Briton Jenson Button has been crowned Formula One world champion after finishing fifth in an incident-filled Brazilian Grand Prix won by Australian Mark Webber.
Button, who has led the championship all season after winning the opening Australian Grand Prix in March, had started 14th on the grid, but drove with courage and determination to achieve his goal and send the Brawn GP team into wild celebration.
“We are the champions,” Button sang out of key from his cockpit after crossing the finishing line and capturing the title with one race to spare.
Later the 29-year-old told the BBC: “It’s really amazing especially after the last few weeks. It was such an awesome race – I’m world champion baby!
“When I first jumped in a car 21 years ago I never expected to be world champion – but we did it today.”
Button’s success ensured also that the Brawn team, created out of the ashes of the defunct Honda team last winter, also clinched the constructors’ world championship.
‘The tortoise and the hare’
“It’s very special,” said team boss Ross Brawn who paid tribute to Button and also former company workers who were laid off in the team’s reorganisation.
“The work over the winter was sensational and I give all my thanks to all the people who couldn’t be with us and who had to leave.
“The second half of the season was hard but it was a great race today. Jenson knew what he had to do.”
Button’s great success came in his 169th Grand Prix and at the end of his ninth season in Formula One, a year when he won six of the opening seven races and then struggled to recapture that form.
It was a classic case of the tortoise and the hare in the second half of the season as Button survived the intensifying pressure around him, but continued to collect points.
Webber takes comfortable win
Webber, in a Red Bull, won comfortably ahead of Pole Robert Kubica in a BMW Sauber and third-placed outgoing drivers’ champion Briton Lewis Hamilton in a McLaren Mercedes.
German Sebastian Vettel, in the second Red Bull, was fourth ahead of Button with Finn Kimi Raikkonen sixth for Ferrari.
Swiss Sebastien Buemi of Toro Rosso was seventh and the luckless local hero Brazilian veteran Rubens Barrichello, in the second Brawn, eighth after starting from pole position.
He suffered from heavy traffic and then a late puncture that wrecked his hopes of glory.
Webber, who started alongside Barrichello at the front of the grid, led the race from the early stages and was never headed as he cruised to just the second grand prix victory of his career.
Webber’s victory ensures the Australian will finish the year fourth in the drivers’ championship.