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Button wins, Barrichello and Vettel lose
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Button wins, Barrichello and Vettel lose
Posted By:   |  10 May 2009   |  4:10 pm GMT  |  0 comments

This is starting to remind me of 1992 when Nigel Mansell took a very good car and dominated the championship with it, after years of seeming like the world title might elude him.

The difference is that then the Williams Renault was massively superior to the rest and Mansell was far faster than team mate Patrese.

This situation looks the same, but it’s not. The Brawn is not a huge step ahead of the rest, in fact the Red Bull has now squandered two god chances to win in Bahrain and Barcelona. And as for the team mate rivalry, Button did the business over Barrichello in qualifying, but the race was Rubens’ to lose after the first stint. The team switched the strategies and the race went Jenson’s way.

And after the race Rubens came out with an extraordinary statement and said in a live interview on US Speed TV channel, “If I get a whiff that Ross favoured Jenson today I will hang up my helmet immediately. But I don’t think he would do that..”

A lot of people here suspect that Barrichello might have been on the wrong end of things. The original plan was for both drivers to do three pit stops today, because the computer said it was faster. But it is fraught with problems of traffic.

Button pitted first, having lost the lead at the start to Barrichello and was switched onto a two stop, with a long middle stint. The reason for this was that he was going to emerge behind Rosberg anyway in a very heavy Williams and this would have wrecked his strategy.

Barrichello pitted a lap later but was kept on a three stop. He rejoined behind Massa and Vettel, but both pitted the next lap so he was back in the lead two laps after his stop and was able to motor in clear air.

The second set of tyres worked well, the third set not so well and he lost the vital ground he needed. He saw what should have been a certain win, slip away from him.

Sebastian Vettel also lost the race today. The Red Bull driver once again spent almost the entire race stuck behind another car, in this case Felipe Massa. Massa got him off the start line and that was it. Only in the final laps when Massa was running out of fuel and had to slow down did Vettel get past him.

Red Bull has had a marginally faster car than the Brawn in the last two races and yet he has ended up doing the races at someone else’s pace because he’s been behind a slower car.

Here I believe he would have won the race, especially as his car was the only one which could get the hard tyres working properly in the final stint.

“I was on the wrong strategy,” said a disconsolate Vettel afterwards. But that mistake was made on Saturday. What Red Bull have not done is fuel him a little lighter to get pole and then be sure of getting a clear run at the front. The Red Bull is a faster qualifying car than the Brawn, so why not use it and get to the front of the grid, from where you can control things.

The way they have done it, he’s twice now been vulnerable to KERS cars, Hamilton in Bahrain and Massa here and both times they have wrecked his race.

Interesting cameo in the Red Bull area after the race where someone close to Mark Webber, who drove brilliantly to leapfrog Massa and Vettel and grab a podium, said, ‘I’m glad someone here is happy,” implying that the place was like a morgue because the chosen one had not got the anticipated result…

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  1. Joel Heaton says:

    I still don’t get why he was pulled in so early for his second stop, James. At the first stop (lap 19), the display on the TV showed he had been topped up with enough fuel for 18 laps, but his next stop (lap 31) was only twelve laps later. If he had actually been able to stay out on track for five or six laps, it could have made enough of a difference – he was lapping in the 1:22s, whilst Jenson was in the 1:24s at the beginning of his next stint.

    Still, having not been brought in later, he was given another 18 laps (again, according to the display) which would give him enough fuel to make it to somewhere around lap 54 (as he would now have had around 24 laps worth). That would also have given him a chance, with Jenson on the hard tyres for a longer period.

    Obviously those can only be semi-accurate, but I don’t see his fuel consumption being so massive as to cut through that much fuel.

    I just find it puzzling. I don’t think there was any favouritism involved, just that some poor choices were made. :(

  2. pat says:

    I watched the GP2 this morning. It was exciting to watch the close racing and hence the passing. I watched F1 today. The only excitement happened at the start of the race. I truly love the sport; what is happening for Brawn and Red Bull is great. But I have to admit, if I was a novice trying to watch the sport to gain familiarity and become a fan, I think I would be bored.
    From across the pond – Canada
    pat

  3. Rhys Xanthis says:

    Wow…Nice to get some regular good finishes for my countryman Mark Webber! Just to see him racing without any worry of mechanical troubles is…well, it’s just fantastic. To make the move like he did on Alonso at the restart was great to watch.

    To me, this race just highlighted why refuelling must NOT be banned for 2010. The regulations, as proposed for now, would make every race a Valencia style procession, which none of us want.

  4. caanan says:

    Seems like everything has just aligned for Button this year… Must be an amazing feeling for him after the last couple of seasons. Rubens might want to watch his comments because he is easily replacable and just about anyone of the top 15 drivers could collect the points he has. He is a great number two and very fast on a good day, but he might want to chill on any thoughts of ever obtaining a WDC. If anything, I think he’ll get “one” win this season, much in the way Heikki did last year. He should just be happy he is not watching F1 on satelite from Brazil this year.

    Good result for Webber. He needs to buy Massa dinner.

  5. DJP says:

    Interesting comment from Button/Webber on the live feed immediately as Webber entered the podium reception area, too…!

    Brawn seemed surprised that Webber had made 3rd… and Webber was prepared to explain it quite candidly, it appeared!

  6. Dominic J says:

    I did a similiar look at the championship on my blog. I worked out that only Vettel and Barrichello still have the title “in their hands”. Anyone else would require someone else besides them to beat Jenson a few times (sure, this will happen anyway) to have a chance of pulling things back. With 12 races left, Webber, in 4th is 25.5 points behind. That is more than 2 per race.

    It is only a matter of time before the constructors’ race will have the same look.

    This is why that “whiff of Ross favour[ing] Jenson” is so crucial.

  7. Gabriel says:

    Amazing that Red Bull didn’t try anything different strategy-wise during the race to get past Massa. I think they’re showing a bit of a lack of race craft, especially in terms of leading/winning grand prix. Shame really, cos they make the Brawns probably better than they really are.

  8. Daniel says:

    Hi James, you mentioned that Vettel was the only person who was able to get the hard tyres working well in the final stint…How did his lap times on the harder tyre compare to Button’s? I thought Jenson seemed to be doing one of the best jobs on the hard tyres…

    Thanks for the great blog and twitter feed!

  9. Northern Munkee says:

    Hey James,

    I can’t help thinking after the superb Jenson pole lap, and thought it telling when Ross described the lap as “showing his class”, I had flash of him (deja vu) saying something like that of Michael Schumacher, that a tipping point to Jenson had been reached in the balance of equal status in Brawn for the drivers, and that Rubens was no.2, if not in name, from there on, only subtly, just favoured on the calls etc, when he does his pit stops or the strategy calls.

    There’s some talk that Rubens was offered the same switch to 2 stops, and it was his decision, and it that might have got lost in the comms, anything you heard?

    Shirly, the driver can’t be expected to make the final call on a strategy change? Or expected to make sense, when you are driving balls out. Its got to be from the pitwall strategist, with all info at finger tips, knowing and hearing what s going on with other drivers.

    At the time when it became clear RB was 3 stopping, or JB 2 stopping, that was when JB had fallen back most of the back straight after the first stop, it was clear JB had put on more fuel, it was clear RB then had to build 25secs or so lead in I forget how many laps, but it would was something like needing over 1.2-1.5 secs a lap over JB to get in and out still ahead of JB, so that with one more stop each to do by the finish that they could both pit one last time. 1.2-1.5 was never realistic, for RB over JB, so it was race over from there, as RB couldn’t change to a 2 stop because it would require a really long fuel, at RB’s 2nd stop, and a long run on the tyres, and which would have meant needing an even greater advantage per lap (1.5-1.7) in RB’s second stint.

    So for me if they (pit wall) thought it good to then to change JB to a 2 stop, it was just as valid for RB he might have come out still a second ahead of JB, who would have struggled to pass him again, then again out of the last stops.

    And unless JB blitzed on an in or out lap, entirely possibly we’ve seen JB do that (in very schummi style) then Jenson would have struggled to overtake on track. By splitting the strategy we woz robbed of a straight race, and incident, blowing up the motors, and RB got the thin end of the deal IMHO, and I can’t help thinking that was deliberate. Button is looking Schumacher-esque, and favoured IMHO with (Ross?) Brawn’s help.

    And emotional, pre debrief, and off message, I think Rubens smelt the faint aroma of the same rat. And is now shooting a warning across the bows of the team (probably after pre season commitment to equality) that he’ll not be a number 2 again, I have say that horse has already bolted, and he won’t be close enough to Jenson in the points, by mid season, with the red bull a better car, and a threat, to say no to a contractual obligation to support the team’s leading driver for the championship, in the seond half of the season, which will be Jenson. Unless Rubens beats Jenson at the next gp, but shirly it is too late already?,And will he be allowed to anyway? Ross has sprinkled ‘Schummi Voodoo over Jenson…

    What say you?

  10. Northern Munkee says:

    I’ve also noticed, watching a re run that Vettel had a problem with his right front wheel change in his first pit stop at the same time as Massa was pitting, which may have contributed to him being unable to jump him. Ending his chance of a win.

  11. Rich says:

    Very interested to read your final paragraph James. Perhaps Mark should get on to his old mukka DC for some tips about not being the ‘chosen one.’

    Plenty of good stuff this weekend as always.

  12. Fausto Cunha says:

    Rubens didn’t win the race because his team didn’t want him to win the race that’s the only true.

    Even if he came out behind Rosberg on a two stop strategy like James analyses, it would be ok for him and for his team.

    The only driver making a three stop strategy was the guy leading the race, Rubens had the track position and fuel strategy over Jenson he just needed his team to give him the same strategy they give Jenson, they favoured Jenson that’s very simple and very sad.

  13. Rik M says:

    Dry your eyes Rubens! You were beaten fair and square. Jenson was switched on to the less optimal strategy in order to protect his 2nd place. Rubens remained on the optimal strategy for 1st place and went on to loose it.

    I think DC got it right when he observed that Rubens must be thinking “what must I do to beat this guy” as he did many times previously.

    Eddie Irvine also famously described being in the same team as Schumacher as being “hit over the head with a cricket bat”. Now I think that might be a bit strong for Jenson, but history is eerily repeating itself for Rubens.

    I just hope animosity doesn’t spring up, which would spoil the great atmosphere around Brawn.

    Thanks James for the blogs and keep up the good work!!

  14. Josh Gant says:

    Knowing how much faster Vettel was than Massa, I cannot understand why Red Bull didn’t ensure that Vettel get out in front of Massa on the first stop. They didn’t need to get the *exact* amount of fuel in the car at that point – they needed to get out in front of Massa so Vettel could walk away during the second stint.

    The fuel man could have been looking down the pit lane watching Massa approach, waiting to pull it out with time for Vettel to slip in front. ??

  15. Brian G says:

    Pat, I too am from Canada (SW Ontario) and it’s a fat chance a novice would have gaining knowledge of F1 by watching the abysmal Rogers Cable coverage.

    The BBC broadcast we see is great but from 5 minutes before the lights go out to the jumping out of the cars at the end (+ a few minutes of the interviews, time permitting) only.

    I used to say that the SPEED coverage was mediocre but I have to admit I miss it now that it is blacked out in our area this year. At least with the longer coverage with knowledgeable commentators (Hobbs & Matchett) and Peter Windsor’s insight, a novice can get a sense of the sport.

  16. James Allen says:

    That’s too many questions! Rubens was not offered the switch to two stops, because it would have put him out behind Rosberg. As it was Rubens came out in front and had a clear track. I do not believe that there is a contractual obligation beyond serving the team. However, at this stage, given that Brawn will be caught by Ferrari, Red Bull maybe others, it makes sense for Jenson to maximise his advantage as it may well bring him the championship. Button is doing a great job.

  17. The Flying Finn says:

    I have no idea why TSN chose to cut their own coverage and force speed to black out theirs. I mean if you are not interested enough to put on a good show let us what someone elses!! Luckily I have been able to get the BBC feed from the internet send me a email and I’d be glad of help. You can catch all the pre-race and pre-qualy goodies + all the practice sessions !

  18. Sparhawk says:

    Dear Mr. Allen, I have a question for you, although it’s a bit complicated. It seems to me that Red Bull has now the fastest car and needs to improve their strategy and maybe the current package. For now they are working on the DD and from what I heard it is not easy to modify the car to it. Is this not eerily similar to the Newey efforts in McLaren in 2003? They had a very good revised car in the beginning of the 2003 season and yet Newey went to develop something superb, which never came. Now he is trying to add the DD, but it can not work as expected and this would be tough for Red Bull. What do you think?

  19. Jon says:

    I can only imagine the uproar if it the drivers were reversed and it was Jenson that looked like he lost a certain win due to the team. But I don’t expect much agreement from English websites.

    Jenson had the win handed on a platter, the same way that Webber had 3rd handed on a platter. Both did great jobs, but were gifted good fortunes with their rivals having their arms pulled behind their backs. At least with Vettel you can say it was Massa, where as with Rubens I still don’t understand what happened. Well I do and it’s smart for the championship, but it conflicts with Brawn’s version of events.

  20. James Allen says:

    It is hard to fit it onto that car and there is a small fear that it might spoil it. They say no. We’ll find out soon because they are trying to get it out for Monaco, where it will help them a lot. Red Bull and Ferrari are the key to the season. They are the ones most likely to get in front of the Brawn cars on pace and from there, maybe Vettel or Webber can mount a championship challenge. As for similarities to McLaren, this is very different. This is a clean sheet of paper design which has really worked well straight out of the box.

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