Turkey fracas followed with the team giving Mark’s front wing to Vettel during the British Grand Prix. This did not go down well with Mark, but he kept his head down and went on to win the British Grand Prix followed by the Hungarian Grand Prix two races later; hence slowly surging to the lead of the championship with 3 races to go, much largely due to his consistency (despite lack of outright speed). Could this have been his year? Or could it have been another championship for Button? With Vettel, Hamilton and Fernando Alonso mixed in the championship fight; the end result could have gone in any of these drivers favor. But alas, due to a disappointing last 3 races, Webber was robbed off championship glory by his teammate Vettel. One thing is clear in my mind though, irrespective of the end result, both Mark Webber and Jenson Button have shown that there might not be just one brand of winners in Formula 1, but there can be another…..


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