Barrichello returns Brawn to winning ways in Spain 23 Aug 2009
Rubens Barrichello had said all year that he will win for Brawn GP, and he finally came good in Valencia with a controlled performance that brought him home just over two seconds ahead of McLaren's Lewis Hamilton.
The world champion led at the start as expected, from McLaren team mate Heikki Kovalainen, both using their KERS to keep Barrichello in third place. Behind them, Kimi Raikkonen thrust up to fourth, also using the Ferrari's KERS button. Red Bulls Sebastian Vettel went with them after seeing off Brawn GPs Jenson Button, whose race soon collapsed with tyre graining issues which sent him backwards early on.
Hamilton led until his first pit stop on Lap 16, leaving Kovalainen to take over on the 17th, when he too stopped. Thereafter Barrichello ran another three laps before refuelling. That put his Brawn ahead of Kovalainen for the middle stint. Behind them, Raikkonen had no trouble keeping fourth ahead of Williams Nico Rosberg and Renaults Fernando Alonso, leaving Mark Webber to fight with Button.
Hamilton had a lead of 3.6s over Barrichello by Lap 36, but when he pitted again a lap later McLaren did not have his front tyres ready after a late request to him to do one more lap came just as he was about to enter the pits. That delay proved costly - though the team insisted it didn't cost them the win - and when Barrichello pitted from the lead on Lap 40 he was able to resume ahead of Hamilton.
The Briton kept the pressure on Barrichello all the way, but could not close the gap by more than a couple of tenths each lap until the Brazilian backed off right at the end, and it came down from 3.9s to 2.3s. Raikkonen jumped Kovalainen on the second stop, and the other Finn had his hands full holding off an aggressive Rosberg in the final laps.
Webber also lost out on the second stop, crucially dropping behind both Button and BMW Saubers Robert Kubica. Thus seventh place behind Alonso was enough for Button to increase his championship lead by two points to 72. He was the fastest man on the track for a long time in the closing laps on Bridgestones super-soft tyres, until they went off and he had to abandon his pursuit of the Renault. Kubica hung on ahead of Webber to score the final point.
It was a tough day for Red Bull, with Vettel retiring with his second engine failure of the weekend on Lap 24, having already made one refuelling stop and one unscheduled stop after a problem with the fuel rig.
Further back, Adrian Sutil claimed 10th for Force India ahead of Nick Heidfeld in the second BMW Sauber and Giancarlo Fisichella in the second Force India. The Toyotas were 13th and 14th, with Timo Glock bettering Buttons fastest lap right at the end. Romain Grosjeans debut for Renault yielded only 15th place, not helped by damaging his nose on the opening lap and needing an unscheduled stop as a result, and later a half spin.
Jaime Alguersuari looked less convincing than he had in Hungary on his way to 16th for Toro Rosso, while team mate Sebastien Buemi ran into trouble after he damaged his front wing in a brush with Glock on the opening lap and had to stop for a replacement. Later he spun in Turn 12 on Lap 43 and could not continue.
Luca Badoers return to Formula One racing was unimpressive. He ran down the back all day, let Grosjean overtake him as they left the pits, and then got a drive-through penalty for crossing the white line on the exit. He might have achieved his ambition of a finish, but he did so in 17th place. The only other classified car behind him was Kazuki Nakajimas Williams, who was delayed by a left rear tyre failure and then pitted for good just before the flag.
So Brawn increased their constructors championship lead over Red Bull, 126 points to 98.5, and Barrichello vaulted back to second place in the drivers' with 54 points to Webbers 51.5.
Barrichello's win marked the 100th by a Brazilian driver, and fittingly he dedicated it to Felipe Massa, who had advised him on racing lines only last week. It was also the 250th race for the McLaren Mercedes partnership, and Bridgestones 150th victory. And it left the title fight wide open as the paddock heads to Belgium next week.