Flat Spot On by Jonathan Ingram Push To Pass The Formula One circus is back. At the Australian Grand Prix, the saga on the track was as interesting as the one off the track, a pleasant change from recent seasons. Jenson Button,...
Flat Spot On
by Jonathan Ingram
Push To Pass
The Formula One circus is back.
At the Australian Grand Prix, the saga on the track was as interesting as the one off the track, a pleasant change from recent seasons.
In the Antipodes, as the Brits like to call the opposite side of the earth, they went to banging sidepods in the closing laps. The late-race clash between Sebastien Vettel and Robert Kubica was the final stanza in a race week that started with major league harrumphing over rear diffusers for a new generation of cars.
The main beneficiary of what amounted to a food fight over the rulebook was Jenson Button, whose new Brawn car featured a double-deck diffuser where the usual heavy hitters from Ferrari, McLaren, BMW Sauber, Renault and Red Bull had only one.
It's almost now forgotten that race winner Button debuted Down Under for the Williams team 10 seasons ago shortly after his 20th birthday. By winning from the pole under race-long pressure, Button demonstrated why he's retained a job for so long with only one victory -- a slightly wacky win in the wet for Honda.
This race had a wacky moment when winning team owner Ross Brawn jumped on the radio to second-placed Rubens Barrichello, literally shouting at the Brazilian to "Slow down!" Finally, after 17 seasons the 36-year-old driver learned he was too fast.
In fact, Brawn was trying to keep the Brazilian from following too closely during the final safety car period, which preserved the first one-two finish by a new team in 55 years.
From the outside looking in, Brawn appears to be a very clever man for having built his new car at Honda's expense last year while working as the team's chief technical officer and then re-branding it as a Brawn this year when the Japanese company pulled out. Did Brawn, the former Ferrari technical maven, anticipate last summer that Honda would pull the plug over the winter due to the economic whirlwinds and bequeath him the precious new cars?
Under whatever circumstances, it's a classic story when an individual like Brawn and his under-funded team scratch and claw while an 11th-hour deal was done with Honda to buy the cars. The newly badged Brawns, powered by Mercedes, then kicked rear wings by historical proportions in the season opener with a cleverly designed machine aptly sponsored by the Virgin brand, which joined the team in an announcement two days before the race.
Who would have thunk it?
Along these lines, who would have thought that the idea of "push to pass" that was introduced by now defunct Champ Car to add some sparkle to its races would eventually end up in pristine Formula One? The new cars from Ferrari, Renault and McLaren used re-cycled kinetic energy and electric batteries -- a slight upgrade to those used around town by Toyota's Prius -- and got a six-second boost of approximately 80 horsepower each lap.
(It's enough to make one lust for a similarly equiped hybrid V-8 road car for purposes of commuting. Such a vehicle would reward drivers with all they could ever ask -- clean, green and kicks, um, rear bumpers.)
Just think how McLaren, Ferrari and Renault will run once they, too, install the double-deck rear diffusers for the corners and can "push to pass" one another on the straights. That plus the new, lower front wings required for all cars that allow for better overtaking should make for more pyrotechnics all season long.
Overlooked in the post-race hubris, the fact Kubica thought he could catch Button in the final four laps led to the Pole's hasty commitment to pass Vettel's Red Bull, which was fading on worn tires. In this sense, the new rule where the 2009 championship will be decided by a driver's race victories instead of accumulated points is working quite well. The new championship system is, in fact, the psychological equivalent of "push to pass."
Jonathan Ingram can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.