Barrichello heads Brawn 1-2 in Monza

barrichelloandbuttonBarrichello makes it a two horse title race with victory in Monza;

Red Bull’s title hopes take a hit as Brawn return to the fold;

Hamilton crashes out on final lap.

A rejuvenated Rubens Barrichello established himself as Jenson Button’s main obstacle to becoming world champion after he outperformed the Briton in Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix to claim his third win at Monza as Brawn returned to the fold with a dominant 1-2 finish.

The born again Brazilian, a veteran of 280 races, had the measure of his Brawn teammate throughout the race as the two drivers used a long one-stop strategy to leapfrog pole sitter Lewis Hamilton and secure the team’s fourth 1-2 finish of the season.

Hamilton was on course to take third place until the final lap when he spun and crashed at the Lesmos while attempting to chase down the Brawn drivers.

That left Kimi Raikkonen to take third place for Ferrari ahead of Adrian Sutil for Force India.

Brawn GP’s main rivals Red Bull saw their championship hopes take a crash course as Mark Webber was knocked into the gravel on the opening lap by Robert Kubica, while Sebastian Vettel could only climb to eighth place after damaging his front wing on the opening lap.

Fernando Alonso was fifth for Renault ahead of pre-race favourite Heikki Kovalainen and BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld.

The result sees Barrichello close the gap to Button to just fourteen points with four races remaining. The championship leader conceded that Barrichello is now his main threat.

“It would have been nice to be up there (in first place) rather than Rubens, but second place is good,” Button said in the post-race press conference. I lost two points to Rubens but gained seven points over Vettel. “This guy here is my closest rival.”

But Vettel contended: “The Championship isn t over our target is to do our best, we re here to win races and the Championship, so we have to focus on that, all the rest is out of our hands.”

Barrichello meanwhile was delighted with his second win of the season.

“It feel great, just great. I have no words for this,” he said. “We had a good start and a good race pace which was enough to stay ahead of the KERS runners.

“My race pace was there and it was pretty much like Valencia as the car was there all the time. It felt great and I have no words for that. I just feel really good. And the public were great too; there was more red than white (in the grandstands) but it still feels great!”

“It s a winning year whatever happens [in the title race]. It s not long ago that we had no job and we didn t know what was happening. And now we have a fantastic car and a fantastic engine.

“The team did a fantastic job, I must thank them for their efforts. The strategy was great, as was the work on Friday. So it was pretty good. You can see we both had different strategies and different tyre choices but in the end the car was good. I m going to give it my best. I m looking forward to a good healthy fight.”

Further down the field Giancarlo Fisichella had a disappointing debut for Ferrari as he continues to get to grips with the nuances of the F60. He just missed out on the final points paying position after climbing to ninth from fourteenth.

Williams Kazuki Nakajima was tenth ahead of Timo Glock (Toyota), Sebastian Buemi (Toro Rosso), Jarno Trulli (Toyota), and Romain Grosjean (Renault).

Tonio Liuzzi in the sister Force India ran as high as fourth place on his return to Formula One but was forced to park his

Toro Rosso rookie Jaimie Alguersuari retired with a mechanical problem while Robert Kubica and Mark Webber were both victims of their tangle on the first lap.

2009 Italian Grand Prix – How it happened:

Pole sitter Lewis Hamilton was sluggish off the line and he forced Kimi Raikkonen onto the grass as he defended his position. The Ferrari driver slotted into second place ahead of Adrian Sutil as Rubens Barrichello vaulted into fourth place.

“It was great to have a good start,” explained Barrichello. “Kovalainen was coming up quite fast with his power (KERS) button, and I had to defend myself. I went wide which was a bit tough, but it was a great first lap.”

Pre-race favourite Heikki Kovalainen, who was on a one-stop strategy, was the big loser at the start. After losing his position to Barrichello off the line he was passed by both Jenson Button at the second Lesmo, and then Vitantonio Liuzzi, who breezed passed the McLaren driver on the back straight.

Button had a first hand view: “It was a messy first lap, but we made a position so that was fantastic. You’re always worried because of KERS. Alonso didn’t get the jump on Rubens and I had a good start. Kovalainen was struggling.

“I was behind Kovalainen at the second chicane but then through the Lesmos I put my nose up the inside. It was a much needed move. I would have finished fourth so I had to make it.”

Red Bull’s championship hopes took a nosedive as Robert Kubica tangled with Mark Webber at the Roggia chicane, pushing the Aussie into the gravel and into retirement.

“I had a reasonable start, I was trying to find a good line through the chicane,” explained Webber. “I had Sebastian in front, so I was pretty clean as I didn t want get tangled up with him.”

“Both of us got through the first chicane, I was following Sebastian into the next, but then had a racing incident with Robert Kubica. It seems like his front wheel was inside my rear left at the second chicane, it was difficult to know he was there.

“We had contact flicked the car into the air a little bit, then nosed it into the guard rail. The car was undamaged, but I couldn t get it out and back onto the track. I couldn t have done anything differently.”

At the front, the two-stopping Hamilton got the hammer down and set a string of fastest laps to build up a cushion of seven seconds over Kimi Raikkonen by the time of his first pit stop, earlier than scheduled on Lap 15.

Hamilton rejoined in fifth place ahead of Vitantonio Liuzzi and with clean air ahead of him allowing him to continue setting a strong pace.

Adrian Sutil stopped from third place one lap later and rejoined, crucially, ahead of the one-stopping Heikki Kovalainen who at this point was a full pit stop behind the leaders.

Force India short-filled Sutil so that he could try and leapfrog Kimi Raikkonen in the second stint. Ferrari responded by bringing Raikkonen in shortly afterwards.

Despite staying out a further three laps Raikkonen was unable to make a significant impression on Hamilton’s lead, but did reduce it to four seconds.

The earlier than expected stops from Hamilton, Raikkonen and Sutil played beautifully into the hands of Brawn GP who were one-stopping both their drivers.

Barrichello and Button set a searing pace at the front and a long first stint from both drivers meant that when they rejoined after their pit stops, they were only 16 seconds behind Hamilton who still had to stop.

Hamilton was struggling and unable to build the gap he needed to pit and rejoin ahead and that gifted the lead back to the Brawn drivers for the final stint.

Raikkonen and Sutil ran slightly longer than Hamilton and both pitted at the same time for their final stops. But both drivers had problems! Raikkonen had a gear selection problem getting away while Sutil over-cooked it into his pit bay forcing his mechanics to re-adjust. The status quo was maintained as the two drivers rejoined.

Out in front, Barrichello built a five second cushion over Button has Hamilton chased down the second Brawn.

“My laptimes were really good and I was happy with the pace,” recounted Button. “Towards the end of the stint I had a better pace. Lewis started pushing on the last three laps and the team were getting a bit worried, but I think I had him covered anyway.”

The McLaren driver was unable to do anything about Button and that left Brawn to claim their fourth 1-2 finish of the season.

Hamilton was pushing so hard that he spun and crashed on the final lap at Lesmos.