Brawn Strategy Pays Off in the Most Dull Race of the Season

Patrick AllenAnalyst IAugust 23, 2009

VALENCIA, SPAIN - AUGUST 23:  Rubens Barrichello of Brazil and Brawn GP celebrates in parc ferme after winning the European Formula One Grand Prix at the Valencia Street Circuit on August 23, 2009, in Valencia, Spain.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

It has taken five years, but Rubens Barrichello has finally won a race again! It was a fantastic performance for the Brazilian who truly deserved a victory.

However, the race itself was easily one of the most boring I have seen in a long time. All of the racing was done over pit stops, I didn’t see a single manoeuvre (bar the usual madness at the start) and the boring circuit gave us little other than the feeling that Valencia looks like a hot and inviting part of Spain.

I must stress that even though I found the whole thing totally dull, I am so happy that Brawn’s strategy payed off for both drivers. Jenson Button got off to a dismal start, had moments of excellence but was ultimately unable to break higher than P7, whilst Rubens did what he has struggled to do this season and put his foot down when it really mattered.

We learned yesterday that actually, fuel corrected, the Brawn boys had done an excellent job in qualifying. However, this didn’t stop me worrying about the KERS threat of both McLarens and the Ferrari behind Jenson.

As the lights went out the McLarens pulled away as expected but Rubens kept them honest. Jenson made a great move on Vettel but his Red Bull rival began to push Jens off the line (perfectly legally), Jens lifted off and began to slip down three places.

Meanwhile, Kimi Raikkonen and Alonso had capitalised on Jenson and Vettel’s fighting and as Jenson struggled to regain positions, the Brawn man unfortunately cut a corner. This kept him in front of Webber, but the Australian was not happy.

Rubens tried to keep up with the McLarens, but by just lap four Hamilton was 5.562 seconds ahead of the Brazilian! (Jens was 11.052 seconds off the pole pace).

On lap five things went from bad to worse for Jenson as he had to let Webber pass him (due to the chicane skipping incident). I nearly turned my TV off when just six laps in, a slower Kovalainen began to back the pack up. Jenson had fallen away from Webber and Kubica was all over the Championship leader’s rear wing. However I’m not the quitting type, so I persevered!

On lap 15 McLaren pitted Hamilton for 9.4 seconds which meant Rubens went up to P2 and now had to push like crazy to beat Kovalainen in the pit stops. Vettel pitted too but a fuel rig issue cost the German crucial time and meant that he would need to come in on the very next lap!

It was here that I began to relax a little bit because this issue had almost certainly cost Vettel any chances of points and thus took one title contender out of the game for both Brawn and Jenson.

Then on lap 17 Kovalainen pitted, and this is were Rubens really earnt his win. The Brazilian put his pedal to the metal when it was most important and strung together some excellent laps. Meanwhile with all the troubles Vettel was having and other drivers stopping, Jenson had got up to the heady heights of P6!

With Rubens setting the fastest lap of 1:39:427 and Jenson revitalised and all over Webber, I began to smile a little more….in between the yawns!

By lap 19 Jens was only 0.739 seconds behind Webber, but he had to pit. The Brawn man stopped for 7 seconds and rejoined in P11, disastrously behind the heavy Fisichella!

Just one lap later the super fast Rubens pitted for 9 seconds and rejoined in in P2 ahead of Kovalainen, and so Rubens’s first job was complete. He now had to make his move on Hamilton. Meanwhile Webber had pitted and rejoined ahead of Jenson.

Around lap 21, Rubens was going for Hamilton, and Jenson was struggling for pace. The only bright side for Jens was first that Vettel was in P16, and second that the German ultimately had to stop with yet another engine failure. Don’t forget that this engine was a brand new one! This was awful news for Red Bull but smiles all round at Brawn GP.

Hamilton and Rubens then went on to trade fast lap times, which I suppose in theory was quite exciting but in reality it was just like watching a scaletric race.

On lap 31 Fisichella finally pitted and released Jenson who was now in P8 and driving much better. At the other end of the pack, Rubens was told to reduce his gap to Hamilton from four seconds to two seconds in just eight laps…. Could he do it?

Whilst Rubens and Lewis Hamilton slugged it out at the front, Jenson moved right up to the back of Webber again. However, despite reducing the gap to 1.8 seconds, there was simply nowhere to pass and nothing really happened. That isn’t to say that what Jens was doing wasn’t important.it just wasn’t exciting (have you guessed yet? I don’t like this circuit).

Hamilton pitted on lap 36 and this is where the race would be won or lost. The current World Champion stopped for an excruciating 13.4 seconds as his team cocked up the stop! The tyres weren’t ready and needed to be unwrapped there and then before being fitted.

Many commentators argued it would have been tight without this mistake but I think Hamilton would have walked it were it not for his team’s blunder.

Hamilton eventually rejoined in P5 and Rubens went on to push it to the max again. The Brazilian did a perfect job and again set the fastest lap of 1:39:071. With just 18 laps left Rubes pitted for 6.8 seconds and rejoined fantastically in front of Hamilton.

In a turn of fortunes things went from good to fabulous when Jens pitted just a couple of laps later. The Brit took on 6 seconds of fuel, and had done such a good set of in laps that he rejoined in P9. Webber had been slowed up by traffic, but when he rejoined behind Jenson after his second stop it was in no small part thanks to a great job from the Brawn man.

In fact, by now Jens had gained P7 (no not by overtaking……by pit stops) and Webber had been slotted back in behind Kubica (which meant no points).

Jens pushed Alonso for P6 for a few laps but then backed off to bring the car home safely (Whilst pushing Jenson put in the fastest lap of 1:38:874). Poor old Webber just fell away and could only finish P9, whilst Rubens held off a late charge from Hamilton to claim his maiden Brawn GP victory.

So in conclusion today could have been a lot better for Brawn GP, but similarly it could have been a hell of a lot worse. Rubens put in a great performance, and thanks to a McLaren mistake, rightfully claimed victory. Jenson suffered a terrible start, failed to make any impression for a large amount of the race, but came good at the end.

Finally, Brawn’s closest rivals Red Bull finished with nothing. Rubens was great but I must say Raikkonen in P3 has a very good shout for driver of the day.

I suppose the problem for Brawn is that Belgium will not favour their car and the Red Bulls look as if they will dominate. Brawn really should have got at least a top four finish for both cars today, but on the other hand Red bull should at least have scored one point.

When all is said and done today’s race was a pretty great result for Brawn GP, and for that I am happy. The problem was that it was a boring circuit with a low turn out. Roll on classic Belgium I say!

Driver’s title

Jenson 72

Rubens 54

Webber 51.5

Constructors Championship

 Brawn GP 126

 Red Bull 98.5

 Ferrari 46

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