Italian GP - Sunday - Race Report
The old 1-2 (or is that a 2-1?)
Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button took Brawn GP to another 1-2 finish at Monza, using better strategy than its rivals to win the day. Lewis Hamilton was the closest challenger but in the closing laps of the race, with nothing to lose, Lewis lost control of his car in the second Lesmo and crashed heavily.
Hamilton had been on pole position and he took the lead at the start, thanks to his KERS and a light fuel load combining to stop Adrian Sutil's fast Force India from getting ahead. Kimi Raikkonen used his KERS to push the German down to third place, while Barrichello and Button managed to get ahead of Heikki Kovalainen's heavy McLaren. Rubens managed the stunt as they came off the line, while Jenson got him further round lap one. At the end of the lap Tonio Liuzzi pulled off a lovely pass on the second McLaren as they went down into the Parabolica. It was clear that Liuzzi was not just aggressive but also not in the least bit in awe of the company around him.
It is easy to write all that but the actual fighting was fairly lively as Kovalainen tried to win the place back from Barrichello with his KERS.
"Mine was a messy first lap," said Button, "but I made up a position, which was fantastic. Alonso didn't get the jump with his KERS, which was good, and Kovalainen struggled. I sat behind him through the second chicane, then managed to put the nose up the inside in Lesmo One and got through in Lesmo Two, so that was a much-needed move. Without that I might only have been third today."
The two Brawns were on different types of tyres but we would see as the race wore on that the difference between them was not too spectacular.
Hamilton, Raikkonen and Sutil were running 1-2-3 and we knew that all of them were on two-stop strategies, so that they needed to make a lot of early progress. Hamilton did OK, but it was clear that neither the Ferrari nor the Force India was going fast enough to stay ahead of the one-stopping Brawns. Indeed as the pits stops approached we were already looking at whether or not Liuzzi might be able to sneak into third place. In the end Hamilton was far enough ahead to be able to pit on lap 15 and get out between the two Brawns and Liuzzi's Force India. In fact he delayed Tonio and that meant that he was soon under pressure from Alonso and then Raikkonen slipped between them when he stopped on lap 19. By that point The Brawns were gone, nearly 10 seconds up the road from Hamilton, with Barrichello a couple of seconds clear of Button.
The outcome of the race really depended on which of the Brawn stops was the quicker. Button went in first on lap 28, Barrichello on lap 29. The extra lap gave Rubens the advantage and he came out of pitlane with a bigger lead than before.
Button had switched to the softer Bridgestone tyre and Barrichello was on the harder rubber and Rubens began to pull away as they went after Hamilton, Raikkonen and Sutil, who were ahead again. The three men would all stop again but before those stops it was clear that the Brawns had done enough. Hamilton stopped on lap 34 and emerged behind the Brawns in third. Raikkonen and Sutil stopped together on lap 37, and both of them then ran into difficulties.
"I was in a hurry to get out," said Kimi. "The lollipop guy moved a little bit then put it back down so I stopped. Luckily the fuel rig was out and nobody was under the tyres, so I could go and keep the Force India behind."
Sutil arrived and was too late to hit the brakes and the car slid into the crew, thankfully without any serious damage.
"I think I have to say sorry to the mechanics for going a bit wide! But still they did a great job there," he said.
While this was happening the Brawns were out in front again and gone. Hamilton gave chase while Raikkonen and Sutil tussled for fourth.
In the end Hamilton dropped the ball.
"I as pushing like a qualifying lap so it's to be expected," he said. "We didn't have the pace and I was pushing as hard as I could. I can only say I'm sorry to the team. They did a great job and we weren't quick enough this weekend but I did all I could to catch the Brawns and to win it for them."
The Brawns were not too worried about the McLaren.
"Shov, my engineer [Andy Shovlin], was getting a bit excited," said Button, "but I thought I had Lewis covered even with his KERS. I don't know what happened to him, whether he lost it or something broke, but I was pretty much in control and he obviously ended his race half a lap early."
Raikkonen inherited third and was happy to get it, while Sutil scored his first points of the year in fourth.
Kimi reckoned that if he had been ahead of Lewis from the start he might have held him off and indeed left him behind, but it really did not matter.
"Third place was a bit of a gift," Raikkonen admitted. "It was disappointing to drive as well as you can every lap and not make any mistakes, yet finish a long way behind the first two, but finishing third is a lot better than finishing fourth."
Sutil set the fastest lap, but there was nothing he could do to pass the Ferrari.
"At the start we knew it would be really difficult to defend our position against Kimi and his KERS button," he said. "I was stuck behind him the whole race. I was really quick but I just couldn't find a way past him as the KERS had such a big effect on the circuit. The race pace overall was very good but finally the one-stop strategy worked better than the two-stop. All the same we scored a lot of points and I am really, really happy for myself and all of the team."
Liuzzi had a realistic shot at the podium with his single-stop strategy but was robbed of the chance when he retired on lap 22 with a transmission failure.
"I gave it 100%," he said. "We didn't make any mistakes and everything was perfect. We were in a great position, but that's racing unfortunately. I had an unusual problem, the transmission started making a strange noise and then I lost drive and couldn't push. It was just a shame as we didn't have a reliability problem until now. We won't give up though until the end of the season, we want to get lots of points and I am sure we will make it."
In the end fifth place went to Alonso, who blew his chances with a poor start which enabled Liuzzi to stay ahead of him, despite the Renault's KERS. Behind him, Kovalainen was sixth, which was a disappointment.
BMW Sauber scored again, courtesy of Nick Heidfeld's seventh place but Robert Kubica tangled with Mark Webber and damaged the left endplate on his front wing on the first lap. He then got the black and orange flag to come in to the pits to change the wing and he dropped to the back, retiring on lap 15 with an oil leak.
"I made a very good start and was in quite a good position," Robert said. "I was on the left-hand side of Mark. I guess he did not see me at all. He pushed me on the grass while I was on the brakes. Although I managed to come back on the track, we touched in corner one. In Roggia he was on the outside and slightly in front of me. When we were going into the first apex unfortunately again I was not able to avoid him. I ended up with a damaged front wing. However, I was able to continue and managed to overtake Vettel, despite having the front wing problem."
It was a bad day for Red Bull. Webber was in the tyre wall at the second chicane.
"The car was undamaged, but I couldn't get it out and back onto the track," he said. "I couldn't have done anything differently. It's frustrating to retire through such a small incident. It's not great for the Drivers' Championship, but this is my first DNF of the year."
Hamilton's demise promoted Sebastian Vettel into the final point-scoring position. He struggled throughout with the RB5 in low downforce trim, and was lucky to pick up a point.
"The biggest issue today was the first five to ten laps when I was struggling with low grip, " he said. "I was sliding a lot and lost a lot of time. Overall, we didn't have the speed and perhaps this wasn't the best track for our car. For the next race we will put more downforce in again and maybe we'll be better, we will see. The Championship isn't over - our target is to do our best, we're here to win races and the Championship, so we have to focus on that, all the rest is out of our hands."
Heidfeld was the man who finished ahead of his countryman and he was happy with seventh.
"I'm totally happy, as for me it was a great race," he said. "Coming seventh may not sound fantastic, but from 15th on the grid that really was the best I could do today."
Fisichella's first race with Ferrari was ruined in qualifying but he was ninth by the finish.
"I am happy with the way things went in my first race weekend with Ferrari," he said. "At the start, I managed to make up a few places, then I had a difficult moment with Vettel, who closed the door on me going into Ascari in a way that was, let's say, very decisive. In the first part of the race, I felt comfortable on the softer tyre, while I struggled a bit more on the harder one, especially after the pit stop. It's a shame I only just missed out on a points finish, but this afternoon, I did the best I could. I am upset that I went off the track in FP3, which prevented me from being as well prepared as possible for qualifying: starting a bit further forward might have seen me finish in the top eight."
Williams had a bad day. The FW31 did not like the low downforce of Monza. Nico Rosberg damaged his front wing with debris and he had to stop to investigate serious understeer. That ruined his race and it got worse when he had to have a precautionary check to ensure that a wheel nut locking mechanism had engaged properly. Kazuki Nakajima managed to finish 10th.
Toyotas day was dreadful. The TF109s were uncompetitive, and when Trulli got caught out by Nakajima hogging the middle of the road in Turn 1 on lap 48 he had a brush with the Williams driver as he went over the kerbs, then half spun across team-mate Glock's bows. He'd only recently overtaken him in a tight move there as Glock rejoined after his stop on lap 38. They ran side by side for a while until Trulli went sideways over the kerb on the second Lesmo and dropped back. Brilliant.
They finished 11th and 14th.
A year after the team's first win Scuderia Toro Rosso had a grotty race. Sebastien Buemi should have been 13th, but mistakenly followed the Hamilton Safety Car into the pits on the last lap and was thus not classified. Jaime Alguersuari started from the pits after a gearbox change overnight, chased Buemi for a while, then retired with further transmission trouble.
Renault's number two Romain Grosjean hit someone on the first lap (again) and spent the rest of the race at the back.