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Spain race analysis - Brawn keep charging Bulls at bay

Spain race analysis - Brawn keep charging Bulls at bay

Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix was arguably the most eagerly anticipated race of the season so far. With most teams bringing heavily revised cars to Barcelona, could someone break through and end the Brawn-Red Bull stranglehold on 2009? Ultimately the answer was no, but there were plenty of interesting developments. Despite further reliability issues, Ferrari were the most improved team, back in top-three contention. In contrast, after pole and a podium in Bahrain, Toyota found themselves struggling to live with the leading teams…

Jenson Button, P1
Rubens Barrichello, P2
This was another brilliant one-two for Brawn, whose cars owned the race from the start. They were helped a little by the Red Bulls having to fight elsewhere, but their fastest laps showed that they still have a small but critical advantage. Button won after a change from a three- to two-stop refuelling strategy, something which Barrichello clearly wished afterwards he had been offered. In his final stint, however, the Brazilian said a handling problem on the Bridgestone prime tyres made his BGP001 very difficult to drive, so Button won easily by 13s. The team are now almost 30 points ahead of Red Bull in the constructors’ championship.

Red Bull
Mark Webber, P3
Sebastian Vettel P4
Had they not been bottled up behind others cars all through the race, Webber and Vettel’s Red Bulls might have challenged the Brawns for victory. Vettel lost out to Massa at the start and spent most of the race glued to the Ferrari’s new diffuser. Webber jumped them both thanks to clever pit stop strategy, but even he got stuck behind Barrichello, both towards the end of the second stint and later when the Brazilian was struggling in the third. But once again 11 points for a three-four finish showed the new class of the team, and the strength of their underlying threat.

Fernando Alonso, P5
Nelson Piquet, P12
Alonso pushed as hard as only he knows how to take a strong fifth place, but Piquet struggled throughout with balance problems and never looked as strong as he had in Q2.

Felipe Massa, P6
Kimi Raikkonen, Retired lap 18, throttle hydraulics
Ferrari were the most improved team in Spain, both in qualifying and the race, and Massa set third fastest lap behind the Brawns. Grabbing third from Vettel at the start, he said he could easily have stayed there. But a malfunction either with the refuelling rig or the car short-changed him on fuel in his first stop, and the problem persisted in the second even though Ferrari switched to Raikkonen’s redundant rig. The Brazilian had to back off in the closing stages to conserve fuel, surrendering fourth to Vettel and then fifth to Alonso. Raikkonen had been forced to quit after 17 laps, when chasing Heidfeld, following a hydraulic problem with his throttle.

BMW Sauber
Nick Heidfeld, P7
Robert Kubica, P11
A good start for Heidfeld, despite being run into in the first corner traffic, resulted in the German turning in a points-scoring performance on his 32nd birthday, but Kubica fell back with a clutch problem at the start and was thereafter doomed to a lonely race down the back in which he complained that his F1.09 lacked grip. Heidfeld, by contrast, said the new aero package was a clear step forward.

Nico Rosberg, P8
Kazuki Nakajima, P13
Rosberg lost what he felt was a chance of fifth place when he got edged off the road in Turn 2 by Alonso at the start, and later when his FW31 developed a curious and intermittent oversteer problem. But he still scored a point for eighth. Nakajima damaged his front wing in the accident at the start, and spent the rest of his day down the back of the field.

Lewis Hamilton, P9
Heikki Kovalainen, Retired lap eight, gearbox
Hamilton got edged on to the grass at the start by Piquet, somehow missed involvement in the first-corner melee (but only just!) and then struggled with a gripless car on his way to a lonely and frustrating ninth place just out of the points. Kovalainen ran ahead of him until lap seven, when the gearbox broke.

Timo Glock, P10
Jarno Trulli, Retired lap one, accident with Sutil, Buemi and Bourdais
Both cars bogged down getting off the line, with some sort of engine electronics problem. Trulli was thus in the wrong place at the wrong time when he got edged into the gravel by Rosberg in Turn 2 at the start, and when he spun back on to the road he collected Sutil and triggered the demise of the Toro Rossos. Glock dropped to the tail of the field after being the first to refuel after 17 laps, and then rooted his tyres whenever he got in the slipstream of a car in front. Not a happy day here.

Force India
Giancarlo Fisichella, P14
Adrian Sutil, Retired lap one, accident with Trulli, Buemi and Bourdais
Fisichella stopped under the safety car for a precautionary tyres swap, which entailed changing the strategy. He fought hard with Nakajima, but was ultimately stymied when a short-changed refuelling stop prompted a second which dropped him to last place. Sutil was a victim of the four-car melee in Turns 1 and 2 on the opening lap.

Toro Rosso
Sebastien Buemi, Retired lap one, accident with Bourdais, Sutil and Trulli
Sebastien Bourdais, Retired lap one, accident with Buemi, Sutil and Trulli
It doesn’t get worse than it did on Sunday for Toro Rosso. Caught up in the immediate aftermath of the Trulli/Sutil collision, Buemi had to brake hard in avoidance and Bourdais got caught out and ran over the top of him. Exit both Toro Rossos.
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post #2 of 2 (permalink) Old 05-11-2009, 07:54 PM Thread Starter
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F1: Analysis - Tires Cost Barrichello Victory

F1: Analysis - Tires Cost Barrichello Victory
Written by: Adam Cooper NASCAR News, F1 News, and Racing News on SPEED -
05/10/2009 - 03:54 PM
Barcelona (ESP)
Page 1 2
Spanish Grand Prix Photo Gallery HERE

Barrichello (L) once again had to cede the limelight to Button (Getty) » More Photos
The Spanish GP continued its habit of rewarding the pole man as for the ninth year running the guy who started at the front won the race. But it wasn’t quite as easy as that, as for much of the afternoon it was Rubens Barrichello and not Jenson Button who held the advantage.

In the end their fortunes were reversed, and that inevitably has created something of a controversy as the Brawn team appeared to favour the championship leader, at the expense of poor old Rubens. But appearances can be deceptive, and the reality seems to be that that wasn’t the case.

Rubens had been quicker than Jenson for most of the weekend, and it was really only when it mattered in final qualifying that Button’s last gasp effort put him in front. From third on the grid Rubens did a great job to slice past not only Sebastian Vettel but also Jenson, by towing up behind on the run to Turn One and then pulling out and passing him round the outside. It was great stuff, and Rubens rightly surmised that his team mate would have to give best.

The safety car period slowed things down for a bit, but Rubens looked pretty comfortable out front in that first stint. There’s was some interest dialogue on the team radio as Jenson urged his team mate to get a move on, as if Barrichello could actually hear him. The only two-way conversations between team mates that I’ve ever come across were in that awful Sylvester Stallone movie, Driven...

Anyway, things got interesting at the first stops. As expected Jenson came in a lap earlier than his team mate, but it was clear from the nozzle times that the Englishman took on a significantly longer load. And that could only mean that while he was on a more traditional two-stop, Rubens was going for three stops.
At the time it looked like Rubens had been switched, but the real story is that both drivers were apparently originally intended to go for three stops, and while Rubens stuck to that, it was Jenson who was switched – in essence because there was a fear that he’d get stuck in traffic, be unable to properly take advantage
of his light load, and risk being passed by Massa and Vettel.

Indeed the team still felt that three was the way to go and, if everything went to plan, Rubens would retain his advantage for the rest of the race. Initially it looked like that would be the case, as in his second stint he opened up a reasonable gap. But after his stop on his third set of tyres he wasn’t very happy, and didn’t make the progress that he needed to. And that translated into Jenson getting ahead when both men had completed their final stops.

The conspiracy theorists suggest that Rubens was put on an unfavourable strategy in order to slow him down and allow Jenson through, but it was rather a convoluted way of doing it, and the official Brawn line does make sense.

Rubens himself was a little shell shocked afterwards. I was standing alongside SPEED’s Peter Windsor when Rubens gave us an astonishing quote when asked to compare the situation with the one he left at Ferrari: ‘If I ever think that Ross has done something to favour Jenson, I will put my boots up and call it a day. I won’t go into that direction. It’s so much a softer atmosphere, and it was Ross that called me to be driving for him. He’s a guy that I believe in very much, and a guy that I think likes me. So I cannot believe in that. The day he tells me he gave a favour to Jenson is the day that... He won’t see me any more in this, because I don’t need that, I’m much bigger than that.’

Powerful stuff! But after he returned to the team, spoke to Brawn, looked at the numbers and heard the full story for himself, he accepted that fortune hadn’t favoured him. What did annoy him was that he hadn’t been told in advance of his own stop that Jenson’s strategy had changed, and he could not react. Meanwhile team insiders pointed to his disappointing third stint as evidence that he hadn’t done as good a job as Jenson.

You had to feel sorry for the guy, because he’s done a pretty good job for most of the year, and seems to have been getting as much bad luck land come his way as Jenson has had good luck. But for someone in his 275th start he’s still pretty hungry, and that elusive win can’t be far away.

F1: Analysis - Tires Cost Barrichello Victory
Written by: Adam Cooper NASCAR News, F1 News, and Racing News on SPEED -
05/10/2009 - 03:54 PM
Barcelona (ESP)
Page 2

Webber outshone Sebastian Vettel in the Spanish Grand Prix (Getty) » More Photos
It wasn’t exactly a wheel to wheel thriller, but there was plenty more to keep us busy. Mark Webber’s stealthy drive into third place was pretty impressive, and showed that Red Bull Racing can sometimes pull off a great strategy – even one of the two places gained involved passing a sister car!

In the last couple of races Sebastian Vettel has twice spent much of his time stuck behind someone, and has thus not been able to demonstrate his true potential. That’s been down to 1) running a little too much fuel in qualifying when a more aggressive approach might have guaranteed pole and 2) bad starts.
In Bahrain he dropped behind Hamilton and Button, and this time it was Barrichello and Massa who got past. He ended up spending most of the race staring at the back of the Ferrari, even coming into the pits behind him at both stops, which meant that the status quo resumed when they got back on track.

The clever bit by RBR, or at least Webber’s side of the garage, was to give him a heavier load at his first stop and a much longer second stint. That meant he jumped both Massa and Vettel and suddenly popped up in third. There were reports afterwards of a little acrimony in the RBR camp, and specifically that Helmut Marko - the man behind all Red Bull’s racing programmes and the mentor of Vettel – was not exactly happy that his boy had been demoted by his own team mate...

Vettel did at least have the compensation of retaining his fourth place, thanks to passing Massa in the closing stages. Yet again Ferrari suffered a drama, this time after it failed to get
all of the fuel into the car at the first stop, and more importantly, at the second stop. It was nothing to do with the rig, as different ones were used at each stop, it’s just the last few kgs of fuel physically didn’t get into the car or came back down the hose – ‘blowback’, as one team insider put it.

The bottom line was that poor Massa didn’t have enough fuel to finish the race at normal speeds, and had no choice but to back off and let first Vettel and then Alonso shoot by him. A splash and dash would have dropped him behind the Renault anyway, so the team gambled on a late safety car giving him a hand. It didn’t, and he was lucky to make it home at all. After crossing the line he was told to stop, because the FIA demands that you finish with a litre in the tank for fuel sampling. Without it, he would have been disqualified...

That would have been a frustrating end to what had been a pretty good day for the team, as it showed massively improved performance. The fact that Massa was in the fight for the podium, when just a few weeks ago that seemed highly unlikely, says a lot about how much work the team had done. Meanwhile his team mate had another nightmare weekend.

A few weeks ago I told you about how the Ferrari mechanics call Michael Schumacher ‘the owl’, because he hangs around and brings bad luck, specifically to Raikkonen. And guess who was on the pit wall all through the Barcelona weekend...
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