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)

  1. The new rules appear to be vindicated. Racing was much closer than in years past. But he stewards are at it again. Penalty for Vettel but none for Barrichello wontonly causing the turn 1 wreck? The SC delay was inexplicable, as was the length of the caution period.

    Hamilton was definitely the drive of the race, period. How many aggressive, clean on-track passes did he pull off? I lost count. That was a Schumacher like drive—aggressive, mistake-free, maximizing the machinery, and bringing home the result.

    Massa, Raikkonnen and the team again showed the strategic brain-fade that cost them the WDC last year. Raikonnen is I’m afraid earning a reputation for poor driving under pressure and Massa has never done anything special with a mediocre car and I’m afraid he never will.

    I don’t think Brawn was all that invincible. Button and Barrichello did everything they needed to do to lose, and they had no major speed edge, but their closest pursuers were tripping over themselves and each other all day. Button never really got away from Vettel and BMW’s strategy would have really but Button under pressure. Branson better start the cash flowing because Redbull, McLaren, Ferrari have plenty of capital and infrastructure and Europe will be a different story if they don’t develop that car.

    • F1Yankee said on 29th March 2009, 18:58

      starting line drama?
      first turn carnage?
      tons of action?
      close fights at the end of the race?
      questionable officiating?
      weirdness, like a 3-wheeler?
      billionaires smiling like they’re….billionaires?
      check, duh

      although it’s early, the new rules produced a great race, no monsoon needed. i think it’s pretty conclusive that all this back and forth about kers and diffusers is just hot air. cars were running every possible combination, and nothing provided any driver with an overwhelming advantage. overall, the action was extremely close, even by modern standards.

      the sc delay is disappointing, but only a nut would believe it was held up so that button could pit. speed tv crew speculated the delay was due to the new pit timing system, although this doesn’t explain the length of the sc period.

  2. Way to go Jenson! Can’t wait to see how he’ll perform in the wet in a real race car.

    I think it’s unfortunate that there is such a disparity between tire compounds as it may have cost teams positions. Is it time to rid the sport of the mandatory use of the two compound rule? Isn’t this a hold over from the Michelin-Bridgestone tire wars?? Let teams use compounds available that suit their chassis setups.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 29th March 2009, 17:45

      Is it time to rid the sport of the mandatory use of the two compound rule? Isn’t this a hold over from the Michelin-Bridgestone tire wars?

      Quite the reverse actually. After the FIA ended the tyre war Bridgestone wanted a reason to keep tyres in the picture, so to speak, and so the rule was brought in for the first season without Michelin – 2007.

    • John H said on 29th March 2009, 18:11

      After watching the Williams terrible performance on the option tyre in the race, and with no real testing time to rectify this, I think it makes a lot of sense to let the teams use their own compound choice.

      It might make things less interesting in the race though!

  3. Daniel said on 29th March 2009, 18:14

    Supplying data to your future “Australian Grand Prix facts and stats”.

    Rubens Barrichello stepped on the podium driving for the fifth different team: Jordan (1994 Pacific Grand Prix, 1995 Canadian Grand Prix), Stewart (1997 Monaco Grand Prix, 1999 French Grand Prix, 1999 European Grand Prix, and other I can’t remember), Ferrari (dozens of times), Honda (2008 British Grand Prix) and Brawn (2009 Australian Grand Prix)…

    Can anyone remember another driver doing something similar?

    Also, it’s the second time he backs a british team-mate in a 1-2 finish that marks a team’s maiden win (1999 European Grand Prix, Johnny Herbert with a Stewart, 2009 Australian Grand Prix, Jenson Button with a Brawn).

  4. goofy said on 29th March 2009, 18:20

    “just one policeman surrounded by lots of bandits”

    jalousy all around

  5. STeVE said on 29th March 2009, 18:29

    Great opening to the season, Just a couple of things that confused me:

    Barrichello on turn one was not penalised?
    What happened to the tether on Kubica’s car? The tyre flew of like it was 1980 again, such a dangerous failing of this sort usually requires a investigation before the car can race again.

    Cant wait for next weekend though.

    • Phil said on 29th March 2009, 23:18

      If the force is too much the tether will give way, it’s simple physics.

      It will however reduce the velocity and that tyre didn’t seem to be going too fast TBH.

  6. Eduardo Colombi said on 29th March 2009, 18:58

    What happened to the tether on Kubica’s car? The tyre flew of like it was 1980 again, such a dangerous failing of this sort usually requires a investigation before the car can race again.

    think o too Steve, one of those flying tyres killed Ayrton Senna at Imola, another killed a steward at the track in Australia in an incedent with Villeneuve i think.

  7. Absolutely great!
    Edge of the seat television!
    This is a wake up call for the rest, watch out for the white…

    Bring on malaysia!!



  8. Weasel said on 29th March 2009, 20:21

    I’m still trying to figure out why Vettel was not immediately black flagged for blatantly running his trike around the track with a front wheel hanging off, thereby potentially endangering other drivers? What was his team thinking and what was race control thinking by allowing him to continue doing it for so long?

  9. Dane said on 29th March 2009, 22:02

    The right driver won the 1st race, good on you Jenson. Though Im still unsure shy Barrichello didnt get a penalty for turn one. I have just found found out that Hamilton has now been bumped up to 3rd. I wish they wouldnt change the positions after the trophies have been handed out

  10. Firstly great race and well done brawn and co for their effort and belief in themseves when everyone including branson would not put any backing behind them – as for selfpromoting good guy branson – he flew across the world to say he wanted to tell F1 about saving fuel???
    other sponsers let their stickers do there talking – he should just shut it – he hasnt in all his other stunts thought on saving the planet – Brawn is the brains and driving force – Button and Barrichelo have given their loyalty over the months and deserve their places today.
    As for Lewis and Trulli? – a bit of luck backed up by good driving prove he is a very determined driver and that is what F1 needs – enjoyed the blog as well – gives that other dimension – ta all

  11. Clay said on 29th March 2009, 23:28

    As an Aussie I was obviously gutted when Webbo got punted out of contention on lap one, and I too ask the question why wasn’t Rubens penalised? Now lets say the same incident occured four months ago, and Mark’s car was red and Rubens car was silver…

    Look back at Japan ’08. Lewis slides, all four wheels locked up, along the inside of the 2 Ferraris allowing neither to turn into turn 1 but not hitting anyone, yet gets a penalty. Rubens smacks into Webbo, turning him around and into Heidfeld and eventually Heikki, yet nothing happens.

    Gotta love consistency from the stewards…

  12. BRASIL Power said on 29th March 2009, 23:51

    Barrichello did Good…
    Hope that next time Massa and Piquet do the same…

  13. sayonaraman said on 30th March 2009, 0:38

    Great race although I still can’t get over Kubica/Vettel clash. We would witness an epic fight, with the Pole catching up Button and at least challenging him for the top spot on the very last corners of the race. The good part of it is that apparently BMW is a very fast car, able to match BRAWN‘s true, racing pace.
    Lewis has been great. I don’t like the guy, but that was just great performance, one of those that define the true champions.
    So much has been said about Button, Barichello and BRAWN that I’ll just say yesterday they made history in the best possible manner. Bravo…

  14. Daniel said on 30th March 2009, 1:08

    Riccardo Patrese also scored podium finishes with five different teams:
    Arrows, Brabham, Alfa Romeo, Williams and Benneton

  15. Jay Menon said on 30th March 2009, 2:25

    I was pretty upset with Renault’s performance. Alonso looked like he no pace whatsoever, he did come out say he was unhappy with the car, particularly with KERS. His 5th place was very lucky. But he didn’t seem very concerned, based on his comments, they’re expecting better when the European races start, apparently they’ve got new bits coming..hope that works out well. It would be a shame if Alonso’s car cant push for podiums this year.

    As for Lewis, good race, although his intial moves seemed spectacular as he was on the super softs. I would like to go back a year a see what kind of comments Alonso got when he finished fourth last season at Melbourne, in a car that was absolutely rubbish. Lucky or deserved?

    • Juan said on 30th March 2009, 8:51

      Agreed, Alonso didnt seem to bothered..in my opinion, there car will develop early into the season and with a driver like Fernando..i still reckon he is going to take the Championship this yr.
      Well done Brawn GP..enjoy it while it lasts..i feel the others will catch up quick!!

    • Sumit said on 31st January 2010, 2:51

      Hello Freind,
      I am planing to book tickets for F1 racing in march. Can you please advice me your experiance regarding General stand, i mean do you enjoy in general stand? i am not looking to spend more that is why i need some advice.

      If you can advice me, please e mail me at sumitwadhwa78@gmail.com


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