Brawn GP Season Review Part Five: The Crown Begins to Slip!

Patrick AllenAnalyst IDecember 12, 2009

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - OCTOBER 30:  Jenson Button of Great Britain and Brawn GP prepares to drive during practice for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit on October 30, 2009 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

OK, after a short break from my season review, here are the next two races in Brawn GP’s first, only, and greatest season…

Germany 2009


Saturday Qualifying


After a very shaky practice session Brawn GP managed to get their act together for Saturday qualifying. However, it certainly wasn’t easy!

The first session was actually pretty good for Jenson and Rubens. Neither driver was outstanding, but similarly neither seemed to be struggling as much as I had feared after Friday!

Uncertain conditions for Q2 meant that there was a mad dash to get out and put a time in. All of the grid left the pits on slick tyres. Before long though, they all began to realise that they had made a big mistake as cars began to slide off all over the place!

After a strange first attempt, all of the drivers bar Webber darted back into the pits for the intermediate tyres.

Rubens choose to fit the dry tyres and proceeded to lap faster than everyone else, proving many commentators wrong (many thought he was taking too big a risk waiting for as long as he did to come out). Absolutely fantastic stuff from the Brazilian who gained P1.

Conversely, Jenson was really struggling down in P14 and it was looking as if for the first time this season, he would fail to make the final 10! In the end he put in a lap just when he needed to and got himself into the final shootout, but yet again the Brit had been outclassed by his team mate in the early stages of qualifying.

After the close run Q2, Q3 seemed like a breeze. Rubens did a fantastic job to finish in P2 and after initially struggling, Jens managed to get up to P3. The day was Webber’s though as the Australian sped to pole in the German cold.

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Sunday Race

The start was a total mixed bag, very exciting, great for Rubens, but appalling for Jenson. Webber got off to a decent enough start, but Rubens was faster. Meanwhile the KERS of Hamilton had meant that the Brit's silver arrow had almost shot into first place, however the McLaren failed to break into turn one (as we later learnt, Hamilton suffered from a rear puncture).

Vettel had, fortunately for Brawn, also got off to a poor start, but by the end of all the confusion Rubens was in P1 and Jenson down in two places but all over P4 man Massa.

Having quickly passed the Ferrari, Jens was now stuck behind Kovalianen and the Brit’s strategy was quickly sinking away. Meanwhile Webber was taking the fight back to Rubens in P1.

Both Brawns were under pressure, but things looked slightly better when on lap nine it was announced that Webber was under investigation for a barging manoeuvre he carried out on Rubens down into turn one, right at the beginning. Sure enough, soon after we heard the news that actually no one wanted to hear, Webber would have a drive through penalty.

After his first stop Jenson was in P14. Meanwhile Rubens took to the pits at the same moment as Webber (for his penalty). This would prove to be a stroke of Red Bull genius, as Webber in fact lost very little stopping so early as the cars around him were on weaker strategies.

Rubens rejoined in P4 and Jenson began to pass his way up the standings. However, after his first fuel stop, Webber had rejoined infront of Jenson (now in P8) and was able to close in on Rubens who was being slowed by Massa.

Massa may have screwed Rubens race, but he had also provided Jenson with an opportunity to catch up and pass his team mate for valuable championship points.

Rubens was finally set free when Massa pitted but it was too late. His three stop strategy was simply the wrong choice; Traffic and tyres had really messed up Brawn’s chances.

Webber was in a world of his own as Rubens desperately tried to calculate a change in strategy. On lap 30, Jens pitted from P3 and fitted the hard tyres; he rejoined in P7. Rubens pitted a lap later, effectively giving Webber the lead and the race. There was definite confusion in the Brawn garage as the hard tyres were fitted and what seemed like 11.4 seconds of fuel were added.

It looked as if Rubens had changed to a two stopper, which would have been advantageous, but to the Brazilian’s horror and disgust there had been a problem with the first fuel rig and a second had to be used.  All this meant that in actual fact he was still on a three stopper and a lot of time had been wasted.

With 25 laps left, Red Bull had it in the bag (Vettel was quite all afternoon, but a brilliant strategy saw the German in P2). Rubens was fuming in P5 and Jens was struggling in P6. Despite his troubles Jenson was simply faster than Rubens and with 12 laps left, Jens was all over his team mate and the mechanics were out in the pits. Who would they bring in first? Both drivers carried on through for another lap, just adding to the tension.

In the end it was Rubens who was brought in first and rejoined in P6. Jenson then lapped really fast, putting in fastest sectors. The Brit pitted one lap after his team mate and joined ahead of Rubens in P5 Thanks to an excellent drive and the quick professionalism of his team.

Sure P5 and P6 wasn’t the end of the world, but Brawn’s strategy had simply been wrong and the damage of Rubens’s outburst after the race might have been a lot worse than we were ever shown in the public eye.

Rubens strongly felt that he should have been changed to a two stop strategy and when he said ’today we showed you all how to loose a race...I think he was right. It was great to see Webber win, but, in general the weekend left a rather nasty taste in my Brawn mouth.


Hungary 2009

Saturday Qualifying

The 2009 Hungarian qualifying will always be remembered as the session in which Felipe Massa had his terrible accident. Thankfully it looks as if we’ll be seeing him again next year. However, it was his 2010 team mate, Fernando Alonso who was the man to beat on Saturday. As for Brawn...well, let's just say I think they’ll want to forget as much as possible about Hungary 2009!

An awful first session saw Jens and Rubens limp through in P10 (Jenson) and P12 (Rubens).

Neither driver was any better in Q2 but Rubens was certainly part of the headline story when a bar in the rear of Rubens’s BGP001 came loose and hit his fellow countryman, Massa. The loose piece may have explained Rubens’s poor form, but when Jenson’s car was checked, there was no explanation for his slowness!

Rubens had failled to get into Q3, and Jenson only completed one lap as his team understandably checked his car for loose parts. The Brit finished up in P8 which was not a good result as both Red Bulls had qualified in P2 and P3.


Sunday Race

The lights went out and Alonso got a great start and led into turn one. Both Brawns started poorly and dropped back. Jens fell down one place to P9 and Rubens went all the way back to P18!

Luckily for Brawn, Vettel also had a very poor start and took a knock to the front of his car. The Brawn drivers were certainly struggling, but Jenson did manage a very exciting pass to take P8 from Nakajima on the second lap. Rubens too was improving when he took Fisichella and was now all over Heidfeld.

At the front, Alonso pulled away, whilst Brawn’s biggest threat, Webber, looked good too. However, the Australian’s day took a bad turn when a very speedy Hamilton with that stupid booster button left Webber defenceless and overtaken! All this meant that by lap 5, neither Brawn nor Red Bull had got off to a good start.

Alonso’s day was quickly wrecked when after his early stop, his front right tyre (which had not been fitted properly) flew off and despite trying to nurse his car home, his race was over. The departure of Alonso basically gave Hamilton the lead (and in actual fact the win).

As Jenson made his way up the standings to P2 (thanks primarily to stops, but also to his speed), Rubens was going nowhere in P13. This was now a crucial stage for Jenson. He had to push whilst maintaining his fragile tyres. Although he set personal bests initially, he quickly fell away and it looked as if he would be lucky to score even one point.

The championship leader took to the pit lane on lap 24 but was unfortunately quickly overtaken by a heavier Fisichella when re-joining the race! It looked to be over until, on lap 26 Rubens overtook Vettel into turn one and the German then began to slide down the grid.

Jenosn’s biggest title rival radioed his pits and reported a problem. The young Red Bull man pitted straight away and took on a new nose and new tyres. His problem was front suspension failure after a first lap knock with Raikkonen. The German tried to push on but had to retire a few laps later.

Despite Webber, being in P3, it wasn’t as bad for Brawn as it may have looked. With 27 laps left, Jenson’s tyres began to work for him and the Brawn man began to gather pace. Seven laps later, Jens was up to P8 (from P9) and Rubens was up to P11 (from P13).

After his final stop Jenson was out in P10, but after stops in front he had got himself into the final points paying position. It got bettter though as, in the crucial period of the race that followed, Jenson put in an excellent performance on the super softs and was able to pass Trulli to take a vital second point. Meanwhile poor old Rubens had to settle for P10.

These last two races may well have proved to be crucial in Jenson’s eventual Championship victory. Despite poor performances in Germany and Hungary, the Brit clawed his way into the points and crucially his main three title contenders were unable to capitalise on Jenson’s poor starts.

Of course, Rubens was suffering with the same troubles as Jens, but he would have regretted finishing in P10 when Jens managed P7. Jenson may well be a very lucky man, but when push comes to shove, even the doubters surly have to admit he did a dam good job finishing in the points as consistently as he did in 2009.