Vettel is pushed back off the Valencia Street Circuit.jpg Red Bull Photofiles

For a man who claims not to care about statistics, Rubens Barrichello does accrue an awful lot of them. For the record, today saw him take the 100th grand prix victory for a Brazilian driver. It’s his first win of 2009, the 10th of his career, his first in five years and Brawn’s seventh of the season. Not that we’re counting…

More importantly, he won by driving an unimpeachable race, well supported by astute tactical decisions from the pitwall and a car that was fast in all the right places.

Ross Brawn admitted on Saturday that his team were deliberately fuelled heavier than the McLarens to counter the Woking-based teams’ KERS effect: the logic being it would be better to start behind and stay out longer, than start in front, and see the opposition blaze past into the first corner with their electrical assistance.

It worked perfectly for third-placed Barrichello, but for a long time it looked like a failed gamble as Lewis Hamilton disappeared into the distance from pole with Heikki Kovalainen sitting comfortably in second.

Behind them Sebastian Vettel started fourth, but was immediately passed by the KERS torpedo of Kimi Räikkönen. Nico Rosberg held sixth position, Fernando Alonso seventh and Jenson Button dropped all the way to eighth, narrowly ahead of his closest championship challenger Mark Webber. Desperate to make up ground, Button pushed too hard into Turn Four and had to take a shortcut across the chicane. He stayed ahead of Webber on the track, but later yielded the position to avoid a potential drive-through penalty.

Behind them the early corners were incident-packed. The ring-rusty Luca Badoer had a spin while the Toro Rosso of Sébastien Buemi and Timo Glock’s Toyota clashed; both receiving damage and coming into the pits. The rookiest of rookies, Romain Grosjean, with precisely half as many races as Jaime Alguersuari, also took a few knocks and pitted.

 

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Given the different fuel loads, the action on the track didn’t necessarily tell the whole story: Hamilton continued to pull away knowing that if he stopped too soon he’d end up chasing with the pack. Further back, Webber knew he had to stay out as long as possible to keep in front of Button. 

Hamilton pitted on lap 16, as did Vettel, but the German’s fuel rig failed to deliver and he had to stop again on the next lap, effectively ending his chance of scoring. Worse was to come.

Hamilton rejoined behind Alonso but, crucially, ahead of Webber. He slowed the Australian sufficiently for Button to catch up. Kovalainen came in one lap later, letting Barrichello loose. Räikkönen and Button pitted on lap 20, Barrichello, Rosberg and Webber on the next lap. Barrichello had done enough to leapfrog Kovalainen into second position, and set about chasing down Hamilton.

Meanwhile Vettel’s afternoon went from terrible to very terrible as a second Renault engine let go in as many days. In the context of the race, it probably didn’t make any difference, but with six races to run, including some high-speed engine-wreckers, he’s alarmingly short of powerplants.

Hamilton and Barrichello, meanwhile, were pushing their Mercedes engines for all they were worth, trading personal bests and fastest laps. Barrichello had the edge and drew ever closer to the back of Hamilton. The pitwall urged Barrichello to push harder, which seemed a rather unnecessary thing to say to an F1 driver but more revealing was their desire for him to be within two-seconds of Hamilton when the McLaren stopped. By lap 35, Rubens had the lead down to less than four seconds, and continued to close; meanwhile Brawn were exhorting Button to attempt a pass on Webber.

Hamilton pitted on lap 37 and had an awful stop; as he pulled in, his tyres were still in their jackets in the garage, adding a good six seconds to his stop. Maybe it cost him the win; maybe it didn’t: Barrichello was charging, setting personal best laps until his own stop on Lap 40. He exited in the lead with Hamilton out of the picture.

 

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The second round of pitstops had other significant moments; Webber managed to lose out not only to Button but also to Robert Kubica, rejoining ninth and out of the points. The latter stages were devoid of excitement, though Buemi retired.

Barrichello crossed the line leading 2.3s from Hamilton. Räikkönen took third ahead of Kovalainen. Rosberg was an excellent fifth, Alonso a battling sixth, Button happy with seventh and Kubica surprised with eighth.

In the context of the titles, BrawnGP increase their lead over Red Bull Racing to 27.5 points in the Constructors’ Championship, while Barrichello moved back into second position in the Drivers’ Championship, ahead of Webber and Vettel. Button’s lead over his team-mate with six races remaining is a very healthy 18 points. He’ll be relieved to have come away with a good result from a bad weekend, but Spa and the Belgian Grand Prix in seven days time will provide a sterner challenge.

F1 European Grand Prix race result
Position  Driver  Grid  Team  Time
 1 Rubens Barrichello 3 Brawn-Mercedes 1:35:51.289
 2 Lewis Hamilton  1 McLaren-Mercedes +2.3 secs
 3 Kimi Raikkonen 6 Ferrari +15.9 secs
 4 Heikki Kovalainen 2 McLaren-Mercedes +20 secs
 5 Nico Rosberg 7 Williams-Toyota +20.8 secs
 6 Fernando Alonso 8 Renault +27.7 secs
 7 Jenson Button 5 Brawn-Mercedes +34.9 secs
 8 Robert Kubica 10 BMW-Sauber +36.6 secs
 9 Mark Webber 9 Red Bull Racing-Renault +44.9 secs
10 Adrian Sutil 12 Force India-Mercedes +47.9 secs
11 Nick Heidfeld 11 BMW-Sauber +48.8 secs
12 Giancarlo Fisichella 16 Force India-Mercedes +63.6 secs
13 Jarno Trulli 18 Toyota +64.5 secs
14 Timo Glock 13 Toyota +86.5 secs
15 Romain Grosjean 14 Renault +91.7 secs
16 Jaime Alguersuari 19 Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari +1 lap
17 Luca Badoer 20 Ferrari +1 lap
18 Kazuki Nakajima 17 Williams-Toyota +4 laps
Ret Sébastien Buemi 15 Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari +16 laps
 Ret Sebastian Vettel  4 Red Bull Racing-Renault  +34 laps

   

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F1 Driver's Championship
Position Driver Team Points
1 Jenson Button Brawn-Mercedes 72
2 Rubens Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes 54
3 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 51.5
4 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 47
5 Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota 29.5
6 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 27
7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 24
8 Jarno Trulli Toyota 22.5
9 Felipe Massa Ferrari 22
10 Timo Glock Toyota 16
11 Fernando Alonso Renault 16
12 Heikki Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 14
13 Nick Heidfeld BMW-Sauber 6
14 Robert Kubica BMW-Sauber 3
15 Sébastien Buemi Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari 3
16 Sébastien Bourdais Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari 2
17 Giancarlo Fisichella Force India-Mercedes 0
18 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 0
19 Kazuki Nakajima Williams-Toyota 0
20 Nelsinho Piquet Renault 0
21 Jaime Alguersuari Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari 0
22 Romain Grosjean Renault 0
20 Luca Badoer Ferrari 0

 

 

 

F1 Constructors' Championship
Position Team Points
1 Brawn-Mercedes 126
2 Red Bull Racing-Renault 98.5
3 Ferrari 46
4 McLaren-Mercedes 41
5 Toyota 38.5
6 Williams-Toyota 29.5
7 Renault 16
8 BMW-Sauber 9
9 Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari 5
10 Force India-Mercedes 0

 

 


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