Button back on song in title chase
Jenson Button might have seen his team-mate Rubens Barrichello chip another two points out of his championship lead at the Italian Grand Prix but the Englishman was not feigning his delight in the post-race interviews.
Monza was a breakthrough race for Button. Such was the lead that he built up in winning six of the season's first seven races that it would be wrong to say his title challenge was ever really going off the rails, but his second place behind Barrichello on Sunday certainly appeared to be something of a new beginning.
The result ended a slump that had seen Button fail to finish on the podium for five consecutive races. And while some of that stuttering was certainly down to the Brawn car, there was no doubt that its driver seemed to have gone off the boil as well.
Italy was Brawn's first one-two since Monaco in May, but Barrichello won as recently as the European Grand Prix in late August, a race Button finished down in seventh place after a very messy weekend. Similarly, while neither Brawn driver scored well in Belgium two weeks ago, Barrichello qualified fourth while his team-mate was 10 places further back on the grid.
That result in Belgium appears to have been a bit of a watershed for Button. He had appeared a man struggling to cope under pressure at Spa, but observers say he has been almost like a different person in Italy.
His differing moods at the start of the two weekends in Belgium and Italy are an example of that.
In Spa, a tense Button had a row with British newspaper journalists when they questioned him on what was causing his poor form. In Monza on Thursday, by contrast, Button talked about how he was looking at the final five races of the season as a mini championship into which he was heading with a 16-point advantage.
It is easy to read too much into these things - Button insists that he has been driving in the same way throughout the season - but whatever it was, something clicked at Monza. He was on the pace throughout the weekend, more comfortable in the car than he had been for some time, and he looked a potential winner for the first time since Turkey in June.
In the end, that win didn't happen but the two Brawn drivers were neck-and-neck throughout the grand prix and the result, with a bit of luck, could easily have gone either way.
Not only that, but Brawn's title rivals Red Bull had another poor race, with Sebastian Vettel inheriting a single point for eighth place following Lewis Hamilton's last-lap crash and Mark Webber failing to score after a first-lap retirement. So the title battle is now effectively an in-house fight between Button and Barrichello.
"It's a great day," Button said. "I was a long way in front of Vettel, who got a point because he finished eighth after Lewis crashed. Rubens closed on me by two points but I've still got a 14-point lead. I would much rather have won the race but I'm happy.
"I have a very tough team-mate. He's competitive and he's shown it for the last few races. It's going to be a tough challenge but I'm looking forward to it."
It might sound strange for a driver to describe finishing second to his team-mate in a straight fight as a "great day", but Button clearly has the big picture on his mind - and it appears in sharper focus than it has for some time.
Barrichello headed into the race at Monza needing to take an average of slightly more than three points out of Button's lead every grand prix to win the title - and he only managed two.
Even if the momentum is clearly with the Brazilian, Button must fancy his chances of being able to defend a 14-point lead over a man in the same car over the next four grands prix. And he will be helped in that task by the fact that there are other drivers who seem capable of taking points off either or both of them.
As Barrichello said after his victory, none of the remaining races should hold major problems for Brawn or Button. On paper, only Japan is likely to be a race they cannot win. And Red Bull's expected pace there is far less of a problem after their problems in Monza.
As long as Button can hold on to his recovered form, then, winning that world title suddenly looks a whole lot easier as he leaves Italy than it did when he arrived.