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)

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

  2. Jian said on 10th May 2009, 1:22

    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).

  3. Katy said on 10th May 2009, 1:25

    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.

  4. Prisoner Monkeys said on 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.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 10th May 2009, 10:04

      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.

    • todd said on 10th May 2009, 10:27

      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.

  5. dmw said on 10th May 2009, 1:33

    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.

  6. TommyB said on 10th May 2009, 1:58

    Button will win as always. Yawn

  7. Jonesracing82 said on 10th May 2009, 2:03

    having looked at the weights, i’d say Massa is in good shape, he has KERS for the start and is running longer than those around him

  8. Mahir C said on 10th May 2009, 2:29

    Here are my predictions. Massa will at least pass 2 cars at the start.

    If Massa jumps Rubens and Vettel at the start, then i think Button will win. Sure Massa is longer than Button but i think Button will be able to build an enough gap. Brawn’s race pace is better than their qualifying pace.

    If Massa leads after 1st corner, then we have a race in our hands. Button, Barrichello and Vettel will pit before him so he can lead after 1st pitstops as well. Then we’ll see, in the second stint Massa is bound to be slower than the others. Ferrari’s fuel tank is on top of KERS so the more fuel they have, the slower they will be compared to others due to higher center of gravity. In that case it could be anyone’s race.

  9. boy from ougadougou said on 10th May 2009, 4:43

    very very good tactics by mclaren. heikki & lewis will win the race for sure. massa will blow up his engine on the last lap & kimi will stop the car for ice cream.

  10. Prateek said on 10th May 2009, 5:35

    Any updates on the wet weather that has been predicted?

    • Journeyer (@journeyer) said on 10th May 2009, 8:10

      Prateek, I’m expecting a drizzle in the morning, but that’s about it. We’ll probably get a dry track for the entire race.

      As for the start, I’m guessing Massa will be at least 3rd, probably 2nd. And that’s good news for Button – Massa probably won’t have the pace to stay with him, and will hold up Vettel and Barrichello. Button will have the race in his pocket by the end of the 1st stint.

      As for the battle for 2nd, that will be interesting all race. Once things settle down, I think Barrichello has shown that he has the pace this weekend to jump Vettel and Massa. Also, I think Massa will stay ahead of Vettel.

      1. Button
      2. Barrichello
      3. Massa
      4. Vettel
      5. Webber

    • todd said on 10th May 2009, 10:33

      i think you’re underrating massa and his new car.

      his times have been strong over the weekend, and with kers he’ll pose a threat to button if button makes a mistake somewhere. quick hit of kers to overtake.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 10th May 2009, 11:14

      Perhaps but note the comment about Massa’s tyres below…

  11. F1Fan said on 10th May 2009, 6:02

    Massa doesn’t have any new tyres left. He will have to do the whole race on used tyres. Button and Vettel do have new tyres available. Even if Massa takes the lead at turn-1, the race will still be between Button and Vettel. If Vettel can stay right behind Button after turn-1, he should be able to win.

  12. Rob R. said on 10th May 2009, 6:19

    Go Felipe!

  13. bert said on 10th May 2009, 9:12

    i will be curious about lewis vs raikkonen

  14. Kanyima said on 10th May 2009, 9:55

    I have a feeling the race is going to be disrupted either by rain or a safety car period, and if Hamilton is not taken out by a Force India or a charging Kimmi from the back, he will end up on the podium. Don’t laugh. I just have that feeling.

  15. Damon said on 10th May 2009, 10:54

    The top 10 cars are very close to one another on fuel. Despite that, there are over 2 seconds from Button to Kubica (!). That’s a huge margin.
    The rest of the field – from 11th place onwards – have up to 30kg of fuel more than the top10, so they will be way slower on their way. And they will be uber slow in comparison to the leader|s of the race.

    That means the field will spread apart a lot and very quickly.
    I’m afraid we might see a very processional race…

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