Did Brawn deliberately give Barrichello a poor strategy to let Button win?

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Barrichello leads at the start - but he lost it on strategy later on
Barrichello leads at the start - but he lost it on strategy later on

Rubens Barrichello made an excellent start to take the lead of the Spanish Grand Prix from third on the grid.

With more fuel on board than second-placed Jenson Button, and overtaking very difficult at the Circuit de Catalunya, he should have been very hard to beat.

But a strange strategy call left Barrichello second behind Button at the chequered flag. Did his team call it wrong – or was he put on an inferior strategy because Brawn has decided to back Button for the championship?

After the first round of pit stops we heard a clip of Brawn’s radio broadcast where Barrichello was told that Button had switched “to plan A.” It soon became clear Barrichello was running a three-stop strategy, while Button would only be stopping twice.

After the race Ross Brawn said: “three stops was always going to be the quickest strategy particularly with [the hard tyres] being so slow”

Brawn also said that Barrichello had problems on his third set of tyres. Barrichello said the same in the press conference (although he referred to his second set of tyres, it’s likely he meant the third). The lap times support this explanation:

Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello lap times, Spanish Grand Prix (click to enlarge)
Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello lap times, Spanish Grand Prix (click to enlarge)

After the race, Barrichello said: “Before the race the agreement was that both the cars would be doing three stops.”

According to Brawn, Button was switched onto a two-stop strategy “to avoid leaving him behind Rosberg”. This also makes sense: Rosberg was 18.646s behind Button when Button made his first pit stop on lap 17, so whatever happened Button was going to come out behind the Williams. Putting him on a two-stop strategy ensured Rosberg did not hold him up.

Barrichello stuck to his three-stop strategy and came out narrowly ahead of Rosberg. But Button was able to stay close enough to Barrichello during his second stint to move ahead of his team mate after the final pit stops.

Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello time gaps, Spanish GP (click to enlarge)
Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello time gaps, Spanish GP (click to enlarge)

What I don’t understand about Brawn’s version of events is this: Having seen Button change onto a different strategy, why did Barrichello’s crew not change his strategy to cover Button’s, when that was the only car likely to take the win off them?

A strategy with fewer stops is always the safest options. It makes the car less vulnerable to a safety car period. It is highly unusual to see a driver leading a race gamble it on a strategy that involves relinquishing track position.

Also, few other teams reached the conclusion that the three stop-strategy was superior. The only other driver to stop three times was Williams’ Kazuki Nakajima – and he had made an early pit stop during the first safety car period.

And if the purpose of the three-stop strategy was to reduce the amount of time spent on the unfavourable hard tyre, why did Barrichello make his final pit stop only two laps after Button?

Going into today’s race Barrichello was 12 points behind Button with 130 still to be won. Would Brawn really decide to sacrifice Barrichello’s season to Button’s at this early stage? Many people would suspect that they would – and point to Brawn’s treatment of Barrichello at Ferrari in the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix as a perfect example.

A poll during the live blog showed 69% of people believed Brawn had deliberately put Barrichello on an inferior strategy. I’m not convinced yet – after all the called Barrichello’s strategy wrong at Bahrain with no obvious ulterior motive. What do you think?

How do you explain Barrichello's strategy?

  • The team made a mistake / Barrichello was slow (47%)
  • The team wanted Button to win (53%)

Total Voters: 1,409

Loading ... Loading ...

212 comments on “Did Brawn deliberately give Barrichello a poor strategy to let Button win?”

Jump to comment page: 1 2 3 6
  1. Ross Brawn claimed that they wanted Barrichello to win. Button changed strategy during the race because they were worried he’d end up stuck behind Rosberg.

    Guess Button was simply lucky and skilled enough that he managed to pull of his strategy where Barrichello failed at his (or vice versa, the strategy failed him)

    1. button could have easily overtook rosberg if he really wanted to.
      he forcefully deceived barrichello. its a real pity the race was snatched from rubens.

    2. Rosberg was at reasonably a similar pace during his first stint. I doubt they could have overtaken him.

      Still, the whole discussion is moot. There is no way Barrichello could have pulled off the same strategy as Button did. Barrichello could not have done 30 laps on a single set of tyres.

    3. I’m pretty sure they wanted Button to win. There was just no point on switching Barrichello to 2 stops.

    4. “Barrichello could not have done 30 laps on a single set of tyres.”

      What? He was ahead of Jenson! Why didn’t his team match Button’s strategy if he was, at that stage, the only concern for Rubens? Had they matched the strategy – and they had plenty of time to think about it – it wouldn’t even have mattered whether Rubens was slower or not. Button would never have gotten past, just look at Vettel’s race. And if Rubens was so slow that it would’ve undermined both their races, then it’d have been a fair call for the team to order the switch.

      I can only understand this from Brawn’s perspective, wanting to cover all their bases. But Rubens really did not deserve this, it was so painful to watch. It was surely a defining moment in the championship.

      Another huge question is: if Rubens’ team stuck with the 3-stop to avoid the hard tyres, why the hell was the second stint so short? The last stint with the hard tyres was as long as any other! Any thoughts?

    5. It really doesn’t make any sense to assume some conspiracy. They put both drivers on a 3 stop strategy. How would they do that if they did not think that was the best option?

      They gambled with Button to cover their bases and to prevent him getting stuck behind Rosberg. Indeed Button did end up behind Rosberg. If he was on a 3 stop he would have needed to win a lot of time and being stuck behind Rosberg was going to make that impossible. Button would have lost time and perhaps the position if Vettel would have overtaken Massa.

      1) It makes no sense to assume they tricked Barrichello in a 3 stop strategy
      2) What Ross Brawn said makes a whole lot of sense.

    6. Patrickl,

      Read my post again, I never said there was any conspiracy. I’m not that dumb. I even stated that what happened is perfectly understandable from Brawn GP’s perspective.

      What I’m criticising is not Button’s race – it was superb – but Barrichello’s. And in my view, Rubens lost that race through absolutely no fault of his own. A more selfish strategy seemed perfectly understandable, but Rubens’ team didn’t even let him know about Button’s switch until after his stop.

      No wonder he was furious, anybody would have liked to at least have some say on that strategic decision!

  2. im with you there…

    why changing either Button or Rubens strategies if they were the only two able to win the race?

    i mean, we knew before the first pit stops that Vettel was more likely to fell behind Massa, like at Bahrain with Hamilton/Trulli. So the possibility for Rubens to win the race and Button to finish second was as high as Vettel chance of trailing Massa for the whole race.

    But somehow they managed to open the whole main straight as a gap between Button and Barrichello at the end of the race. It’s clear Jenson’s race was faultless, but so was Barrichello’s. So why? Why it ended up being like that?

    I think Barrichello’s winning would have been much better not only for him, but for his team too. Both drivers, with a magnificient car winning races and leaving the pack behind at the championship. It makes perfect sense for the team itself. But i think they think different.

    1. because ross brawn want a brit to win the championship. i’m sorry if i’m angering britons here. but the fact is rubens is just as talented as button if not better. so lets not question rubens’ ability as a racer. he’s already proved it.

    2. Funny how Ross Brawn didn’t back Irvine to win championships when he was at Ferrari…since he’s a nationalist and all.

      We can go on and on, but we’d have to ask yourself why Ruebens never won a WDC before….he’s good, but not great. Its as simple as that. Winning the Championship takes a lot more than just raw speed, its about the whole package.

      Thats my opinion. Good on Jens for another victory, conspiracy or whatever…he’s won the race, no point arguing..I felt that Lewis didnt deserve to win the WDC last year..but hey..he won, what can I do?

  3. It’s pretty sad, actually. I hoped for Rubens to pull a Mansell this year and retire as a champion.

    1. that is never going to happen. becoz rubens barrichello is a clone of ricardo patrese. i always knew that ross brawn would back jenson button as champ for obvious reasons. poor rubens, most experienced & the most betrayed driver on the grid.

    2. That’s the only truth and a fair justice! But it wasn’t meant to be…

  4. Chris Giancaspro
    10th May 2009, 16:41

    I don’t think they made a mistake, it was painfully obvious the 3rd stint for Rubens was just TOO slow. The tires weren’t working the way the team and Rubens expected. They most likely were scrubbed tires from earlier in the weekend and hardened up some after being used. His times were erratic lap after lap in that 3rd stint watching the live timing and even by the chart up above. He was not deliberately screwed into 2nd place, also look at JB’s performance on the hard tires, he killed it compared to FM and SV. Though I really thought Rubens wasn’t coming in for his 3rd stop until about lap 54 versus 50, which would of given him about another 8 second advantage if not a tad more over JB.

    I could be entirely wrong in my observations and the team are already fully backing JB this season. I do hope that is not the case, though I prefer JB over RB, I want to see a fair fight between them.

    1. there was no need for a third stint in the first place. he was flying like a rocket before the ill fated 3rd stint. ross brawn has to accept the mistake & publicly apologize to rubens.

  5. Mussolini's Pet Cat
    10th May 2009, 16:42

    I just think Jenson was always going to get more out of the harder tyres. Even if Rubi had been on a two stop, I dont think he would have been quick enough. Let’s just start giving Jenson some credit here.

    1. Does Button’s pace on the hard tyres (during his last stint) really matter though? He was only on them for two laps before Barrichello’s final stop, not enough to make a difference.

    2. But Barrichello’s lap times on the softs was peaking at only 1 or 2 tenths faster than Jenson on the hards!
      As Barrichello’s engineer said he needed to be touching the 1.23’s if not dipping under. He was consistently in the high 23’s. Thus failing to take advantage of the strategy.
      Saying that, it was still an unorthodox choice of strategy under the circumstances. But it was maybe the one that gave them a 1 2 – just not in the order Barrichello would have preferred.

    3. i dont agree with u cat. are you trying to suggest that button is better than barrichello??? if thats what you are suggesting, you got it absolutely wrong mate.

    4. Even if your basic ideas are correct, you just end up annoying people when you use too many loaded words and far too many exclamation points and question marks. Especially when you respond to lap time discussions with angry little rants.

      How about this: one driver is just a bit better in a given car, and so after a few races, whether consciously or not, the team does begin to back him…? Just kinda natural, even if it’s sad for the other guy, no?

    5. did you mean me Maciek?????

  6. I’m glad they changed his strategy as it’s clear at almost all races that Barichello is inferior to Button and with the other teams getting more competitive they should be helping Button get as many points as possible while they can to have the best chance to win the championship.

    1. absolute rubbish comments.

    2. Mussolini's Pet Cat
      10th May 2009, 18:58

      Yes, Button is better.

    3. Sush Meerkat
      10th May 2009, 19:09

      I also believe Button to be better than Barichello, especially since he’s won a few races and now has that killer instinct winners get.

  7. There was nothing dodgy about Barrichello’s strategy, the maths show that three stops is the quickest race in Barcelona. As he says, his poor pace in the third stint cost him victory, although he would have been held up by Vettel/Massa anyway had his pace been what it could/should have been.

    Unless you’re at the front, choosing a three-stop isn’t going to work because you’d be stuck behind slower cars for the entire race. When you’re starting near the front, three stops work because the driver has a better opportunity to drive a ‘perfect’ race. In order to negate the extra time lost in the pits, a driver needs to be nearer the perfect laptime each lap on a three-stop strategy than on a two-stop. A three-stop is more about being on low fuel for longer than being on the more favourable tyre, which is why Barrichello only spent a lap or two less on the hard slick.

    It wasn’t a team ‘mistake’, and it probably wasn’t the team wanting Button to win. It was Rubens’ bad third stint

    1. then i would say ross brawn is very poor at mathematics. if brawn really wanted to judge who the better driver, he should have left button on a 3 stopper. then we would have seen who really is the better driver. i just dint accept the rosberg explanation. ross brawn is a very good deceiver i must admit to that.

    2. Bernification
      13th May 2009, 15:09

      Mp4- Brawn wasn’t trying to discover who was the best driver- he was trying to get the best result for his team. He was covering the basses in the event of a safety car.

  8. “And if the purpose of the three-stop strategy was to reduce the amount of time spent on the unfavourable hard tyre, why did Barrichello make his final pit stop only two laps after Button?”

    becuz he was stuck in the traffic.

    1. he was stuck in the traffic.

      Didn’t seem to hurt his lap times – he was in the mid 83s, Button came out doing high 84s.

    2. “stuck in traffic”thats the only excuse ross brawn can give to save his face.

  9. hitchcockm00
    10th May 2009, 16:47

    Like you say, Brawn has put Barrichello in this situation before at Ferrari.
    I’m not totally convinced that it was deliberate but if it was a mistake they should have realised.
    At the start of the race Button was complaining that Barrichello was going too slowly, then he dropped back. Perhaps because he was told that they would change his strategy and pass Barrichello in the pits.

    1. i absolutely agree with you. it was brawn’s call & it worked perfectly against rubens. ross brawn can never be a ron dennis. his mantra to success is to favor one driver & ridicule the other, thats what he does best & the best scapegoat available is rubens barrichello. we’ve already seen this happen countless times at ferrari.

  10. Brawn can say whatever on why he chose the strategy for Rubens. Rubens know best on the kind of strategy that works for him to finish in front of Button. Being a team player, he has to follow team orders. His sulking face in the post conference showed he is clearly unhappy; playing second fiddle to his team-mate similar to his Ferrari days when he in the shadows of Schumi.

    1. i agree with you. he should demand for equal status in the team. this is just turning out to be another 2004 for barrichello. i pity him.

  11. As a Brit and a fan of Button, I wanted him to win this race, but I wanted to see him win by beating everyone else, rather than cheating Barrichello for the win. On a dry, consistent track without a major likelihood of another SC period or rain, I can’t for the life of me see why a three stop would have any advantage over a two stop. Poor old Barrichello – he’s played second fiddle for practically all of his F1 career and today is no exception.

    1. It’s up to the driver to assert themselves. Barrichello has always been F1’s Mr. NiceGuy. Nice guy’s don’t win as often..

    2. he’s the easiest scapegoat one can find on the grid. he was cheated. i’m absolutely gutted.

  12. I hoped for Rubens to pull a Mansell this year and retire as a champion.

    Mansell didn’t retire as a champion.
    He did 4 races in 1994 in Williams – won the season’s last GP in Australia. And then he raced unsuccessfully in McLaren in 1995 (2 races).

    And if the purpose of the three-stop strategy was to reduce the amount of time spent on the unfavourable hard tyre, why did Barrichello make his final pit stop only two laps after Button?

    Since the third set of tyres didn’t work well, it was reasonable not to race with them for too long.

    1. Well, what i meant is that Mansell was a one-time champion by the time he retired :) Because i cannot predict whether Rubens is here to stay or he gets replaced.

    2. the mp4-10,the car designed by a super computer. sadly mansell couldn’t fit his large buttocks into it. he was the fattest driver i’ve ever seen. who was the fattest driver of all time????

  13. Chris Giancaspro
    10th May 2009, 16:53

    It was the 3rd stint, if the tires worked like they were supposed to, he would of easily had the win. What are some of you not seeing that I did? Just look at the erratic lap times for Rubens in that 3rd stint. That is what did his race in. They changed JB’s strategy because they feared he wouldn’t of even claimed a podium if he stayed on the 3 stopper due to being stuck behind Rosberg on a track that is nearly impossible to pass on. The tires killed Rubens today, not the team’s decisions.

    1. i’m sorry mate, i completely disagree with you on that one. don’t tell me button would have been stuck behind rosberg for eternity. rosberg after all finished 8th. no way was button finishing behind the williams. it is a clear conspiracy against rubens. Mr Brawn is a deceitful man. its rubens’s mistake to have trusted him. i doubt rubens will win any races this season. for that to happen ross brawn should resign.

    2. No-one’s saying Button would have been behind Rosberg for the entire race, but he would have been behind him for long enough to compromise his race and possibly put him behind Massa & Vettel on track.

      And if overtaking is so easy when you’re in a faster car, please can you explain why Vettel was not able to pass Massa?

      Okay changing Button’s strategy won him the race, so well done to his engineers. Rubens may be Mr Nice-guy, but he can wine with the best of them. He has never shown the kind of consistantly relentless pace that Schumacher had and that Button is showing signs of. He is probably the best Number 2 driver out there, but like Coulthard before him he is not WDC material.

  14. All the forums are buzzing with this, something is clearly not right. Poor Rubens, game over for him after only 5 races. It’s a shame because I would love to see Rubens take the title.

    1. Yes but he’s not good enough. Who knows where he’d be now in the championship if he’d not fluffed the start at Melbourne.

      I’m sorry, Rubens is and has never been championship material IMHO.

    2. @ John H

      so do you really think button is championship material??? he’s got a whole bunch of people and the team principal pitting for him. not to mention richard branson making it very clear that he would favour a english champ. rubens is as good as button, if not better.

  15. hitchcockm00
    10th May 2009, 17:00

    Rubens is going to be really gutted if he doesn’t get a shot at the championship this season. It’s his best opportunity for a long time.

    1. & his last opportunity.

  16. Chris Giancaspro
    10th May 2009, 17:02

    Well people need to face reality, his 3rd stint SUCKED, no way around it. Look how much faster he was than JB after the first stop, obviously JB had a good amount more fuel onboard going to a 2 stopper. Then look at his times in the 3rd stint…that is the ANSWER, the only one. The tires killed his race today, not the team.

  17. I think the two options on the vote are a touch unfair… I think there’s another explanation: that Button was simply much faster on the harder tyres than Barrichello.
    It must be said that fuelling Rubens so he’d come in only two laps after Button is a strange decision though.

  18. Why are you asking such a question? Jenson won because he put the work in to produce fast laps when required to and in turn made his 2-stop strategy work well, whereas unfortunately (for him) rubens’ 3 stop didn’t pan out so well with traffic and a poor set of tyres, despite the strategy being the fastest on paper.

    Why the hell would Brawn ever deliberately make Jenson the victor – this is a plainly ridiculous piece. Barrichello was unlucky not to win and that’s it.

    Usually the articles on here are good, well thought out pieces of motorsport journalism. Why spoil it with a headline such as this, unless it’s just to have eddie jordan style irate comments such as this.

    On a side note – it’s clear that some of Schumacher’s success was down to Brawn and his way of working a team. Without Schumacher, Ross’ tactics wouldn’t have worked and without Ross, Schumacher wouldn’t have won so many races. In a stark similarity; Rubens is now playing second fiddle to a driver that can put in the fast laps as and when and as for long as Ross Brawn needs him too. Instead of Michael Schumacher it’s Jenson Button.

    – With regard to the poll on this article – Sorry, but Barrichello had the opportunity, but could’t capitalise on it. That’s it.

    – With regard to this article – Don’t do to Jenson what the British media has successfully done to Lewis – bring him down off a high. He’s a truly great driver and is proving that to everyone with drives like he had today.

    1. For the reasons I’ve set out in the article above I think there’s plenty of cause to question what Brawn did. It was a substantial point of discussion during the race on the live blog.

      I don’t know why you’re taking issue with the headline. It asks a question, and the piece sets out some points of fact around which to discuss it. You’re reacting as if I’m arguing that Brawn did sabotage Barrichello’s race (Did you read the concluding paragraph?)

      You argue Barrichello “had the opportunity”. I suggest he might have had a better opportunity had his team put him on a strategy that closely mirrored that of his number one rival for the win – Button.

      I think the line that a three-stop strategy was the superior one is questionable because no-one else used it.

      And I haven’t criticised Button at all, so I’ve no idea what that last bit is about.

    2. Scott Joslin
      10th May 2009, 17:33

      I agree Adam, This shouldn’t be a story about Brawn fiddling the strategy, more that Rubens wasn’t quick enough to make the 3 stop strategy work and lost the win down to his own lack of pace. We heard the team radio telling Rubens that he wasn’t lapping at the pace they expected him to be doing, and hence, he lost out.

      There seems to be far to much skepticism about this result, when the fact that Rubens wasn’t fast enough to make the time up. Why people feel sorry for him, is beyond me. Where as Jenson was quick enough at the right time and all the right places – hence a great drive. Lets spend time looking at the positives and not looking for stories that don’t exist.

    3. Apologies, but that comment wasn’t meant to be against you Keith, and more from reading the headline, the article and the particularly the poll, which was in favour of it being a fix today, I had to make my thoughts clear. When people are saying it’s a fix (admitedly YOU didn’t but others here have) it does taint Jenson’s (well deserved) victory in Barcelona.

      I think on paper the 3 stop is quicker, with the slower tyre being so much slower, Jenson’s 2 stop was quicker because he drove quicker.

      Another good topic for debate, I’m just making sure there isn’t a tyrade of fans seeing today excellent race (relatively for the Catalunya track!) as a fix. It’s been more explained here.

  19. Chris Giancaspro
    10th May 2009, 17:05

    He lost about 11 seconds in that 3rd stint if you compare his times from the 1st and 2nd stints. There in lies the problem. Plus JB was much faster than Rubens on the hard tire as well. If the tires worked properly RB would of had the lead and JB would of been right on his ass to the finish line as he wouldn’t of been able to pass and MW would of still been where he was.

  20. what i don’t understand is this. when rubens was pulling away first tint, with button pitting earlier, im confident it will be a three stop for both. button refueled more, so it means a switch. But then Rubens pitted and the pit stop was faster than buttton’s, i thought, why are they doing this? even if rubens had a 20sec lead(if he did i didn’t check) he will be at a disadvantage because he is as fast as his teammate. he did not have such a lead, so its obvious button’s going to overtake after the pit stops. shame. rubens did not put down a wrong foot, his team cheated on him. Brawn dong a jean todt: you must pit three times for button and the championship.haha

    and i don’t understand why ferrari keeps on derailing their drivers chances to score points. 5 races, 5 mistakes or reliability problem.Yesterday stupid with kimi(or maybe they were preserving the hydraulics, which did not work, because it failed in the race). Then today with Massa not having enough fuel. he then takes vettel down with him and webber passed them both at the pit stops. BLAME THE TEAM not the driver, this statement also applies to BRAWN GP who blackmailed rubens

Jump to comment page: 1 2 3 6

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments are moderated. See the Comment Policy and FAQ for more.