Button leads Brawn GP one-two in Australia

Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello gave the new Brawn GP team an extraordinary one-two result in a dramatic season-opening Australian Grand Prix, which finished behind the safety car after Sebastian Vettel and Robert Kubica collided into one another while fighting over second position.

Button controlled the race from the off, making a good start from pole position. While team-mate Barrichello had to recover after the Brazilian was bogged down when his car activated its anti-stall device. Rubens was then embroiled in a first-corner clash with BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld, Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber, Force India’s Adrian Sutil and McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen.

That first corner mayhem allowed McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and the Toyota pair of Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock to emerge into a surprising third, fourth and fifth places.

However, Trulli’s third place is currently under investigation by the FIA race stewards with McLaren suggesting that the Italian re-passed Hamilton during the safety car period after sliding off the track.

If the race results change, then the world champion could be elevated to third place, grabbing those extra six points. Even so, to see Lewis Hamilton finishing quite highly up the order after a frustrating qualifying session that resulted in taking a five-grid penalty after changing the gearbox is still a remarkable achievement. Though the car’s pace is still a major problem for McLaren.

Hamilton’s team-mate didn’t even finish the first lap, as Heikki Kovalainen was forced to retire with damage after that first corner chaos. Still, at least the team did better than rival Ferrari.

Championship runner-up Felipe Massa initially looked like a race contender after making a good start but had to retire in the late stages of the Grand Prix with a mechanical problem. As for Kimi Raikkonen, the Finn had a spin upon exiting a corner, which resulted in damaging his front wing as he brushed against the wall. He would later retire with only three laps to the chequered flag.

Double world champion Fernando Alonso brought home his slow Renault in sixth, while the bitterly disappointed Nice Rosberg finished in seventh, despite setting the race’s fastest lap. Nico was initially running in fourth with six laps to go but had used up his Bridgestone option tyres and was simply in no position to defend the place.

By the end of the race, the Williams driver just held on to his position ahead of Formula One rookie Sebastien Buemi, who drove a solid race in his maiden Grand Prix. The Swiss not only out-qualified his more experience team-mate at Toro Rosso, but he also scored a championship point with eighth.

It was lost points and opportunity for BMW Sauber in particular Robert Kubica, as the Pole was involving in a collision with Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel.

The incident happened on lap 55. Kubica was rapidly closing in thanks to his harder Bridgestone tyres offering better grip compared to Vettel (running the softer option tyre respectively). The Pole’s dramatic speed in tyre performance allowed him to challenge the young German over second position as the race was heading to the finish. On the approach to turn one, Vettel made a mistake and lost momentum. That allowed Robert the chance to pass and he got alongside his rival as they approach turn three. Neither was willing to give way, and they became entangled in the corner before both crashing on the next straight as their battered suspension gave way. This was an unfortunate accident and the fault lies between the two. Neither wanted to give up the position and the end result means two damaged cars and batted egos.

Incredibly, that melee promoted Rubens Barrichello back to second place, despite his first-lap incident and a later touch with Raikkonen, which damaged his Brawn’s front wing. To finish on the podium despite his problem, even the Brazilian was surprised. Barrichello joked that the accidents removed any potential advantage from Brawn’s controversial diffuser!

So, a fantastic achievement by Jenson Button, Rubens Barrichello, Ross Brawn and everyone at the Brackley-based squad. This historic one-two result is a great positive outcome for the sport following the last couple of days of controversy regarding the legality of those diffusers… It is just unbelievable that the transformation of the former Honda team, who were massively under performing in the last two years, which went under over the winter and then rescued by a management buy-out just a few weeks before the season began is simply remarkable.

This was Jenson’s second career Grand Prix victory, following his debut win in Hungary back in 2006. He also becomes the 200th British driver to triumph and he now leads the drivers’ standings with the next race in Malaysia taking place the following week.

As for Brawn GP, this impressive result marked the first time a new team has won its first race since Jody Scheckter steered the Wolf outfit to victory in the 1977 Argentine Grand Prix.

Can this ‘fairy tale’ dream continue? Well, the Mercedes-powered BGP 001 is quick, reliable and in the case of Rubens, strong at withstanding impacts against other cars(!), then expect some more great results from Ross Brawn’s team. Roll on Malaysia for the next exciting Grand Prix!

Race Results from Melbourne, 58 laps:

1.  Button        Brawn GP               1h34:15.784
2.  Barrichello   Brawn GP              +0.807
3.  Trulli        Toyota                +1.604
4.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes        +2.914
5.  Glock         Toyota                + 4.435
6.  Alonso        Renault                +4.879
7.  Rosberg       Williams-Toyota       +5.722
8.  Buemi         Toro Rosso-Ferrari    +6.004
9.  Bourdais      Toro Rosso-Ferrari     +6.298
10.  Sutil         Force India-Mercedes   + 6.335
11.  Heidfeld      BMW Sauber             +7.085
12.  Fisichella    Force India-Mercedes    +7.374
13.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault      +1 lap
14.  Vettel        Red Bull-Renault      +2 laps
15.  Kubica        BMW Sauber             +3 laps
16.  Raikkonen     Ferrari                 +3 laps

Fastest lap: Rosberg, 1:27.706

Not classified/retirements:

Massa         Ferrari               46 laps
Piquet        Renault               25 laps
Nakajima      Williams-Toyota          18 laps
Kovalainen    McLaren-Mercedes      1 lap

World Championship standings, round 1:

1.  Button        10
2.  Barrichello    8
3.  Trulli         6
4.  Hamilton       5
5.  Glock          4
6.  Alonso         3
7.  Rosberg        2
8.  Buemi          1

1.  Brawn GP               18
2.  Toyota                 10
3.  McLaren-Mercedes        5
4.  Renault                 3
5.  Williams-Toyota         2
6.  Toro Rosso-Ferrari      1

Next race: Malaysian Grand Prix, Sepang. April 3-5.

Jenson Button leads Brawn GP front row in Melbourne

Britain’s Jenson Button took his first pole position in three years after a sensational qualifying session in Albert Park, scene of this year’s Australian Grand Prix. Team-mate Rubens Barrichello will start alongside sealing the front row for the new Brawn GP team competing in its first Formula One race.

Although Brawn GP is effectively a renamed Honda operation, it is officially classed as a new outfit – which makes today’s result the first time a new entrant has taken pole position for its debut since the factory Mercedes-Benz team in the 1954 French Grand Prix.

This is a remarkable achievement as only a few weeks ago the squad’s future was secured when Ross Brawn completed his buyout from Honda. To lockout the front row in Melbourne, with a sixth tenths (of a second) advantage over Red Bull Racing’s Sebastien Vettel (who lines up third on the grid) makes this result even more special.

The margin between the Brawn GP pair was only separated by 0.305 seconds, revealing a close and private duel for the top spot. In fact, Button and Barrichello dominated both Q1 and Q2, with a clear advantage over their rivals in each of the qualifying session.

But in the all-important pole position shootout, it was Button who emerged on top with a lap time of one minute, 26. 202 seconds.

Red Bull Racing’s Sebastien Vettel will line up behind the Brawn GP pair while Robert Kubica demonstrated his KERS-free BMW Sauber is still quicker than the KERS-enabled car of team-mate Nick Heidfeld (fourth and eleventh places respectively).

Practice pacesetter Nico Rosberg could only manage fifth for Williams, ahead of Toyota’s Timo Glock and championship runner-up Felipe Massa in the Ferrari.

Jarno Trulli  puts the second Toyota in eighth position with past champion Kimi Raikkonen down in ninth place.

As for the home crowd favourite, Mark Webber was initially as high as third on the provisional grid following his first run in Q3, but over the course of the session, the Australian was pushed back down to tenth.

What about McLaren? How did the team fare in this all-important session in Melbourne? Well, as expected the team was unable to challenge for the top ten spots and world champion Lewis Hamilton was even forced to retire after a gearbox/drivetrain problem at the end of Q1. He will start his first race as a defending champion in a disastrous P15 on the grid… His team-mate Heikki Kovalainen didn’t suffer any technical problems but made little difference to boost the team, as the Finn could only P14.

Renault also lacked pace with the double world champion Fernando Alonso down in a disappointing P12, split between the BMW Sauber of Heidfeld and Kazuki Nakajima’s Williams.

As for the only rookie competing this year, Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi did a solid job to out-qualify his more experienced team-mate Sebastien Bourdais. The Swiss was 0.4 seconds faster over the four times Champ Car star and will line up on his maiden Formula One race in P16. As for the Frenchman, he will start last complaining of a lack of tyre temperatures.

So, an unusual grid for this Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. Pre-race favourite Jenson Button is on target to score a dream victory for Brawn GP following an exciting qualifying session. The speed from the Red Bull Racing team is also impressive in particular Vettel. As for Lewis Hamilton, this result is not what he needed as the new champion, so the challenges that lay ahead as he races through mid-pack will be fascinating. Roll on race day for the start of the new 2009 Formula One World Championship!

Qualifying times from Melbourne:

1.  Button      Brawn-Mercedes        1:26.202
2.  Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes        1:26.505
3.  Vettel      Red Bull-Renault      1:26.830
4.  Kubica      BMW-Sauber            1:26.914
5.  Rosberg     Williams-Toyota       1:26.973
6.  Glock       Toyota                1:26.975
7.  Massa       Ferrari               1:27.033
8.  Trulli      Toyota                1:27.127
9.  Raikkonen   Ferrari               1:27.163
10.  Webber      Red Bull-Renault      1:27.246
11.  Heidfeld    BMW-Sauber            1:25.504
12.  Alonso      Renault              1:25.605
13.  Nakajima    Williams-Toyota       1:25.607
14.  Kovalainen  McLaren-Mercedes      1:25.726
15.  Hamilton    McLaren-Mercedes      1:26.454
16.  Buemi       Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:26.503
17.  Piquet      Renault               1:26.598
18.  Fisichella  Force India-Mercedes  1:26.677
19.  Sutil       Force India-Mercedes  1:26.742
20.  Bourdais    Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1:26.964

Formula One 2009 preview

This coming weekend is the start of the new Formula One season and with new rules and regulations in place, this season’s world championship could be the most unpredictable in the six decades of the sport.

The major changes can be seen in the look of these single-seaters. In a bid to improve the spectacle of the sport – in terms of providing on-track entertainment, namely overtaking – the sport’s governing body (the FIA) have drafted in a set of new rules to cut the level of downforce therefore making it easier for cars to pass one another.

Gone are the winglets, chimneys, barge boards and ‘bull horns’ that made last year’s Formula One cars so aerodynamically sensitive to be replace with a cleaner and less aero sophisticated bodywork. Such a shame that the Overtaking Working Group (OWG) have made the new 2009-spec Formula One cars look way out of proportion with it’s large and wide front wing (with changeable flaps), slick tyres (to replace the grooves) and tall, narrow rear wing (less turbulence for the cars following behind).

Not to mention the new Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) is there to provide an extra ‘boost’ to aid overtaking. I am quite sceptical about this new system. Not only for the safety aspect, as last winter a BMW Sauber mechanic was injured after suffering an electric shock, but also how it could improve the on-track racing. KERS is essentially a way of storing loss energy in deceleration and converting it into extra brake horsepower. It can be stored in either as a mechanical energy (a flywheel) or an electrical energy (as in a battery or super capacitor). The benefit with KERS is to give the driver that additional speed in making a passing manoeuvre. But I am worried that it will make the art of overtaking into whom presses the button sooner… But if you want to entertain the fans, then so be it.

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Bring on the noise!

I went to see one of the most famous metal rock band in the world, Metallica, at the former home of the Millennium Dome this month. The gig itself was simply spectacular with impressive fireworks, lighting effects and of course, the epic guitar solos from the band.

The O2 Arena itself was also amazing as I’ve never been to the Millennium Dome before. The sheer number of bars, shops and restaurants at the venue heavily distracted me. So much in fact, I’ve missed one of the support bands on stage! Not to worry of course, as I had a seat allocated for me.

In one particular bar, a special tournament was being held offering the chance to play the new Guitar Hero: Metallica video game. I didn’t have the opportunity to play the music rhythm game, as it was more fun watching the other people performing on stage to the ultra tricky Metallica songs!

As for the real deal, it was fantastic to see Metallica performing their greatest hits in front of thousands of enthusiastic Metallica fans. The atmosphere was electric and I loved every moment of it!

The highlight was Cyanide, The End of The Line, One, Master of Puppets and of course, the epic Enter Sandman.

After the two-hour performance, I was left feeling more. And thanks to this ace link on the official website, you can now download the complete set list. I would recommend the FLAC format for the true sounding experience!