Jenson Button turned from flukey one-race winner to world champion in a dramatic season both on and off the track in 2009, winning six of the year's races to secure his first title with one race to spare. In a new three-part feature, Manipe F1 looks back on his championship-winning season, re-living the crucial moments of his year race-by-race, alongside those of his championship rivals Sebastian Vettel, Rubens Barrichello and Mark Webber. The first part of our review takes a look at the year's first six races, from Australia to Monaco.
R1. Australia (29 March):
After dominating the latter half of pre-season testing, Brawn went to Melbourne as favourites to win but still with a few lingering doubters. Those doubters were silenced on Saturday when Brawn took a dominant Button-led front row. Little changed in the race, and Button led every lap despite two safety car periods to record his second career win. Team-mate Barrichello took a lucky second after future championship rival Sebastian Vettel collided with Robert Kubica three laps from the end, promoting Barrichello from fourth. Webber finished last after a first-lap crash.
Points: Button 10, Barrichello 8, Webber 0, Vettel 0
R2. Malaysia (5 April):
The rest of the grid gave Button a much stronger challenge in Malaysia a week later, but nevertheless took pole position, only to lose the lead right at the start. Having dropped to fourth, he regained third on the opening lap, before leapfrogging both Rosberg and Trulli at the first round of stops to take the lead. Despite never having driven his car in the wet, Button kept his cool when the monsoon arrived, and was leading by 22 seconds when the race was stopped, earning five points due to the shortened distance. Barrichello comparatively struggled in the wet to finish fifth, while Webber took sixth and Vettel spun out.
Points: Button 15, Barrichello 10, Webber 1.5, Vettel 0
R3. China (19 April):
A race-long downpour in Sepang handed the advantage to Red Bull, as Vettel led team-mate Webber home for a dominant 1-2 finish, in the process scoring his first points of the year. While Vettel ran away with the race from mid-distance, Webber had to work hard, overtaking Jenson Button twice to take second. Despite a good start Button faded in the closing quarter to third, while Barrichello struggled with brake problems to take fourth.
Points: Button 21, Barrichello 15, Vettel 10, Webber 9.5
R4. Bahrain (26 April):
Despite qualifying only fourth on the Saturday in Bahrain, an impressive start and daring overtaking manoeuvre on world champion Lewis Hamilton put Button in third on the second lap of the race, before taking a lead he would never relinquish at the first round of pitstops. Strategic errors by Red Bull and Toyota cost both teams dear, but Vettel nevertheless recovered to second. Barrichello spent his race stuck in traffic, limiting him to fifth, while Webber had a dismal race to 11th having qualified an equally disappointing 18th.
Points: Button 31, Barrichello 19, Vettel 18, Webber 9.5
R5. Spain (10 May):
After recovered his qualifying form to take another pole position at Barcelona, Button had a switch to a two-stop strategy to thank for his fourth victory of the season. At the start, he was beaten to the first corner by Barrichello, but while the Brazilian stayed on the pre-agreed three-stop plan, Button stopped just twice. In the end he ran out a comfortable winner, with Barrichello taking second ahead of Webber and Vettel.
Points: Button 41, Barrichello 27, Vettel 23, Webber 15.5
R6. Monaco (24 May):
Button put in another flawless performance to record his fifth win in six races, easily brushing aside the challenges of Barrichello and Räikkönen. After keeping his lead from the start, Button's lead grew substantially in the first 15 laps, but only after team-mate Barrichello had suffered with his tyres. From then on, it was just a matter of keeping his car out of the barriers, and he eventually eased off to beat Barrichello by 7 seconds. Webber took fifth behind the two Ferraris, while team-mate Vettel crashed out early in the race following a nightmare first stint.
Points: Button 51, Barrichello 35, Vettel 23, Webber 19.5
Check back soon for the final two parts of our championship recap.