And what a fine pair of heels you have, Mr Button. Completing what he and boss Ross Brawn called a "fairy story," Jenson Button parlayed pole position into lights-to-flag victory in Sunday's Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne. Button's victory...
And what a fine pair of heels you have, Mr Button.
Completing what he and boss Ross Brawn called a "fairy story," Jenson Button parlayed pole position into lights-to-flag victory in Sunday's Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne. Button's victory was the 200th in Formula One for a British driver. The Englishman's teammate, Rubens Barrichello, who started poorly from second after hitting the anti-stall button, finished right behind thanks to a late-race kerfuffle in which BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica and Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel took each other out. The winning duo, the oldest teammates in Formula One, delivered maximum points for Brawn GP, a team that did not exist a month ago.
"It's not just for me but the whole team," Button said. "This is a fairy-tale ending, really, to the first race of our career together, and I hope the weekends continue this way. I know we're going to fight every moment we can to keep this car competitive with the limited resources we have to keep it at the front because the whole team has done a great job, and this has got to continue because this is, I think, where we deserve to be, and we worked very, very hard for this. Thank you very much to the team and bring on Malaysia."
Brawn's 1-2 finish marks the first time since the French Grand Prix in 1954 that a debuting team went 1-2. On that occasion, Juan Manuel Fangio and Karl Kling won for Mercedes-Benz. Sunday, Mercedes-Benz engines powered the Brawn GP BGP 001s.
Jarno Trulli celebrated on the podium after arriving at the checkered flag third only to be relieved of the position and given a 25-second penalty for illegally overtaking Lewis Hamilton of McLaren Mercedes during a safety-car period for the Kubica-Vettel clash. The penalty dropped the Italian from the points and completed his roller-coaster weekend that included both Toyotas wiped off the grid after Saturday qualifying because the rear wings of the TF109s were found in scrutineering to be a tad floppy. Rules dictate rear wings be fixed and rigid. The qualifying penalty let Trulli and teammate Timo Glock start from the pit lane, which enabled them to escape the usual first-corner melee at the Albert Park track, an event that sidelined McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen immediately and had adverse effects on local hero Mark Webber of Red Bull, Nick Heidfeld of BMW Sauber, and Fernando Alonso of Renault.
Trulli's demotion put Hamilton into third and gave Mercedes-Benz engines an after-the-fact podium sweep. Glock was left to salvage Toyota pride and prove the Japanese team's pace with fourth after a race in which the German diced successfully with rookie Sebastien Buemi of Toro Rosso and double world champion Alonso. Alonso took fifth, his race hampered by lowish qualifying position, 10th. Nico Rosberg of Williams F1 was sixth after setting fast lap (1 minute, 27.706) on Lap 49 of 58. His tires went off straight after and he was passed by Barrichello, Trulli, Hamilton, Glock and Alonso. Buemi had nabbed the final point until Trulli's punishment. Instead, in a treat for the junior team that outperformed their seniors last season, Toro Rosso started 2009 drubbing pointless, that is, nonscoring, Red Bull again as second runner Sebastien Bourdais somehow followed Buemi home. The Frenchman finished eighth for the final point after an eventful, if off-radar, race. At one moment, his seat belt came loose.
Thereafter came Force India's Adrian Sutil, Heidfeld, Sutil teammate Giancarlo Fisichella -- a midfield finish for the Indian team whose significant progress owes perhaps to a change from Ferrari to Mercedes power and McLaren gearboxes -- demoted Trulli, Webber, Vettel, Kubica and Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen. Raikkonen said he was on target for second place until he made a mistake and hit a wall. Not classified were Raikkonen teammate Felipe Massa, who retired on Lap 46 after looking as if he would finish in the points, Renault second Nelson Piquet, whose R29 suffered brake problems eventually spinning him out, Kazuki Nakajima of Williams F1, who crashed out on Lap 17 after running over a curb, and Kovalainen.
Most dramatic among the nonrunning at the end were Vettel and Kubica. Kubica was on a charge on hard tires when he chased down Vettel, who was losing the grip in his soft compounds. Their coming together put Vettel on the radio to his team immediately: "I'm an idiot," he said. "I'm very, very, very sorry."
Button said his race was anything but a sweet sweep to victory. Twenty laps in, a safety car was required for track cleanup after Nakajima's wall smack. That cost Button a four-second lead over Vettel, who spent the race hard on Button's heels only to have it go so wrong on failing tires. Button said those few slow laps cooled his tires so drastically he flat-spotted them trying to keep heat in the slicks' rubber. That left him struggling with vibration as well as inhibited vision from poor lighting in a race run at twilight, F1's first. By the time the checkered flag flew after another safety car, for the Kubica-Vettel clash, Button said he didn't care about a safety-car ending.
"I won the race and that's what I care about," he said.
Barrichello said he couldn't have imagined coming second at the moment of lights out, when he hit the anti-stall button and put the car in neutral for a split second. The slow getaway allowed a half-dozen cars to flick past and left the Brazilian open to first-corner jostling that knocked his front wing askew and generally gave the BGP 001 a battering.
"It's strong, very strong," Barrichello said of the car that came racing on two weeks of testing. "I was hit from behind and hit someone in front. It was a tough race. For me, I never thought I could finish on the podium after the start.
"I was hit from behind, from a McLaren, and that put me sideways, and I hit someone (Webber) really hard sideways. I thought the car was done for that crash, but it survived quite well. My first stint, my nose was falling apart, and I lost braking stability when I hit Kimi as well. When he closed the door, I couldn't avoid him. I had a lot of mixed emotions during the race but it was fantastic, really fantastic."
The race marked a sea change in competitiveness. Besides the stunning Brawn GP debut, the Toyotas were quick and battled at the front. Red Bull's Vettel ran within four seconds of the leader all day, which must have been why he wouldn't give up the position to a late-charging Kubica no matter how much tire wear wanted a say. Tire wear held serious sway to outcome, although the twilight made conditions difficult, even hazardous, for drivers.
"I have to say there's genuine joy that something different has happened in F1," Brawn told BBC Radio.
Brawn GP used the Jack Brabham Advantage -- effectively blowing off a season to prepare for a rules change, a tactic that helped Australia's three-time world champion to the 1966 title and to designation as the sport's first competitor to win a title in a car of his own design. But back in the day, Chatty Jack's main consideration was an engine regulation change from 1.5-liter to 3.0-liter displacement. He didn't have quite the raft of rewritten rules that faced 2009 competitors.
"We spent 15 months developing the car, it would have been frustrating not to use it," Brawn said.
The gripping aspect of the Brawn story was a transition fraught with uncertainty between Dec. 5, when Honda quit, and March 5, when Brawn GP was announced as a team. The team signed its second, and first major, sponsor, the Virgin Group, in the past week. Clothing sponsor Henri Lloyd joined earlier. Button called those few months "traumatic."
"For the people at the factory to work through it, four months of not knowing if it would go through, this was sensational. It was a fairy story, one I couldn't have imagined," Brawn said.
The F1 circus, as intact as ever, now moves to Kuala Lumpur for the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday.