Brawn GP team principal Ross Brawn has revealed Honda Motor Company’s ”frustration” that they have not been part of this year’s success for the team.
The parent company for the Brackley-based outfit withdrew from the sport in December 2008 in the context of a dismal two previous years on the track and the worst climate for the car industry in living memory.
But the huge investment the Japanese marque had made and the hard work done by the team itself had resulted in a very fast car before Honda’s pull-out, which went on to win the first two races of the season in 2009. Cue rueful smiles from Brawn himself, and ”frustration” for Honda.
“I’m sure they were very frustrated at having to withdraw,” Brawn told the Bloomberg news agency.
“I’ve had many notes from senior people at Honda, so they are frustrated because obviously the team has moved forward, but it was a necessity for their business.”
Brawn added an insight to the negotiations during which he and other management bought out the team, saying that Honda could not be convinced of the potential for 2009.
“They’d spent an awful lot of money, hadn’t got anywhere and probably didn’t realise the potential,” he recalled.
“I’m sure if they had, they wouldn’t have gone because all this would have been Honda otherwise.”
Jenson Button won Sunday’s rain-stopped Malaysian Grand Prix, with Nick Heidfeld second and Timo Glock third. Button’s win was all the more satisfying considering the lottery the race had become by the time it was red-flagged on lap 31.
Button’s race was exemplary despite its brevity. He was on top of the conditions at all times – in the dry, in the intermediate drizzle, and in the sodden wet. He was one of the only drivers whose performance was not determined by well-timed tyre calls from the team, although in that respect he too had some luck. But it is a mark of the level of performance of the Brawn car and Button’s drive itself that his race was unlike the others.
Second-placed Nick Heidfeld had had a torrid weekend up to the finish of the grand prix, which was his and BMW Sauber’s reward for being on the right tyres at the right times as the weather changed and changed again. Similarly, the Toyotas of Glock and Trulli would have been competitive anyway, but Glock’s charge through the field on intermediates highlighted how important the right rubber was in Malaysia today for him.
Other performances to stand out were Nico Rosberg, whose race was sadly ruined by bad luck. Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton were tremendously entertaining as they diced together as the rain began to come down. But the severity of the conditions made judging car and driver form very difficult once again.
A team distinguished by their mistakes this weekend was Ferrari. The team miscalculated yesterday, resulting in Massa not making the second qualifying session, and today’s blunder was putting Raikkonen on full wets when the first spots of rain appeared on his visor. The motivation for it was presumably that the Malaysian rain comes down in buckets once it has started, but for Malaysia, today’s storm was gradual.
Intermediates would have been a better choice for the Finn in hindsight, but a rumoured KERS problem later effected his retirement. Two themes are beginning to characterise Ferrari’s season – errors and unreliability.
None of which affected the Brawn team, serene in their progress at the front of the pack. With all things considered the others appear to be closing the gap but with inspired performances like that of Button today, and the little bit of fortune one often needs to win world championships, Brawn and Button are still well on top.
Jenson Button was delighted with his second consecutive pole of the season in Sepang describing it as being even more significant than his P1 slot in Melbourne.
The British driver clocked an impressive 1m 35.181 around the Sepang International Circuit, re-affirming the pace of the new Brawn GP team, and putting him comfortably clear of Jarno Trulli and Sebastian Vettel for Toyota and Red Bull.
“This one is more special than Melbourne,” Button said. “It’s not easy to get pole, but to get two on the trot – I’ve never achieved that in my Formula One career. It’s a great feeling.”
“The car clearly works well on different types of circuit. I expected the competition to be tough here but qualifying showed the car was ok.
“Yesterday I was really struggling with the balance of the car. We changed the setup overnight and its improved a lot. I’m feeling pretty comfortable and excited for tomorrow.”
Jenson Button carried Brawn GP to a 1-2 finish in the Australian Grand Prix which concluded under the safety car after a frantic final few laps.
The British driver, who only five weeks ago faced the possibility of being without a drive this year, led from pole position to clinch his second career victory in Melbourne ahead of teammate Rubens Barrichello – but Brawn GP were unable to dominate the race as many people had expected.
Button led the field through the first corner and appeared to have the legs on his rivals, but the deployment of the safety car on lap 19 bunched the field up and disrupted the teams’ race strategies.
In the closing stages Button was on the softer tyres and found himself coming under intense pressure from Sebastien Vettel and Robert Kubica, while his teammate Rubens Barrichello was closing in on all three after recovering from an incident at the start.
But when Vettel and Kubica collided with just two laps to go – the latter driver subsequently crashing his car as a result of the damage he sustained in the incident – Button was left free to cruise to his second career victory, albeit under safety car conditions.
Update: Vettel has been docked with 10 place grid penalty at next week’s Malaysian Grand Prix as a result of the clash .
Barrichello was promoted to second place gifting Brawn GP a 1-2 finish on their debut, while Jarno Trulli, and astonishingly, defending world champion Lewis Hamilton, vaulted up to third and fourth respectively.
Update: Hamilton has been promoted to third after Trulli was docked with a 25-second time penaltyfor overtaking Hamilton under the safety conditions.
“It always looks easier than it is,” Button said after the race. “The first few laps were great and I settled into a good pace, but when the safety car came out I struggled to get heat into the tyres. I was struggling with degradation and poor light. Being at the front should be easy but its not.”
“It’s been an amazing day. Some people may say that it was a pity that I finished under the safety car but I don’t care. And it’s been a traumatic few months for us so a massive thank you to the whole team.”
Button almost lost the lead of the race in the closing stages after a slow final pit stop.
“I made a mistake in my pitstop,” he explained. It was stuck in second gear when I came into the box and neutral didn’t work. I was just confused with Massa in front. It cost me five or six seconds but we were able to come out in front. I made it difficult for the team but we got there.”
Rubens Barrichello was delighted to finish in second place after a disastrous start to the race. The Brazilian was lucky to get off the start line at all as he struggled to select first gear and almost stalled.
He found himself out of place at the first corner and, attempting to make up ground, ran into the side of the Red Bull’s Mark Webber, who in turn bashed wheels with Nick Heidfeld. The incident collected McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen who was forced to retire as a result of the damage he sustained.
“The car was very strong,” Barrichello quipped afterwards. “I hit people from the side, in front, and it still stood up. It wasn’t an easy race but I never thought I could finish on the podium after the start I had.”
“I stalled the car and it went into neutral. I lost a lot of ground to other people. I was hit behind by the McLaren which put me sideways.”
Barrichello added: “I had a lot of mixed emotions today, but the result is really fantastic and I’m delighted to be here.”
Such was the pace of the new Brawn GP car that Barrichello was able to catch up to Nico Rosberg and Robert Kubica who were running in fourth and fifth in the early stages behind the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen.
Barrichello was running a slightly heavier fuel load than his immediate rivals leapfrogged Massa, Rosberg and Kubica at the first round of pit stops but was caught out by the safety car which was deployed on lap 19 after Kazuki Nakajima dropped his Williams into the barrier at Turn 4.
Nico Rosberg and the Ferraris lost out to the safety car while Toyota’s Jarno Trulli was a notable beneficiary.
The Italian started in the pit lane due to Toyota being excluded from qualifying for a technical infringement, but a heavy fuel load allied to the raw pace of the TF109 saw him climb to sixth place in the closing stages, before being gifted third as a result of the collision between Vettel and Kubica.
McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton had a low key race up untill the final few laps. The Defending world champion started from the back of the grid after taking a grid penalty for changing his gearbox unit. He quickly made up ground and was running as high as tenth, but his light fuel load compromised his race strategy.
Some impressive passes in the closing stages, tallied to other drivers’ mistakes and reliability problems – most notably that of t – saw the Briton claim a position he never thought was possible on Saturday.
“We did the best just we could,” he told the BBC afterwards. “We did the best job we could – an incredible job by the team throughout the weekend. We kept our spirits up even though we were off the pace. I’m very happy and proud.”
But he conceded that McLaren still have a lot of work to do before they can challenge at the front of the grid.
“We haven’t really improved the car. The car is what it is. We’ve got a good programme going on back at the factory and we need to score points and catch people up.”
It was a frustrating day for another world champion, Kimi Raikkonen. Using his KERS device to devastating effect the Finn made a lightening start and vaulted up to fourth place from ninth. But contact with Rubens Barrichello damaged his Ferrari and an early pitstop to counter problems with the super soft tyres saw him drop down the grid after the safety car.
Raikkonen’s race came to an end on lap 44 when the Ferrari driver dropped his F60 into the wall. He limped home to sixteenth place, while teammate Felipe Massa, who showed strong pace throughout the race, retired ten laps earlier with a mechanical problem.
Timo Glock finished fifth putting smiles on the faces of the Toyota mechanics after their exclusion from qualifying yesterday, while Fernando Alonso did has he promised and clawed his way into the points after starting twelfth.
Nico Rosberg was forced to settle for seventh at the chequered flag ahead of Sebastien Buemi in eighth.