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The 2009 Season So Far…

July 6, 2009

Now we’re just about half way through the 2009 Formula One World Championship, there is no better time to round up the first half of the season, and have a bash at predicting the second half…

In an F1 comeback that is likely to go down in history, Jenson Button has gone from almost having no drive after a series of unsuccessful seasons, to championship leader, just like that. Who would’ve thought at the end of last season, when Lewis Hamilton was basking in the glory of being F1 World Champion, that less than twelve months later the Brits would be back on top, but in the unlikely form of Hamilton’s fellow Briton Button.

Hamilton started the 2009 season with one thing in mind: to defend his title, fending off the likes of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso. Even Sebastian Vettel was a character to look out for. But who would’ve thought it, that McLaren would be struggling to get their MP4-24 into quali two race after race, and new kids on the grid, Brawn, would be running off into the distance to take a substantial lead over their nearest rivals, Red Bull. Ferrari and Renault, well their year has been nothing to write home about either.

Ok, so the 2009 season so far has been interesting to say the least. Hamilton didn’t have a chance to defend his title after qualifying at the back of the grid in Australia. Then, despite an impressive drive to fourth, and a promotion to third, he was disqualified from the race altogether.

At the other end of the grid, Button had pulled back from nowhere in 2008, to pole at the opening race in Melbourne in 2009. To top it all off, he converted pole into victory and made off with his bid for the 2009 title. From one Briton in car 22, to another Briton in car 22, all in the space of a year, just proves what a difference a year makes.

Then there’s Sebastian Vettel. Fresh from his 2008 win in the wet in Monza, in a Toro Rosso, Vettel charged to the grid taking David Coulthard’s place in the Red Bull team. Despite crashing out in the final few laps of Melbourne, taking Robert Kubica with him, and incurring a ten place grid drop penalty for causing the crash, Vettel has since proved he has what it takes to challenge for the title. Having shown off his skill in the wet last year, he did it again this year in China, in round three, and lead home teammate Mark Webber for a Red Bull one-two. His most recent victory in Silverstone showed his skill in the dry, and he is now chasing down Button and teammate Rubens Barrichello in the drivers’ standings. Since Vettel’s impressive win in Silverstone, there has been talk of Brawn watching out in the second half of the season, as Red Bull may just have what it takes to stop the new team in their tracks.

However, after 54% of fans voted in a poll on formula1.com for Red Bull to put their weight behind Vettel to take the championship, it seems startlingly obvious to point out that Vettel’s teammate Webber is only 3.5 points behind the German, and perhaps it is a bit too premature to focus on just one driver. Of course, Vettel is talented, and as one of only two winners this season, it seems he may be the most likely to take the title out of the two Red Bull drivers, but who can forget that Webber has stacks of experience, both with the team, and within Formula One. Perhaps we should be looking out for the Australian in the second half of the season. Having nearly nabbed his first pole in Silverstone last month, it won’t be long before he does, and perhaps takes his first F1 win too.

While Red Bull seem to be hot on the heels of Brawn, it is always worth remembering the history of recent championship winners. As reported in F1 Racing Magazine in April 2008, the winner of the opening round of the season in Melbourne is usually the champion at the end of the year. Take last year: Lewis Hamilton charged to victory and then took the championship in Brazil some 17 races later. The year before that Kimi Raikkonen won in Australia and pipped Hamilton to his first championship as a rookie in Brazil. In fact, in the last nine out of 13 years, the winner in Melbourne has been the championship victor. There have been years though where this hasn’t happened. But with Michael Schumacher doing it four times out of five, and the last three champions having done it, it looks like Vettel and Red Bull really have to have that special something to catch Button and the Brawn boys.

With nine rounds still to go, anything could happen. Button may stick his Brawn on pole a few more times and stomp to victory. Or Maybe Red Bull have found that special something to hang on to the chance of crowning Vettel, or indeed Webber Champion 2009. With their one-two in Silverstone, and Button coming home in sixth, it is still possible.

We can go on speculating and trying to predict the outcome for this year’s championship, but with the way the first half of the season has turned out, you’d be a bit daft to not put your money on Button, wouldn’t you?

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