F1 German GP: The Problem With Brawn

Mark Webber got a drive-through penalty for a small run-in with Rubens Barrichello at the start of the race but that didn’t stop him from winning his first F1 race. Perhaps the more intriguing story is that Rubens and Brawn couldn’t turn an early race lead and Webber’s penalty into the win. Maybe the political fun and games with Max was more interesting.

This race should have been the Brawns’ for the taking, specifically Barrichello’s. However, poor pit strategy and a general lack of speed conspired against Brawn GP.

The Brawns just couldn’t compete with the Red Bull cars on speed so they had to use strategy. Part of the problem is that the Brawn cars have trouble getting heat in their tires so they tried to compensate by running light on fuel. However, the projections they ran were wrong so Barrichello was held up behind Massa during his second stint. This allowed Webber to make up the time lost from the penalty.

The thing that killed me was that Brawn has switched from a three-stop strategy to a two-stopper before this season. At the Spanish GP, they switched Button’s strategy which got him ahead of Barrichello for the win. Yesterday, they kept the strategy the same. So for the second time this season, the lower weight and supposedly higher speeds of the three-stop strategy cost Barrichello a race win.

One thing that the Brawn guys don’t have a good explanation for is Button getting ahead on strategy. Both cars were on three-stop strategies but Button stopped before Rubens at the first two stops. But somehow they swapped the stop order for the third and final stop. F1 observers know that an extra lap before a pit stop can often put you in front of the guy ahead of you. That was the case here as Button was able to get by Rubens for fifth position. It just seems a little too convenient that the cars swapped positions at the last stop to allow the points leader to get ahead.

Should we be surprised that the swap happened? Not when you recall that Ross Brawn is calling the shots. This is the man that used to do this sort of thing all the time to Rubens while they were together with Michael Schumacher at Ferrari.

•••

We should all be thanking FOTA for nixing Bernie’s medal system for the 2009 season. While the standings would be exactly the same, we would be at least 5 races from a new leader in the standings instead of just 3. The race win standings are Button 6, Vettel 2, Webber 1 with only 8 races left. There’s a better chance of people caring about the last race of the season with a points championship instead of a wins championship.

•••

You can’t make some paddock stories up. Sebastian Vettel nearly missed the start of the race because the sole of his shoe fell off. A Renault mechanic bailed him out by super-gluing his shoe back together. Vettel went on to win the race running away. That makes that mechanic the most valuable teammate on the F1 grid.

•••

Speaking of paddock stories, the FOTA teams walked out of a rules discussion for the 2010 season. They were denied a say in the rules because they weren’t officially accepted as entrants into the 2010 season. Therefore, FOTA didn’t have an official say in the rules. Instead, any proposals they made had to be unanimously approved by the five accepted teams. FOTA decided not to have a part of the FIA’s games and left.

I guess Max Mosley did come through on his threat to end the reunification of F1. He suggested he would break the FIA-FOTA agreement that ended the threat of a split because of things FOTA might have said about him. Turns out that he made good on that promise. We’re about 8 months from a new season and no closer to knowing what is going on. No rules, no schedule, and no entry list. Settle in. The political fun and games aren’t even close to ending.

•••

Poor Adrian Sutil. Is he ever going to catch a break. He was on the verge on a top five at Monaco last year before an out of control Kimi Raikkonen took him out. This time, Sutil pitted from 2nd place (though he was among the last cars to pit) and collided with Raikkonen in turn one. They went into the turn side-by-side and collided, taking off part of Sutil’s front wing. This ruined the chances of the German to score the first ever points for Force India. However, unlike the Monaco race, this time it was more of a racing deal instead of it being Raikkonen’s fault.

•••

The F1 circus will make it’s annual trip to Hungary in two weeks for the Hungarian Giant Parade. The Hungaroring is a Mickey Mouse circuit of low and medium speed bends that has no real passing zones. If you are lucky enough to get a run on someone, you might just slide off the tarmac because the track is notorious for low grip.

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