Guest Columnist

Brawn GP on the Button

2009-03-30 08:52
Winning start (Gallo Images)
Natalie Le Clue

All doubt about who the fastest team in Formula One is at the moment has been well and truly removed by Jenson Button and Brawn GP.

After months of not even knowing whether they'd be at the first race of the season, Saturday qualifying must have been a very satisfactory exercise for Brawn GP. As Button and Rubens Barrichello locked out the front row of the grid with ridiculous ease, the rest of the field were left stunned in the wake of their exhaust fumes.

The first race of the year started at 17:00 Australian time, much to the drivers' annoyance as visibility on some parts of the track was described as "incredibly bad".

Nevertheless, they all lined up on the grid with the Ferrari’s the only cars fitted with the KERS system in the top 10. It was suggested that cars fitted with KERS would have a definite advantage off the start line, and to a degree they were right as Kimi Raikkonen had a reasonable launch off the line only to be, rightfully, blocked by Nico Rosberg. Meanwhile Button romped off with a desperate Sebastian Vettel holding on for dear life. 

The decision by Ferrari and a few other teams to run on the super-soft Bridgestone rubber for the first stint of the race, proved to be a big mistake. All cars on the option tyre were forced to pit very early on; some as early as lap 10. Bridgestone had opted to bring the super-soft and medium compound to Australia deferring from their usual procedure to bring two compounds that follow directly on each other i.e. soft and medium. 

It became evident very quickly that the super-soft tyre was unable to last for more than eight laps, falling off dramatically in performance. Ferrari still with the problem of getting heat into their front tyres, chose to start on the option tyre. It would have seriously compromised both Felipe Massa and Raikkonen’s races had the safety car not been deployed. However all efforts by Ferrari proved fruitless as both cars ended up retiring from the race; definitely a day to forget for the red squad. 

Apart from sublime racing on the part of Brawn GP and a very solid debut for highly critiqued Sebastien Buemi, it was a weekend dominated by off-track drama. 

A penalty imposed on Jarno Trulli for a safety car infringement, which in the meantime has been appealed, saw third place awarded to Lewis Hamilton. The fine and 10-place grid penalty for the next race handed down to Vettel for his part in the incident with Robert Kubica in the closing stages was a perhaps a bit too harsh as both drivers were equally at fault in what they themselves termed a “racing incident.” A further appeal against the diffusers of three teams (Brawn GP, Williams and Toyota) will be heard on April 14.

But all that could not detract from Button’s moment of glory. Some might remember when Button started his Formula One career at Williams in 2000 when he was the youngest ever driver on the grid. Button then moved to Honda and basically faded into oblivion barring one win in Hungary during the 2006 season, at a time many had called time on his career. How quickly things can change.

Needless to say I was more than thrilled to see an emotional Button on the top step of the podium.


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