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
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.