views

Brawn duo locked in two-horse title race

THE BATTLE for the drivers&rsquo; championship seems certain to be a duel between colleagues Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello after another Brawn GP one-two at yesterday&rsquo;s Italian Grand Prix.<br /><br />Barrichello took the chequered flag at Monza to cut Button&rsquo;s lead to 14 points but, with just four races of the season remaining, the pair look to be too far ahead of the rest of the pack. Red Bull&rsquo;s Sebastien Vettel could only manage eighth place, meaning he trails Button by 26 points, while his team-mate Mark Webber&rsquo;s first-lap crash leaves him 28.5 points adrift of the Englishman.<br /><br />Defending champion Lewis Hamilton&rsquo;s challenge is officially over, meanwhile, after his spin on the last lap saw him finish 12th, despite starting on pole and leading for much of the race.<br /><br />Hamilton&rsquo;s late woe was warmly welcomed by the Italian crowd, however, since it elevated Ferrari&rsquo;s Kimi Raikkonen into a podium position at the team&rsquo;s home track. Force India&rsquo;s Adrian Sutil took a surprise fourth place, and his first points for the team, while Renault&rsquo;s Fernando Alonso pushed hard to claim fifth.<br /><br />With Hamilton on pole on a track notorious for frustrating overtakers, and determined to finish the season as strongly as possible, an intriguing race was in prospect.<br /><br />But while McLaren had sent him out with a two-stop strategy, the Brawn pair started with enough fuel to make just one stop each. And once Hamilton emerged from the pit for a second time narrowly behind Barrichello and Button, it was destined to be a Brawn victory.<br /><br />Showing the competitiveness that made him the sport&rsquo;s youngest ever champion last year, Hamilton chased Button hard and cut his lead to one second. But his aggression came at a price, the Englishman losing control of his car on the final lap and being classified 12th.<br /><br />Barrichello ultimately opened up a comfortable lead over his colleague and title rival Button, finishing almost three seconds before him. Brawn&rsquo;s fourth one-two of a staggering debut season also increased their lead over Red Bull in the constructors&rsquo; standings to 40.5 points.