So the competitive portion of the Formula 1 championship is now over and the most unlikely of outcomes has been finally realized. Jenson Button was able to end all doubt before Abu Dhabi and claim his ‘World Champion’ title. Going in to this race, he only had to score 6 points to lock up the championship, and depending on where his rivals finished in Interlagos, that point total would drop.
Brawn GP rose like a phoenix from the ashes of the deplorable Honda program, barely making it to the grid after Ross Brawn kept the team afloat. Just the fact that they were part of the 2009 season was a huge accomplishment, but clearly Ross had more in mind than just competing. He knew how good the 2009 Honda chassis was going to be as they spent the entirety of the 2008 season developing the car. But as the season wore on, it was clear that the development dollars available to Brawn were limited compared to the funds of other teams. Clearly, they made the most of the beginning of the season as everybody else played catch up to the dominant Brawn Chassis.
As for Jenson, he started out the season with a commanding 6 wins in the 7 first races, and was able to finally wrap up the championship this weekend without winning another race since Turkey in July. Jenson’s closest rival for most of the season had been his teammate Ruebens Barichello, whose 2 wins and consistent results in the latter half of the season had kept him alive in the championship hunt as he consistently outperformed Jenson.
While some will argue that Jenson benefited from an illegal car element (the double decker diffuser), the FIA did approve that part of the cars design. Toyota and Williams also started the season with this design element, but that did not give them much of an advantage, so the diffuser was clearly not the only component that made Brawn so successful in the early season. Further, Red Bull has been competing with Brawn’s pace all season, both before they developed their own version of the contraband diffuser, and after.
Clearly though, the development muscle of teams like Ferrari and McLaren were flexed in the mid part of the season when they both leaped from the lower half of the grid to the upper half. This happened after both teams developed their own version of said diffuser.
Now the only thing left up to question in the final race of the season is where Ferrari and McLaren end up the year. McLaren took a one point advantage in the constructors championship over Ferrari for 3rd. Further, Hamilton sits one point ahead of Kimi in the driver’s championship at 5th spot. With Ferrari stopping development of the car and the ineffectual replacement drivers that have plagued Ferrari since Massa was injured, there is little chance that the red team will be able to best McLaren in either.