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GP Week : Issue 63
IT WAS a victory born out of the right strategy and a brilliant drive. In taking his third Italian Grand Prix victory, and his second race win of the 2009 season, Rubens Barrichello has laid down the mantle to his team-mate Jenson Button. The BrawnGP pairing are now locked into a championship battle from which only one will emerge victorious, and the Brazilian is showing no signs of giving up the fight. In fact, he's hungrier than ever. With Lewis Hamilton on pole and Kimi Raikkonen in third, the pair of them equipped with KERS, it was small wonder that the duo emerged from the first corner in the leading positions. Adrian Sutil did well to hang onto third, while fourth placed Heikki Kovalainen dropped like a stone, falling first behind the Brawns of Barrichello and Button, and then the Force India of Liuzzi and Renault of Fernando Alonso. Most worrying of all for the Finn was that he, like all those who had passed him, was on a one- stop strategy. The leading trio, however, were on two-stoppers, and with a lighter fuel load it was Hamilton who set fastest lap after fastest lap to draw out a six second advantage by the time he pitted on lap 16. Two laps later, it was Sutil's turn, with Raikkonen jumping in on lap 20. The order saw the one-stopping Brawns out front followed by Hamilton, Liuzzi, Raikkonen, Alonso, Sutil and Kovalainen, until a driveshaft failure robbed Liuzzi of an almost certain points finish. When the one-stoppers all took their stops, it was then clear that Hamilton had not done enough to win. He emerged from his second stop in third, behind the Brawns and the podium positions looked to have been sealed. The Raikkonen/Sutil battle raged for the duration of the race, with the two drivers matching each other in every aspect, even in their botched second stop, where Raikkonen tried to leave too early and Sutil tried to mow down his team. The pair sat fourth and fifth, and that was as good as they could now realistically hope to finish. But Hamilton still had a role to play in the final results. Pushing for all he was worth in an attempt to catch and pass Button on the final lap, he got it all wrong at Lesmo, and smashed into the barriers. His race over just a few corners from home, the tifosi erupted with joy as the realisation hit them that a Ferrari would be on the podium. And so it was that Barrichello took the race win from Button, with Raikkonen third and Sutil fourth. Fifth went to Alonso with Kovalainen sixth, Heidfeld seventh and Vettel an amazed eighth. It had been an awful race for Red Bull with Webber retiring on the opening lap after contact with Kubica, and as Vettel attempted to find some pace in his Red Bull he ended up running wide over the gravel, too. A point was thus rich reward. The result means that the championship battle is now effectively a two-horse race between Barrichello and points-leader Button. But on the basis of the last two weekends it is clear that anything can, and in 2009 has a tendency to happen. With four races left to run this season, the final chapter in this incredible season's story looks a long way from written. 24