Saturday, May 23, 2009


Button wins Monaco GP
Jenson Button made it five wins from six grand prix starts in 2009 by cruising to victory on the streets of Monaco at the head of another Brawn GP 1-2.

The Briton was seldom troubled after making a good start from pole position, aided by team-mate Rubens Barrichello getting a blinder from P3 to jump ahead of front row starter Kimi Raikkonen and prevent the Ferrari driver from benefitting from being able to use his KERS to take the lead. Despite the Brawns being more heavily fuelled than the Finn, Button and Barrichello pulled away over the early laps, cementing the British team's path to victory.

Although Button was unable to hold the lead throughout, with the likes of Raikkonen, team-mate Felipe Massa and Williams' Nico Rosberg all taking turns at the front during the various pit-stop windows, there was little doubt that victory would come his way unless fate intervened.

Barrichello came under greater pressure as Ferrari's resurgence allowed both Raikkonen and Massa to become podium threats, but the Brazilian was ultimately able to back Button up in the third Brawn 1-2 of the year.

While nemesis McLaren's weekend went from bad to worse with Heikki Kovalainen's exit against the Swimming Pool barriers, Ferrari held on to secure a season's best third and fourth, while Mark Webber, Rosberg, Fernando Alonso and Sebastien Bourdais claimed the remaining points positions.

Rosberg had earlier made a daring move to pass Massa when the Brazilian was forced to back off and allow Sebastian Vettel through after overtaking the German by cutting the seafront chicane, but was not a threat after dropping away from a high of fourth. Webber thus proved to be Ferrari's biggest threat but, despite posting some of the fastest laps of the race, the Australian could not sustain his pace consistently and had to settle for fifth.

Alonso's decision to run long from the start did not pay dividends for Renault, while Bourdais had enough in hand to keep Giancarlo Fisichella at bay and deny Force India some measure of recompense after Adrian Sutil's 2008 disappointment. The German was never a factor this time around, and brought up the rear of the field, three places behind former F3 team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who only recovered to 13th from his rear of the grid start.

F1 » Monaco Grand Prix – Race result
1. Jenson Button Britain Brawn-Mercedes 78 laps 1hr 40m 44.282s
2. Rubens Barrichello Brazil Brawn-Mercedes +00m 07.6s
3. Kimi Raikkonen Finland Ferrari-Ferrari +00m 13.4s
4. Felipe Massa Brazil Ferrari-Ferrari +00m 15.1s
5. Mark Webber Australia Red Bull-Renault +00m 15.7s
6. Nico Rosberg Germany Williams-Toyota +00m 33.5s
7. Fernando Alonso Spain Renault-Renault +00m 37.8s
8. Sebastien Bourdais France Toro Rosso-Ferrari +00m 63.1s
9. Giancarlo Fisichella Italy Force India-Mercedes +00m 65.0s
10. Timo Glock Germany Toyota-Toyota +1 lap
11. Nick Heidfeld Germany BMW Sauber +1 lap
12. Lewis Hamilton Britain McLaren-Mercedes +1 lap
13. Jarno Trulli Italy Toyota-Toyota +1 lap
14. Adrian Sutil Germany Force India-Mercedes +1 lap
15. Kazuki Nakajima Japan Williams-Toyota +2 laps [DNF – accident]

Rtd Heikki Kovalainen Finland McLaren-Mercedes 51 laps completed accident
Rtd Robert Kubica Poland BMW Sauber 28 laps completed mechanical
Rtd Sebastian Vettel Germany Red Bull-Renault 15 laps completed accident
Rtd Nelson Piquet Jr Brazil Renault-Renault 10 laps completed accident damage
Rtd Sebastien Buemi Switzerland Toro Rosso-Ferrari 10 laps completed accident

Fastest lap:
Felipe Massa Brazil Ferrari-Ferrari 1m 15.154s lap 50


Button storms to Monaco F1 pole as Hamilton slips up
Formula 1 World Championship leader Jenson Button made it four pole positions out of six in 2009 in qualifying for this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix, pipping Ferrari rival Kimi Raikkonen to the top spot by the narrowest of margins – and now he is bidding to turn it into his fifth victory of the season too around a circuit where Lady Luck has never really shone upon the Brawn GP star before.

A KERS-equipped Raikkonen doubtless believed he had got the job done after keeping his powder dry until the final stages of a tense Q3 to masterfully snatch what appeared to be his first pole since Magny-Cours last year, but then Button – who had looked distinctly off-colour in both Q1 and Q2 – pulled a rabbit out of the hat in the very dying moments to demote the 2007 title-winner by a scant 0.025 seconds.

Behind the front row pairing, the sister Brawn entry of birthday boy Rubens Barrichello – 37 today – took third, despite having again seemed to have the legs of Button for much of the weekend so far, with Red Bull Racing ace Sebastian Vettel a slightly low-key fourth, Felipe Massa fifth in the second Ferrari and Nico Rosberg in the leading Williams sixth. Heikki Kovalainen, Mark Webber, Fernando Alonso and Kazuki Nakajima will complete the top ten.

Rosberg and Vettel may have made much of the early running, but when action stopped it was Button once more on top of the pile. In the last 23 years, on just one occasion has the Monaco Grand Prix been won from outside the top three on the grid – when Olivier Panis sensationally triumphed for Ligier back in 1996 – and Sir Jackie Stewart has repeatedly stated that concentration, consistency and confidence are key around the narrow, tortuous streets of the glamorous Principality. Button has only once finished in points in Monte Carlo in seven previous starts – that could be set to change on Sunday with interest.

Rosberg similarly flew in the low-fuel Q2, setting the initial time to beat before ultimately winding up fifth, as Kovalainen's raw pace showed what might have been for McLaren-Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton, by far the highest-profile victim of Q1 after expensively clouting the Mirabeau barriers. The Finn would ultimately be pipped by three tenths of a second in the final reckoning by a stunning effort from compatriot Raikkonen, with Webber a consistent third, Barrichello fourth, Rosberg fifth, Vettel sixth, Massa seventh, Button a comparatively lowly eighth – indeed at one point looking in danger of not actually making it through at all, following a mediocre first run and no great turn of speed from thereon in – Alonso ninth and Nakajima tenth, seeing Williams get both of its cars through to Q3 for the first time in 2009.

Out of the reckoning, by contrast, were Sébastien Buemi and Nelsinho Piquet, with the latter lightly kissing the wall on the exit of the Swimming Pool section before spinning backwards in Anthony Noghès Corner towards the end of his flying lap, only narrowly avoiding reversing into the barriers. Giancarlo Fisichella – who recovered well from losing his first two Q2 times for having cut the chicane on both occasions – the second Scuderia Toro Rosso of Sébastien Bourdais and the second Force India of Adrian Sutil similarly, if perhaps unsurprisingly, missed the cut for the top ten shoot-out.

With a number of big names fearing the Q1 chop around a circuit famous for throwing up surprises, both Toyotas took to the track immediately at the very beginning of qualifying, with Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock having struggled weekend-long with graining issues and getting heat into their rear tyres. There was greater drama by far, however, for 2008 pole-sitter Massa, who nosed his Ferrari into the unforgiving Armco barriers on the way into the Swimming Pool on his opening 'out' lap, necessitating a return to his pit box for his F2009 to receive some TLC.

The greatest casualty of Q1, though – and undoubtedly the most surprising – was defending race-winner Hamilton, who with eight minutes of the session remaining and having just set the fastest first sector of anyone locked up on the way into Mirabeau, causing the back end of his McLaren to step out and hit the barrier going through the corner, breaking his rear suspension in the process and instantly bringing out the red flags. The 24-year-old's first mistake of the weekend, it was the worst possible time for it to have been committed.

With STR rookie Buemi and the two Force Indias showing impressive form – indeed at one stage running one-two, with more than ten cars having set a representative time – a further upset hung in the air, and an upset certainly materialised.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Button scores strategic win in Barcelona

Brawn helps Button to strategic win in Barcelona
Jenson Button upheld his sensational start to the 2009 Formula 1 World Championship by strategically overcoming team-mate Rubens Barrichello for the second Brawn GP one-two of the campaign and his fourth triumph in five races in the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona.

The eight previous editions of the race in the Catalan capital had all been won from pole position, but for the first half of the 2009 event that record looked to be in danger of being broken. Button, though, had other ideas, and if anybody had any doubts at all about the 29-year-old's championship credentials in the lead-up to the weekend, they don't have them anymore.

Tensions were high in the build-up to the race that with the extra 80bhp afforded to him by his KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) technology at the start, Massa could upset the complexion of the grand prix considerably for the Brawn GP and Red Bull Racing protagonists by gaining a place or three at their expense – particularly as the even-numbered side of the grid had got away better in the earlier GP2 Series race.

The Brazilian did indeed gain at the start, pulling past Sebastian Vettel for third place on the run down to turn one, but with all eyes on the Ferrari as last year's world championship runner-up bravely forced his way by the Red Bull almost on the grass – mirrored by Lewis Hamilton further down the order – Barrichello's meteoric getaway to leap past Brawn GP team-mate Button went largely unnoticed.

What could not fail to be notice, however, was a pile-up further down the field on the exit of turn two, when in avoidance of Williams' Nico Rosberg, Jarno Trulli in the Toyota ran wide, and as he spun back onto the track again collected a whole gaggle of rivals, harpooning Adrian Sutil in the Force India and leaving the young German similarly out on the spot.

The unluckiest team of all, though, was undoubtedly Scuderia Toro Rosso, with Sébastien Bourdais and Sébastien Buemi tripping over each other in the confusion and taking one another out of contention as debris flew all across the circuit. The safety car was unsurprisingly swiftly deployed.

At the re-start the Brawns made good their escape, as behind the leaders Fernando Alonso used his KERS to perfection to dive alongside fifth-placed Mark Webber along the straight, but the Australian was not willing to give up without a fight, and in a supreme display of bravery produced a counter-punch to slice back down the inside into turn one and somehow slow his car down in time to retain the position.

As Massa proceeded to frustrate the intentions of RBR duo Vettel and Webber behind him and increasingly spoil the Milton Keynes-based squad's afternoon, allowing the Brawn pace-setters to trade blows and fastest lap times at the front and edge further and further away. Barrichello would significantly increase his margin over Button by dint of a lightning-quick opening pit-stop, with the heavily-fuelled Rosberg now between the pair, but it soon afterwards became apparent that whilst the Brazilian was sticking to his planned three-stop strategy, his British team-mate had switched over to a two-stopper in an attempt to turn the tables – meaning the pressure was on.

Also crucial during the first round of pit visits was Red Bull's failure to clear Massa with Vettel, as a fuel rig delay prevented the sport's youngest-ever grand prix-winner from clearing his quarry. Worse still for the energy-backed outfit's chances, Webber suffered a slow 'out' lap that dropped the New South Wales native several spots down the order and out of podium contention.

Massa crept across the line in sixth a scant 1.4 seconds ahead of Nick Heidfeld – who drove well from a lowly grid position – only to run out of fuel on the slowing-down lap, with Rosberg stealing the final marker in eighth. The finishers were completed by Hamilton in a distant ninth on distinctly worn tyres, Timo Glock a disappointing tenth for Toyota, Robert Kubica a long way behind BMW team-mate Heidfeld in eleventh, Nelsinho Piquet twelfth, Kazuki Nakajima 13th and Giancarlo Fisichella 14th and last.

Aside from the first lap casualties, the only other drivers to fail to reach the chequered flag were a KERS-less Kimi Raikkonen and compatriot Heikki Kovalainen. Both lost drive early on, though the former at least enjoyed a lively scrap with Heidfeld, Hamilton and Kubica before his retirement. This time last year Raikkonen secured what remains his latest F1 victory, whilst Jenson Button equalled his best finish in eight starts around the Circuit de Catalunya. How times change. Driver of the Day: Mark Webber (second podium of the season courtesy of a solid charge)

Pos No Driver Team Laps Time/Retired Grid Pts
1 22 Jenson Button Brawn-Mercedes 66 1:37:19.202 1 10
2 23 Rubens Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes 66 +13.0 secs 3 8
3 14 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 66 +13.9 secs 5 6
4 15 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 66 +18.9 secs 2 5
5 7 Fernando Alonso Renault 66 +43.1 secs 8 4
6 3 Felipe Massa Ferrari 66 +50.8 secs 4 3
7 6 Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber 66 +52.3 secs 13 2
8 16 Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota 66 +65.2 secs 9 1
9 1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 65 +1 Lap 14
10 10 Timo Glock Toyota 65 +1 Lap 6
11 5 Robert Kubica BMW Sauber 65 +1 Lap 10
12 8 Nelsinho Piquet Renault 65 +1 Lap 12
13 17 Kazuki Nakajima Williams-Toyota 65 +1 Lap 11
14 21 Giancarlo Fisichella Force India-Mercedes 65 +1 Lap 20
Ret 4 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 17 +49 Laps 16
Ret 2 Heikki Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 7 Gearbox 18
Ret 9 Jarno Trulli Toyota 0 Accident 7
Ret 12 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 0 Accident 15
Ret 11 Sebastien Bourdais STR-Ferrari 0 Accident 17
Ret 20 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 0 Accident 19


Last-gasp Button storms to Barcelona F1 pole
World Championship leader Jenson Button has proved that Brawn GP are not easily going to be knocked off their perch at the top of the Formula 1 tree in 2009, by flirting with disaster before pulling a magnificent last-gasp lap out of the bag to steal pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona this weekend.

Down in eighth position as the clock ticked down towards the chequered flag in Q3 around the Circuit de Catalunya, the 29-year-old – already boasting a twelve-point advantage in the drivers' standings four races into the current campaign – crossed the line to begin his final flying effort with barely two seconds to spare and, fired-up, produced arguably one of the finest laps of his career in the top flight to leap to the top of the timing screens and re-instate the Brawn supremacy at the head of the F1 pecking order.

Alongside Button on the starting grid on Sunday will be Red Bull Racing star Sebastian Vettel, with the second Brawn of Rubens Barrichello – a driver who for much of the session had looked like claiming his first pole in almost five years – third and Felipe Massa taking fourth in the top Ferrari, making up in some way for the crushing disappointment the Scuderia had suffered in Q1, if not quite managing to replicate his earlier practice form when the two scarlet machines had lapped half a second clear of any of the opposition.

Vettel's challenge was spoiled somewhat when the Shanghai winner ran wide through turn twelve, with Mark Webber backing the young German up in fifth in the sister RBR, and Toyota's Bahrain Grand Prix front row pairing Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli slipping off the pace a touch in sixth and seventh, with barely anything to choose between the German-Italian combo as the Cologne-based outfit's TF109 appeared to behave better on heavier fuel than on light.

The top ten will be rounded out by fans' favourite Fernando Alonso in the sole Renault to make the Q3 shoot-out, Nico Rosberg for Williams and Robert Kubica in a BMW that has clearly improved – but seemingly not by as much as the team had anticipated.

Q2 saw Williams' Kazuki Nakajima, under-fire Renault sophomore Nelsinho Piquet, Nick Heidfeld – whose qualifying preparations were hampered by an accident in FP3 that had heavily damaged the front end of his BMW-Sauber F1.09 – defending F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton and Scuderia Toro Rosso rookie Sébastien Buemi all fall by the wayside, with the latter skating off-piste and through the turn nine gravel trap, kissing the circuit barrier along the way but nonetheless once again out-qualifying his more experienced team-mate Sébastien Bourdais.

Up at the sharp end, meanwhile, a late flyer from Barrichello nicked the top spot, with both Red Bulls continuing to show well, Button and Rosberg narrowly saving their skin on their final efforts and Trulli and Alonso only just scraping into the top ten showdown as a mere two tenths of a second blanketed the leading five contenders.

Earlier on, all drivers had headed out in the first phase of qualifying on the softer-compound Bridgestone rubber, with nobody apparently willing to take any risks any more after seeing big names such as Massa, Kubica and Webber crash out as Q1 casualties already this season by gambling on making it through on the lesser-favoured tyres in order to save the better ones for race day. Well, nobody except Ferrari – as Barcelona in turn would claim its own high-profile victim.

Whilst Massa set the pace this time from Webber, Button, Vettel and Rosberg, all eyes were down at the bottom of the order as the seconds counted down, with Heikki Kovalainen – delayed by a hydraulics failure in Friday practice – home hero Alonso, Trulli, Barrichello, Kubica and Heidfeld all looking to be in danger of missing the cut.

1. Jenson Button, Brawn GP, 646kg
2. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 651.5
3. Rubens Barrichello, Brawn GP, 649.5
4. Felipe Massa, Ferrari, 655
5. Mark Webber, Red Bull, 651.5
6. Timo Glock, Toyota, 646.5
7. Jarno Trulli, Toyota, 655.5
8. Fernando Alonso, Renault, 645
9. Nico Rosberg, Williams, 668
10. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber, 660
11. Kazuki Nakajima, Williams, 676.6
12. Nelson Piquet, Renault, 677.4
13. Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber, 676.3
14. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, 683
15. Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso, 678
16. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 673
17. Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso, 669
18. Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren, 657
19. Adrian Sutil, Force India, 675
20. Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India, 656