Rubens Barrichello has taken his first race win in five years, the Brazilian’s career tenth and remounts his championship challenge by moving back into second place and eighteen points shy of Jenson Button. The race proved to be relatively unexciting, but with another new winner for 2009, the season is really heating up to be a great battle for the remaining six races.
It was a bitter-sweet victory for the Brawn team though, as Jenson Button suffered a terrible weekend and went backwards from the opening lap, getting squeezed through the first corners and then being forced to relinquish his position to Mark Webber after the Briton missed the chicane and maintained a challenge from the Australian. Towards the end of the race, Button came back strong, but it simply wasn’t enough and the championship leader could only add two points to his tally.
Thankfully for Button but most disappointingly for Red Bull Racing, Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel failed to score points, emphasised by the second engine failure for Vettel in two days. The Austrian squad now sit more than 25 points behind Brawn in the overall standings and their bid to take the title is slipping away very quickly. Added to this is the fact that Vettel now has only two new engines available for the final six races, two of which are hard on the power units; Spa Francorchamps and Monza.
McLaren also had a bitter-sweet weekend, relishing the highs from locking out the front row of the grid in qualifying to missing out on victory after leading for much of the race with Lewis Hamilton and falling backwards from second to fourth with Heikki Kovalianen. On an aggressive strategy which saw both drivers pit early in comparison to their rivals, it seemed as though the Brawn of Rubens Barrichello was just a little bit more competitive.
Lewis Hamilton missed out on victory after his second stop which didn’t go as planned. According to Hamilton and also to Martin Whitmarsh after the race, the team were attempting to gain an extra lap of fuel in the middle stint, and as Hamilton approached the pit entrance on his scheduled stop, the team informed him to continue for another lap. Unfortunately, Lewis was already committed to the pitlane, which came as an unexpected move for the mechanics holding the tyres. This lost Hamilton a few seconds at a time when Rubens Barrichello was setting the streets alight with very fast pace. As Hamilton exited the pitlane, the Briton was 6s behind the Brazilian and the race was over for the McLaren driver.
Ferrari had an interesting weekend and are clearly missing their star driver, Felipe Massa recovering at home after his accident in Hungary. Kimi Raikkonen grabbed a third place and well-deserved podium after a great performance, but on the other side of the garage, things didn’t go quite so well. Luca Badoer was under an enormous amount of pressure, even if it wasn’t implied by the team. To compete after a break of ten years in a car he hasn’t driven, Badoer was always going to struggle. However, it wasn’t expected that Luca would be quite as far from the pace as he was.
The Italian driver put the Ferrari in last position for the first time on merit for the Scuderia, and from there in the race, little improved. Badoer had a great start and made up six places through the opening corners, but from there he went backwards, one spin after another. His pitstop was almost a moment of comedy as well, as he thundered down the garages ahead of rookie Romain Grosjean. Luca clearly left his garage ahead of Romain, and although it was close, it wasn’t in the realm of being investigated by the stewards.
However, as Luca left the garages behind him and began to near the delimiter line, he moved right and seemingly allowed Grosjean to pass, which the Frenchman duly did. Furthermore, as Badoer rounded the pit exit, he moved the white line designating pit exit and race track and collected a drive-thru penalty.
Stefano Dominicali insists his long-term test driver will be in the car for the Belgian Grand Prix next weekend, but questions are being asked up and down the paddock, as well as across the Internet and paper publications as to why the team are allowing this.
Elsewhere in the race, Nico Rosberg put in another sterling effort and has collected another four points and still holds his head higher than Lewis Hamilton in the overall standings. Again, speculation is rife as to where the German pilot will be next year, but for 2009, Rosberg is still pushing hard and being Mr. Consistent.
On the other side of the Williams garage, Kazuki Nakajima once again proved his unlucky nature, the Japanese driver suffering a rear-left puncture. With a long lap at Valencia, it took a long while for Kazuki to return to the pitlane, and by the time he rejoined the track, he was plum last, where he remained until the final lap when Nakajima pitted. The reason for the final pitstop is yet unknown.
Robert Kubica picked up a point which to be honest is quite strange for the BMW team this year. Despite starting out the season with a competitive car, the Hinwil squad have moved backwards in terms of pace, but today Kubica drove well to collect a rather anonymous one point. That now means the Polish pilot is on par with Sebastien Buemi in the driver’s championship, a fact that says it all about his and the team’s performance this season.
Also having fairly anonymous races were the Renault pair, Fernando Alonso performing in front of his home crowd and although generally keeping himself to himself, the Spaniard did claim three points to add to his tally. Team mate Romain Grosjean did well to finish his debut grand prix, and aside from a small moment, drove well from start to finish. Grosjean’s final position was fifteenth.
The final mention has to go to Force India, who today proved that they have improved and are now comfortably ahead of Scuderia Toro Rosso in pace. During Free Practice on Friday and Saturday morning, Adrian Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella placed themselves within the top ten and although qualifying didn’t go quite as well as hoped, both drivers continued their progress in the race. Not only did both pilots get to the chequered flag, but Sutil finished in tenth and Fisichella finished in twelfth.
So now the Formula One circus heads to Belgium and the formidable Spa Francorchamps circuit, set in the Ardennes forest. The weather will surely play its usual part and with more chances of cooler temperatures, it could be the time for Red Bull to make a comeback and take some points away from Brawn. McLaren will surely be strong as well, meaning that although there are only six events to go this year, the championship is still wide open.