Sunday, August 23, 2009


'Delighted' Barrichello won the Valencia F1 Grand Prix

Rubens Barrichello dedicated his victory in the European Grand Prix in Valencia this weekend to his injured countryman Felipe Massa – as the man many had written off as a has-been heading for retirement vaulted himself back in to genuine championship contention courtesy of as aggressive and determined a drive as he has produced all season.

Trailing Brawn GP team-mate Jenson Button by 26 points entering the meeting, Barrichello knew Valencia was effectively a last-chance saloon for his title aspirations – and in one fell swoop, he has cut that deficit by practically a third. Quicker than the Briton for the majority of the weekend, third place in qualifying was achieved despite carrying nigh-on ten kilograms more fuel aboard his car than the two front row-sitting McLaren-Mercedes' of Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen ahead of him on the grid.

That marked the veteran Brazilian out as race day favourite in many observers' eyes, and he did not disappoint. Whilst Button fell down outside the points in the initial phase of the grand prix, Barrichello maintained a steady gap to Kovalainen in second throughout his opening stint, and by virtue of a succession of three supremely fast lap times after the Finn had made his first pit visit, successfully jumped the second of the two MP4-24s during the stops.

Following that, he went on to wage a cat-and-mouse duel with leader Hamilton, and when the reigning F1 World Champion found himself delayed at his second stop by his tyres not being ready, the wily old cat pounced. Almost five seconds ahead when the stops had all shaken out, Barrichello went on to preserve and occasionally extend that advantage all the way to the chequered flag for a supremely popular success and his nation's 100th triumph at the highest level.

“What a fantastic day!” enthused the 37-year-old São Paulista after bringing to an end an 85-race drought and registering the 100th Brazilian grand prix victory. “I am so delighted with the win after what was a really tough race out there. It's just amazing and a weekend that I will never forget. Even after five years, you don't forget how to win and the feeling is so good!

“Although we were fuelled heavier than the McLarens, I knew that I would have to push really hard throughout the race. My engineer Jock [Clear] was great today; he really encouraged me and helped me to maintain the pace, and the team did a fantastic job with two excellent pit-stops.

“I want to thank everyone who has supported me, and this victory is dedicated to the whole of Brazil but particularly to my great friend Felipe Massa. I've been with him last week and he truly deserves a sort of dedication like this, and I hope the whole of Brazil is hoping for his best recovery. I just hope he is back racing against me soon.”

Barrichello's flawless performance also drew effusive praise from Brawn GP team principal Ross Brawn, who will now face the unenviable decision of whether to put the brakes on the sport's most experienced competitor of all time in order to focus solely on Button's chase of the crown, or let both of his drivers continue to duel it out until season's end, possibly to their own detriment.

“That was a fantastic performance from Rubens today to take his first and Brawn GP's seventh win of the season,” remarked the Englishman, whose team prior to this weekend had not won since the Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul back in early June. “We knew that having a heavier fuel load would give us an advantage over the cars in front, but Rubens had to drive at his absolute best to have a chance of victory.

“He pushed exactly where he needed to. When we got on the radio and told him that he had to put in some quick laps, he delivered. It was a great performance and an extremely well-deserved victory. We're all delighted for him. Thanks and credit is also due to everyone at the track today and at the factory in Brackley for all their hard work over the past couple of weeks, and to our colleagues at Mercedes-Benz High Performance Engines in Brixworth for their dedication and the performance of our engine.”

European Grand Prix - Race result

1. Rubens Barrichello Brazil Brawn-Mercedes 57 laps 1hr 35m 51.289s
2. Lewis Hamilton Britain McLaren-Mercedes +2.3s
3. Kimi Raikkonen Finland Ferrari-Ferrari +15.9s
4. Heikki Kovalainen Finland McLaren-Mercedes +20.0s
5. Nico Rosberg Germany Williams-Toyota +20.8s
6. Fernando Alonso Spain Renault-Renault +27.7s
7. Jenson Button Britain Brawn-Mercedes +34.9s
8. Robert Kubica Poland BMW Sauber +36.6s

9. Mark Webber Australia Red Bull-Renault +44.9s
10. Adrian Sutil Germany Force India-Mercedes +47.9s
11. Nick Heidfeld Germany BMW Sauber +48.8s
12. Giancarlo Fisichella Italy Force India-Mercedes +63.6s
13. Jarno Trulli Italy Toyota-Toyota +64.5s
14. Timo Glock Germany Toyota-Toyota +86.5s
15. Romain Grosjean France Renault-Renault +91.7s
16. Jaime Alguersuari Spain Toro Rosso-Ferrari +1 lap
17. Luca Badoer Italy Ferrari-Ferrari +1 lap
18. Kazuki Nakajima Japan Williams-Toyota +3 laps

Rtd. Sebastien Buemi Switzerland Toro Rosso-Ferrari +16 laps
Rtd. Sebastian Vettel Germany Red Bull-Renault 23 laps completed (engine)

Fastest lap:

Timo Glock Germany Toyota-Toyota 1m 38.683s


Hamilton leads McLaren F1 lock-out in Valencia

Lewis Hamilton followed up his Hungarian Grand Prix triumph by scorching to pole position for the European Grand Prix on a baking day in Valencia – but the reigning F1 World Champion's glory was only secured by a late error from team-mate Heikki Kovalainen that arguably cost the Finn the top spot on the starting grid.

Still riding the crest of a wave from his Budapest glory – his first podium of the season, let alone first victory – Hamilton has been quick all weekend around the challenging Circuit Ricardo Tormo, and along with Kovalainen succeeded in achieving McLaren-Mercedes' first front row lock-out in the top flight since Hungary last year.

There were the odd mistakes along the way – in both Q1 and Q3 – but that aside the Stevenage-born ace was in peerless form, and pipped Kovalainen by a scant three hundredths of a second at the close as the Suomussalmi native twitched his way to the line through the last sector and compromised his entry into the final turn.

The only man capable of holding a candle to the two Silver Arrows was Rubens Barrichello, as the hotter temperatures under the Spanish sun saw Brawn GP, in the words of team principal Ross Brawn, 'back to dealing with a normal car again' – but world championship leader Jenson Button was only fifth, crucially behind Red Bull Racing title rival Sebastian Vettel, another driver to take a brief excursion into the scenery along the way.

Mark Webber in the sister RBR confirmed fears that the energy drinks-backed outfit is on the back foot this weekend by lapping half a second adrift of Vettel in ninth – the Australian's second-worst qualifying performance of the season to-date, compounded by a near-miss with the wall during Q2. Ahead of him will be Kimi Raikkonen in the lead Ferrari, Williams' Nico Rosberg and home hero Fernando Alonso in the Renault, with Robert Kubica fading to tenth in the final reckoning having on occasion threatened to break into the top four.

There was no such disappointment, however, over in the McLaren garage, where the 2009 campaign has come alive with a vengeance in recent weeks. Back at the start of the year, Hamilton had written off all hopes of even winning a single race this season. He now stands on the brink of triumphing twice in quick succession.

Both McLarens were similarly quick in Q2, with Hamilton and Kovalainen winding up second and third-fastest respectively, but both men were pipped in the final moments by Barrichello, with the remainder of the Q3 graduates composed of Vettel, Rosberg, Button, Webber, Alonso, Kubica and Raikkonen. The latter, indeed, made it through by a scant four hundredths of a second, in so doing demoting Nick Heidfeld into the Q2 abyss, though eleventh nonetheless equalled the BMW star's best qualifying showing of 2009 to-date.

Joining the German in the drop were countryman Adrian Sutil – disappointed with twelfth in the leading Force India, after proving rapid indeed throughout practice and Q1 and with the Silverstone-based squad reckoning to have gained a full seven tenths of a second since the British Grand Prix two months ago – Timo Glock in the Toyota, Renault debutant Romain Grosjean and Scuderia Toro Rosso ace Sébastien Buemi. Grosjean, for his part, impressed on his maiden appearance at the highest level, lapping within four tenths of double F1 World Champion team-mate Alonso, who only narrowly made the cut himself.

The five Q1 casualties, finally, were composed of Giancarlo Fisichella – spoiling Force India's day after both VJM02s had shown well up the order for much of the session – Williams' Kazuki Nakajima, who rolled to a halt with three minutes to go, Jarno Trulli on a poor day for Toyota, Scuderia Toro Rosso rookie Jaime Alguersuari and, perhaps unsurprisingly, Luca Badoer.

1. Lewis Hamilton Britain McLaren-Mercedes 1m 39.498s
2. Heikki Kovalainen Finland McLaren-Mercedes 1m 39.532s
3. Rubens Barrichello Brazil Brawn-Mercedes 1m 39.563s
4. Sebastian Vettel Germany Red Bull-Renault 1m 39.789s
5. Jenson Button Britain Brawn-Mercedes 1m 39.821s
6. Kimi Raikkonen Finland Ferrari-Ferrari 1m 40.144s
7. Nico Rosberg Germany Williams-Toyota 1m 40.185s
8. Fernando Alonso Spain Renault-Renault 1m 40.236s
9. Mark Webber Australia Red Bull-Renault 1m 40.239s
10. Robert Kubica Poland BMW Sauber 1m 40.512s

11. Nick Heidfeld Germany BMW Sauber 1m 38.826s
12. Adrian Sutil Germany Force India-Mercedes 1m 38.846s
13. Timo Glock Germany Toyota-Toyota 1m 38.991s
14. Romain Grosjean France Renault-Renault 1m 39.040s
15. Sebastien Buemi Switzerland Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m 39.514s

16. Giancarlo Fisichella Italy Force India-Mercedes 1m 39.531s
17. Kazuki Nakajima Japan Williams-Toyota 1m 39.795s
18. Jarno Trulli Italy Toyota-Toyota 1m 39.807s
19. Jaime Alguersuari Spain Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m 39.925s
20. Luca Badoer Italy Ferrari-Ferrari 1m 41.413s