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GP Week : Issue 39
>>F1australia T HEY were fast, of that no-one was in any doubt. How fast remained the ultimate question. But when the fuel loads on which the grid of the Australian Grand Prix would start was published, it started to become clear that BrawnGP was quick … bloody quick. The heaviest cars in final qualifying, the fact that Brawn had locked out the front row, let alone been so much faster than any of their rivals, sent an ominous message to the F1 fraternity. They may have been the new kids on the block, but they meant serious business. Jenson Button’s subsequent race victory, regardless of the double intervention of the Safety Car, would never have been as large as some might have suggested given the team’s clear performance advantage. With Brawn, along with Toyota and Williams, set to appear in court to argue the legality of their cars in the coming weeks, running away and hiding would have done the team more harm than good. So, a heavy qualifying fuel load was replicated with heavy race fuel loads. It was a further sign of just how far ahead the team is that Button controlled the race easily from the front, that Rubens Barrichello maintained his pace with a damaged car to ultimately finish second, and that it was all done with more fuel on board than the vast majority of their rivals. Button had little to worry about. Save for a pitlane wobble that cost him a few seconds, he was never truly troubled at the front. Part of this was thanks to his team-mate. With Barrichello’s anti-stall kicking in when the lights went out, the Brazilian was swamped into the first corner. He took a punt from behind, which forced him into the Red Bull of Mark Webber (with Nick Heidfeld on the outside), ruining their races as they had to pit instantly for repairs. The Brawn driver however continued with a damaged car and still looked quick. Rubens’problems allowed Button to pull out a four second gap (in one lap!) over Sebastian Vettel which never looked in any serious danger. It was on lap 19 that Barrichello made his first stop, replacing his damaged front wing, which had taken a further knock in an altercation with Kimi Raikkonen, and taking on fuel. With Button pitting one lap later the order was slightly jumbled, except for Button’s lead, by a Safety Car for Nakajima’s retirement after a heavy shunt with the wall on the exit of Turn 4. From 10th position Barrichello, with a repaired car, raced tremendously to sit fourth with just a few laps remaining. The podium positions four laps from home were filled by Button, Sebastian Vettel and Robert Kubica, the latter pair having also driven superbly well. The front two were now doing their penance on the ‘option’ soft tyre – which was proving a handicap – and Kubica (who had got them out of the way early) was closing fast! He caught Vettel with four to go, but tried a brave outside pass at Turn 3 … the duo tangled and both, with front wings removed, hit the wall seconds later. This handed second place to Barrichello and the historic 1-2 was assured. Third should have gone to Jarno Trulli. The Italian had driven a tremendous race after starting in the pitlane, and third was rich reward. A mistake behind the Safety Car, however, saw him slip behind Hamilton, who had driven one of the races of his life to drag the nightmarish McLaren up from the last row of the grid to fourth. Trulli regained his place on track, but was later handed a 25-second penalty for overtaking under the final Safety Car, which had come out for the Vettel/Kubica incident. So while Jarno took to the podium, it was Lewis who, for once, benefitted from a stewarding decision and took third place. Fourth went to Trulli’s team-mate Timo Glock, who had also started from the pits and put in a similarly superb drive, which included one of the overtaking moves on the race around the outside of Fernando Alonso at Turn 4. The Spaniard took fifth with Nico Rosberg, who had set the fastest race of the lap and run a brilliant race, taking sixth after suffering late tyre issues. The final points positions went to Sebastiens Buemi and Bourdais, with Buemi scoring points on his debut after a race that belied his inexperience. But the story of the race was BrawnGP. There’s a real feeling at the team that 2009 could be something very special indeed. And on the basis of one of the best season-opening races in many a year, it’s not just Brawn who’s in for a good year. We all are. 29