Sunday, March 29, 2009

Brawn GP take dramatic one-two victory in Melbourne :

Not since the French Grand Prix in 1954 has a team new to Formula One racing finished one-two on their debut. That day it was Juan Manuel Fangio and Karl Kling for Mercedes-Benz. This afternoon it was Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello for Brawn-Mercedes after an extraordinary ‘race of two halves’ in Australia.

Button led from pole as Barrichello bogged down when his car activated its anti-stall device, and the Brazilian was then embroiled in a first-corner clash with BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld, Red Bull’s Mark Webber, Force India's Adrian Sutil and McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen.

Button streaked away from Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull, Robert Kubica’s BMW Sauber, Nico Rosberg’s Williams and the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen. But the face of the race changed on Lap 19 when Kazuki Nakajima crashed his Williams heavily, bringing out the safety car until the end of the 24th lap.

By then Button had watched a 47.7s lead reduced to nothing, and began to struggle to generate heat in his tyres. But he got his head down and opened a gap to Vettel again. As the Ferraris faded, Kubica found his BMW Sauber getting better and better on the harder Bridgestone tyre and gradually began to put Vettel, on the softer option tyre, under serious pressure in the closing stages.

Going into Turn Three on the 55th lap - with three left to run under a setting sun which made driving conditions very difficult - Kubica got alongside Vettel but they touched. Both spun, but continued. But not for long. Vettel had lost his front wing and crashed heavily just as Kubica, further down the road, did the same thing. Out came the safety car again.

Incredibly, that melee had promoted Barrichello back to the second place, despite his first-lap incident and a later touch with Raikkonen which damaged his Brawn’s front wing. It was changed during his first pit stop on the 18th lap. As the race finished under the safety car, he admitted that he had never expected a one-two after all his dramas.

Jarno Trulli started from the pit lane after Toyota’s rear wing infringement yesterday, but hauled through to take the final podium finish, while a very determined drive brought a hugely valuable fourth place for McLaren's Lewis Hamilton. The world champion was briefly third in the dying stages after Trulli ran off track behind the safety car, before the Italian subsequently retook the place - an infringement which prompted stewards to subsequently add 25s to his race time, later dropping him to 12th.

In the second Toyota Timo Glock came home fifth. The German survived a spin while battling from his own pit lane start, when he and Fernando Alonso tangled.

The Spaniard brought his Renault home sixth, while seventh place came as a bitter disappointment to Rosberg. The German was running fourth with six laps to go and had set fastest lap, but had used up his Bridgestone option tyres and was simply in no position to defend the place. By the finish he had rookie Sebastien Buemi thirsting after him as Toro Rosso’s Swiss driver scored a point for eighth place on his debut.

Neither of the Ferraris finished. Both struggled with tyre wear, and as Massa suffered a mechanical problem late in the race, Raikkonen spun and subsequently retired.

Sebastien Bourdais was ninth in the second Toro Rosso, ahead of Adrian Sutil, who survived a brush with Force India team mate Giancarlo Fisichella. They were separated by Heidfeld, who was consigned to a recovery race after the first corner fracas, while Fisichella further delayed himself by missing his pit marks in his first stop.

Webber, another in recovery mode, was the final classified finisher, ahead of Vettel, Kubica, and Raikkonen. The retirements were Massa, Nelson Piquet who spun his Renault after the first safety car restart, Nakajima and Kovalainen.

Button’s great victory marked the 200th for a British driver.

"It's not just for me but for the whole team,” he said, “a fairy tale ending really to the first race of our career together and I hope we can continue this way. We are going to fight every way we can to keep this car competitive and at the front. This has got to continue and this is where we want to be. Bring on Malaysia!”
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