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Belgian Rain Ruins Brawn's First Practice Session

Patrick AllenAnalyst IAugust 28, 2009

SPA FRANCORCHAMPS, BELGIUM - AUGUST 28:  Jenson Button (L) of Great Britain and Brawn GP is seen with his Team Principal Ross Brawn (R) as he prepares to drive during practice for the Belgian Grand Prix at the Circuit of Spa Francorchamps on August 28, 2009 in Spa Francorchamps, Belgium.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

As we headed into the first practice session before Sunday’s Belgium Grand Prix, Brawn GP were looking to improve on their thus far poor, cold track record. The BGP001 has new front wing endplates for this GP but the team’s primary goal was to change their suspension set up and test their tyre temperatures over the first hour and a half of testing.

However, the rain that soon began to fall put a stop to that!

As the green light signalled the start of the murky, (but at this stage dry) session, Badoer led the pack out to complete their installation laps. Of course, as is tradition the Brawns were the last cars out.

We got our first time just 15 minutes into the session. New boy Alguersuari clocked in a 2:00:275 and then began to scratch split seconds here and there off his first time. Just five minutes later it looked as if the heavens were going to open pretty sharpish (and the Belgian cows were all very much sitting down…and we all know what that means!)!

The sensible teams would therefore need to get their cars out ASAP to run as many dry laps as physically possible. Thankfully BGP were amongst the sensible thinkers!

Twenty-five minutes in, Jenson clocked in a first time of 1:52:555, which put him P2 of 3. Rubens’s first time was a 1:52:321. This time put the Brazilian in P3 of 5. Trulli was the man to beat at this early stage with a 1:49:675.

After only 30 minutes the rain was pouring, the track was officially declared ’wet’ and there were only 10 times on the board (Jens still P2, Rubens, P6).

The rain absolutely bucketed down! But we only had to wait around 10 minutes before seeing an F1 car out on track again. It was Alguersuari who had the terrifying task of learning how to drive in the wet for the first time in a Formula one car!

The young Spaniard was out on the full wet tyre compound and despite a few small hairy moments did exceptionally well.

The use of full wets sparked a mini debate in the paddock (well there was little else to do!); The question was whether or not full wets were the right option to be on. They were perhaps the safer option for newbies like Alguersuari. However, others argued that intermediates would give faster times.

At this stage Brawn were extremely angry as they had been unable to test their setup properly and in fact this first session was developing into a bit of a waste! Jenson was out of his car, helmet off and going nowhere with 45 minutes still left!

Rubens on the other hand was in his car, inters fitted and ready to go out for a wet sighter. All this weather furore was made even worse for Brawn as it was playing into Vettel’s hands!

The young Red Bull driver was not going to run much today to save his used engine. This would have given the rest of the pack an advantage over him as they would have had more time to select the perfect set up. However, the rain had totally levelled the playing field.

Rubens left the garage with 40 minutes to go and only completed one lap before returning. Jenson was back in his car and out on track ten minutes later but of course he couldn’t get any higher than his dry P2 time!

Rubens was out again with just 20 minutes left and he set a 2:06:587 which I’m afraid doesn’t mean that much to you as I was unable to take down the other wet times. I can tell you that Fisichella’s time of 2:03.972 was the fastest wet time set.

With eight minutes left the sun was back out, but there wasn’t enough time to dry the track out. Four minutes later Jens set a time of 2:05:182 which was about two seconds off Fisi’s time but neither Brawn were pushing particularly hard.

The session finished with Trulli on top of the dry times and Fisichella on top of the wet ones. It is very hard for me to analyse this one as really there was only about 10 minutes of real dry testing. The important thing for Brawn was that they couldn’t run vital tests and Vettel’s disadvantage was effectively cancelled out.

The forecast for practice two isn’t great, I guess we’ll just have to see how it goes…

Pos No Driver Team Time/Retired Gap Laps

1 9 Jarno Trulli Toyota 1:49.675

2 22 Jenson Button Brawn-Mercedes 1:50.283 0.608

3 7 Fernando Alonso Renault 1:50.368 0.693

4 12 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:51.045 1.370

5 11 Jaime Alguersuari STR-Ferrari 1:51.529 1.854

6 23 Rubens Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes 1:52.321 2.646

7 4 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:52.930 3.255

8 2 Heikki Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 1:53.383 3.708

9 5 Robert Kubica BMW Sauber 1:53.650 3.975

10 3 Luca Badoer Ferrari 1:55.068 5.393

WET TIMES

11 21 Giancarlo Fisichella Force India-Mercedes 2:03.972 14.297

12 16 Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota 2:04.505 14.830

13 8 Romain Grosjean Renault 2:05.513 15.838

14 6 Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber 2:05.614 15.939

15 17 Kazuki Nakajima Williams-Toyota 2:05.705 16.030

16 20 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 2:05.839 16.164

17 14 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 2:06.181 16.506

18 10 Timo Glock Toyota 2:06.331 16.656

19 15 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault NO TIME

20 1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes NO TIME

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