Spanish GP - Sunday - Race Report

Button does it again

Jenson Button, Spanish GP 2009

Jenson Button, Spanish GP 2009 

 © The Cahier Archive

Button does it again

Jenson Button took his fourth victory in five races in his Brawn-Mercedes Benz, ending speculation that rivals teams have caught up with the team. He also saw off a strong challenge from team-mate Rubens Barrichello, who seemed to have the race victory in his hands before the team switched him to a three-stop strategy. Button defended the decision, saying that a three-stop race was the fastest thing to do. Barrichello said he wanted to know what had happened.

"It is good for him and the team that they changed the strategy," he said, "but I'd like to understand why they did that. This morning we decided three stops was the way to go, but after this we'll have a meeting and then we'll have some answers."

When it was suggested that he might be in a situation similar to the days at Ferrari, when he was forced to give up victories to help Michael Schumacher.

"If it happens I won't follow any team orders any more," he said. "I'm making it clear now so that everybody knows. It is different than what we had at Ferrari, much more friendly. I'm not blaming this or that. That's the way the race went. No way am I crying I should have done this or that. I just need to know what went wrong today, that's it."

Button agreed.

"We both work very closely in the team," he said."We are both here to win. It went my way today, but he might win in Monaco. I won today, he could tomorrow. That's the way we go racing. I don't ever want to go down that avenue, talking about that, because it's so far from the way it is in our team."

Ross Brawn himself was clear on the subject.

"I don't want a driver working for me who doesn't get angry in such situations," he said. "But if you look at the lap times, they show that Rubens was not as quick as we expected. That's what won Jenson the race."

At the start of the race it looked like Rubens had it all sorted out. Rather than being swallowed up by Felipe Massa's KERS-equipped Ferrari, Barrichello rocketed off the line, leaving his rivals in the dust. Button was busy watching in case Sebastian Vettel and Felipe Massa came at him. Button knew that he had to stay ahead of Massa or there would be trouble because the Ferrari had KERS and was going longer.

"Mine wasn't a great start," Button said, "but Rubens got a fantastic one. I stayed to the inside to try to hold the line but with that much of an overlap between us there was nothing to do about it. I knew then that it would be very difficult to beat him."

Barrichello led while Vettel tried to squeeze Massa off the track to stop the Ferrari passing him. He failed and Massa was third.

The battle up front was then disrupted as all hell broke loose in the midfield. There was pushing and shoving going on down through the field, which included Lewis Hamilton being shoved off the road by Nelson Piquet as they headed down to the first corner. Jarno Trulli came off the line slowly and this created much congestion. At Turn 1 Fernando Alonso pushed Nico Rosberg off on to run-off on the left. As he came back on to the road he caused Trulli to go off into the gravel on the right and he then began to spin. While this happened Adrian Sutil went off on the left, which meant that in effect he was cutting the corner. As he came back on to the tarmac he found Trulli in front of him and there was a sizeable impact which sent carbonfibre and suspension all over the place. Sebastien Buemi braked hard and his team-mate Sebastien Bourdais drove into and over the back of him.

"I lost some positions and was right behind Fernando and Nico going into the first corner," said Trulli. "Rosberg went off then during the next corner but he came back on to the track right next to me. I had to avoid him because he came back on really quickly. I had to steer off the track and lost control of the car so I spun."

"I saw a car flying into me," said Sutil. "Jarno had spun on the inside of the corner and he was just in front of me. I couldn't do anything."

"Trulli spun and I had to brake to avoid him," said Buemi. "My team-mate did not see I was slowing down and could not avoid me. His car went over mine, I saw his tyre go over my head."

"I didn't even have the time to brake before I was flying over the back of my team-mate's car," said Bourdais. "I thought I was going to roll over."

A Safety Car was necessary and that hurt both Button and Massa as Barrichello had more fuel. He handled the restart well and then he was able to pull away from Button quite quickly. Massa was next but could not keep up and Vettel was trapped behind the Ferrari, while Mark Webber in the second Red Bull was able to stay with them. There was then a big gap back to Fernando Alonso and the rest. Further back Kazuki Nakajima pitted to have (yet another) nose changed. Heikki Kovalainen's afternoon was short and he stopped with a failed gearbox not long after the Safety Car pulled off. The only overtaking was when Piquet had to swerve to avoid the slowing Kovalainen and so Lewis Hamilton was able to get ahead of Nelson. Otherwise it was typical Barcelona race. Glock summed it up well.

"I was behind Nico and I couldn't get close enough to him in the slipstream; every time I was close my tyres started to go off."

Button was an early pit caller on lap 18 and this was when the Brawn team decided to switch Jenson on to a different strategy. It was high risk because of the big fuel load he had to deal with.

"I didn't think it was a great idea," Button said. "I wasn't sure who I was actually racing. Rubens was way in front, Massa and Vettel were behind. The car was very, very heavy and was moving around quite a bit at the back and it took me a while to find my feet. My engineer was on the radio all the time, telling me I had to get the laps in, so every lap was flat out. I've never driven in that style before. I got every tenth out of that car that I could today, but it was pretty messy."

A very long middle stint took him to the front and he was able to stay ahead at the second stop. That was all it took.

Barrichello faded in his third stint because he could not get the performance out of his tyres and he found himself having to hold off Webber.

"We knew from qualifying it would be hard to get track position on the guys around us," Mark said. "I did my best to hang in as best we could. I had to go to an extremely long second stint to jump people and I got up to Rubens at the end of it. We stopped on the same lap, and then I got stuck behind him again.

His team-mate Vettel may have been seen as the danger man, but that threat never materialised, stuck behind Massa there was little he could do.

"He was impossible to pass," said Vettel. "He did a very good job, with no mistakes. It's obviously disappointing. My car was quick today, but I couldn't finish on the podium."

Massa did not have luck on his side. At his pits stop there was a problem with the refuelling and Felipe did not get enough fuel. He was forced to do a shorter than normal middle stint but then the same problem happened again and he had to back off in the closing stages and lost out to Vettel and Alonso. Kimi Raikkonen was long gone by then having retired with a hydraulic problem.

"It's a real shame to have lost two places in the final stages, " Massa said. "We knew we couldn't match the pace of the Brawns but we had managed to get ahead of the Red Bulls and, but for the fuel problem, I could have certainly stayed ahead of Vettel and Alonso. The final part of the race was a pain. I was already struggling on the harder tyres and then I had to try and save fuel as much as possible, while at the same time staying ahead of Vettel. Then the team told me that if I wanted to make it to the finish, I would have to let Vettel by and slow down a lot: if I had made another pit stop I would have finished out of the points."

Alonso ended up in fifth, ahead of Massa. He had had his adventure with Rosberg and then a short tussle with Webber but the Renault chassis was not a patch on the Red Bull and so he had to be content with fifth. His team-mate Piquet could not keep the pace and ended up 12th.

The rest had little to trumpet. Nick Heidfeld drove a solid race to seventh.

Robert Kubica's race was doomed from the start when a clutch problem cost him several places. He ended up 11th. Rosberg finished eighth ahead of Hamilton. Behind that were only stragglers.


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