x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Red Bull left to sift through the wreckage for positives

Above all else, this year's Italian Grand Prix will be remembered as the championship-defining moment when Brawn's resurrection contrasted Red Bull's demise.

Above all else, this year's Italian Grand Prix will be remembered as the championship-defining moment when Brawn's resurrection contrasted Red Bull's demise. Prior to the Monza showdown, four drivers were in contention for drivers' title glory. Now, there are two; and neither of them steer a Red Bull. Despite enduring a summer of prolonged mid-season pressure as a trio of bullish pretenders took it in turns to drag back his early-season lead, Jenson Button - who finished behind his Brawn teammate Rubens Barrichello again yesterday - was able to sum up the championship vignette with a smile on his face.

"Focusing on one person is a lot better than focusing on three," he grinned. Indeed, with Barrichello resurgent, Button badly needed points this weekend. Finishing behind the Brazilian was a good weekend's work. "It's great to be up here in second," said Button. "I would like to be where Rubens is sat, but he did a better job. I lost two points here but gained seven on [Sebastian] Vettel...for me a great result.

"[Barrichello] is my closest rival, but we have a good relationship." That relationship will be put to the test as the F1 season enters its denouement. How Brawn respectfully align two drivers' title ambitions is likely to come under close scrutiny in the coming races. His eyes fixed firmly ahead as the threat behind dissipates, Barrichello does not see a conflict of interest unravelling as he bids to bridge a 14-point gap.

"We both had different tyres and different strategy [at Monza] but the car was good on both of them," said the victor. "It is a winning year whatever happens. It is not long ago that we had no jobs, we didn't know what was going to happen, so we are finally driving a fantastic car with a fantastic engine with a team doing a fantastic job. "I am going to give my very best and there will be a good and a healthy fight and I am looking forward to that."

After seeing their championship aspirations fade with the summer heat, Red Bull must now hope Vettel and Mark Webber retain the same enthusiasm for the season's final four races. Webber, in particular, has not scored points for three consecutive races, and the Australian offered a downbeat assessment of his title hopes after a first-lap tangle with BMW's Robert Kubica ended his Italian job. "It gives it a blow for sure," said Webber.

Vettel managed a point after Lewis Hamilton's final-lap smash handing the German a championship lifeline. Vettel is 26 points behind Button and will need a huge slice of fortune to pass both Brawns. In truth, the Red Bull charge is over. Yesterday, the Monza matador waved a red flag over their championship dreams and duly turned a four-man race into a two-man sprint. @Email:emegson@thenational.ae