Jenson Button has acknowledged that he needs to 'get his ar*e together' if he is not to risk throwing the 2009 F1 World Championship away, after Brawn GP revealed there will be no team orders in the wake of Rubens Barrichello's stunning European Grand Prix victory.
Barrichello comfortably had the measure of his team-mate all weekend around the demanding Valencia Street Circuit, out-qualifying Button despite carrying a heavier fuel load and taking the chequered flag more than half a minute ahead of him, as the British star could manage no better than seventh place at the close, the legacy of a poor Q3 effort that had seen him run wide in turn four and left him on the back foot come race day.
Indeed, Barrichello has had the beating of Button on a number of occasions of late, and over the course of the last four grands prix has out-scored the driver of the sister BGP 001 – and the man many view as the world champion-elect – by 19 points to just eleven, twice ascending the rostrum whilst the Frome-born ace has not done so since his triumph in the Turkish Grand Prix back at the beginning of June, a far cry from his early-season run of seven consecutive podium appearances.
The lowest-scoring of any of the four title protagonists since that point – and by some margin – the 29-year-old knows he needs to get his act together. Fast.
“It all comes down to a bad qualifying lap,” The Guardian
quotes Button as having rued post-race in Valencia. “[At the start] I had to lift off because [Sebastian] Vettel was squeezing me, and that would have taken my front wing off. That's how he stayed ahead, and it cost me a lot of places.
“It's so close at the moment that I can't afford to make the same mistake again. Rubens and I are separated by 18 points but, if I don't get my ar*e together, the gap is going to be less than that. My closest challenger is now my team-mate. He took a lot of points off me this weekend and I can't let that happen again, but well done to Rubens. It's been five years for him; he's been itching to get that victory – and he's going to want more.”
That much is clear, and in a further boost to 'Rubinho', the most experienced driver in F1 history has been assured that he will not be asked to play a supporting role to Button's championship ambitions during the final six grands prix of the campaign – instead being handed a free rein to focus on his own.
It was believed that Valencia was the 37-year-old's last chance to stake his claim to the laurels, and now the São Paulista has contended that it is 'very, very much possible' that Button can be caught, meaning whoever wants this title the most is going to have to fight for it tooth-and-nail.
“There is no reason to call team orders at this stage,” underlined Barrichello's race engineer Jock Clear. “To be honest, you're not going to hold back a guy like Rubens. Who is to say Rubens cannot go on to win the world championship now? He's on fire.”