Button’s Gearbox Gives Briton Title Blow

Already 75 points and three race wins away from Fernando Alonso’s Driver’s Championship lead, Jenson Button will have to put a storming drive this Sunday if he is to have any glimmer of hope of winning this year’s title. Button has had to change his gearbox for this weekend’s race, which leaves him taking a grid drop, five places down on where he qualifies.

Worryingly for McLaren, it is the same gearbox gremlin which curtailed Lewis Hamilton’s race in Singapore and robbed the team of what could have been a useful 25 points in both the Driver’s and Constructor’s Championship campaigns. The team have recently had their fair share of technical issues.

Button himself had to retire from second place at the Italian Grand Prix due to a fuel pick-up problem which stopped supplying the engine with fuel, forcing the engine to shut off and Jenson to pull out of the race when a podium finish had been on the cards. Hamilton’s costly Singapore setback left him 25 points short but he at least should head into qualifying knowing he will start the race from where he qualifies. Hamilton also is getting a new gearbox but will not take a penalty as unlike his team-mate, he did not finish the last race.

It is not a new story for the British team, after championship titles failed to be won in 2003 and 2005 despite having a car which had been seen as the fastest in the field. Reliability issues, including engine blowups and rear wing failures left Kimi Raikkonen empty-handed at the end of both seasons.

Announcing the problem, technical director Paddy Lowe said the team had gotten to the root of the fault and were confident in preventing it from arising again.

“Jenson’s gearbox had the same problem as Lewis’s gearbox during the Singapore Grand Prix, and subsequent investigation has revealed a terminal failure.

“Therefore both cars must start the Japanese Grand Prix with new gearboxes, which means that Jenson will receive a five-place penalty.

“Of course, this is a great disappointment for Jenson and the team. On the positive side, we have understood and completely resolved the issue, allowing both drivers to compete with confidence for podium positions.”

Jenson recorded his third win of 2011 last year in Japan

Before the change was discovered, Button had been positive about his chances at the upcoming Japanese Grand Prix. If he is to repeat the victory which he took at the same Suzuka circuit in 2011, he will need to do it starting from sixth place or lower to keep his dim title hopes from being extinguished.

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