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Australia race analysis - the Brawn supremacy 30 Mar 2009

(L to R): Ross Brawn (GBR) Brawn Grand Prix Team Principal; race winner Jenson Button (GBR) Brawn Grand Prix; Nick Fry (GBR) Brawn Grand Prix Chief Executive Officer; second placed Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Brawn Grand Prix and Sir Richard Branson (GBR) Virgin Group Owner celebrate their success with the team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 29 March 2009 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/24.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 29 March 2009 Timo Glock (GER) Toyota and Jarno Trulli (ITA) Toyota during the pre-season drivers picture.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Race Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 29 March 2009 Kazuki Nakajima (JPN) Williams rides back to the pits on the back of a bike.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 29 March 2009 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari F2009 on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 29 March 2009

With stewards rejecting their protests over the team’s trick diffuser, the biggest fears of Brawn GP’s rivals were quickly realised in Melbourne. Ross Brawn’s men had looked ominously quick in testing and they were equally quick around Albert Park, recording one-twos in both qualifying and race.

There were positives to be found elsewhere, however. BMW Sauber, Red Bull, Toyota and Williams all showed promising pace, while the eagerly-anticipated rule changes produced close racing and some excellent overtaking. We take a team-by-team look at Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix…

Brawn
Jenson Button, P1
Rubens Barrichello, P2

The last team to score a one-two on their debut were Mercedes-Benz in the 1954 French Grand Prix at Rheims. Button led from start to finish in brilliant style, preserving his super soft rubber in the closing stages despite Kubica catching second-place man Vettel, to score a fairy tale triumph for the team that nearly died after Honda withdrew last December.

Barrichello ran into anti-stall problems at the start which bogged his BGP001 down, was then involved in a first-corner shunt, later damaged his front wing against Raikkonen, and fought all the way through with a badly damaged diffuser. He was thus stunned to find himself in second place when the flag fell.

McLaren
Lewis Hamilton, P3
Heikki Kovalainen, Retired lap one, accident damage

McLaren lost Kovalainen in a first-corner kerfuffle involving the Finn, the slow-starting Barrichello, Heidfeld, Webber and Sutil. But Hamilton drove like a demon in the opening laps on Bridgestone’s super soft option tyre, and a feisty drive yielded fourth place after the Kubica/Vettel contretemps. Subsequently that became a surprise but welcome third after Trulli was penalised for passing Hamilton behind the second safety car.

Toyota
Timo Glock, P4
Jarno Trulli, P12 (finished P3 but penalised 25s)

Toyota could draw encouragement with their race pace, and Glock’s fourth place. But it stung to see Trulli finish third, after starting, like Glock, from the pit lane, and then to lose the place for passing behind the safety car.

Renault
Fernando Alonso, P5
Nelson Piquet, Retired lap 25, accident

Renault did not have a particularly impressive race. Alonso got caught up in the first corner traffic and lost ground. Piquet initially ran well before spinning out with brake problems, whereupon the Spaniard pushed back into contention and moved from sixth to fifth with Trulli’s penalty.

Williams
Nico Rosberg, P6
Kazuki Nakajima, Retired lap 18, accident

A race that promised much for Williams ultimately yielded just sixth place for Rosberg, and fastest lap. The German lost out in the early traffic, fought back, but then lost time in his first pit stop due to a wheel nut problem. Later he was making up ground by setting the fastest lap, but that rooted his super soft tyres in the final stint and he was powerless to prevent Trulli, Hamilton, Glock and Alonso passing. Nakajima messed up, bringing out the safety car after crashing heavily on lap 18.

Toro Rosso
Sebastien Buemi, P7
Sebastien Bourdais, P8

Buemi impressed with a strong, clean run that yielded seventh place and two points on his debut. It would have been easy for him to make errors, but he didn’t. Bourdais’s gamble on super soft tyres for the first stint did not pay off, but he later lucked into a point for eighth place.

Force India
Adrian Sutil, P9
Giancarlo Fisichella, P11

The Force Indias showed better pace than previously, but Sutil’s race was ruined at the start when he lost his wing in the accident. Fisichella ran well initially but overshot his pit during his first stop and undid all the work. Later the two brushed as Sutil passed Fisichella in Turn Three on the 29th lap.

BMW Sauber
Nick Heidfeld, P10
Robert Kubica, P15 (not running after accident on lap 55)

After a troubled start to the weekend, Kubica’s BMW Sauber was set to offer a late-race challenge to Button after catching and passing Vettel on the 55th of the 58 laps. Opting for the super soft option Bridgestone tyres for the first stint proved a successful gamble for the team, and on the harder tyre the Pole was very fast until his clash with Vettel.

Heidfeld was caught up in the first corner melee, needed a pit stop for fresh rubber at the end of the lap, and struggled thereafter with associated damage. No points, but encouragement here as far as race pace was concerned.

Red Bull
Mark Webber, P13
Sebastian Vettel P14 (not running after accident on lap 55)

Red Bull’s pace surprised even Brawn, as Vettel hung on and was very competitive in second place until severe graining on the Bridgestone super soft option tyre brought him into the clutches of Kubica. Vettel admitted their clash was his fault for refusing to give up on his graining rubber; he was fined 10 grid places in Malaysia, and $50,000 for trying to carry on in a damaged car.

Webber was one of the four victims in the first corner shunt, and soldiered on thereafter with a car compromised by accident damage.

Ferrari
Felipe Massa, Retired lap 46, suspension
Kimi Raikkonen, P16 (not running)

What a disaster Australia was for Ferrari. A gamble to start on the super soft option tyre failed when both cars suffered graining and had to make early stops, and then the team made a strategic error with Massa which dropped him way back. Subsequently he retired with a broken left suspension upright.

Raikkonen could have inherited second place, but lacked the sheer grip and pace to challenge Kubica’s BMW Sauber. The Finn eventually spun, hit a wall, and later retired with ensuing damage. There’s plenty of work to do here.