The fight for this year’s Formula One world title is effectively a two-man battle after Rubens Barrichello led home a Brawn GP one-two at the Italian Grand Prix.
In taking his second win of the season and 11th of his career, the 37-year-old Brazilian has now closed the gap on team-mate and championship leader Jenson Button down to 14 points.
With Mark Webber crashing out on the opening lap and Sebastian Vettel claiming a solitary point, the Red Bull duo are 26 and 28.5 points adrift of Button with four races remaining.
Lewis Hamilton should have joined Barrichello and Button on the podium, only to dramatically crash out on the final lap at Monza as the reigning world champion chased down his fellow Briton.
With Hamilton currently 53 points behind Button, it means his reign is at an end, with nothing but pride to race for in Singapore, Japan, Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
Barrichello said: ``It feels great. On the chequered flag at the end, I had no words.
“But it was a tough night because I didn’t know if we would have to change the gearbox (which would have led to a five-place grid penalty), but I think it’s now going to last the final four races.
“The race was then great. It was really good to see all the public out there (as he sprayed the champagne) even if they were more red than white.”
Remarking on tactical guru Ross Brawn’s policy of a one-stop plan, Barrichello added: “It was a great decision yesterday.
“The guys with KERS had 20 litres (of fuel) on us at the start, but luckily we had a good start, and the pace was then good enough to be ahead of them by their second stop.”
On the podium for the first time in six races, Button was also smiling as he said: “It’s nice to be back up here with second position.
“I’d rather be where Rubens is, but he deserved it because he did a great job, and he’s now my closest rival after taking another seven points out of Vettel.”
Despite Hamilton’s late charge, Button felt he had the edge on the 24-year-old anyway, despite his late crash.
“Lewis started pushing on the final three laps, but I think I had him pretty much covered because it’s difficult to pass here, even with KERS,” added Button. “I don’t know what happened to him at the end, but it’s a great result for me.”
Renault’s Fernando Alonso, Kovalainen and BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld were the other drivers to collect points for fifth, sixth and seventh.
Leading Positions after Race (53 Laps):
1 Rubens Barrichello (Bra) Brawn GP 1hr 16mins 21.706secs,
2 Jenson Button (Gbr) Brawn GP 1:16:24.572,
3 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1:16:52.370,
4 Adrian Sutil (Ger) Force India 1:16:52.837,
5 Fernando Alonso (Spa) Renault 1:17:20.888,
6 Heikki Kovalainen (Fin) McLaren 1:17:22.399,
7 Nick Heidfeld (Ger) BMW Sauber 1:17:44.118,
8 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Red Bull 1:17:47.106,
9 Giancarlo Fisichella (Ita) Ferrari 1:17:48.506,
10 Kazuki Nakajima (Jpn) Williams 1:19:03.806,
11 Timo Glock (Ger) Toyota 1:19:05.631,
12 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) McLaren at 1 Lap,
13 Sebastien Buemi (Swi) Scuderia Toro Rosso at 1 Lap,
14 Jarno Trulli (Ita) Toyota at 1 Lap,
15 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Renault at 1 Lap,
16 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Williams at 1 Lap
17 Vitantonio Liuzzi (Ita) Force India 22 Laps completed,
18 Jaime Alguersuari (Spa) Scuderia Toro Rosso
19 Laps completed, 19 Robert Kubica (Pol) BMW Sauber 15 Laps completed,
20 Mark Webber (Aus) Red Bull 0 Laps completed