Brawn Flexes Muscle in Valencia
it may have taken five years and a major blunder by McLaren for Rubens Barrichello to end up on the top spot of the podium, but it is absolutely undeniable that the Brazilian drove out of his skin in what was one of the more difficult races of the season. >
A street circuit, which makes overtaking difficult, is probably the biggest problem that Rubens had to overcome, especially when he was looking for a way past the McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen. But some smart pit-work on part of the Brawn GP pit-crew and some not-so-smart work by the McLaren lineup meant that Barrichello would end up taking the win above all else.
Sebastian Vettel, starting from fourth on the grid, began the race with a bit of drama, placing his car at an angle to drive into the space ahead of fifth-placed Jenson Button. As the lights went off, all cars started smoothly, including Vettel’s, which made Button absolutely furious about having to take his foot off the pedal to avoid a collision.
At the end of the first lap, the McLarens of Hamilton and Kovalainen led the race with Barrichello in third and the Ferrari of Raikkonen in fourth. Further down the race, there came reports that Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button had, in the opening lap, skipped a chicane that took the two ahead of Mark Webber. Although Button allowed Webber to go through after the latter yelled into the team radio that Red Bull followed up with a formal complaint, Alonso didn’t concede his place and was left unpunished. >
Maybe, as the race director may have seen it, Alonso didn’t gain any advantage by jumping the chicane. The Spaniard had been ahead of Webber after the Australian overtook Button, who in turn had been slowed down by Alonso. As a result, when the chicane was skipped, it was Button who gained an advantage by moving ahead of Webber and not Alonso.
Hamilton started the pit-stops, followed closely by Kovalainen and once the Finn was in the pits, Barrichello went all out and grabbed second place, behind Hamilton. Sebastian Vettel’s race was blown in the first round of stops after his fuel-hose failed to deliver the requisite amount of fuel, meaning that he would have to stop again in the next lap, just to get the right fuel load. >
With Kovalainen out of his way, Barrichello set his sights on Hamilton and soon the chance to beat the Brit would come. While the McLarens seemed slightly superior on the track, Brawn were in for a stroke of luck during the second round of pit-stops. A late change in strategy for Hamilton meant that by the time the race leader rolled in for his pit stop, his tyres were still being rolled out. That meant that the crew spent 3-4 seconds over the normal pit-stop time, i.e. after the fuel hose came off, to put on the tyres on the McLaren.
Barichello took the lead and thereafter, had enough pace to sustain the spot despite Hamilton pushing the Brazilian to the extreme. By the 53rd lap, Barrichello finally decided to slow down on his constantly improving lap times and decided to coast to the finish to gain his first win for over 5 years now.
Hamilton came in at second while Kimi Raikkonen went ahead of the other McLaren to complete the podium spots. >
Felipe Massa’s replacement, the most talked about position in recent times, failed to make any waves as Luca Badoer led the scarlet race-car to the other end of the lineup, finishing 17th out of 17 finishers. To Badoer’s defense, the Italian has barely driven the F60 due to the latest regulations that ban mid-season testing.
Ferrari will be hoping for a better show at Spa from the man who was the replacement for Michael Schumacher after the German failed to make it to the starting grid for physical reasons.
Nico Rosberg, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Robert Kubica brought up the rear of the points table. Barrichello jumps up to second spot in the Championship table and on the other end of the racing-age spectrum, rookie Romain Grosjean came in at 16th, still ahead of the hapless Luca Badoer and by some margin too.
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