After their fantastic start to the season, these next two races mark an interesting point in Brawn GP’s 2009 season.
A supreme performance in Turkey (for Jenson Button, at least) led many non-Brawn fans to start talking of a forgone conclusion and a boring 2009. Then, along came the British GP and a very different result……
After a mixed three practice sessions I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Brawn GP come Saturday afternoon. Q1 was Vettel’s but Jens and Rubens Barrichello were not far off in P2 (Jens) and P3 (Rubens).
The second session was a bit more dramatic with fast times from Kubica, both Red Bulls, Trulli and of course the Brawns. However, yet again the session was Vettel’s, this time the Brawns weren’t as close though. Jenson finished in P3 and Rubens P7.
The third session was a great Red Bull vs. Brawn affair. Initially the fight was between Jenson and Webber, but Vettel and Rubens soon joined the fight. Yet again, Vettel flashed to pole, but Jens and Rubens managed to split the Red Bulls by finishing P2 (Jesnon) and P3 (Rubens).
The Red Bulls were clearly much faster with their hastily but excellently designed new diffuser. The race looked as if it would be a corker!
As the drivers lined up to begin the race I thought it would be Rubens, on the clean side of the track that would be Brawn’s best hope of a great start. However, the support races had seemed to suggest that starting on the dirty side didn’t necessarily mean bad times.
Jens had a great start and comfortably held on to second place, but Rubens's anti-stall kicked in and the Brazilian slipped down the field to 13th! Meanwhile, as we watch the usual first lap excitement, the TV pictures suddenly cut to Jenson...in front of Vettel!
Crucially from the exit of turn nine, the young German made a mistake and Jenson sped past and into the lead. It was small moments like this that would later prove to be crucial in Jenson’s eventual title victory.
Rubens though was struggling, having quickly dispatched a BMW for P12, he was now fighting with the KERS of Kovalainen. Whilst Rubens fought hard with the McLaren in front, Jens pulled an amazing two seconds ahead of the pack.
It took Rubens 7 tense laps to finally dispatch the McLaren number two after a great move in the last corners...but no! Kovalainen pushed his magic button and zoomed past the Brazilian into turn one!
Understandably angry, Rubens pushed, but he unfortunately made contact with the Fin into turn nine which sent Rubens spinning back to 17th!
Rubens was down but not out. He passed his way back up to P14 with relative ease…all without seventh gear!
However, yet again the Brazilian’s frustration was shown when he ran into the back of Sutil at the end of lap 12 and damaged his front wing end plate. This meant that he had to pit.
Meanwhile, Jens was simply rocketing around. His first stop was perfect and he managed to rejoin ahead of Vettel. However, the race wasn’t over as the lighter Vettel began to put real pressure on Jenson.
By lap 23, Vettel was only 1:103 seconds behind Jens! On the last corner of lap 25 Jens went wide...but he hung on and from then on went into a terminator-esq mode of coolness.
In Jenson’s dirty air, Vettel began to lose time and Jenson’s superb driving meant that Vettel would now be looking more like a challenger for third than for first; (as Webber seemed to be on the better strategy).
At one cruel stage, Jens looked as if he was going to lap his team mate, but unfortunately, Rubens retired with 10 laps left anyway. This was the first time we saw a Brawn retiring and it was the unlucky icing on the cake for the unfortunate and now dejected Rubens.
In the end a supreme race from Jenson, but Rubens was constantly on the back foot and we all thought that one way or another, he was going to end up retired by the final lap.
BRITAIN 2009 Saturday Qualifying
Compared to Red Bull’s outrageous pace in practice, the Brawns were extremely disappointing!
Both BGP001s struggled with tyre temperatures. Whilst the Red Bull was very hard on the tyres (thus warming them up faster), the Brawns were much lighter. This has proved advantageous in Turkey’s heat, but not England’s cold!
A red flag finished Q1 early but this didn’t help the Brawns who had been week throught the first 20 minutes. Jenson pulled himself up to P5, Whilst Rubens was stuck in P11.
In Q2 Rubens was the faster man of the Brawns, but yet again it was the Red Bulls who dominated. Rubens finished in P4, Jenson P8.
Vettel finished the day in P1 but poor old Webber’s speed in Q3 was destroyed by a slow Ferrari in front and he could only manage P3. Rubens did a fantastic job to finish second, but Jens scored his worst 2009 qualifying in P6.
Vettel held off Rubens into turn one as Jens is held up by a combination of a rubbish Trulli start and a fantastic Raikkonen get away.
The championship leader fell back to P9 and was now fighting with Massa, so much so that by the end of lap one, he was seven seconds behind Vettel already!
Jenson struggled for a while behind Massa, but on lap two, Massa went wide on the exit of Stowe corner and Jens got through.
It was over really by lap 10 as Webber had been held up by Rubens who was now 10:849 behind the leader; (Jens was almost 20 seconds down now).
Jenson did gain a place after a Nakajima pit stop on lap 15, and another when Raikkonen pulled in a lap later, but he was really struggling on his tyres.
On lap 20 and after one stop each, Rubens was P5, and Jenson, P9. However, both drivers were probably going to struggle in this middle stint with the unfavourable hard tyres.
At the half way stage, Rubens was P3 and Jens was in the last points paying position. This is how it stayed really for the next 10 laps.
The story for Brawn with 20 laps to go was one of Williams pressure! Rubens was 34 seconds behind the leader and had Rosberg to deal with whilst Jens was 51 seconds behind and fending off Nakajima.
Fortunately, both Brawns redeemed themselves with their late race performance. Rubens darted into the pits with 13 laps to go.
Massa in P4 had already made his final stop and was on a bit of a charge. Rubens had to have done a good in lap to get himself on the podium, he did so and held on to that P3.
As for the championship leader, well with just 11 laps left, Jens darted into the pits, and fitted softs. It looked as if he would be racing for P7 but after a fantastic job from Jenson in his in laps, the Brit was now P6.
As the new tyres on the Brawn were at last working well. Jens gave us all a bit of a show as he began to catch both Rosberg and Massa, both of whom were struggling on the hard compound tyre.
The Brit pushed to the end, but eventually ran out of time in the Williams’s dirty air. It finished with Rubens in P3 and Jenson, P6.
As I suggest in my title, the British GP marked an important turning point in the 2009 season. The supreme and seemingly unstoppable Brawn assault had been eased in the Turkish qualifying sessions and reversed throughout the British weekend.
Sure, Jenson did a fantastic job to win in Turkey but many commentators at the time and since have stressed that it was a case of Vettel losing the race with that fateful mistake.
The Red Bulls were unstoppable in England, but could the Brawns now mount an assault of their own at the next two races in Germany and Hungary?