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The state of play going into the race
The state of play going into the race
Posted By:   |  04 Apr 2009   |  1:15 pm GMT  |  30 comments

After a dominant performance in qualifying in Melbourne, Brawn GP has been made to work a lot harder here in Sepang by the Toyota team and I think Toyota can win this race tomorrow.

It looks as though the Brawn is about 2/10ths faster around here than the Toyota, but thats close enough for Trulli and Glock to put real pressure on Button, so he will have to keep the car on the limit, which could be interesting in this heat. Reliability is still not assured for Brawn, look at Barrichello’s gearbox, for example and they have not done much mileage in hot conditions, really only what they’ve done here this weekend.

In contrast Toyota had the most reliable car in winter testing and they did a big mileage in the heat of the Bahrain test. So it’s not going to be comfortable for Button tomorrow.

Let’s look at the fuel weights, just published by the FIA: what strikes me straight away is that Rosberg, Trulli, Glock and Webber are all carrying identical fuel loads. They will pit on lap 15 tomorrow. Looking at their qualifying performances then, we can make a direct comparison on pace. Trulli was half a second faster than Rosberg and Webber, whereas Glock was only a tenth ahead of them. This means that the Toyota, Williams and Red Bull are almost perfectly matched, but that Trulli did an exceptional job in qualifying.

Button has four kilos more fuel than these four drivers and he will probably stop on lap 16. Again this shows that the Brawn has a small margin, but that Trulli excelled himself today.

Kubica lines up sixth tomorrow, with more fuel in his car than the other front runners. He will go to lap 17. With only two laps more fuel in the car than Williams, Toyota and Red Bull and yet three tenths slower, it’s not a great picture for BMW.

As predicted Vettel has gone aggressive on fuel, in order to be able to attack in the race tomorrow from P13 on the grid (thanks to a 10 place penalty) He will stop on lap 11!

To make that work he’s going to have to be able to pass the KERS cars of McLaren, Alonso and Heidfeld, which will not be easy. They are substantially heavier than him – 40 kilos in Hamilton’s case, more for Heidfeld and that should make passable if Vettel really goes for it. I would say that this will be the area to keep an eye on in the opening phase of tomorrow’s GP.

Massa - P16 on grid
Meanwhile Ferrari had another bad day with Felipe Massa. At the end of last season they said that they needed to work on better reliability for 2009 as well as to make fewer mistakes as a team. Already in two races we have had mistakes on strategy and today on over-confidence, as well as poor reliability with both cars in Oz. No wonder Stefano Domenicali the team principal says that this is falling way short of expectations.

There is a long way to go in this championship and Raikkonen, Massa, Kubica and Hamilton, the four guys you’d expect tom fight for the title, are all level on points – zero! Meanwhile Button has a headstart he can add to tomorrow.

Keep an eye on BMW though. Their first go at a 2009 car is a bit half cooked, but they have an updated chassis for Spain, which has been lightened to allow for the extra KERS weight with Robert Kubica driving. No doubt it will also have a trick diffuser.

I can see Kubica having the mirror opposite season to the one he had last year, where he started strongly then drifted away. He will be a contender at the end, so these early races are all about keeping the scoreboard ticking over.

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It's official "The Pride of Frome" admits he's an Anorak just like us!

"Tomorrow will be a hot race, it is not the sun, it is the humidity, so I have a cool jacket which has been helping me. I can't wear it in the race as it is too heavy but I am not struggling too much with the heat."

Details on Mr. Button's Cool Heavy Anorak please:

Dry ice in the pockets, or something like those picnic-box cooling devices you keep in the freezer, and lasts a few hours?

Stephen Russell

Interesting article as ever James. I really hate this new system announcing the weights of the cars so its possible to see fuel loads! I used to love the surprise in the race when we would see people coming in. Its really taken something away from the racing!

Yet more FIA fiddling with rules when there is no need!


What about Rubens' race weight? Surely, despite his penalty, he'll be there or thereabouts come race finish.
Also, Trulli and Glock fuelled identically? Some mistake, surely, or will one manage to squeeze an extra lap out of his tank?


Thanks for the insight Allen, one of the best F1 blogs!!!


Was the Brazilian Brawn lighter on fuel? The driver seemed disappointed not to have secured pole.

Mr. Barrichello conceded he was "beaten fair and square" by Mr. Button today, even allowing for a bit of understeer.

First blood.


I think tomorrows race is going to be a far closer run thing than people actually think. With the Mclarens fueled heavy that should bring them into play towards the mid/end of the race.
As long as everyone gets around the first few corners it should make for a nice Sunday mornings viewing!

Good work James.


I'd be surprised if the Toyota's hung on to Button to be honest. I don't think Trulli's as good a race driver as Button. We all know Trulli's stong point is his qualifying so it comes as no surprise but personally I don't know if he can challenge Button for the lead.


Great Analysis James, however i would like to point out that the Jenson was able to make the harder tyres work and set competitive times on them, whilst the drivers around him seemed to have a far greater performance differential between the 2 options. But then again it could rain, sending it all out of the window.


You didn't mention Raikkonen's fuel load but he is heavier than all the guys in front of him except Kubica (they are almost equal) and this puts Raikkonen in a strong position for the race, since he has KERS and Ferrari seemed better in a race trim in the practice. If he can gain a couple of positions at the start then he can continue attacking to the others and pit later than them which is quite possible.


What sort of fuel consumption rate are you expecting? Williams say 2.64kg per lap (2.38kg per 5km), but that would indicate first stint durations of over 20 laps for the front runners.


The Monsoon arrived at 7pm today, bang on cue for the end of tomorrow's race.

Too dark and slippery to race in the wet.

However, this deluge actually decreases the likelihood or a monsoon downpour tomorrow afternoon.

So, I'd say it'll be hot, humid, and a DRY race.

But if there's a pile up, and the SC is deployed, the race may be stopped due to bad light.

Then it's time to invoke the Duckworth-Lewis rules. 🙂


Hmm, how can Trulli and Glock both pit on the same lap..?


What are the rules regarding 10 place penalties with regards to fuel loads? Since vettel starts 13th, can he not fuel it how he likes considering he has net qualified outside the top ten?

I thought this during quali and thought it would be a strange decision not to just go really light to get pole (net 11th) and then put his own fuel in accordingly.
I don't think is light fuel (pitting on lap 13) is going to help him at all, surely he could have gone a bit longer, to about 16 or something and still qualified about net 16th or something. WIth the pace of his car compared to others around that region you would expect him to come through the field with not too much effort, especially if it rains.

Feel sorry for the guy because a 10 place penalty for what happened seems so so harsh. Yeah it was his fault, but he didnt purposely try to take Kubica out. Let's hope we see some good racing from him tomorrow.

Really testing day for Massa tomorrow. He must be so angry with the team and how qualli went. If it rains it could be another horror show for him, silverstone last year was laughable and if it rains, it rains hard here.


I couldn't help becoming acutely aware of the disparity in punishments as I watched Vettel through another great qualifying:

We have one driver who lied to Stewards in order to demote a competitor and steal a podium place. As a result he comes into this race with zero points but free to race unimpeded.

We then have another driver who had a collision while trying to defend track position. As a result he not only comes into this race with zero points but is also penalised 10 grid places.

Vettel's meeting with the Stewards in Sepang has been overshadowed somewhat, but surely the direct comparison shows that his penalty is unduly harsh?

The phrase slaughtered for a lamb springs to mind.


How many laps of fuel does Massa in his ferrari?


Considering Toyotas start from the Pit Lane in Melbourne last week, I felt that the Toyotas team probably performed best of all the teams (in relative terms) and could well be the team to watch after Brawn GP. Their performance in qualifying (especially Trulli as you say) was strong and, incidents/safety cars etc apart, it will be very interesting to see a (hopefully) uninterrupted race on already used engines to get a much better 'like for like' comparison between the new/emerging front-runners.


Thank you for this analysis James!

I'm excited about the news regarding the updated BMW chassis for spain. When the 2009 car was presented, I wondered why there are so few (visible) changes compared to last year's interim car. I also wondered why the 2009 car looks a bit "underdeveloped" and that they didn't brought some bigger updates for the Australian GP. With that in mind I hoped for a major update coming at one of the first races this year. For me as a BMW-Sauber fan it's good to hear that they will bring an updated chassis in Barcelona, hopefully it's not too late then. 😉


Should be a good race, hopefully Button will sew it up!

Will be interested to see what happens to Rubens at the start as he is in a KERS sandwich, but a faster lapping car...


Both Toyotas fueled to come in on the same lap? I'm calling one of them making a kamikaze charge on Button into turn 1.


I would love if you could elaborate a bit more on what you said about BMW and the lightened chasis for Barcelona. What else do you know?

Can we expect a major aero update, diffuser aside, from them there?

I know BMW normally doesn't do that, but certainly, as you said the car "looks" a bit half cooked and too simplistic, at least compared to more complex designs of rivals.

Mainly I'm referring to the front wing, which currently is just a minor update of the one they introduced already back in November.


James. You nailed it again with Vettel. As YOU predicted, he's qualified extremely light. Congratulations on your powers of deduction. I suppose he hasn't been much better than Webber looking at the fuel loads.

Nice work. Kudos from another spanish fan.

Antonio Carlos

Brawns are clearly 0.5s ahead of Red Bulls and Toyotas, 0.7s ahead of Williams and 1s ahead of rest of the field. With same weight.

But I still worried about team's pace on the heat of the race. I think they need some more consistency on heavier fuel conditions.


Sorry, can't find the correct thread.
But just to let anyone know who doesn't yet, the BBC gave us a choice of commentary on Channel 301 (or red button) so one is able to switch to the FiveLive team for the Quali/race and back to the tv team for the tall fellow with Eddie and David when they are speaking. The change was performed with your "left" or "right" button.


If Button has 55 kgs of fuel onboard ans he will be pitting on lap 16, then a lap would be worth 3,4375 kgs of fuel, which is way out of the reality.


What I said two posts ago, is a gap with two similar drivers on cockpit.

Of course that gap, with better drivers can be decreased.


Loved the twitter feed, James


colour me surprised. Jenson tends to lose motivation when he's tooling around looking for a point on the offchance, whereas Rubens will try harder. However, give Button a sniff and he's a different driver.


Second heaviest of all.. Heidfeld 692 I think...


Just to clear it up, he is under the same rules as the other cars in Q3 (ie he had to qualify on race fuel).

I wouldn't take it for granted that because he is faster he'll be able to get past the cars around him, he's surrounded by cars with KERS so I'd actually expect him to lose some places off the start, although maybe to make them back later in the lap if they use a lot of their 6.6sec quota (I'm not sure how much they would use going up to the first corner).

Whether or not he should have fueled heavier I dont know, this way at least he has a chance of getting out from behind the slower cars earlier, then maybe leapfrogging them in the pit stops.


He is the heaviest of all, 689.5 kg, 25 laps or more ..

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