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

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

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

  1. Chris Giancaspro said on 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.

  2. LewisC said on 10th May 2009, 17:03

    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.

  3. 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.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 10th May 2009, 17:26

      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.

    • Scott Joslin said on 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.

    • 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.

  4. Chris Giancaspro said on 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.

  5. ruud said on 10th May 2009, 17:07

    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

  6. Pat said on 10th May 2009, 17:12

    If there’s one guy in F1 I trust it’s Ross Brawn.

    He said they gave Rubens the strategy to win and believed 3 stops would be quicker – Rubens just couldn’t pull it off – be it for technical reasons or lack of talent…. nuff said !

    • mp4-19 said on 10th May 2009, 17:52

      if there’s one guy in F1 i do not trust its Ross Brawn.

      he said what he said to make barrichello look like an idiot. thats why he said that.

      ok consider this- why did ross brawn in an interview to bbc say they wanted rubens to win this race??? isn’t it open bias?? he said this after the race. it was kind of ridiculing rubens’ credentials as a grand prix driver. ross brawn was trying to make a statement through that comment,i.e. even after spoon feeding, rubens couldn’t pull it off, thats what he meant!!!! correct me if i am wrong. now everybody thinks rubens is a second class driver,fit only to play second fiddle to other dominating drivers. this fact will be substantiated,becoz these words came out of the mouth of ross brawn, & he is a demi-god to many of the ill informed f1 fans.
      i know how rubens will feel about this. he was backstabbed,cheated,fooled. poor rubens. but he’ll be remembered as a true gentleman racer. i dont wanna anger british fans(this being a .co.uk website) by saying it was jenson button who laid the icing on the cake on the already wrecked career of rubens barrichello.

  7. Hammad said on 10th May 2009, 17:13

    I’m not sure exactly, but I think he stopped quite a few laps before he was supposed to on his 2nd stop. Brawn said traffic, but I don’t think that was the case. And if the team put Button on a 2 stopper, then why not put Rubens, who was stopping later, on the same strategy? It just indicates favouritism. Guess Ross Brawn still sees Rubens as a sidekick.

    Someone said that Button’s a great driver. I would disagree. The great drivers do well even when the cars are struggling. Schu, Alonso, Senna and Prost are good examples. Button struggles when the car is bad. Remember last year? Clearly outperformed by Barrichello. So Button may be a good or decent driver, but he is far from great.

  8. mp4-19 said on 10th May 2009, 17:15

    second class treatment to rubens. i said this at the beginning of the season. after all ross brawn was the man who wrecked barrichello’s career at ferrari. it is quite clear brawn were not as efficient & responsive as they are to button. quite understandably, they are a British outfit & wanna see a Briton claim victory. so this is going to be a repeat of 1992,barrichello will have to settle with 1 or max 2 victories. i pity both rubens barrichello & ricardo patrese. but i’ve to mention that both mansell & button(if he wins the title) deserve it. but i feel sorry for rubens. but i have a feeling that rubens will part company with the team before the season ends. and when was the last time Brits won back to back championships???????

  9. keune said on 10th May 2009, 17:22

    ferrari’s days again.

  10. shery said on 10th May 2009, 17:26

    Rubens Barrichello on Sunday made clear he is no longer willing to play second fiddle to any teammate.

    “I had the race in my hands and I was quite surprised when they told me they were switching Jenson to two,” the 36-year-old said.

    “I would like to understand why they changed that,” he added, explaining that his third set of tyres also slowed him down.

    “If that happens I won’t follow any team orders anymore,” Barrichello told reporters in Barcelona. “I’m making it clear now so everyone knows.”

    but Button denies it is the case.

    “We are all here to win, and today it just went my way and it didn’t for him,” the Briton said. “It could swing around for the next race, that’s the way things go in F1.”

    • mp4-19 said on 10th May 2009, 17:33

      if he really said what he said,then i’m sure he’ll not be sticking around with this team is he doesn’t win the next couple of races. even i wanna know why they switched strategies midway??? even if there was a switch,it should have been for both the drivers. clear bias is visible. and finally its really annoying to see shoemaker hanging around in the paddock. he must be banned. what does he want??? hasn’t he grabbed everything that f1 has to offer???wants to wreck the career of other upcoming drivers????

    • David (Brazil) said on 10th May 2009, 20:18

      Kind of reminds me of the initial Alonso/Hamilton spat at Monaco 2007 and Lewis’s post-race comments about being number 2.

      I think the argument is fairly empty. If Button won by changing to a 2-stop after trailing to RB, then the issue is why Brawn went for a 3-stop strategy in the first place. Because they already knew Barrichello would get past Button from the grid?? The conspiracy theory doesn’t make sense. Seems more likely they were worrying too much about Vettel and Massa and did a McLaren of over-elaborating. And if RB thought Button switching to a 2-stop would threaten him, why didn’t he ask to change too? Would he really have risked switching strategy?

  11. Woffin said on 10th May 2009, 17:26

    It’s safe to say that Rubens was on better form than Jenson here going by the majority of friday and saturday, he was just pipped to pole in Q3 however got a better start and slowly pulled away from Jenson in the first stint despite carrying more fuel. If he’d have gone onto a two stop like Jenson then I don’t believe he would have won the race as Jenson could extract a lot more out of the harder tyre for some reason so his best bet was to run longer (and with lower fuel) on the softs using a three stop while Jenson had more fuel and was on harder tyres for longer on a two stop. Unfortunately, Rubens 3rd stint wasn’t as good as his first two and this cost him a lot of time. Also, if he’d have stayed out longer while Jenson was on the hard tyres then that probably would have helped him too.

    I dont think (and I really dont want to think) that the team is already manipulating the results but it does appear that Button is becoming pretty jammy in racking up the wins.

  12. Mikeman said on 10th May 2009, 17:30

    I have no doubt. Button is driver number 1 for Brown like Schumacher was for Ferrari – maybe he can only be good doing stratagy for 1 horse… What a shame… Buu!

  13. sasbus said on 10th May 2009, 17:37

    What a shame! I expect people who in the past were against such things happening at Ferrari do the same.

    Rubens was definitely faster…apart from the fact that Button used Rubens settings yesterday. Buuuuuu

  14. 1 extra stop for only 2 laps less last stint on hards, there must be something wrong there. The 2nd stint(12 laps) from Rubens seemed way too short, traffic can not be the true reason, as Rubens was leading, whatever he’s running into, he’s lapping them not racing them, by bringing him in early(not enough gap to the cars behind him), he’ll only get behind real traffic.

    However, Brawn seemed indeed disappointed to me. And Button’s 2nd stint with 30 laps, was very good indeed!

  15. Oliver said on 10th May 2009, 17:40

    Brawn I believe is being deceptive here.

    Firstly, Button qualified with the lighter fuel load to guarantee pole position, So Button was the one on a pure 3stop strategy.

    Secondly, since Barichello was ahead of Button after the first pit stop, and was well ahead of the other cars, that was an opportunity to save a pit stop as he could be fueled heavy as much as Button, yet always come out ahead of him and other cars after their respective stops.

    Thirdly, after the introduction of the safety car, there is actually less time for a car on a 3stop strategy to build enough lead and maintain a consistent gap to the other cars, hence the window for a pure 3stop strategy had become eroded.

    Lets not also forget that, as the track rubbers in, there isn’t that much penalty in carrying a higher fuel load, as the tyres don’t suffer as much degradation.

    If you ask me, this was purely in the category as, “we are racing Barichello” :-) Deja vu.

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