European GP Post-Race Analysis: Rubens Is Rejuvenated
Rubens Barrichello is back. And just when I was writing him off.
The evergreen Brazilian pounced on an unforgivable mistake from the McLaren pit crew to snatch the victory from the grasp of Lewis Hamilton at the European Grand Prix in Valencia. And it really had to be earnt the hard way.
Trailing Hamilton all race, Barrichello did an excellent job to hang onto the back of Heikki Kovalainen in the first stint, giving him the chance to leapfrog the Finn in the pits. He did so with relative ease, and was ready to threaten Hamilton.
But for every blow that Rubens dealt Lewis, the world champion was matching him. It was always going to be very tricky to catch Hamilton, particularly with Lewis in the form he has been in since Germany.
But a horrid error from the McLaren pit crew cost Lewis Hamilton back-to-back victories, and handed it on a plate to Barrichello.
But it does not make the victory any less deserved.
After all, Barrichello was doing a fantastic job hanging on to Kovalainen's car when it was clear that McLaren had a clear pace advantage over Brawn, which was being magnified further down the order with Jenson Button unable to pressurise Mark Webber in the first stint on a day where Red Bull were really struggling.
And it all comes at a very fitting time for Brazilian motorsport, with Felipe Massa missing as a result of his freak accident in Hungary. Seeing his compatriot and friend win for the first time in 2009 will no doubt motivate Massa further in his race to be fit for their home race in Interlagos.
The body language was much more positive from Barrichello this weekend - gone was the emotional and frustrated character that left Germany, feeling his championship challenge slip further from reality.
But in the sweltering Spanish heat, he looked extremely relaxed, and like he was enjoying his job. And he will have enjoyed this victory every bit as much as his stunning maiden win in Germany with Ferrari.
The cool character shown by Barrichello in Valencia has to also be in stark contrast to his team-mate Jenson Button, who once again hobbled to a low points finish after finding any real speed far too late in the Grand Prix. Despite no points being scored by either Red Bull driver, Jenson has had his lead eaten into again.
Back ahead of Webber and Vettel in the championship and with Button continuously faltering in the midseason, Rubens is going to fancy his chances once more. 18 points is certainly not an impossible gap to make up.
In fact, Barrichello may well worry more about the challenge of either Red Bull driver, and the next race at Spa should show us exactly why. A fast track, cool conditions expected and the distinct possibility of rain all culminate to make Red Bull the red-hot favourites in Belgium.
I was wrong to write him off. Very wrong.
Without a doubt, Rubens Barrichello is back.
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