F1 Winter Break
Pre race update
Pre race update
Posted By:   |  29 Mar 2009   |  5:34 am GMT  |  14 comments

Great atmosphere in the pits and paddock as the clock runs down towards the start of the race.

There is a general acceptance that the Brawn cars are going to drive away at the front of the field. Their pace over long runs is even more impressive that their qualifying pace. Rubens did a great job yesterday on low fuel in the early part of qualifying, because the Brawn team did not do any work on low fuel running during their all too brief seven days of testing. There simply wasn’t time with all the other things they had to do. Rubens got his car dialled in nicely for low fuel running, but the team knows that there is a lot more to come there over the next few races.

Jenson was able to exploit the car better with race fuel in it during the third part of qualifying and that is how he took the pole by three tenths of a second.

The chat in the paddock is of how long it will take McLaren, Ferrari, Renault and the rest to close the gap on Brawn. As I posted the other day, everyone has a trick diffuser being tested in the wind tunnel, in expectation of the appeal against the Brawn, Williams and Toyota diffusers failing on April 14th. You can expect to see most of them with something similar at the Spanish Grand Prix in May.

The only possible exception to that is McLaren, because I’m told that they have an amazing manufacturing capacity and it’s possible they could turn something around by China or Bahrain.

But it would be wrong to think that Brawn’s success is only down to the diffuser, the car generates loads of downforce generally.

What is quite hard to ascertain is how much money Brawn has to develop its car. There are suggestions that they have been given a budget to impress from Honda, in order to find strong partners and sponsors for next year. But you also sense undertones that the money is not plentiful, that Virgin’s millions, if they can be secured in the next few weeks would genuinely make a big difference.

This is key to whether Brawn can figure in the eventual outcome of this championship, because Ferrari, McLaren and Renault will bring a huge amount of performance to the car in the next few months. I’d expect McLaren to find a second in the next four or five races. Brawn has to capitalise on it’s performance advantage while it still has it.

The other talking point in the paddock is why Williams protested Ferrari and red Bull last night, which caused the principals of all three teams and the stewards to have a late night, before Williams finally withdrew its protest.

I’m told that this is the first time anyone can remember that Williams have protested another car, so they didn’t do it lightly. My guess is that they had two motives in mind. First to give RBR and Ferrari a little bit of pain back for the protest and appeal made against them earlier this weekend. But also to be seen to be settling ‘for the good of the sport’, which is what ideally they would like Red Bull, Ferrari and Renault to do over the appeal.

There is a good chance of a safety car today and that could catch Jenson out. If he catches it into turn one and has to do a two minute lap before pitting, while a car running third can just drive straight into the pits, he can lose control of the race right there.

Reliability is his other enemy. A 10p seal could go at any moment and they haven’t done the mileage in testing to be overly confident.

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Thanks James. I forgot the time change here in the UK, and nearly missed the start. I'm only up because I had to check the blog first!


I'm watching this race right now with the BBC commentary and I'm telling you, all those who said you weren't up to the job should eat their words. I promise that soon people will be wanting you back on the F1 forums I visit! It's so bad I'm listening to 5live coverage instead, and although I rate Martin Brundle, Leggard is rubbish!

I've been checking out your Twitter feed. Excellent stuff!

Keep up the good work on this blog - I read it most days.


What a race!

Looks like you called the pace of the Brawn perfectly, James.

My hat is off.


It was a great race, I'm looking forward to seeing more of Sebastian Vettel, he, Kubica and Hamilton will have some great scraps this year I feel. Hearty congratulations to Brawn though, it's been too long since we saw Jenson Button up on the top step.

I would also echo danf1 above, I did find myself missing your commentary, I think you and Martin worked well together. Legard is alright but he doesn't seem to know what he's talking about sometimes. You always seemed to get more into the ins and outs of different fuel loads and strategies etc. I sound like I'm kissing your backside now so I'll stop.


Do F1 cars really use 10p seals ?

Given Max revealed wheel nuts cost $4,000 each I find it hard to believe someone has not made a fancy $50 seal to sell to the teams....

If all the non 'diffuser 3' teams are rapidly developing new diffusers, what are the relevant issues ? Renault are whining about their rear suspension being situated in the wrong place for this, so have more work to do than most, McLaren may be able to make one first, but a car's performance is not just simply a factor of bolting on fancy bits. The diffuser is just a part of the whole Aero performance design of the car, bolting on a trick one like Brawn-Toyota-Williams will work for some more than others.


Great race but I want to know what your take on the Vettel incident was. I thought Kubica was at fault as he gave him no room. Kubica was so much faster due to tyres that he could have stayed wide and given Vettel lots of room and still got by.
I thought the BBC did a great job although massively helped by a lack of adverts. My biggest complaint is Eddie Jordan. I like the man and respect him a lot but for me he just seemed to go on about the same things.

He annoyed me yesterday when he dismissed KERS before the first race. I though KERS worked great in the race and certainly helped overtaking on a track that is very difficult to do so. I think the graphics have to be improved to show who is using KERS when we are watching the live feed and not just the in car footage. I loved watching Kimi and Lewis use there KERS and how they both used it at different times.

My feeling is that once KERS develops it will be a fantastic tool for the drivers to display their race craft. All I would say is that the FIA should increase the power to say 100 BHP or more, or increase the time allowed on KERS. This would mean that the disadvantage of weight would be even more negated. It seemed that most of the KERS cars were at the back of the grid. Something I hope will change soon.


Only just found out about this site, had assumed you were moving over to the Beeb and when I realised you weren't did some hunting around and ended up here. I must say I really missed your enthusiasm on the F1 coverage today.

Great race and great story for the Brawn team , hope they can keep it up. Always liked Button and a big fan of Barichello. Should be a good season....


Great to see Jenson back on top. I will never forget your call on his last win James and I am guessing you were pretty excited by this one as well. Great job by Jenson to pull off the win. I was really excited to see Vettel do so well. He's a pretty amazing talent. I'm also really happy for Lewis and hopefully more performances like this will silence his critics. Overall it was a really good return for f1 with great racing. I can't wait for the next race now!


What a race!

It was great to see The BrawnGP lads take the win on their first time out.

The drive from Lewis was special, he keep his nose clean and drove a great race. I have a feeling there will be a bit of head scratching in the Ferrari garage over the next few nights as they try and sort out how to finish a race.

Oh how these rule changes flip things around....


I'm surprised Vettel got a penalty for the collision with Kubica, which didn't look very 'avoidable' to me, rather than driving around the track with his wheel hanging off.


Now that Vettel has been given penalty, the situation is clear. Vettel was the one who made a mistake first. We could see him hitting the brakes too early, it was an obvious mistake that started the whole thing. Kubica made a move, as probably 99% drivers would have done the same.

I totally agree with you about Eddie Jordan. I reckon BBC will have to make quite a few adjustments. I wouldn't mind to see JA going back to where he belongs. 🙂


I thought the Beeb's production has in the main been excellent. The 1hr post-race analysis red-button thing is a real treat.

I don't think Legard is a bad commentator, 'rubbish' seems a bit uncharitable. When it comes to putting words to the racing action he certainly does a lot better than I would.

Where James beats him (IMO) is with the ability to embellish the factual information with incidental observation and anecdotal blurb. That added layer of detail was missing today, and it all felt that bit less immersive for the lack of that.

Still, I imagine there'll be other threads for this in due course. The main thing... F1 is back, and despite all the politics it's NOT disappointed!!


What a great race, and I'm not just saying that because Jenson came out on top, the action was fantastic, especially the first stint was scintillating. Pity the Ferraris tailed off towards the end, I thought one of my race predictions would turn out right for once!

Eagerly awaiting your views on the race James, I'm sure you're bashing away at a keyboard as we speak.

I thought Legard improved from yesterday, I think the call on Kubica's pitstop was fair enough, although a bit hasty.
I'm not sure if the 5Live commentary is available on the re-run later, if it is I'll watch that and see how it compares (a bit sad to watch the same race twice I know, but it's worth it I think).


Just watched Beebs coverage and Legard just seems to lack the enthusiasm that you (James) used to inject.

Still, liked their post-race chat on the red-button channel. That EJ -- doesn't half go on....and on, and on, and on...., doesn't he! 🙂

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