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?

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  1. manatcna said on 12th May 2009, 0:43

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

    No

  2. Bas said on 12th May 2009, 2:45

    As for all who point to Brawn being the only team planning for a regular 3-stop strategy (Nakajima pitted an extra time for his frontwing), I think there may even be an acceptable explanation for that.

    We have seen that the Brawns are very light on the tyres: they have problems getting them up to temperature during qualy and on tracks where we´ve seen tyre wear issues they´ve been amongst those with the least problems. This means that their car favours softer tyre compounds compared to the other cars, whilst the harder compound gives them a larger drop in performance perhaps than with other team ( i didnt chekc this with lap times, just a gut feeling).
    Therefore, they might have stood to benefit from a 3-stop strategy where others (read: RB) didnt.
    For teams further down the grid, more stops is simplpy not an option since they wont run on free track. They can only stick to the pace of cars around them, or go longhaul to lose time but gain track position.

  3. Remember­ last year, last race, last corner? Remember how both­ Toyotas posting almost identical times on that last lap­ to use as evidence that there was no foul­ play?

    Remember the year before, the 17 points gap that­ evapourated within two races? I speculate Mr E promised­ Ferrari the title in return for keeping the McLaren­ drivers in the show and how Kimi didn’t even look­ excited by achieving his dream of becoming a world­ champion?

    Do­ you remember when three drivers (not sure but I think­ in ’97 MS, JV and Frenzen) posted +0.000 in­ qualifying and Murry had to say “trust me there is­ no fix”???

    Did you notice how surprised Button­ was when he got pole position yesterday when he clearly­ didn’t expected?

    I bet Button asked for #1­ status in return for his 50% pay cut. I bet Ruben was­ told whoever is on Pole would be allowed to win the­ hence his BIG shock yesterday. I bet Mr E manipulated­ the Button’s time yesterday.

    Nick Fry said: “We had to split the strategy”
    Rubens didn’t have a choice to switch to 2 stopper.

    Please­ prove me wrong just so I can enjoy real F1 again­ :(

    Ali

    • How? How on earth would Mr E manipulate Jenson’s lap time?

      To suggest that belittles the fantastic job that Jenson is doing this year and shows how little you think of the sport…

    • Bas said on 12th May 2009, 12:51

      hahahahhaha LOL seriously Ali you should sign up with MI6 or start writing espionage thrillers! hahaha ROFL

    • mp4-19 said on 15th May 2009, 6:10

      Ali you have spotted some of the things that dimwitted f1 fans ignore. i agree with you. especially the 17 point lead & the 3 identical lap time at jerez. maybe MR.B bribed people from siemens,olivetti & tag heuer to manipulate lap time counters. i wouldn’t be surprised if he’s done that. u have hit the nail on the head ali g.

  4. No one seems to factor in the safety car period. Once the safety car was deployed 2-stop strategy becomes the better one.

    Ali

    • Patrickl said on 12th May 2009, 11:44

      Well it would have been close, A 3-stop strategy would potentially have been faster.

      What went wrong is that his second stint was too short and his third too slow. A properly executed 3 stop strategy would have worked. Barrichello also would not have encountered traffic.

      I drew a lap chart, duplicated Barrichello’s second stint and stretched it with fuel corrected laptimes for the first few laps. It would have been very close.

      If Barrichello’s first stint would have been slightly longer he could have pulled it of.

  5. Tyrell said on 12th May 2009, 7:25

    As a very ardent F1 fan, In myn opinion without any doubt , brawn wanted the winner to be Button , ,poor Rubens has been made a scapegoat once again . Rubens has been a very consistent driver , and if he should leave Brawn They will have a heck of a job to find another driver like Rubens. So Brawn take good care of Rubens in the future!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Adrian, very easy to manipulate the times, just pause for .01 every 10sec and no onw would notice. And before you jump up and down in anger please tell us if this is feasabile or not. Software has lot’s backdoors you know ;)

    The biggest evidence was Trulli’s and Glock’s similar lap times last year last race last lap. The chance of two identical cars driven by different drivers in rainy conditions that has just worsened significantly on that last lap (so they say) as the previous lap times were >15s faster IS IMPOSSIBLE to happen especially with the Trulli Train my friend.

    Just re-watch Button’s reaction to having got pole and see how surprised he was to have posted such a time.

    Anyway the headlines says it all: Button Steals Win which I bet my life on he did even and he knows it and that’s why he was very apologetic to poor Rubens.

    And to add even more evidence if you can read between the lines which I am sure you can if you want to, read what Ross Brawn was saying that Rubens is a “team player”.

    I do believe in team orders (McLaren lost 2007 for not using them and Ferrari lost 2008 for not using them) and what BrawnGP are doing is very correct for the team but to do it in such a snaky way show big disrespect to Rubens, especially I am sure it was not in line with Rubens contract terms.

    They robed Rubens, That’s for sure.

    Ali
    God > infinity

    • Patrickl said on 12th May 2009, 11:47

      I didn’t know that Rubens wore a robe.

      BTW what’s cut is that “they” can manipulate lap times, but still “they” allow Barrichello to pass Button to begin with? Among all the other nonsense, this might be the biggest one.

    • Bas said on 12th May 2009, 13:29

      wow, eehhh, uhm, this is…. you were actually serious about that post above?

      Well in theory, it is quite easy to create a 0.1% error on timing and hope no-one notices, however, there are a number of issues with it:
      1 0.1% is really not that significant on a qualification lap… it is 0.081 of a second on a flying lap.
      2 each team could see whether its times are being manipulated since they draw data that is timed independently from race timing.
      3 Bernie cannot do it, since the FOM is not responsible for race timing.
      4 Adjustments cannot be done for just one lap of one driver. Loading changes into the system would cause a minimal, but highly noticeable instantaneous delay to timing.
      5 Most likely, the timing systems at tracks are not capable of doing this, since they will lack processing software to do this. The timing system is highly precise, but processing is rather rudimentary; the processor isnt going to more advanced than the one in your cellphone. Thus, the processing unit would have to be replaced for it
      6 if you run this small error for the entire length of a qualication or a race, you end up with cars ´traveling in time and spatial dimensions we cannot observe´; a car will be lapping ´ahead´ of another car even though his sector times appear later and he is visibly behind the other car on track (with 100000 witnesses present). One car during the session or the race might be flagged off because the session is time over, while the car behind him is not flagged and can continue for antoher lap.

      Most likely you can come up with other presumptions that explain how Bernie muffled these away, and to help you, I might suggest Michael schumacher´s supernatural powers, fake races on secret hidden copies of the F1 tracks in North Korea with cloned drivers where tv-footage is shot that matches Bernie´s timing trickery, oh and of course, extraterrestial powers might have interfered in Button´s favour, becose these aliens come from a galaxy that lies within his constellation. Does that answer all your questions?

      As for your Glock conspiracy, I really don´t understand what you are referring to with ´both Toyota´s doing the same laptimes and dropping more than 15 seconds´or whatever… anyway keep in mind Glock was on different tyres than Trulli. Trulli and Hamilton had pitted along with everyone else, but Glock had gambled and stayed out on his slicks. Conditions worsened, as you say, and this favoured everyone except Glock. Thus Vettel and Hamilton managed to ease by (look back at the footage and notice the river forming in Juncao corner as hamilton passes Glock – the latter didnt have any traction out there, and hence lost a lot of speed coming up the banking). Trulli made a mistake early in sector 3 in the final lap, just check sector times, and btw, if conditions did not worsen (i propose you ask all crew/drivers/100000 attendants of that race if they felt there was more rain and they will tell you yes, leaving you to decide whether Bernie bribed all of them into doing so) then all the drivers must have deliberately slowed down so as to aid Bernie in his plot. You thought that one could not see a 15 second difference between a real car crossing the line and his slowed down computer timing mirror? I think i can…thats basically the entire length of that banked section under dry circumstances.

      I guess watchin Formula 1 races must be much more exciting to you with all this intriguing manipulation going on!!!

  7. Oliver said on 12th May 2009, 13:08

    I think the issue is if Brawn deliberately did it or if it was a consequence of not looking out for Barichello.
    After Barichello got past Button at the start, the whole team probably went into save Button mode, and forgot about Barichello. They just assumed his strategy was the best without evaluating the changing track dynamics, safety car, track and air temperature, back markers and so fort. The consequence was that in looking out to optimize Button’s race Barichello was abandoned.

    Having your team telling you to go faster when obviously your car is unable to, is no different from having your team telling you to save fuel after not filling your car with sufficient fuel to go the distance.

    As we have witnessed in the past, with the tyre rules, while the track is still a bit green, it might be advantageous to run lighter, but as the track rubbers in, that advantage is eroded. And seeing that Barichello stopped the lap after Button after the first stint, how on earth was Brawn planning to keep them on 3 stoppers if Button had been ahead?

    I can only conclude that BrawnGP was planning a 2 stop strategy for Button from the word go, but had kept the option of going for a 3 stopper in order to get pole. Track conditions was to determine if they kept with the 2 stopper or change to the 3stopper. Because we’ve seen from the early races, that the Brawn cars can maintain a very good pace on a heavy fuel load.

    • Bas said on 12th May 2009, 14:12

      Everything points to Button planning a 3 stop strategy…remember he would have been up front from pole, running away with his lighter car an no problems with Rubens in front of him and getting stuck behind Rosberg. He pitted even before Barrichello and its easy to see how a 30 lap middle stint is not optimising raw speed.

      Also, they didnt forget about Barrichello. In a team, you have two drivers, two engineers, two crews…These two were competing on track, each trying to outpace and outsmart the other. Before the race the team works out jointly whats the best strategy and what are possible alternatives (Plan A,B,C), after that, they are racing each other and Rubens and his engineer and Jenson and his engineer can switch plans independently when they feel the situation requires it.

      Button would have benefited from his 3 stop strategy more even that Rubens could have if he had had clear track from the start. Instead, he had to do a couple of laps behind the SC, which eroded his advantage, and then he was stuck behind his teammate (with less fuel on board he sould have been a tad faster, and he commented over the radio that he felt held up by Rubens early on). with no safety car and rubens ahead, he would have opened up more of a gap, pitted earlier (becuase in those SC laps they all save as much fuel as possible) and still come out well ahead of Rosberg. Barrichello, hopefully in second by then, would inherit the lead, pit a lap later and come back on track very near Button, also well ahead of Rosberg. A 2 stopper would have brought both of them either just before or just behind rosberg (if the latter hadnt had a few bad laps in his first stint). Its only because the few extra laps that Button had on his first stint that a two stopper became a viable option, since a longer second stint would have eroded tyres too much and otherwise the stint on the prime wouldve been too long. Rubens adapted the extra laps he had on his first stint for a shorter second stint, in order to still get ahead of Rosberg. Button could also have done that, had he been up front and only slightly faster than Barrichello.

  8. Chalky said on 12th May 2009, 16:28

    I can’t see how the safety car period would effect Rubens strategy? How much fuel do you use behind a safety car. He came in 2 laps later than predicted and didn’t they spend 2 laps behind the safety car?
    Surely this removed 2 laps of green flag racing from the race, reducing the amount of time all the drivers would spend on the harder tyres. I would have thought this would be a benefit.

    IMHO – If Button was leading they would have kept him on a 3 stop and switched Rubens to a 2 stop. The driver closer to Massa \ Vettel needed to keep track position to get the best result for the team. Maybe Brawn thought that overtaking would be easier this year and expected drivers to make more passes. Hence, splitting the strategy and trying to keep the optimal pre-calculated strategy on its leading driver.

    In the end passing amongst the leading drivers was minimal again at Barcelona. This helped Brawn, but was unknown. If Brawn knew that passing was just as poor as previous seasons he would have gone for 2 stops for both drivers.

  9. Daniel said on 12th May 2009, 18:51

    Unfortunately I’m pretty sure they did want Button to win, only Brawn was more discrete, more intelligent than he was in Ferrari days… well, I just hope I’m wrong about It, but that’s what I feel…

  10. CJD said on 13th May 2009, 19:29

    This is Keith’s superb site where facts and reality come first, last and in the middle too. None of us should react like paid up members of the Magic Circle, there are other sites for fairy tales and myth. We all saw what happened, know the lap times, know that JB did a great job with his tyres and RB tried his best but somehow it did not work out. No-one was more surprised at the outcome than Ross Brawn.

    • All Brawn staff member’s reactin was fake.

      How do you explain Nick Fry saying “We had to split the strategies” emphasis on the word “split”. This vetoed Ruben desire to do 2 stops.

      And why would Ruben has to stop so soon after button.

      All this reminds me of when Ferrari “mis-placed” one of Irvie’s tyres in 1999 so he doesn’t win the chapionship.

      And yes indeed this site is for truth tellers not for truth coverers.

      SleepSheep
      ———-
      Falsehood’s become true … and chaos has spread
      Liars are upheld … and good mouths are well weld

      Wisdom deserted all … but a sleepless few
      Trance became the norm … and to reality blindness wed

      No freethinking is left … so long as they were fed
      Sleeping most became … in a rented bed

      Wake up and uphold … what God’s always said:
      Don’t step over others … to reach a higher end
      Love each other so … to the Truth you’d be led

      Ali Adams 2006
      http://www.geocities.com/aliadams

    • Bas said on 14th May 2009, 14:40

      @ Ali

      They ‘had to split the strategy’ because the track situation did not allow for a three stopp strategy for both drivers, because otherwise Button woudlve lost too much time…
      Barrichello would not have wanted the 2-stop strategy because it would have locked him away right behind Rosberg for a couple of laps, AND because it was slower in the first place.
      Saying that the team hid Buttons two stop strategy switch from Barrichello until after his stopp, in order to get Button to win the race, is paranoid. But suggestin that they vetoed Rubens’ request for the same switch is quite simply an insane assumption.
      IF they’d said ‘NO’ to a RB request for a two stopper, you think he would react like that after the race? and do you think we wouldnt have heard some talk of it over the radio on tv?

      Now do you really think that of all the Brawn ppl that weve seen talking to the press, it would be Nick Fry who would be the bad liar? Come on.

      If F1 is really that bad and evil etc. according to you, stop watching, stop reading, stop bothering us.

  11. I wish I could stop watching it. It is addiction.
    I was not referring to Nick Fry as a liar but to you and those like you (British mainly) as truth coverers and deep down you know it that BrawnGP made sure Rubens doesn’t win (and I agree with them by the way) but covered it in a series of very thinly veiled orchestrated lies (Ross saying Rubens is team player suggest he told him the financial implications for the team and Ruben agreed, and Nick Fry saying we HAD TO SPLIT the strategy was slip off and he probably got a gentle slap for it from Ross. So Nick was the most truthful of all the liars :)

    Now if you don’t like my comments, don’t read and reply mate.

    BRAWN CHEETED RUBENS OF HIS CONTACT RIGHTS AND HE TOOK IT ON THE CHIN AS HE IS A GENTLEMAN and TOTALLY UNSELFISH.

    Now, where do I always see the opposite? 

    Ali

  12. jeff said on 28th May 2009, 13:16

    brawn wanted Barich second & thats that, keeps it consistant.. 1 word hopeless

  13. Nick A. said on 24th October 2009, 2:07

    Rubens is our real champion!

  14. JP said on 6th May 2010, 12:54

    I too agree with Adam, while there is reason to question why Brawn didn’t switch Rubens to the same strategy as Button the idea that it was a calculated move to sabotage Rubens race that several people have suggested is frankly ludicrous.

    Brawn had made clear that there was no preferential treatment given to either of the drivers at this point in the season, although this is not even something he should have needed to say. At this point in the season it would have been very foolhardy to favour one driver, as Button could easily have had a horrific crash and been injured for half the season.

    Also as someone else previously pointed out both drivers were put on a three stop as this is the fastest strategy. If you look at the graphs that Keith has kindly uploaded you can see clearly that Rubens was over 1 second per lap quicker than Jenson in stint 2 building up a 13 second lead that he hadn’t been able to when they were on identical strategies.

    If he had continued this pace after his second stop with fresh tires and equal fuel to Jenson then he would have been right on Button’s tail a few laps before Jenson’s second stop and his third. Having caught button he could have conserved fuel behind him and then would then have had 1-2 laps on his far better soft tires while Jenson had switched to the hard. Had Rubens finished his third stint with high 1:22s rather than mid 1:23s it would then have given him 2-4 seconds over Button between the pit stops and thus given him track position with fresher tires for the final stint, which would have been the best position to be in.

    So Brawn had no reason to believe that Button’s strategy would give him an advantage to Barrichello, instead it was merely a good way of achieving a 1-2 finish with Button behind Rubens as Rosberg was a potential problem for a three stop srtrategy, as he explained clearly after the race and was evident when Rubens came out with no track behind him after his first stop.

    I see no reason to doubt Brawn’s intentions. I imagine were I a team leader/head of strategy and the optimum strategy for both my drivers wasn’t working for the one behind, then it would make sense to try to avoid problems by switching the second driver to an inferior strategy. Even if, as was the case, that it is not the optimum one and is likely to lose him some time compared to a three stop on an open track.

    Why then would I trouble my driver who is leading the GP saying, “We had to switch your teammate to an inferior two stop because three stop wouldn’t work for him with other cars on the track?” If you thought three stop was faster before the race, which before the first stops they did (and until after Rubens’ second stop where his lap times were pretty poor looked to have been vindicated) surely the best option for Rubens was to keep him on the three stop, rather than confuse him with an unnecessary information or option to switch to a new and clearly inferior strategy that he wasn’t expecting and that wasn’t necessary?

    Why switch Rubens to an inferior strategy that would increase the chances of him being on the same part of the track to Button and increase the chances of the drivers colliding?

    If anything by switching Jenson to an inferior strategy as well as optimising the opportunity for a 1-2 the strategist had given the drivers the fairest chance to win on merit. As Jenson had the opportunity to beat Rubens if he was consistently faster on a weaker strategy, equally Rubens had the perfect opportunity to beat Jenson comfortably without any need to overtake him again on track and with a slight advantage in terms of strategy.

    All the data shows that if Rubens had done a good third stint, that the car was capable of he would have won the race comfortably without needing to be a faster driver than Jenson.

    People who wish to think otherwise are in my opinion rather over skeptical and perhaps should realise that Rubens is ageing and so it is probable that his stamina and focus throughout an endurance race may not be what it once was. Also Jenson is a far better diver than he is given credit for.

    If you still don’t believe me, or haven’t bothered to read what I wrote. This should make it clear to you in two lines that Rubens was outperformed. On an identical fuel load and 12 lap fresher soft tires tires he averaged 1-2 tenths of a second slower than Button in the second stint and the same is true of the harder tires.

    These are the only points in the race where you can compare the two drivers pace as before they were together on track or on different fuel loads and so Rubens was faster because he was lighter or because he was holding Jenson up.

    Basically Jenson was consistently faster than Rubens throughout the weekend, and had he not had the average start and been slipstreamed by Rubens down to turn one this foolish debate would not even be happening. Jenson deserved to win and Rubens did not he was the slower driver and was clearly holding Jenson up in the first stint.

    I urge you all doubters to look at the data you have been provided and realise the clear facts.

    JP

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