Mark Webber produced a fine performance to secure his second victory of the season in the Brazilian Grand Prix, but the Red Bull man's success was overshadowed by Jenson Button securing a fifth place finish that was enough to crown him the 2009 champion.
Button's hopes of securing the title in the penultimate race of the season looked to have taken a hit when he was only able to qualify down in 14th place while team-mate Rubens Barrichello secured a popular home pole.
However, a champions drive from the Briton allowed him to come through into the points while Barrichello's title hopes vanished after a poor middle stint and a late puncture left him down in eighth place.
Sebastian Vettel – the only other man still in contention for the crown – came through from his own poor performance in qualifying to secure fourth, but the German's title hopes also ended at the penultimate event.
After the rain that had affected qualifying, race day dawned with dry conditions for the race, with the opening lap proving to be one of the most dramatic of the season.
Barrichello made a strong start from pole to lead into turn one from Webber, while Kimi Raikkonen also made a strong start to storm through to third place going into turn one. Raikkonen however would then made contact with the rear of Webber's car on the run into turn four and damaged his front wing; backing the Finn into the cars behind and setting off a chain reaction which would put three cars out of the race.
Adrian Sutil attempted to make a move on the Ferrari exiting turn five for position but in doing so, forced Jarno Trulli onto the grass. The Toyota man lost control and came back across the circuit, collecting Sutil before going into the barriers. Sutil spun off the other way and then collected the Renault of Fernando Alonso with all three drivers forced out and the Safety Car deployed.
Raikkonen pitted at the end of the opening lap, as did McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen after spinning at the start after a touch from Vettel. Kovalainen then left the pits with his fuel hose still attached, spreading fuel over Raikkonen's Ferrari as the Finn left his stall and causing a flash fire in the pitlane – although both drivers were able to continue.
Amidst the drama, Button had made a fine start to climb up to ninth, while Vettel was two places back in eleventh.
On the restart, Barrichello set about trying to pull away from Webber, Robert Kubica and Nico Rosberg, while Button quickly made his way into the points as he took eighth from Romain Grosjean exiting turn five. On the following lap, the Briton dived down the inside of Kazuki Nakajima into turn one to take seventh and then set about the Toyota of F1 debutant Kamui Kobayashi – swarming all over the rear of the Japanese driver and complaining over the radio about excessive weaving from the rookie before eventually making a move stick on the 24th lap.