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Webber powerplay heaps pressure on Brawn
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Webber powerplay heaps pressure on Brawn
Posted By: James Allen  |  12 Jul 2009   |  5:12 pm GMT  |  25 comments

Mark Webber took the first win of his long career today in commanding style, surviving a drive through penalty for ramming Rubens Barrichello at the start to take the chequered flag and give Red Bull its third win of the season. Webber’s Red Bull team mate Sebastian Vettel was second and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa third.

Photo: Getty Images

We thought that Silverstone may have been a turning point of the season, with the almost brand new Red Bull car which dominated the weekend. Today we got confirmation that it was – and it is not just because of the high speed corners that the car was quick there. They are now the fastest car out there on any kind of circuit and as Ross Brawn and his team huddle in their debrief tonight they have a lot to chew over. Rubens Barrichello’s outburst on the BBC is the talk of the paddock tonight and Brawn looked furious when I saw him after he learned about it. This is the second time that Barrichello has come out with some strong words against his own team, the other occasion being Barcelona.

I can understand him being unhappy that the team switched the order of the final pit stops, giving Jenson the chance to pass him, but Jenson was faster at that stage of the race. Nevertheless it again gives a clear signal that the team wants Jenson to fight for the title and the extra point he gained here may be vital at the end of the season, given how quickly his lead is being eroded by Vettel and Webber.

But what cost Rubens a shot at victory and certainly a podium was the refuelling issue at the second stop. The first rig did not work so they had to go for a second one. Rubens thought he was fuelled to the finish but wasn’t. I can’t see Ross forgiving him for the way he spoke about the team and about Ross. He’s been on the wrong end of things in the past at Ferrari and this is uncomfortable territory for both men.

It’s always a bad sign when a team starts arguing with itself in defeat and they have to rally from this low point.

Here the Brawns were beaten on pace and they were also put into a corner on race tactics, as they were obliged to run a three stop strategy because they could not get the hard tyre to work and yet they could only run short stints on the soft because of the severe graining problems they encountered.

Red Bull had no such problems and were able to stick the hard tyres on Webber’s car at the first stop and watch as he pulled out fantastic lap times to stay in touch with Barrichello, despite having lost 15 seconds due to the drive through penalty.

Barrichello ran the early part of his second stint behind Massa’s Ferrari and lost time, while Webber was able to reel him in.

The wider problem for Brawn is that Red Bull sensed back in March that they could win this championship and have thrown their not insignificant resources at developing this car. You never know when you are going to get another chance to win a workd championship so you have to maximise your opportunities.

They have very impressive production facilities now and can turn new pieces around very quickly. The design for the Silverstone update only left Adrian Newey’s desk to go into production  around the time of the Monaco GP weekend, so they turned a huge update around very quickly.

Brawn has gone from 700 people to 450 this year, where Red Bull has gone the opposite way, although with budget cuts imminent for F1 the new people are all on contract, not staff and many of them came from Brawn.

Red  Bull can see that Brawn has to have one eye on saving some money for next year and they sense a weakness. The rest of the season RBR will develop relentlessly to keep locking out these 1-2 finishes and try to take both championships. Certainly the lads on the shop floor at Red Bull think they will do it.

Of course at some point they will have to decide which of their drivers is going for the championship. At the moment with Webber and Vettel on winning form and a gal between them of only 15 points that is a decision they cannot make. Webber reminds them that Vettel has crashed three times this year and could do so again, but Vettel has until this weekend, been the faster driver. It’s a wonderful battle and it has brought this world championship to life

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25 Comments
  1. jw1980 says:

    James, it was good race today without being a classic. Great that Webber finally won.It’s always good to see new winners in F1 and we have been blessed with them in the last couple of years and Webber is a welcome addition.
    Is the situation really that promising for Red Bull and that bleak for Brawn? In an otherwise complicated race Vettel was not far ahead of Massa, Rosberg, etc, in the end.
    Can Webber surpass Vettel? It would seem very reasonable to expect Brawn to put their full weight behind Button.
    Had Hamilton not had his incident at turn one what could he have achieved? Second, possible victory because of Webber’s drive thru? This could be another problem for Brawn. Red Bull could be the fastest whilst McLaren may relegate Brawn back to third best team in the remaining races.
    Of Webber’s conduct at the start his near miss with Barrichello had shades of his incident with Massa in Japan last year. It was ironic seeing Webber’s driving style at the start of the race considering his criticism of Hamilton in the past. It just shows that when drivers feel that they have a chance of victory they can change….

  2. Jim says:

    Hi James,

    Do you know what sort of updates Brawn will have for Hungary and will that coupled with warmer temps will close the gap between Brawn and Red Bull?

    Thanks.

  3. Pete says:

    Not a good week for the brawn team, however possibly softened by the fact Vettel didnt get the first place finish.

    On another note, great result for Webber. Who said good things didnt come to those who wait

  4. David says:

    Such a shame that Hamilton got tagged and fell off – it would have been fascinating to have seen how well he could have done if he had been able to continue at the front.

    It is a great shame that Rubens seems to be getting increasingly rattled – he threw the toys out after Barcelona and today’s moan seems most unjustified and rather ungrateful towards a team that rescued him from seeming retirement last winter. If, as was being suggested on the Beeb today, Rubens will not be continuing with Brawn next year then wouldn’t it be worthwhile the team offering Ant Davidson a chance in a race seat?

  5. Dominic J says:

    James,

    You see Rubens as having lost out when his rig failed at the 2nd stop.
    I thought, the moment he emerged mid-pack from his 1st stop, that the race was lost then.
    1 second less fuel, would have left him in clear air, ahead of Kovaleinen, or at least Massa, (15 seconds saved) or 1-2 seconds more would have given him more time in clear air after Massa’s stop (and he would still have been right on Massa’s gearbox anyway).

    The mistake Brawn made, that so upset Rubens in Catalonia, was that of short-fuelling him so he didn’t drop behind Rosberg, forcing him to stop once more than any of his rivals, on a track where overtaking is next to impossible.
    Here, they didn’t have the excuse of avoiding traffic, as an excuse for making EXACTLY the same mistake.

    Brawn felt that the car simply wasn’t fast enough for a win today (he’s probably right) but Rubens started 2nd, overtook Webber, wasn’t overtaken himself and ended 6th. The master of strategy seems to be losing his touch.

  6. patrick says:

    An interesting race – not a classic, but one which kept me glued. I was surprised how slow the commentary team on the BBC were in working out that Webber was still very much in the game.

    I thought at the time it would have been best for Brawn to switch Barrichello to a two-stop and hope that track position would make up for any tyre problems he might encounter.

    Interesting too that Webber looked more than a little unsteady on his feet when he got out of the car. Is his leg quite as healed as he would have us believe?

    Anyway, I’ve long thought Webber was overdue a win – glad he’s finally got one. Chris Amon’s record is safe!

  7. Archimedes says:

    That Barrichello fuel hope problem was fake.
    Watch the replay and you will see how the BGP member played poorly the script written by Ross.

    The shame on bringing Barrichello behind of Button is that Ross denies it. But what is most annoying is that Barrichello pretends not knowing about.

  8. Peter Bolton says:

    Just a thought to bring the subject back to Mark Webber. He has been running injured and not 100%. He has just had the final pins and plates removed, all is getting better and his speed is improving. Me, I think Vettel has had it easy, andnow the fast Webber is coming to the fore.

    James, how much do you think Marks injuries have affected his times so far?

    I think the second half will be a cracker with Vettel finding real pressure within the team for the first time in his career

  9. Howard Hughes says:

    I’ve always said, although few appear to agree, that Rubens is a bit of a wrong ‘un. He has form. The biggest example of this by far is Austria 01, which the world and his brother held up as an indicator of all that was rotten in Ferrari and F1, but which left me utterly bemused. F1 is a TEAM sport, and any team has the right to decide who should get the extra point if a 1-2 is in the offing. No one ever minded before, yet the world sat up and screamed on this occasion.

    Why? Cos Ruby had to play his cards like an utter fool. He was told the situation after the 2nd pit stop, and thus had the last 3rd of the race to ease off and let the inevitable pass occur without any drama. Oh no. Good old ‘passionate’ Rubens had to stand on the brakes on damn near the last corner of the race, showboating like a fool, then whining afterwards about it.

    On the same weekend, as I recall, that Ferrari extended his contract and increased his salary! I’ve genuinely never understood why he wasn’t sacked for that. God knows I would have. I make the cars, own the factory, pay your salary, and intend Michael to win; so on the one rare occasion this year that you’re a place up on him, Rubens you will damn well let him have that vital extra championship point or find a drive elsewhere!

    He’s found plenty to whine [mod] about since, unlike Irvine, who accepted his role as teammate to a driving auteur with good grace. Even a few months ago Barrichello was bleating on about some book in which he was going to ‘put the story straight’ about how he was treated at Ferrari…

    People always praise him, and wax lyrical about his latin temperament and ‘good guy’ status. I despise him, and today sadly came as zero surprise. He’s a baby – give Davidson or someone else who would kill to drive the wheels off that Brawn the drive instead.

  10. Tim Cooper Duckworth says:

    James,

    You have to have an opinion on Ruben’s after race interview. Incredible! [mod]

  11. Archimedes says:

    * fuel hose problem
    sorry.

  12. Sam says:

    What Ruben did is something we haven’t seen in many many years. Schumacher won 5 titles for Ferrari, they went through think and thin, he never spoke anything like that, let alone demanding apology from his team.

    If he thinks the team is favoring another driver then he should talk to the team. But that’s not the case, he slammed his team for letting him down which is outrageous.

    With Nico Rosberg other good drivers in the market, I think Ross Brawn is smart enough to do what is best for his team.

  13. Ray says:

    I totally agree with Dominic J, and Rubens. The strategy was terrible throughout the race for Rubens – yes the fuel rig problem was unfortunate, but the primary mistake was it was utter stupidity to not short fuel him to ensure he got out in front of Massa at the first stop. He’d have easily got a podium then.

    Ted Kravitz was really pushing Ross Brawn to say something after the race as well (on the Red button coverage) about how employees shouldn’t speak out, and Ross didn’t rise to it which was very impressive. Rubens has every right to speak his mind. It’s good to see people who don’t follow the corporate line – we should encourage it.

  14. Yo says:

    Red Bull have also been a bit faster than Brawn even before Silverstone but race tactics won Brawn a few races.

    In any case I am not sure Red Bull are definitely faster than Brawn. Brawn had a lot of problems this weekend, you can see that Ferrari, McLaren, Rosberg and Alonso were on the same pace (mostly due to the race strategy which was unavoidable). So I suspect Brawn would normally be much faster than that.

    Come Hungary I expect Brawn to be as fast, if not faster, as Red Bull.

  15. Tomys says:

    James, that’s you, the new guy for TV interviews, replacing Peter Windsor? :)

    If so then that’s mega perfect, because I don’t like Windsor at all ;) But I like you, your much better in this, not like big-headed Windsor…

    T.

  16. Jasper says:

    Hi James, what did you make of Alonso’s race pace, while everyone was talking about McLaren’s breakthrough, it seemed that Renault outdid them. Firstly Alonso was on course to set the fastest time in Q1 on Saturday before getting blocked by Glock & then in the race he was consistently pumping in fast lap times, even with fuel. Do you think this means Renault are back in business or was this just a result of their car working well with the tyres on this occasion?

  17. Stevie P says:

    Anyone else feel that Rubens wanted to switch to a 2-stopper (especially after realising that Webber was taking a drive-through penalty) and that’s why he was (very!!) disgruntled at the end of the race?

    Wouldn’t have helped though… Brawn struggled on their tyres (whichever set they used).

    Have Brawns in-season developments actually made their situation worse re: tyre-degradation?

  18. Charles Kane says:

    I’m not paranoid – the fuel rig could and most likely was just bad luck but please explain it to me why the team put the harder tyres a second time for Rubens in his 3rd stop while Jenson got the softer tyre for his last 10 laps. I have always thought that the harder tyre is much slower in the first few laps out of the pits. So to me it looked very much the team did not want Rubens to have any chance to defend his position against Jenson.

  19. chris says:

    my crystal ball says for the next three races:

    Brawn shouldn’t sweat too much as they should do very well in hungary with the predominant medium/slow corners and hotter temperatures. The start stop nature of the valencia circuit should level the playing field and both brawn and red bull should watch there backs for the KERS cars and the improved Mclaren.

    Red bull will murder everyone in spa, but hopefully the weather will mix it up.

    oh yeah, i like the site update. much more elegant.

  20. adrian says:

    (1) “I can understand him being unhappy that the team switched the order of the final pit stops, giving Jenson the chance to pass him, but Jenson was faster at that stage of the race.” – James, is it actually the case that the order of Jenson and Rubens’ last pitstops was switched? I don’t think this was reported on the BBC?

    (2) @ conspiracy theorists: apart from the huge unlikelihood that the fuel hose blunder was choreographed with all the risks of severe disciplinary action that this would entail (i) if you were going to do this, surely you’d make sure that it the act lasted long enough to allow Jenson to pass Rubens (it did not ); and (ii) Jenson would likely much rather Rubens take points off Vettel at this stage for the purposes of the championship race, given the growing superiority of the Red Bull car – I’m sure Jenson is perfectly secure that he can show Rubens the way in equal machinery.

    (3) If Brawn were trying to favour Jenson over Rubens, why did they not get Rubens to move over sooner when Jenson was stuck behind him before the last set of pitstops, having been lapping much quicker.

    (4) As Brawn says, Rubens just did not have the pace. He was miles off Webber’s pace and his fastest lap (11th) was 0.4secs off Button’s. Rubens only lost say 4 secs with the refuelling gaffe, but was caught up by Jenson despite Jenson having to work his way through the field, while Rubens was in clear air for the whole of the first stint. He may have got in front of Webber at the start, but that’s about all he did of any note in the whole race.

    (5) If Rubens had any decency, he’d just get his head down. He’s upset that in what is very likely to be his last year of F1 he’s got a title-winning car but is being battered by the pace of his teammate.

  21. rpaco says:

    Just because you are paranoid it doesn’t mean that they are not out to get you! As Rubens will verify.

    A very good lesson in how to handle the press from Ross afterwards, that will no doubt go into many training courses.

    Of course it is quite possible that Rubens is being sidelined whenever there is an opportunity to get Jensen ahead, that happens to penalise Rubens.

    It is a team sport and that is very probably the best solution for the team. Sorry Rubino but that’s life, you still get paid to be the fall guy!

    Team rules should be officially allowed then we can see proper strategy with number two drivers placed to hold up the opposition.

  22. john g says:

    yawn barichello complains again. instead of looking towards the team, he needs to look at himself. anyway, didn’t button have the same three stop strategy?

    very impressed by webber, thought his race was over after the drive through but credit to him, he was untouchable! and great to see another winner. it looks like he was maybe a little delicate at the start of the season – and is now a full match for the highly rated vettel. this year finally has some interest back, especially with mclaren and ferrari finally starting to look strong. without the puncture, hamilton could easily have been in with some decent points.

  23. Rudy Pyatt says:

    James, do the F1 regs prevent teams from having a crew for each car, each with it’s own chief (as we call it here; strategist or race engineer would be the European term I guess) and fuel rig? That’s always been the case in every form of U.S. racing, whether on road courses or ovals. For example, Roger Penske owns the team, but Tim Cindric calls the strategy for Helio Castroneves, while Roger does the same for Ryan Briscoe. They’re free to race each other, and can choose their strategies individually. Seems to me this would eliminate the “they’re favoring him over me” controversies.

  24. Ray says:

    It’s not that they are favouring Jenson over him that Barichello was complaining about at first I think. I don’t believe they were either. It was purely the *terrible* strategic errors the team made during the course of the race. Fuel rig or no fuel rig, short fueled to get out in front of Massa at the first stop, and Rubens would have had a podium at least.

    So his complaints were somewhat justified.

  25. Babur Majid says:

    James, error in your post. Webber did not get a stop and go penalty, it was a drive thru.

    Love the blog! keep up the good work!!

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