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