>I wonder how Red Bull team principal Christian Horner is feeling tonight. With one driver out on the first lap of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza and the other only getting a point because it was thrown into his lap, his team’s championship challenge took what could be a mortal blow. Nobody’s counting any chickens, of course, but perhaps he’s regretting stirring it in an interview he gave to the press intimating that Jenson might not quite be up to the Championship challenge.
Brawn’s retaliation was swift and lethal, with flawless performances from Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button and the pit crews effectively telling Horner that he could take his wooden spoon and sh…er, I mean that he was absolutely wrong.
I knew from the interview that Ross Brawn gave the BBC after qualifying yesterday that he had his drivers exactly where he wanted them to be, even though 5th and 6th on the grid didn’t look that great. What he knew, of course, and the rest of us found out later, was that his cars were by quite a long way the heaviest of the top ten. They would only have to stop once and the only thing standing in their way was the KERS cars in front of them. Lewis Hamilton’s pole position was won on a very light fuel load, so he was stopping twice, giving the Brawns the advantage over him.
The real worry was Heikki Kovaleinen who was also one stopping. However he didn’t have a great start and Rubens and Jenson were both past him by the end of the first lap. The only real worries for the Brawns after that point was whether they would manage to pass Hamilton in the pits and would Rubens gearbox hold up. There had been talk last night that it would have to be replaced, incurring a 5 place grid penalty. They decided against it and I didn’t really breathe easy until the end of the race and he and his gearbox had got home in one piece.
Anyway, the pit stops happened, executed flawlessly and both Brawns came out ahead of Hamilton who pursued Jenson relentlessly until just before the end when he spun off at speed at the first chicane. It looked like some impact, so it was a relief to see him get out of the car and walk disconsolately back to the pits. I must be going soft in my old age, because I actually felt sorry for him.
It was a fabulous second win in three races for Rubens Barrichello, who dedicated it his sons Eduardo and Fernando, both of whom have birthdays this month. He really looks on form and on fire at the moment. He seems to have a realistic chance of going for the championship and Ross Brawn seems to be happy to let his drivers fight it out between them.
Brawn needed to have a good result this weekend. They’ve had a patchy Summer, but the fact that their car has now won 8 out of 13 races, with half of those wins being 1-2s, shows its dominance. Nobody else has had anything like that kind of performance this year.
What was particularly heartening to see was how good the rapport seems to be between Jenson and Rubens. While they were waiting to go up on the podium, they were chatting away and their body language was very positive. While they’re both competitive, they know how to be grown up about it. They’ve been team-mates for a good while now and have had to kiss a lot of frogs before this dream car came along. Perhaps that’s an indicator that if their driver line up ain’t broke, the team shouldn’t try to fix it. On the BBC Red Button F1 Forum this afternoon, DC, Eddie Jordan and Martin Brundle seemed to be agreed that it was likely Rubens would be out of a drive next year. This flies in the face of what Ross Brawn himself has said, that he sees no need to change the driver line up. The BBC speculation was down to the rumour that Mercedes are likely to buy equity in the team and will want a German driver like Nico Rosberg in the second seat. I expect that having the current drivers finishing first and second in the drivers’ championship and winning the constructors’ would give the team extra leverage in that negotiation.
Twitter made the race extra special this year as 3 of the corner I inhabit of the F1 Twitterverse were actually there. Kayleigh, Jay and Kate had a brilliant time, even if they did take refuge in the beer tent rather than watch the GP2 race yesterday in the storm.
The next F1 drama happens in a Paris office a week tomorrow, when the World Motor Sport Council investigates Nelson Piquet Jr’s crash at last year’s Singapore Grand Prix. Then at the end of the week, the F1 circus again lands in Singapore for a night race. The Brawn car is due a major upgrade and the circuit should suit them, so as long as the Gearbox Fairy keeps an eye on Rubens’ car, we could have a repeat of the fabulous result today.