Button wins as Brawn GP dominate

Jenson Button’s superb season continued as he grabbed his fourth 2009 race win out of five at a tactical Spanish Grand Prix which Brawn GP totally dominated.

Jenson Button

Team-mate Rubens Barrichello got past pole-sitter Button with a great start – but a strategy change benefited the Englishman, who pushed him into second.

Red Bull’s Mark Webber was third ahead of team-mate Sebastian Vettel, who passed Felipe Massa’s Ferrari late on.

McLaren’s world champion Lewis Hamilton finished outside the points in ninth.

Massa ran third for much of the race, holding up Vettel’s faster Red Bull, but the Brazilian lost the place to Webber at the second pit stops thanks to clever strategy from Red Bull.

Massa then slipped down to sixth behind Vettel and Renault’s Fernando Alonso in the closing laps when the Brazilian was forced to go into fuel-saving mode when a problem at his pit stop meant not enough fuel was put into his car.

BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld and Williams’s Nico Rosberg finished seventh and eighth in the final points positions.

With a win that never looked in doubt after he had built up more than 11 seconds between his car and the rest of the field half-way through the race, Button has further stretched his lead at the top of the drivers’ championship and now sits 14 points ahead of Barrichello.

Jenson Button 1

The Brazilian veteran, the oldest man on the grid, could have recorded a first race victory in five years after his superb start.

But the introduction of the safety car after a first-lap collision – for just the fifth time in 18 years at the Circuit de Catalunya – meant Brawn changed Button’s race strategy from doing three pit stops to two and he drove superbly to make the switch pay off.

Team boss Ross Brawn said that three stops was theoretically a quicker strategy but that Barrichello had been too slow in his third stint to make it work.

The Brazilian blamed a problem with his tyres in that part of the race for his slow pace.

Button delighted strategy paid off

“Three stops was the quicker strategy we thought [initially],” said Button.

“I wasn’t sure about it [changing to two] and when we put the fuel on board it felt very heavy.

“I didn’t think I’d come out ahead of Massa and Vettel [after his first pit stop], but I did and I could just get my head down.

“It’s a good feeling and gives me a lot of confidence for the rest of the season.”

Red Bull felt they had a car fast enough to beat the Brawns but had to be satisfied with consolidating their second position in the constructors’ championship after a race defined by Massa’s Ferrari.

Using his energy storage and boost system (Kers), Massa bravely edged past Vettel into third place off the start despite the German’s best efforts to block him.

That meant the Red Bull pair, led by Vettel, were forced to follow the slower Brazilian until the first pit stops.

Vettel ended up stuck there throughout the race – he and Massa made both their pit stops on the same lap as each other and the German could not hide his frustration after the race.

‘Slow’ Barrichello disappoints Brawn

“I think the car was very quick and we definitely could have fought the Brawns,” Vettel said.

“It was impossible to pass Felipe [Massa], I tried many times. It was a difficult race but I’m disappointed.

“Sitting behind Massa for 63 laps, it’s very frustrating. Especially when you know you can go so much quicker.”

Both men ended up being leapfrogged by Webber, who took a gamble on a longer middle stint in a successful attempt to get ahead of the Ferrari.

The strategy change meant Webber made his second pit stop seven laps later than Massa and Vettel, allowing the Australian to make up enough time to emerge from his second pit stop in third place.

Webber had put himself in a position to try the strategy by brilliantly preventing Alonso snatching fifth place after the restart.

The Spaniard blasted past the Red Bull on the straight with the help of his Kers power-boost system, but Webber braked as late as he dared and fought the Renault off as they snaked through the first chicane.

The early crash which helped affect the outcome of the race did not directly involve the front-runners, occurring at the back of the pack after Jarno Trulli’s Toyota drifted onto the gravel around Turn Two before coming back onto the track and into the racing line.

That caused both Toro Rosso cars to collide with him and Force India’s Adrian Sutil was also affected – leaving all four drivers out of the race along with McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen, who retired a few laps later with what appeared to be gearbox failure.

Racing with typical aggression, Hamilton came from 14th on the grid to finish ninth but could not put in the required lap times needed to truly compete in his updated McLaren.

“What can I say, what can I do, I drove my heart out as I always do and that car is just not good – I just had no grip,” he said.

“For sure at the moment, I don’t have a car to win the championship.

“Everyone is wondering what’s going on, but the car is that bad. I am driving the socks off it but… There’s just no hope.”

The sixth race of the season takes place on the street circuit of Monaco in two weeks’ time on 24 May

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2009 FIA Formula One World Championship Race Calendar

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1)  2009 FORMULA 1 ING AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX (Melbourne) 27 – 29 Mar

2)  2009 FORMULA 1 PETRONAS MALAYSIAN GRAND PRIX (Kuala Lumpur) 03 – 05 Apr

3)  2009 FORMULA 1 CHINESE GRAND PRIX (Shanghai) 17 – 19 Apr

4)  2009 FORMULA 1 GULF AIR BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX (Sakhir) 24 – 26 Apr

5)  2009 FORMULA 1 GRAN PREMIO DE ESPANA TELEFONICA 2009 (Catalunya) 08 – 10 May

6) 2009 FORMULA 1 GRAND PRIX DE MONACO 2009 (Monte Carlo) 21 – 24 May

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7)  2009 FORMULA 1 ING TURKISH GRAND PRIX (Istanbul) 05 – 07 Jun

8.)  2009 FORMULA 1 SANTANDER BRITISH GRAND PRIX (Silverstone) 19 – 21 Jun

9)  2009 FORMULA 1 GROSSER PREIS SANTANDER VON DEUTSCHLAND 2009 (Nürburgring) 10 – 12 Jul

10)  2009 FORMULA 1 ING MAGYAR NAGYDIJ 2009 (Budapest) 24 – 26 Jul

11)  2009 FORMULA 1 TELEFONICA GRAND PRIX OF EUROPE (Valencia) 21 – 23 Aug

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12)  2009 FORMULA 1 ING BELGIAN GRAND PRIX (Spa-Francorchamps) 28 – 30 Aug

13)  2009 FORMULA 1 GRAN PREMIO SANTANDER D’ITALIA 2009 (Monza) 11 – 13 Sep

14)  2009 FORMULA 1 SINGTEL SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX (Singapore) 25 – 27 Sep

15)  2009 FORMULA 1 FUJI TELEVISION JAPANESE GRAND PRIX (Suzuka) 02 – 04 Oct

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16)  2009 FORMULA 1 GRANDE PREMIO DO BRASIL 2009 (Sao Paulo) 16 – 18 Oct

17)  2009 FORMULA 1 ETIHAD AIRWAYS ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX (Yas Marina Circuit) 30 Oct – 01 Nov