Barrichello leads one-two as Brawn are back on top

2009 Italian Grand Prix reviewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Barrichello passed Kovalainen at the start, allowing him to keep up with the leaders
Barrichello passed Kovalainen at the start, allowing him to keep up with the leaders

Smart strategy and rock-solid pace won the Italian Grand Prix for Rubens Barrichello.

He led home team mate Jenson Button, who qualified behind Barrichello despite qualifying with less fuel.

Button spent the later stages of the race fending off an attack from Lewis Hamilton – which ended with the McLaren driver in the barriers on the final lap.

Kovalainen goes backwards

Lap 1, Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen, Monza, 2009
Lap 1, Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen, Monza, 2009

Hamilton started from pole position and kept his lead at the start despite not making a quick getaway.

Kimi Raikkonen was much quicker away from third place and might have passed the McLaren if he’d had more room.

Raikkonen nonetheless picked off Adrian Sutil for second place. Surprisingly, the Force India driver held onto third and was never threatened by the McLaren of Heikki Kovalainen.

Starting with a heavy fuel load, Kovalainen fell behind the KERS-less Brawn cars. Barrichello got ahead at the exit of Rettifilio, and Kovalainen responded with an attempted re-pass at the Variante della Roggia. The car nearly got away from him at the exit of the chicane and that allowed Button a run at the McLaren, getting by at the second Lesmo.

Coming out of the Ascari chicane Vitantonio Liuzzi got a run at Kovalainen as well and passed him on the outside heading into Parabolica. That left the second McLaren down in seventh while Hamilton streaked away.

A bigger casualty on lap one was Mark Webber. He clashed with Kubica at the della Roggia and spun into retirement, inflicting a damaging blow on his championship hopes.

On lap four Fernando Alonso caught Kovalainen and drove past him on the approach to turn one – the McLaren not even mounting a token defence. After ten laps the fuel-heavy Kovalainen was 24 seconds behind his flying team mate.

Brawns take to the front

Rubens Barrichello, Brawn, Monza, 2009
Rubens Barrichello, Brawn, Monza, 2009

Hamilton quickly left his two-stopping rivals Raikkonen and Sutil behind, but he had two problems: his tyres were wearing out too quickly, and Barrichello wasn’t dropping back quickly enough. McLaren brought him in for his first pit stop two laps early on the 15th tour.

After his first stop Hamilton came out just in front of the battle for sixth between Liuzzi and Alonso. Raikkonen then split the pair after his pit stop on lap 19. He wasn’t able to keep up with Liuzzi but it didn’t matter – on lap 22 Liuzzi’s transmission failed on the run up the second chicane.

Liuzzi joined Webber in retirement, along with Jaime Alguersuari and Robert Kubica. The latter had tangled with Webber on the first lap, damaging his front wing, and was summoned to the pits by the stewards using the black-and-orange flag (a rare event in F1 these days) to have the loose part of his wing removed. Kubica returned to the track but retired shortly afterwards.

Now the Brawns were in the lead of the race. New leader Barrichello was fuelled to reach lap 29, in which he was able to lap slightly quicker than third-placed Hamilton, putting him in an increasingly strong position.

Last-lap crash for Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Monza, 2009
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Monza, 2009

Button never looked like getting ahead of Barrichello – he pitted one lap before his team mate, which more than doubled his deficit to around five seconds. When Hamilton made his final pit stop on lap 34, he came out behind Button and slowly began gaining on him.

With two laps to go Hamilton had cut Button’s advantage to 1.2s. There was only one second in it as the final lap began, and Hamilton was hanging it out on every corner trying to get within striking distance.

But at the first Lesmo bend he pushed too far – the McLaren ran wide on the exit kerb and spun him head-first into the barriers on the inside of the corner. Forget second place, forget third place – Hamilton was classified 12th.

This was great news for the home fans, who saw one of their beloved Ferraris promoted onto the podium. Raikkonen took third place ahead of Sutil, the pair having pitted together on lap 37 and bothered suffering botched pit stops. Raikkonen didn’t get away quickly enough and Sutil knocked over one of his mechanics, who fortunately was not badly injured.

Toyotas tangle

Jarno Trulli, Timo Glock, Toyota, Monza, 2009
Jarno Trulli, Timo Glock, Toyota, Monza, 2009

A late mistake by Vettel kept him from challenging Nick Heidfeld for what became seventh place behind Alonso and Kovalainen.

Giancarlo Fisichella had a quiet first race for Ferrari, finishing in ninth place.

Behind him were Kazuki Nakajima and Timo Glock, who had been caught up in an exciting battle with Jarno Trulli.

Trulli fell into Glock’s hands after a failed attempt to pass Nakajima at the Rettifilio. The two Toyota drivers went side-by-side for several corners, until Trulli ran wide at the first Lesmo and did his best impression of a rally driver, bouncing sideways through the gravel trap. It looked dramatic but it can’t have impressed the Toyota pitwall, particularly as he lost another place to Sebastien Buemi.

Romain Grosjean was 15th, exactly where he finished on his first appearance for Renault in Valencia. Last was Nico Rosberg, whose run of points finishes came to an end after a poor qualifying session and an early pit stop after mistakenly believing he had a puncture.

Brawn’s emphatic one-two, and a poor weekend for rivals Red Bull, means they are now unlikely to be beaten in either championship. But with two wins in the last three races, Barrichello must fancy his chances of getting ahead of Button.

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