Sunday, March 29, 2009

Australian GP Report: Button Delivers Dream Debut

Sunday 29th March 2009

Brawn GP couldn't have asked for a better debut, nor the 2009 season for a better start, as Jenson Button clinched the Australian GP victory, while the two men in line to join him on the podium crashed into each other on the penultimate lap.

In an incident-packed race, the Brawn GP driver endured the pressures of two Safety Car periods, no drinks bottle and a botched pit-stop to score a lights-to-flag victory

Rubens Barrichello lucked into second place after Robert Kubica collided with Sebastian Vettel late in the race, the accident handing a podium finish to Jarno Trulli and an unlikely fourth place for World Champion Lewis Hamilton.

Both Ferraris failed to finish while rookie Sebastien Buemi claimed a point in eighth place for Toro Rosso.

Race Report
The cars lined up on the grid in late afternoon sun with an ambient temperature of 21C and the track at 31C.

As the tyre warmers came off, it revealed that the two Ferraris, plus Robert Kubica and Lewis Hamilton had opted for the super soft tyres. Everyone else had chosen the hard or 'prime' tyre.

As the red lights went out, Jenson Button's Brawn was straight off the line from pole, but Rubens Barrichello's anti-stall mechanism kicked in and he was slow away. Immediately the second Brawn GP car was swamped by the rest of the field. Kubica drove straight round him and Vettel was through into second.

Most impressive of all, though, on the opening lap was the Ferrari team, making the most of the stored energy in their KERS devices and getting maximum grip from the super soft (qualifying) tyres.

Kubica lost momentum in his slalom round the almost stationary Barrichello and Massa was able to get past him by Turn 1. Then Massa/Kubica/Raikkonen all managed to take advantage of Rosberg through turns 3 and 4.

The major incident, though, came when Rubens closed on the apex of Turn 1, just as Nick Heidfeld got there alongside him, with Mark Webber on the outside. It's impossible, if not dangerous, to apply the brakes, so Rubens took the inside line, sidewalled into Heidfeld who was pushed out wider into the path of Mark Webber's Red Bull

The desperately unlucky Aussie's car was spun round and in doing so swiped the front left of Heikki Kovalainen's McLaren. All three cars in the sandwich kept going; Barrichello with a damaged front wing, Heidfeld and Webber needed to return to the pits, but it was the passer-by, Kovalainen, who was out of the race.

Adrian Sutil in the Force India also picked up damage and had to return to the pits at the end of Lap 1.

At the end of the first tour it was Jenson Button leading by 3.9 seconds. The order was: 1.Button, 2.Vettel, 3.Massa, 4.Kubica, 5.Raikkonen, 6.Rosberg, 7.Barrichello, 8.Nakajima, 9.Piquet, 10.Buemi, 11.Fisichella, 12.Bourdais, 13. Hamilton

The Ferraris, having had some great gains on the opening lap, started to fall back as early as Lap 4, as the super soft tyres began to go off quickly. Lewis Hamilton, who was also on the softs, had made up places quickly at the start and was using his tyres and KERS button efficiently to pick his way through to P11 by Lap 3. He then disposed of Buemi on Lap 4 and Piquet on Lap 6 to elevate himself to a heady P9.

At the front, Button's immediate four-second lead was held by Vettel who reduced the Fastest Lap to 1:28.424 on Lap 6. Button responded with a 1:28.246 and Vettel took it lower with a 1:28.235.

By Lap 8 the super soft tyres were slowing down badly - on some cars they were four seconds off the leaders pace and by Lap12 they were an incredible six seconds off! Nico Rosberg quickly closed up on Kimi Raikkonen and passed him on Lap 10 to take P5. Barrichello had the same idea, and looked to brake up the inside into Turn 3...

"He closed the door and we touched," said Rubens afterwards, meaning Raikkonen took the racing line and Rubens failed to brake in time. The Brawn suffered its second significant contact of the race, bumped the Ferrari from behind but kept the front wing on - just. Rubens was able to accelerate past the slightly displaced Ferrari which couldn't outdrag the Brawn away from the turn on failing tyres.

Kimi pitted at the end of Lap 10, Massa and Hamilton at the end of Lap 11 and Kubica lasted till Lap 12.

So at the end of Lap 13 many of the World Championship contenders were in a little gaggle all their own. 11. Massa 12. Kubica 13. Raikkonen 14. Trulli 15. Hamilton while at the front Jenson Button led by 4.3 seconds from Vettel who had a massive 27 second advantage over third place man Rosberg (delayed by failing to get past a slowing Raikkonen).

The second Brawn GP car was suffering from Rubens limp front wing and some other aero bits that had disappeared from the back of the car during the accident he had generated. He was three seconds off Jenson's pace.

Vettel and Rosberg duly pitted for the first time at the end of Lap 16, but Rosberg's game plan was ruined by a sticking left front wheel giving him a 21 second pit-stop. The Williams team's afternoon then got a whole lot worse when Kazuki Nakajima managed to spin his car after Turn 4 and it speered into the inside wall on Lap 18.

There was a very long - surprisingly long - delay before the Safety Car was deployed which enabled the two Brawn GP cars to take their first pit-stops before they lined up behind the Safety Car which was finally dispatched on Lap 19.

It was all change at the front. The Safety Car had reversed the order with the cars stopping disastrously early on the super soft tyres now promoted up the order to the front of the race. The race order behind the Safety Car on Lap 24 was: 1.Button, 2.Vettel, 3.Massa, 4.Kubica, 5.Raikkonen, 6.Rosberg, 7.Piquet, 8.Trulli, 9.Buemi, 10.Barrichello, 11.Glock, 12.Hamilton.

Nelson Piquet Junior became the third retirement on the restart when he lost control of his Renault on cold brakes coming into Turn 1 "the brakes just went crazy" and ploughed straight on into the gravel.

Jenson Button controlled the restart very well and by Lap 27 had established a 2.4 second lead over Vettel. On Lap 30 it was up to 3.9 seconds.

Felipe Massa's time in P3 didn't last long because by Lap 31 he had to pit for more fuel and rejoined in P14. Focus then switched to the new third placed man, Robert Kubica, who started to put in some Fastest Laps of the race. On Lap 34 he set FL at 1:27.989 and on Lap 36 it was 1:27.988

On Lap 37 the order was: 1.Button, 2.Vettel, 3.Kubica, 4.Raikkonen 5.Barrichello, 6.Buemi, 7.Rosberg, 8.Hamilton, 9.Alonso, 10. Glock

Kubica took his second stop on Lap 39 and emerged in P7, Raikkonen chose the same lap and rejoined in P10, both still in front of Felipe Massa. This left Sebastien Buemi in 4th place in his debut grand prix!

Hamilton pitted from 5th place on Lap 43, just as Kimi Raikkonen returned to the pitlane for a mysterious third time. The reason became apparent when replays showed the Ferrari spinning out on track and bumping the wall side-on. After a precautionary check in the pits Raikkonen returned to the track but was officially retired by the team at three laps down.

Vettel pitted from P2 and re-emerged still in P2 resisting the attentions of the still-to-stop Rubens Barrichello. On Lap 47 the second Ferrari of Felipe Massa - which had struggled to keep Buemi at bay - cruised back to the pits and retirement.

Jenson Button came in for his final pit-stop on Lap 47 and made the stop even slower by failing to select first gear, but still managed to get out in front of Vettel - but it was close at the front. Button led from Vettel, Barrichello was in third but would lose that place to Kubica when he pitted again for the final time.

Further back Lewis Hamilton was duelling with Jarno Trulli in what was effectively 6th and 7th place (once the cars in front of them pitted). Trulli having to move around the track to block Hamilton's overtaking intentions.

With Barrichello taking his final pit-stop, the race to the flag was on and Button held a slender 1.6 second lead from Vettel. The race order was: 1.Button, 2.Vettel, 3.Kubica, 4. Rosberg, 5.Barrichello, 6.Trulli, 7.|Hamilton, 8.Glock, 9. Alonso, 10.Buemi.

Timo Glock was charging in the Toyota and had monstered both Buemi and Alonso in an identical move around the inside/outside of Turns 3 and 4. Nico Rosberg was going backwards at a rate of knots as his super soft tyres faded. He lost his fourth place to Barrichello on Lap 53 and soon Trulli, Hamilton and Glock were past.

But the significant man on the move was Robert Kubica. Armed with a set of hard tyres he was reeling in both Vettel and Button (on the soft tyres now) and would surely catch them both before the finish. On Lap 54 of the 58 laps, at the front, Button was leading Vettel by 2.5 seconds who was 1.3 in front of Kubica.

On Lap 56 Vettel made a mistake in Turn 2 and Kubica aimed to overtake going into Turn 3 on the outside. Vettel held the inside line and Kubica tried to go round the outside with the extra momentum. But going into the turn the BMW driver made the mistake of squeezing the Red Bull too hard and while Vettel took the apex, Kubica was sidewalled by the Red Bull who had nowhere else to go.

It was a racing accident but one that Kubica could probably have avoided by allowing Vettel more room. As it was, both cars were spun round, Vettel lost his front wing and Kubica damaged one half of his. Kubica didn't want to get off the gas and carried on as though 100% of the wing were still there, understeering the car into the wall further down the road. Vettel also drove too quickly and put his car into the wall. Vettel's front left wheel was buckled underneath and he still tried to drive on with a severely crippled car.

The Safety Car was immediately deployed meaning that the race order was set as long as the cars could make it for the final three laps to the flag. Kubica's hasty attempt to get past Vettel had handed the Brawn GP team a 1-2.

The timing screens after the accident had Lewis Hamilton in P3, but then Jarno Trulli regained the position. Trulli had been weaving under braking in his defence of his place from Hamilton and the in-car footage showed this graphically. With 9 of the 58 laps to go Trulli moved across as the TV graphics package showed the cars braking on the left-hand side of the screen. The Grand Prix Drivers Assopciation (GPDA) have condemned this kind of driving and Trulli is a director of the GPDA.

As it was, Trulli took a podium place from a pit-lane start with Hamilton fourth and Timo Glock in fifth. Barrichello was a fortuitous second - yelled at by his team to slow down at the end - but it was Jenson Button's day. Having resisted a huge amount of pressure he muddled through some pit-stops with an under-practised crew and took a deserved second career win.

It was an epic race to start the season - and the start of things to come.


01 J. Button Brawn GP 1:34:15.784
02 R. Barrichello Brawn GP + 0.807
03 J. Trulli Toyota + 1.604
04 L. Hamilton McLaren + 2.914
05 T. Glock Toyota + 4.435
06 F. Alonso Renault + 4.879
07 N. Rosberg Williams + 5.722
08 S. Buemi Scuderia Toro Rosso + 6.004
09 S. Bourdais Scuderia Toro Rosso + 6.298
10 A. Sutil Force India F1 + 6.335
11 N. Heidfeld BMW + 7.085
12 G. Fisichella Force India F1 + 7.374
13 M. Webber Red Bull + 1 laps
Did not finish
14 S. Vettel Red Bull + 2 laps
15 R. Kubica BMW + 3 laps
16 K. Räikkönen Ferrari + 3 laps
17 F. Massa Ferrari + 12 laps
18 N. Piquet jr. Renault + 34 laps
19 K. Nakajima Williams + 41 laps
20 H. Kovalainen McLaren + 55 laps

Source : Planet F1

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