Button wins for Brawn in spectacular start to season (Australian Grand Prix)

Jenson Button led all 58 laps of the Australian Grand Prix

Jenson Button led all 58 laps of the Australian Grand Prix

After months of anticipation the first race of 2009 was a contest to savour and a result to remember. Jenson Button may have led every lap but Sebastian Vettel kept him honest throughout the race – before a controversial late clash with Robert Kubica.

Rubens Barrichello completed Brawn GP’s joy by taking second place, while Lewis Hamilton took a surprise third place from 18th on the grid.

Kovalainen out at the start

The Brawn cars had mixed fortunes at the start – Button motored serenely down to the first corner while Barrichello got bogged down and was swamped by the chasing field.

That included Heikki Kovalainen, who tagged the back of the Brawn GP car, setting off a chain reaction which also claimed Mark Webber and Nick Heidfeld. All bar Barrichello headed for the pits, and Kovalainen’s damage proved terminal.

The Ferraris, with KERS primed and super soft tyres, made lightning starts. Felipe Massa pounced on Robert Kubica off the line, and slotted past Nico Rosberg at turn three as well. Kimi Raikkonen followed him through top take up fifth behind Kubica, with Rosberg bumped back to sixth.

Button, meanwhile, had checked out – dropping Vettel by a massive 3.9s on the first lap. But Vettel, running with several laps’ less fuel, was able to keep Button’s lead down to around five seconds.

Ferraris hit trouble

The Ferraris quickly ran into the shortcomings of the super-soft tyres: graining and the accompanying huge drop-off in performance. Rosberg launched an attack on Raikkonen on lap nine, squeezing by at turn one, allowing the chasing Barrichello to pounce. Barrichello clipped Raikkonen’s car, causing more damage to the front wing of his BGP001, but took fifth place off the 2007 champion.

Wasting no time, the red cars brought their pit stops forward. Raikkonen headed for the pits on the next lap to switch to the more durable medium compound. Massa followed on lap 11, as did Lewis Hamilton, who had also started one the super-soft tyres.

Hamilton had steered clear of the mayhem at the start to run 11th by lap three. Exploiting the brief performance of the super soft tyres and using his KERS boost he moved up to ninth by lap six, passing Nelson Piquet Jnr. But with the life gone from his tyres he had struggled to make an impression on Kazuki Nakajima’s Williams.

The other early stoppers were Jarno Trulli (lap ten) and Kubica (lap 12). Trulli, who had started from the pits along with team mate Timo Glock following their qualifying infringement, passed Hamilton for 14th shortly after his stop.

This left Button and Vettel at the front with Rosberg 27.3s behind thanks to spending so long stuck behind the struggling Massa. Behind him were Barrichello, Nakajima, Piquet, Sebastien Buemi and Giancalo Fisichella.

Nakajima triggers safety car

Vettel and Rosberg were the next to pit on lap 16, Rosberg losing time with a sticking front left wheel nut. Button responded by setting a new fastest lap of the race in anticipation of his first pit stop.

But on lap 18 Nakajima lost control of his FW31 on the kerb at the exit of turn four, and hit the barriers hard. The safety car was summoned while marshals retrieved the wrecked Williams.

Under last year’s rules this would have pole-axed Button’s chances, leaving him unable to pit for several laps. Thankfully, the ‘pit lane closure rules’ were wisely dropped over the winter, and Button was able to take his pit stop as normal before queueing up behind the safety car. This took rather a long time, however, and the interruption dragged on even longer as the lapped cars were allowed to re-take their positions.

Button led Vettel at the restart, both putting off their stints on super soft tyres until the final phase of the race. Then came the trio that had already used the green-striped tyres: Massa, Kubica and Raikkonen.

Piquet tried to pass Rosberg for sixth on the outside of turn one at the restart, but was caught out by his cold brakes and tyres, and spun into retirement. Team mate Fernando Alonso, meanwhile, took 12th place off Glock, who had also just been passed by Hamilton.

Massa made an early return to the pits on lap 31, having fuelled aggressively short at his first stop in a bid to get back to the front. After taking on enough fuel to reach the finish the Brazilian driver fell towards the back of the pack from where he struggled to mount a recovery.

On lap 45 Massa’s F60 slowed and his race was over. This was a double blow for Ferrari – two laps earlier Raikkonen had crashed into the barriers on the exit of turn 13. The constructors’ champions start their title defence with no points after one race.

Vettel and Kubica crash

Kubica’s pace late in the race suggested Ferrari’s gamble of starting on the super soft tyres might have paid off had they gone the distance. Vettel made his final pit stop on lap 45, and Button came in two laps later, losing vital time as the team had to switch between refuelling hoses.The leading pair were now both on the super soft tyres and Kubica, on mediums, was catching them rapidly.

The stage was set for a grandstand finish with the leading trio covered by just a few seconds. On lap 56 Kubica pounced on Vettel at turn three and the pair collided. Vettel was surprisingly apologetic afterwards for incident in which both drivers could have given each other a bit more space. Instead both lost their front wings, and crashed separately at turn five. Vettel tried to keep his three-wheeled car going, but eventually pulled up. He was handed a grid penalty for the next race at Malaysia for the crash, and a $50,000 fine for driving around the track on three wheels.

This remarkable turn of events robbed us of a nail-biting chase to the flag, and brought the final curtain down on the whole race. The safety car was sent out to recover the wreckage and there was no time to get the race running again.

Kubica and Vettel collide, Vettel handed penalty (Video)

Hamilton inherits third

Meanwhile, unseen by the TV cameras, Trulli went off the track, losing what was now third place to Hamilton. Trulli then re-passed Hamilton after the safety car had arrived on track, and was later handed a 25-second penalty by the stewards which demoted him from third to 12th.

Trulli’s form at Melbourne was quite atypical: out-qualified by his much heavier team mate, but in superb form on race day, he deserved much more from the weekend. He later claimed Hamilton had slowed and he had no choice but to pass the McLaren.

Hamilton inherited third place against all expectations, and was the highest-placed KERS-equipped finisher. Glock took fourth after deftly passing Alonso around the outside of turn four on lap 51, having practised the move on Buemi two laps earlier.

Rosberg was sixth, a disappointment after his qualifying form, having lost time at crucial moments with his pit stop problem, the clash with Piquet, and being passed by Massa on lap one.

Buemi took seventh place on his debut, an ominous sign for team mate Bourdais, who finished eighth. Adrian Sutil was ninth after a spirited battle with team mate Fisichella. The Italian was 11th behind Heidfeld and no doubt rued missing his pit box when he pitted during the first safety car period, losing a lot of time.

Webber was a suitably unlucky 13th after another miserable home race, and Vettel, Kubica and Raikkonen were all classified behind him despite having stopped.

But this was a Grand Prix with a feel-good result. For two long months it looked as though Honda’s feverish work on its RA109 would reap no reward. But, re-born as the Mercedes-powered BGP 001, Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello scored an historic result that would have been totally unthinkable just a few weeks ago.

That said, their margin of victory was nothing like as great as the pre-race form suggested. The signs are very good that we could be in for a close, competitive and exciting championship. Roll on Malaysia next weekend!

Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello lead Brawn GP in historic debut 1-2

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64 comments on Button wins for Brawn in spectacular start to season (Australian Grand Prix)

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  1. dibble said on 29th March 2009, 15:34

    exellent race good to see f1 back.well done to brawngp and jb and lewis 3rd brilliant.bring on next weekend:)

  2. what a lucky set of points will these be for Lewis Ham

    • John H said on 29th March 2009, 17:57

      They weren’t lucky. Other cars broke down, fell off the track, crashed into each other or broke the rules.

      He and his car didn’t do any of these – so he deserves third place.

  3. SoLiD said on 29th March 2009, 15:39

    I think the scrap between Vettel and Kubica was nice… ok it ended in tears but a fight at the front between 2 great talents that won’t give way just like that… Got to love that.
    I do agree with Brundle, 50/50.

    Glad to follow F1 at BBC from this year :D

  4. Lewis drove a superb race, keeping out of trouble and pushing hard when he needed, and making great use of KERS, in what is universally acknowledged to be an aerodynamically flawed car.
    3rd place totally deserved. He kept his head during SC, while Trulli fell off and, surprise surprise, tried to blame Lewis.
    Great drive from Jensen as well, soaking up the tremendous pressure through out the race. To me, he looked like a Champion.

    • pSynrg said on 29th March 2009, 21:03

      Totally agree SYM. The WDC making the absolute most possible out of a bad situation. Very impressive as always. Bit like Alonso towards the end of 2008.

  5. S Hughes said on 29th March 2009, 15:54

    I wonder what Button would have done in an MP4-24 which is universally recognised to be a dog. Oh yes, just look at last year for your answer. It was the car wot won it.

    • Striay said on 29th March 2009, 15:59

      Im sorry but last years Honda car does not prove button to be a “bad driver” as you put it, as his car was way off the pace and Barichello also struggled last year as well. Button is one of the best drivers out there who understands a lot about ‘technical’ stuff, and also drives extremely smoothly, which benefits the tires.

    • francois said on 29th March 2009, 16:17

      Jenson’s also shown he can out drive a horrible car to get decent results as well , look at what he did in some races in 2007.

      I do agree that was probably one of Lewis’s best drives in so much as he just put his head down and got on with the race without doing anything rash or trying too hard.He passed an impressive number of cars in the early stages with the help of his KERS.

    • Clare msj said on 31st March 2009, 17:11

      You can hardly compare this years Mclaren to last years Honda – Lewis wouldnt have done much better than Button did in that Honda last year – it was an awful car! This years Mclaren isnt awful, its just average.

      Plus you could argue that Lewis’ Mclaren helped him to the title too, just like Jenson’s Brawn is helping him this year – the car is always a contributor – no matter how good a driver is if you put him in a truly rubbish car he wont get the results

  6. frecon said on 29th March 2009, 15:56

    Charlie Whitting waiting 3 laps to put the SC on the track, and doing it just after Button pit stopped made me feel sick.

    Brawn GP and Button are fair winners, but this kind of decissions are not good for the sport.

    Futhermore, if you add the diffusor issue, with Renault and Red Bull asking in the past about similar diffusors and FIA answering in a negative way…

    It’s obvious for me that FIA is trying to break FOTA unity. Am I a conspiranoic?

  7. andy said on 29th March 2009, 15:56

    Well done jenson-barra.
    its great to see great sportsmanship rather than a certain person with “daddy” kissing his son goodbye like last years “tripe”
    JENSON TO WIN TITLE coultards right jenson is a world class driver,never had the equipment to do it.
    shuv it up em jens

  8. jilted john said on 29th March 2009, 16:00

    Your right andy,couldnt stand last year all the hype around hamilton.
    Jenson gets in quietly and does the job massive well done.
    By the way last years champ was SWISS not british!!!!!

    • frecon said on 29th March 2009, 16:01

      And today winner is from Monaco, not from UK ;)

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 29th March 2009, 16:13

      Not the silly Switzerland thing again?

      The Swiss haven’t taken over Stevenage and Monaco hasn’t annexed Frome. They’re both British.

    • frecon said on 29th March 2009, 17:10

      Of course they are. In Spain we have the same comments. Alonso also pays taxes in switzerland, and most of the F1 drivers do it now and did it before.

      I was just kidding

    • F1Yankee said on 29th March 2009, 18:28

      if a business were to do this, via ofshore holding company (a mailbox in the bahamas), it would be deemed illegal. individuals are allowed to stick it to their home countries, and i find that despicable. in this context, the only thing worse are the olympic athletes that sold their nationality.

    • Matt said on 29th March 2009, 19:23

      If our tax laws didn’t penalise people for being successful……

    • Bernification said on 1st April 2009, 2:03

      F1 Yankee- all business does do this. Where have you been living?

  9. Hugo Bourgeois said on 29th March 2009, 16:06

    I wonder how long we’ll have to wait before we see Hamilton score points again :-)

    Nice to see Brawn GP (drivers, but also Ross Brawn obviously) perform so well!

    • Setroc said on 29th March 2009, 17:39

      I think we’ll have to wait for the diffuser issue to be resolved. Mclaren are surely one of the best equipped teams to quickly adapt and use it if it’s deemed legal.

      That said, even without the luck, Hamilton looked in pretty good form to finish 8th and snatch a point. And that’s having had a failed gearbox preventing him from taking part in Q2 in addition to being demoted 3 places on the grid. So maybe it’s not all bad for him.

  10. gory said on 29th March 2009, 16:06

    Thats not strictly true frecon,jenson spends more time in uk than hammy.
    i should know i live in his hometown frome!!
    hammy just a whiner and whinger anyway, doesnt like the photos being taken thats why he went to cuckoo clock land.

  11. theonlygayinthevillage said on 29th March 2009, 16:10

    Please please no that smirking cheshire cat branson (who cant even get broadband working right)
    DONT CHANGE THE NAME TO VIRGIN PLEASE GOD!!!!!!

    • I find his doppelganger blonde twins more spooky, actually..

    • pSynrg said on 29th March 2009, 21:08

      Yeah, the blonde twins! Was that just cooked up to look like some garbage movie script “super business man saves the world”?
      He should just keep his stupid grinning mush off the screen. You don’t see the boss of RBS or Panansonic (for example) gurning round the grid with jail bait on each arm.
      Give Brawn the dosh alredy and bugger off Branson.

  12. Jess said on 29th March 2009, 16:17

    vettel handed a grid penlaty for what? racing hard or trying to complete the Race. Man F1 just could not leave it a lone.

    • Spud said on 29th March 2009, 17:08

      Yeah that was a great battle!!
      Neither man wanted to give up the place.
      Its unfortunate they both went out but thats racing!!!

      Next year we’ll probably see airbags to stop the cars hittin off one another LOL.

      Seriously thought leave the racing alone.

      Well done to Jenson and Rubens (an ex Jordan racer),
      And good to see Force India (ex Jordan) not dead last. I hope they do well this year.

      Great race anyway, more of the same please!!

  13. Eduardo Colombi said on 29th March 2009, 16:27

    the durability of the front wing was a big surprise for me. Barrichello crashed twice with it and did not lost it. his performance got a little worst but nothing that compromised his race.

    What a great race with lot of surpises, good for ones not that good for others, extremely exciting!

    For my surprise Lewis made an outstanding race with a doubting car, drove like a champ and deserved the 3rd place. Not a big fan of his driving but in this race it was really nice.

    • Phil said on 29th March 2009, 23:15

      Even more amazing is that Kova shunted Barichello’s rear at the start mangling the diffuser and robbing him of rear downforce.

      To bring the car in at all, let alone in 2nd place was an amazing feat and shows that Brawn was right in picking experience over the Senna name (which would have brought a lot of sponsorship by itself).

  14. el Diablo said on 29th March 2009, 16:28

    It’s interesting that Brawn are yet another team to take their first win with a 1-2. Jordan took a 1-2 at Belguim 98, as did BMW at Canada 08. Also, Stewart finished 1st and 3rd at the Nurburgring 99 and the old Honda team finished 1st and 4th at Hungary 06, though they had won before in the 60’s I think.

    I can’t wait for the rest of the season, even the next 3 races at three Tilkedromes should be better than usual now that the cars have KERS and the wrong tyres. Was it just me or did that race remind anyone of the tyre troubles back in most of the races in 2005?

    One more thing- as good as it is to see Button and Barrichello on the podium, how long before we all get bored of Brawn dominating?

  15. Mig@Golf said on 29th March 2009, 16:34

    After everything that was said and done to try to burry Vodafone McLaren Mercedes and the World Champion Lewis Hamilton in pre-season and before Australia GP, it was with great delight I saw Lewis taking home a deserved third place – a perfect race from the back to the front.

    It’s also with delight I saw double Brawn GP winners, even if I don’t really like the man (Ross), I like both drivers a lot – Button and Rubens.

    It was a pity for Heikki to retire so soon, since we was in a different fuel strategy and we will never know what that would do.

    About the last accident – I believe the blame is on Kubica and not Vettel, but those 80 year old guys behind that big table looking at a monitor know better…

    I think in the future what happened with Truli – overtaking a car with yellow flags -MUST BE handled on the spot and not after the race is over.

    If it’s a weight problem of some other irregularity, of course only after the cars are inspected, they can know, but what happened, we all saw…

    I guess some guys didn’t want another British driver on the podium… but I believe Ron Dennis already call Toyota Team Manager to ask for the trophy :). It WILL go to McLaren Museum!

    About Ferrari, after hearing a lot that the past mistakes were not to be repeated, it looks bad – Kimmi had mechanical problem in Q1; Massa also during the race, and Kimmi hit the wall – resulting in either car finishing the inaugural Grand Prix of what looks it will be a great Season with more than 2 drivers fighting for the title and a lot of them fighting for race wins.

    About the FIA meeting, it won’t change a lot – if the damn things are OK, all teams will use them, if not, I don’t think the Browns will go from front row to last… as Rubbens said during the press conference, he was hit from behind (as hit other with the front left wing and still was second, so it’s not the all mighty magical exhaust that make them now the team to beat on the pack, at least for now.

    Can’t wait from next weekend!

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 29th March 2009, 17:43

      I think in the future what happened with Truli – overtaking a car with yellow flags -MUST BE handled on the spot and not after the race is over.

      It happened about two laps before the end of the race. Turning around a decision that quickly isn’t easy, particularly when the TV cameras at the track seemed to miss both Hamilton passing Trulli and Trulli passing Hamilton.

      In an ideal world perhaps the team could have contacted race control and asked them what order the cars should be in. But that didn’t work out for McLaren at Spa last year (Whiting told them they fine were after Hamilton’s infamous pass, then changed his mind) and now Max Mosley has told the teams they aren’t supposed to do that any more.

    • Chris said on 29th March 2009, 17:54

      About the last accident – I believe the blame is on Kubica and not Vettel, but those 80 year old guys behind that big table looking at a monitor know better…

      Lol – that shot of Charlie Whiting and his army of officals ammused me as well. (Max obviously through it would show how professional and open and on the ball the officals are instead it just showed a room of ageing baboons) Also considering the number of officals in that room no wounder it takes for ever to make a decision.

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