Gearbox penalty hits Button's Suzuka hopes

By Tony Dodgins

An unscheduled gearbox change means that Jenson Button's hopes of a second successive Suzuka victory have been hit hard by a five place grid penalty for Sunday's forthcoming Japanese Grand Prix.

It was a gearbox problem that caused Lewis Hamilton's McLaren to retire from the lead of the recent Singapore GP and post-race examination of Button's gearbox after Jenson had finished second to Sebastian Vettel, revealed a similar problem.

Hamilton's non-finish means that he can start the Suzuka weekend with a new 'box without penalty, but Button will take a five place hit on grid position.

It means that Button's outside hopes of a title challenge now look even more remote. He comes into the Japanese GP weekend 75 points (the equivalent of three victories) behind championship leader Fernando Alonso, with just six races remaining.

McLaren's hopes of challenging for the drivers' title now seem to rest with Hamilton, who last week announced his departure for Mercedes in 2013. The 2008 champion heads to Suzuka 52 points behind Alonso but with McLaren in a rich vein of form, having won three of the last four races and led them all.

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