Formula 1: Red Flag Messes up Practice Three, but Brawn Still Look Strong!

Patrick AllenAnalyst IAugust 22, 2009

VALENCIA, SPAIN - AUGUST 21:  Jenson Button of Great Britain and Brawn GP drives during practice for the European Formula One Grand Prix at the Valencia Street Circuit on August 21, 2009, in Valencia, Spain.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

After a really great day yesterday, we Brawn maniacs went into the last practice session with very high hopes.

Whilst to an extent the session went well, a red flag caused by Vettel’s engine failure meant that the final standings of P3 weren’t actually all that representative of raw pace.

The green light opened the morning session and the pack, led by the Force Indias, took to the circuit for their installation laps. As per usual, the Brawns were the last cars out but after around eight minutes all the cars were back in the garages again.

After only five or so minutes, the action restarted with Hamilton taking to the track. The World Champion set the pace with a 1:42:103 which was faster than Rubens’s pole time at the end of P1.

Jenson’s first time was a 1:43:037 which put him P11 of 16. Rubens put in a 1:45:913 (P17 of 19). On take two, Jens got up to P8 and Rubens stayed around P19.

It was a case of third time lucky for Jens, who soon found some speed and pulled his way up to P2 with a 1:40:052. Meanwhile, Rubens could only get up to P10 (1:40:778).

With Kubica now on the top of the time sheets and only 29 minutes gone, Vettel seemed to be having real troubles out on track. The young German was going very slowly and smoke was clearly coming out of the back of his car.

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The session was red flagged when the Red Bull driver failed to get his car back to the pits.

Initially, we all thought the red flags were due to Vettel’s position on the track, but it soon became clear that his engine had spilled a very long and dangerous line of oil that would certainly need to be cleared up.

Red Bull’s third engine failure was very bad news for their title challenge, but I must say it was music to the ears of Brawn GP.

As the cars sat in the pits, Sutil had managed to get up to pole with a 1:39:897, Jens was P4 and Rubens P11.

As time went by, teams began to consider short qualifying spec runs on super soft tyres. The problem was that the track would still need to be cleaned and with only five minutes left, it was going to be tough.

Due to the tight scheduling of an F1 weekend, the only sessions in which time can be carried in the event of a red flag are qualifying and the race. Thankfully, Brawn had such a promising day yesterday that the lack of track time will hopefully prove not to be such an issue.

The session was re-started and all bar Vettel were out. I must admit I didn’t think it would happen but several cars actually took the lead away from Sutil.

It all proved academic, though, as the young Force India driver eventually stormed around the track and topped the sheets with a 1:39:143.

Jenson’s time of 1:39:883 put him in P2, but he eventually finished in P7. Rubens was a little bit off the pace all morning, but a 1:40:192 did initially put the Brazilian in P8 (before he finished in P12)

So a bit of an odd P3 when all is said and done. However, as I have said a great Friday for Brawn GP, hopefully means that all the issues today will not prove to be disastrous in just over an hour's time.

Qualifying may well prove to be the most exciting aspect of this Grand Prix and I can’t wait!

Driver Team

1 A Sutil Force India

2 K Nakajima Williams

3 R Kubica BMW Sauber

4 H Kovalainen McLaren

5 N Rosberg Williams

6 G Fisichella Force India

7 J Button Brawn

8 L Hamilton McLaren

9 J Trulli Toyota

10 R Grosjean Renault

11 S Buemi Toro Rosso

12 R Barrichello Brawn

13 N Heidfeld BMW Sauber

14 K Raikkonen Ferrari

15 F Alonso Renault

16 T Glock Toyota

17 M Webber Red Bull

18 S Vettel Red Bull

19 J Alguersuari Toro Rosso

20 L Badoer Ferrari