Button and Vettel will watch their mirrors for Massa (Spanish GP start analysis)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

With KERS and a good load of fuel, watch Massa at the start
With KERS and a good load of fuel, watch Massa at the start

The championship-leading trio of Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel and Rubens Barrichello have taken the top three spots on the grid for tomorrow’s Spanish Grand Prix.

But keep an eye on the man in fourth: Felipe Massa in the newly-upgraded Ferrari could use his KERS to disrupt the leaders at the start.

Here’s a look at how the Spanish Grand Prix could unfold.

The start

Pole position gives Jenson Button the advantage of starting from the clean side of the grid and, conversely, puts Sebastian Vettel at risk of losing second to Rubens Barrichello.

That’s exactly what happened to Fernando Alonso last year, when he started second between the two Ferraris. And it’s exactly what Vettel doesn’t need if he’s to take advantage of his heavier car to get ahead of Button after the pit stops.

The highest-starting KERS-equipped car is fourth on the grid. This time it’s Felipe Massa’s Ferrari, so what can he do from that position?

Lewis Hamilton was able to move up from fifth to third at Bahrain, so Massa will be aiming for a similar improvement. Jenson Button hasn’t made the best of starts this year, so if Massa makes a rapid getaway (he gained four places off the start at Melbourne and three at Sepang) it’s not inconceivable he could end up in the lead – and then we’d have a race on our hands.

Read more: Last-second lap puts Button on pole (Spanish Grand Prix qualifying)


According to Bridgestone the teams are finding the soft tyre quicker and sufficiently durable to run for a stint. A normal strategy will probably involve two stints on the soft tyres followed by a final run on the harder compound.

For Button, the best thing that can happen would be for Barrichello to pass Vettel and keep the Red Bull behind.

Another driver to keep an eye on is Robert Kubica. He seems much happier with the updated BMW F1.09 and would have qualified better had he not ended up on the wrong tyres for his final lap.

Overtaking is often extremely difficult at the Circuit de Catalunya. Tellingly, Kimi Raikkonen has not tried to improve his position by going light and fuel and passing other cars – even though he is one of few cars with KERS – he is starting with a heavy load of fuel and hoping to pass cars via a longer fuel strategy. If he can pick off a few rivals in the opening laps as well, so much the better for him.

Read more: Button will pit two laps before Vettel (Spanish GP fuel weights and pit stops)

Your tips for victory

I asked on Twitter who people tip for the win – here’s some of the responses:

cholle2001: brawn still looking good, despite everyone’s upgrades. But i wanna see vettel win his 3rd :)
alvint: i think massa has a real chance tomorrow. glad to see ferrari back on good form.
gofinn: Vettel – if he gets off the line okay
ManipeF1: I’d imagine it’ll be between Button and Vettel again. I’m going for Vettel, he’s a super talent.

Who do you think will win the Spanish Grand Prix? Have your say below.

48 comments on “Button and Vettel will watch their mirrors for Massa (Spanish GP start analysis)”

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  1. Lets hope that Jenson gets his start together this time…

  2. Ferrari has a good chance of leading due to KERS.

  3. I think jenson still looks good if rubens beats vettel into turn 1, but watch out for alonso, lowish on fuel and with kers he got 4/5 cars through first 3 turns at sepang, I’m suprised he didnt go extremely light to get pole today. Maybe learnt form last year.

    1. I think the Renaults have taken KERS off their cars for several races.

    2. yep, no kers in renault

  4. I’m just glad to see that Ferrari are on the way back, A podium would be great.

  5. Mr. Serious
    9th May 2009, 21:32

    As much as anybody specualtes, absolutely anything can happen… but it would be very gratifying to see Felipe take a podium spot tomorrow; for Ferrari to make such a seemingly (touchwood) vast improvement deserves such reward

  6. Raikkonen to win race from the back.

    1. Optimism at its very best!

    2. The Sri Lankan
      10th May 2009, 0:52

      or at its worest. my prediction is he will race for the icecream after the 2nd pitstop

    3. Agree with you Dan…..Raikkonen all the way

  7. I think Massa has got a very good chance if he can get rid of Barriquello with KERS and hold him behind he got more fuel than the other two guys in front, he could get past them on pit strategy.

  8. Missed the Qualis this afternoon, but it looks like it’s going to be a good race with an even better start. Massa Kersing all theway to the lead and Vettel dropping to Barrichelo… i can’t wait. See you guys tomorrow for the race…

    as for who might win, it can be anybody’s, i guess we’ll have a clearer picture on Lap 2

  9. I’m thinkin that Vettel will hold off Barichello going into the first corner and as a result, Massa will take advantage and move into third. by the end of the race it will be Button out front followed by Vettel and Massa. Maybe not in that order, but I believe those three will be on the podium unless there is an unfortunate mishap.

  10. Any guesses on who will finish in 8th?

    1. Heidfeld for 8th

  11. i think it will be crucial who has the best pace on the harder compound and when he will use them

  12. I doubt if Massa will catch them.

  13. chaostheory
    9th May 2009, 23:22

    “had he not ended up on the wrong tyres for his final lap”
    – Kubica had right fresh soft tires, but the team fitted them wrong: left went on right and vice versa (but I dont know front or rear.

  14. Am routing for Massa, he has a strong chance of winning the race, but his opportunity is only at the start. Pit stop strategies have hardly worked for him in the past. It would be a sweet reward for Hungary last year if he were to win from 4th!

  15. stunnong lap from button, but i cant help thinking he had the gods on his side on this one lap, he is not happy with the overall balance which will tell in the race tomorrow. Vettel to win>

    1. I don’t think it was that great a lap considering he’s lighter than most of his rivals. He did well to keep his cool given that he’d cut it so fine to get the lap in.

  16. It’s really tough call. Could be anyone: Button, Vettel, or Massa. OK, here is my prediction: Vettel, Massa, Button.

  17. Has Massa ever won from anywhere else than pole position? That doesn’t include a standard Kimi-swap (Magny-Cours) or a steward gifted victroy (Spa).

    1. He would have in Hungary until his engine said no!

    2. He also won from second in Bahrain last year

    3. Massa has won only from the front row.

  18. I hope Vettel wins, but I reckon he only has a chance if he’s leading when Button first pits. I have a feeling he wont be 2nd into the first corner…either 1st or about 4th hehe. I just hope Massa doesn’t boost ahead of him off the start then block him meaning Button cruises to victory…again…boring.

  19. Prisoner Monkeys
    10th May 2009, 1:32

    Honestly, I think Ferrari might be bluffing a little bit. Sure, Massa has KERS and a heavier fuel load, but Catalunya is notoriously difficult to pass on. There’s also the matter of Brawn taking a vastly different approach to Button’s opening strategy; from what I gather, his final laps weren’t a last-minute toss of the dice as he had planned to leave it as late as possible (but I don’t think he planned on leaving it as late as he did). So he’s running lighter than anyone else in the top six, but we’ve already seen that the fuel conspumtion statistics released before the race are yet to be proven consistently right.

    1. I’m not sure why you think they might be bluffing – we know what their fuel levels are, Massa did his time with 9kg more fuel on board than Button.

    2. yeah personally the most impressive car out there atm is the new ferrari. massa really did a good job to be 4th, .4 off the pace with 4 more laps of fuel onboard. honestly think he’s looking good for a win, if he can slip into 3rd place off the start he only needs to tail the front two, vettel will be hot on button and the front two are stopping close together, massa can go 2 laps longer than vettel so it looks good for him.

      vettel will jump button in the pits then massa when vettel pits.

  20. Button will win. Even if Massa gets the jump, neither he nor Vettel will able to make their tires last as well as Button—they would not get away from him during the first stint. JB will take the lead after the second round of stops and for good.

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