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Spain race analysis - Brawn keep charging Bulls at bay 11 May 2009

Jenson Button (GBR) Brawn Grand Prix and Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Brawn Grand Prix celebrate a 1-2 with the team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 10 May 2009 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing with Roger Cleary, Physio.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 10 May 2009 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2009.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 10 May 2009 Timo Glock (GER) Toyota TF109.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 10 May 2009 Debris from the cars of Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1 VJM02 and Jarno Trulli (ITA) Toyota TF109.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 10 May 2009

Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix was arguably the most eagerly anticipated race of the season so far. With most teams bringing heavily revised cars to Barcelona, could someone break through and end the Brawn-Red Bull stranglehold on 2009? Ultimately the answer was no, but there were plenty of interesting developments. Despite further reliability issues, Ferrari were the most improved team, back in top-three contention. In contrast, after pole and a podium in Bahrain, Toyota found themselves struggling to live with the leading teams…

Jenson Button, P1
Rubens Barrichello, P2

This was another brilliant one-two for Brawn, whose cars owned the race from the start. They were helped a little by the Red Bulls having to fight elsewhere, but their fastest laps showed that they still have a small but critical advantage. Button won after a change from a three- to two-stop refuelling strategy, something which Barrichello clearly wished afterwards he had been offered. In his final stint, however, the Brazilian said a handling problem on the Bridgestone prime tyres made his BGP001 very difficult to drive, so Button won easily by 13s. The team are now almost 30 points ahead of Red Bull in the constructors’ championship.

Red Bull
Mark Webber, P3
Sebastian Vettel P4

Had they not been bottled up behind others cars all through the race, Webber and Vettel’s Red Bulls might have challenged the Brawns for victory. Vettel lost out to Massa at the start and spent most of the race glued to the Ferrari’s new diffuser. Webber jumped them both thanks to clever pit stop strategy, but even he got stuck behind Barrichello, both towards the end of the second stint and later when the Brazilian was struggling in the third. But once again 11 points for a three-four finish showed the new class of the team, and the strength of their underlying threat.

Fernando Alonso, P5
Nelson Piquet, P12

Alonso pushed as hard as only he knows how to take a strong fifth place, but Piquet struggled throughout with balance problems and never looked as strong as he had in Q2.

Felipe Massa, P6
Kimi Raikkonen, Retired lap 18, throttle hydraulics

Ferrari were the most improved team in Spain, both in qualifying and the race, and Massa set third fastest lap behind the Brawns. Grabbing third from Vettel at the start, he said he could easily have stayed there. But a malfunction either with the refuelling rig or the car short-changed him on fuel in his first stop, and the problem persisted in the second even though Ferrari switched to Raikkonen’s redundant rig. The Brazilian had to back off in the closing stages to conserve fuel, surrendering fourth to Vettel and then fifth to Alonso. Raikkonen had been forced to quit after 17 laps, when chasing Heidfeld, following a hydraulic problem with his throttle.

BMW Sauber
Nick Heidfeld, P7
Robert Kubica, P11

A good start for Heidfeld, despite being run into in the first corner traffic, resulted in the German turning in a points-scoring performance on his 32nd birthday, but Kubica fell back with a clutch problem at the start and was thereafter doomed to a lonely race down the back in which he complained that his F1.09 lacked grip. Heidfeld, by contrast, said the new aero package was a clear step forward.

Nico Rosberg, P8
Kazuki Nakajima, P13

Rosberg lost what he felt was a chance of fifth place when he got edged off the road in Turn 2 by Alonso at the start, and later when his FW31 developed a curious and intermittent oversteer problem. But he still scored a point for eighth. Nakajima damaged his front wing in the accident at the start, and spent the rest of his day down the back of the field.

Lewis Hamilton, P9
Heikki Kovalainen, Retired lap eight, gearbox

Hamilton got edged on to the grass at the start by Piquet, somehow missed involvement in the first-corner melee (but only just!) and then struggled with a gripless car on his way to a lonely and frustrating ninth place just out of the points. Kovalainen ran ahead of him until lap seven, when the gearbox broke.

Timo Glock, P10
Jarno Trulli, Retired lap one, accident with Sutil, Buemi and Bourdais

Both cars bogged down getting off the line, with some sort of engine electronics problem. Trulli was thus in the wrong place at the wrong time when he got edged into the gravel by Rosberg in Turn 2 at the start, and when he spun back on to the road he collected Sutil and triggered the demise of the Toro Rossos. Glock dropped to the tail of the field after being the first to refuel after 17 laps, and then rooted his tyres whenever he got in the slipstream of a car in front. Not a happy day here.

Force India
Giancarlo Fisichella, P14
Adrian Sutil, Retired lap one, accident with Trulli, Buemi and Bourdais

Fisichella stopped under the safety car for a precautionary tyres swap, which entailed changing the strategy. He fought hard with Nakajima, but was ultimately stymied when a short-changed refuelling stop prompted a second which dropped him to last place. Sutil was a victim of the four-car melee in Turns 1 and 2 on the opening lap.

Toro Rosso
Sebastien Buemi, Retired lap one, accident with Bourdais, Sutil and Trulli
Sebastien Bourdais, Retired lap one, accident with Buemi, Sutil and Trulli

It doesn’t get worse than it did on Sunday for Toro Rosso. Caught up in the immediate aftermath of the Trulli/Sutil collision, Buemi had to brake hard in avoidance and Bourdais got caught out and ran over the top of him. Exit both Toro Rossos.