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GP Week : Issue 60
glory with a fantastic drive in the blistering heat of Valencia. On a day when Red Bull’s challenge fell to pieces, it was the Brazilian who took the advantage and set up a four-way championship scrap. After Lewis Hamilton’s shock victory in Hungary last time out, it was the Briton who again seemed to hold the upper hand when F1 returned from its enforced summer break at the European Grand Prix. And it would have been a back-to-back win for the reigning World Champion too, had an element of misfortune for McLaren and a masterful drive from the most experienced driver in F1 history not come together to bring the sport a universally popular victory. Rubens Barrichello had arrived in B Valencia with a new helmet design, wishing his countryman Felipe Massa a speedy recovery. But it was Barrichello himself who was to be the speedy one, looking by far the quicker of the two Brawn cars for most of the weekend. But in qualifying there had seemed to be nothing he could do to match the pace of the McLarens. A new short-wheelbase car driven by Hamilton took pole, while the longer wheelbase version was guided to second on the grid by Heikki Kovalainen. Barrichello lined up third on the grid, and with the McLarens ahead of him equipped with KERS, there was no way he was going to catch them by the first turn. The silver cars held the lead for the opening third of the race, but with Barrichello fuelled just a few laps longer than them both the veteran Brazilian made his laps count. After Kovalainen had taken his first stop on lap 18, Barrichello pumped in fast lap after fast lap before his stop three laps later. He emerged ahead of the Finn and set off after Hamilton, who had held his lead through the first stops. It was at the second stops that the race was won ... or lost, depending on your viewpoint. Hamilton had been trying conserve fuel, and the team was in two minds as to whether or not to bring him in. It was their indecision that left them flat-footed RAWNGP got back to winning ways in Valencia, but it was Rubens Barrichello who took the when Hamilton dived into the pits just as they were telling him to stay out. With the team disorganised and no front tyres ready, the pole sitter and race leader watched a second win in a row disappear. Barrichello again pumped in the quick laps having matched Hamilton’s pace throughout the second sector of the race, and emerged from his second stop with a lead of over five seconds. It was all he needed to record his 10th F1 victory; his first for a team other than Ferrari, his first in five years, and the 100th for a Brazilian in F1. Hamilton was disappointed to finish second, but not overly so. This, after all, is not a year in which he is fighting for the championship and a podium, be it for a win or for second, can have seemed only a distant dream just a few months ago. Third went to Kimi Raikkonen, who had made up two places on his starting position, for his second podium in a row, having passed Kovalainen in the second round of stops. Fifth went to Rosberg, who very nearly caught Kovalainen for fourth, while sixth went to battling local hero Fernando Alonso. Seventh position ultimately fell to championship-leader Jenson Button who didn’t look to have anything near the same pace as his team-mate in race conditions, while the final point went to Robert Kubica for a rare moment of sunshine in BMW’s season. Red Bull’s Mark Webber finished ninth, just out of the points, but at least he’d made the finish, unlike his team-mate Sebastian Vettel whose engine gave up for the second time in the weekend. Rookie Romain Grosjean had a pretty good first day at the office. Having lost his front wing in an altercation with Badoer on the opening lap, he raced within himself to amass some good experience on his Grand Prix debut. And as for Badoer, the less said about that the better; 50 races and he is still pointless. Barrichello’s popular win takes him to second in the championship, and will give the Brazilian the boost he needed. With just six races left in the season the championship is now very definitely a four-horse race.