Brawn GP ace Jenson Button has revealed that the performance he was able to produce in this weekend's Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul – one described by Red Bull Racing rival Mark Webber as being 'on another planet' – was the result of having had a 'perfect' car underneath him for the first time in 2009, as Ross Brawn admitted that he is 'beginning to run out of superlatives' for his star driver.
He may not have begun from pole position around the technically challenging, physically demanding and undulating anti-clockwise Istanbul Park Circuit close to the Bosphorous, but within barely half a lap Button had already assumed his by now customary position at the head of the Formula 1 field, after taking advantage of a mistake by pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel in the turn nine chicane on the opening tour to grab the lead.
From thereon in he would never look back, gradually extending his advantage over his pursuer and staving off a mid-race attack from the German, who at the time was on a much heavier fuel load, being on an aggressive three-stop strategy to Button's more conventional and conservative two-stopper.
Peerless under pressure, he did not allow Vettel a way by, which earned him a comfortable lead in the closing stages of the race once all the pit-stops had finally shaken out – and from there, he related, he was practically able to cruise to the chequered flag, to notch up his sixth victory from the first seven races this year, equalling a record set by the legendary Michael Schumacher in 1994, 2002 and 2004 and Jim Clark back in 1965.
On all four occasions, those drivers went on to claim world championship glory in the same year – and heading next to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix in front of his adoring partisan supporters in a fortnight's time, Button is holding a commanding 26-point margin over team-mate Rubens Barrichello in the title chase. Sure to receive a hero's welcome on home turf, the Frome-born ace is looking increasingly assured of following in compatriot Lewis Hamilton's wheel tracks in lifting the F1 laurels come season's end too.
“I wish I could have had the whole team up there on the podium with me today!” the 29-year-old enthused afterwards. “This was definitely a victory for us all – for everyone at the track, back at the factory in Brackley and at Mercedes-Benz High Performance Engines in Brixworth. Today we really showed what this car and engine can do, and to beat our closest competitors fair-and-square is a great feeling.
“I had a good start from the dirty side of the grid, and it was really important to maintain second position into the first corner. I took my opportunity on the first lap when Sebastian went wide, and from there we controlled the race. Once we knew that Sebastian was going for a three-stop strategy, we filled the car up at my first stop and I just tried to be as consistent as possible to keep him behind me. It's not nice to see a car catching you so quickly, even when you know he is on low fuel, but once he pitted I was able to push harder.
“I had a smile on my face for pretty much every lap today – the car felt that good – and I was able to back off in the last stint to conserve the engine. This is the first time that the car has been absolutely perfect for me, and it means so much to the team to see just how good this car is. To go to Silverstone for our home race leading both championships is a wonderful feeling, but we know that we have to keep pushing to maintain our advantage.”
Barrichello, by contrast, endured a torrid time of things, slipping ten places down the order from his grid position of third at the start due to clutch issues – not for the first time in 2009 – and from thereon in struggling to make his way back up the order, losing seventh gear and scrapping with Heikki Kovalainen, Lewis Hamilton Adrian Sutil and countryman Nelsinho Piquet but ultimately making little impression, if palpably not for any want of trying.