All the signs before the race were that Rubens Barrichello had the strategy to take on the McLarens.
And so it proved – but would he have won without Hamilton’s problem? Let’s take a look at how the European Grand Prix unfolded.
What was crucial at the start for Rubens Barrichello was not his slim chance of getting past the McLarens off the line – but the bigger concern of Kimi Raikkonen coming past him. Fortunately for the Brawn driver, that didn’t happen.
Timo Glock, and Sebastien Buemi collided, and Romain Grosjean also lost his front wing, which explains why they lost positions. But apart from the crashes and KERS cars, it was a very uniform start.
Barrichello’s fight to the front
Hamilton’s slow pit stop plus Barrichello’s performance advantage turned a four second advantage before his final pit stop into a six second deficit.
Had Brawn kept Barrichello out as long as they could, it probably would have been greater – but there was no need to, and with Kazuki Nakajima having shed a tyre bringing Barrichello in was the prudent thing to do.
It seems likely that, even without his pit stop problem, Hamilton wouldn’t have kept the lead of the race. But it would have been close – and that could have been enough to force a mistake out of Brawn.
Brawn haven’t always got Barrichello’s strategy right this year, but his starting fuel weight and long-ish middle stint were exactly the right choices for Valencia. But why did his team mate fare so poorly on a substantially similar strategy?
OK, his first race back wasn’t good. But just how bad was Luca Badoer’s European Grand Prix?
By the end of lap one the spread of the field meant Badoer was 17.16 seconds behind team mate Kimi Raikkonen. Come the end of the race, he was 167 seconds behind – yes, two minutes and 47 seconds. Although part of that was his drive-through penalty, which likely cost him around 15 seconds.
Looking at his lap times offers little comfort. He set his best lap towards the end of the race, signifying some improvement, but his 1’40.590 was the third-slowest of the race, only beating the Toro Rossos.
With the best will in the world, the scale of improvement needed from Badoer at Spa is massive if he is to keep his place in the car.
Race progress charts
The race and lap charts tell the story of a race that largely took place in the pits instead of on the track.
With refuelling being banned for next year we will see a radically different pattern to the races, with drivers adopting differing strategies of tyre use but everyone having to cope with full fuel loads from the start.
Hopefully that will provide more unpredictability and genuine on-track action. For the second year in a row, the European Grand Prix was no advertisement for F1 at its best.