SUZUKA // Jenson Button's hopes of sealing the Formula One World Championship drivers' title today at the Japanese Grand Prix suffered a big dent after he was docked five places on the grid for an infringement in yesterday's qualifying session. He and Brawn GP teammate Rubens Barrichello were both punished after being judged not to have slowed down sufficiently under yellow flag conditions as they set their sole lap times in the second part of qualifying.
Rather than fifth and seventh on the grid, Barrichello and Button will start 10th and 12th respectively, though the FIA were due to confirm the grid today. Button leads Barrichello by 15 points in the title race and needs to score five more points than the Brazilian to be crowned champion in Japan. But that now looks unlikely and the chances of the championship being up for grabs coming into the final Grand Prix of the season in Abu Dhabi on November 1 have become more of a possibility with Sebastian Vettel starting in pole position.
The German insisted before the qualifying session that he had a mountain to climb to eat into his 25-point deficit to Button. But if he wins from pole and Button fails to score he will be 15 points adrift with two races left. The incident that led to the Brawn duo's punishments came when Toro Rosso driver Sebastien Buemi crashed. Both Button and Barrichello swerved to avoid the debris on the track, but did not slow down. Fernando Alonso and Adrian Sutil were hit with the same punishment
Button defended his actions following the ruling. He said: "From my point of view, I did the right thing and took evasive action. I thought it wasn't safe to lift out as there might have been a car behind me." Team boss Ross Brawn: "Yellow flags in straights are difficult things. We get them quite often and there are areas where drivers have a reasonable view and you often get yellows on a straight in a race and drivers don't lift off."
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