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

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)

Strategy

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.

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

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  1. Chaz said on 9th May 2009, 20:29

    Lets hope that Jenson gets his start together this time…

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

  3. Richard said on 9th May 2009, 20:33

    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.

  4. kramkroc said on 9th May 2009, 20:39

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

  5. Mr. Serious said on 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. Dan said on 9th May 2009, 21:41

    Raikkonen to win race from the back.

  7. Miquel said on 9th May 2009, 21:58

    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. Ronman said on 9th May 2009, 22:11

    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. Brian said on 9th May 2009, 22:35

    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. Brian said on 9th May 2009, 22:39

    Any guesses on who will finish in 8th?

  11. goofy said on 9th May 2009, 22:53

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

  12. Moe said on 9th May 2009, 23:20

    I doubt if Massa will catch them.

  13. chaostheory said on 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. STeVE said on 10th May 2009, 0:04

    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>

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 10th May 2009, 10:02

      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.

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