Jenson Button did another first class job to win the Monaco Grand Prix from pole position today. He was followed home by Rubens Barrichello and Kimi Raikkonen, who gave Ferrari their first podium of the season.
Barrichello got the jump on Raikkonen at the start, which was crucial for the outcome of the race as it kept the Ferraris from challenging at the end of the first stint when their tyres were superior.
Both Brawns started on the supersoft tyre, the least attractive of the two tyres this weekend. This was quite a bold move, but it paid off for both men, particularly Button. Ironically Sebastian Vettel, who had gone for an ultra aggressive strategy with his first stop scheduled for lap 11, also selected the super soft to start on, but his tyres went off very quickly and this slowed the field up behind him. This was a gift for the Brawn drivers as it gave them a cushion of over 15 seconds over the chasing pack including the two Ferraris and Nico Rosberg’s Williams.
The key phase of the race as far as Button was concerned was the period towards the end of the first stint when Barrichello’s supersoft tyres started to lose performance. This gave Jenson a big margin over his team mate. During the second stint he was able to manage a 15 second cushion. Barrichello said afterwards that he was forced to drive with loose seat belts, which made for an uncomfortable ride.
He also said that the key to Button’s win was the pole lap on Saturday. This was pretty much the only lap all weekend to that point where Button had been faster than Rubens, but it was the crucial one.
Button seems to have a knack for stepping up in the final lap in qualifying when the race fuel goes in and the new tyres are put on. He has more confidence in the car and in his own feel for the grip level. It’s only fractional, but it’s enough to swing it his way.
Make no mistake though, Rubens is helping him by pushing him very hard. He is also helping him on set up. As with his partnership with Michael Schumacher, Rubens is extremely good at dialling in a racing car and giving his team mate cues on set up. It happened in Spain with Button and it happened again here. I’m sure this is one of the key reasons why Ross Brawn took Barrichello in preference to Bruno Senna or someone else. It has paid handsome dividends.
On Button’s side he will want an investigation into why he’s had trouble dialling the car in a the last two races, after seemingly no problems in that area in the first few events.
Ferrari have shown today that they are back in business and they will be in front of Brawn before too long. The next two races will favour Red Bull, with that car’s liking for long fast corners. So Vettel and Webber will be in great shape.
But Button is very comfortable now and can play the percentage game.
The victory gives Button a huge lead in the drivers
The supersofts started to go off after