• May 10, 2009
2009 Chinese Grand Prix - Click above for a high-res image gallery

Those who tuned in on Saturday for the qualifying session at this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix would not have been surprised by the top three: Brawn's Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello took first and third on the starting grid, respectively, sandwiching Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel in second. No big surprise there – after dominating the first four rounds of the season, these three drivers hold the top three spots in the standings, after all. But coming in right behind them was a daunting wild card in Felipe Massa, who took fourth place on the grid. Of course only in this topsy-turvy season could Ferrari's golden boy, runner-up in last year's championship, be considered a wild card. Call it a sign of the times. But would Massa be able to turn around his dismal fortunes, take on the erstwhile underdogs and restore the Scuderia to its rightful place in the winner's circle? Follow the jump to find out.

After four rounds in the East, this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix formed the first race in the European stage of the world championship. And with it came fresh opportunity for those teams which dominated the last season but crushingly found themselves fighting from the back this year. Keen to start afresh and regain lost ground to the teams which, in their view, were surely usurping their place and disturbing the natural order of things, Ferrari, McLaren and BMW Sauber all came to Barcelona with important aerodynamic changes which almost constituted redesigned cars altogether. The question on everyone's minds, then, was would it be enough.

With the exception of Massa's ascending fourth-place qualification, the answer on Saturday afternoon seemed to be an affirmative "no". BMW's Robert Kubica qualified tenth, Nick Heidfeld 13th. Behind him was defending champion Lewis Hamilton in 14th, his McLaren wingman Heikki Kovalainen a dismal 18th, with the remaining Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen sandwiched in 16th. So much for putting up a fight.

These erstwhile premier teams hadn't fared any better by the end of the race itself, either. After holding on to his fourth place all through the race, Felipe Massa fell victim to Ferrari's tragically shortsighted pit strategy. Battling against Sebastian Vettel for fourth, the two drivers twice entered the pits together, both times Massa's Ferrari coming out ahead and holding on for dear life. But the second time, the Scuderia was in such a rush to get their car out of the pits ahead of Vettel that they didn't give him enough fuel to last the race. With only three laps to go, Massa got the call from his race engineers that their projections left him one lap short on fuel. He would have to back off to make it to the finish line, and in the process gave up his spot to a persistent Vettel pushing the whole way. And then another spot to Fernando Alonso, who closed in on the limping Ferrari from sixteen seconds down.

As bad as Massa's race turned out, it was still better than the drivers he was scrapping with all of last year. Heidfeld came in behind the struggling Massa in seventh. Lewis Hamilton came in ninth, out of the points and one lap down having been lapped by the race leader. Robert Kubica also finished outside the points in 11th place, while Raikkonen and Kovalainen didn't finish the race at all, retiring on laps 17 and 7 respectively.

The Finns were in good company, however, as a total of seven drivers failed to finish. Williams driver Kazuki Nakajima ended his race on lap 48 with insuficient oil pressure. But long before that, in the second corner of the very first lap, Toyota' Jarno Trulli, Force India's Adrian Sutil and both the Toro Rosso Sebastiens (Bourdais and Buemi) collided, sending debris everywhere, all four drivers out in one fell swoop and the safety car out immediately.

Not before an ambitious Rubens Barrichello sailed around his team-mate to take the lead, though. The elder statesman of the Formula One grid ultimately couldn't hold back Button, the two on different fuel strategies. The Brawns held on to an impressive lead over the race distance, but Barrichello – racing's equivalent embodiment of "always the bridesmaid, never the bride" – had to be disappointed to lose out to his team-mate yet again.

Following closely on the Brawn 1-2 was an equally impressive Red Bull 3-4. Although Sebastian Vettel was the one who looked poised to return to the podium, it was his team-mate Mark Webber who ultimately put up the strongest fight against Barrichello, taking third place, the ambitious Vettel only taking his fourth from the aforementioned encumbered Ferrari in the closing laps. After local hero Alonso in fifth, Massa a crushing sixth and Heidfeld in seventh, Williams' Nico Rosberg took the final point in eighth place.

The results further entrench Jenson Button's lead in the drivers' title with 41 points to runner-up Barrichello's 27. Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel follows closely in third with 23 points, Mark Webber in fourth with 15.5, while Toyota's Jarno Trulli takes fifth place in the standings with 14.5 points and Timo Glock in sixth with 12. The constructors' championship subsequently follows the same order, with Brawn at a practically unassailable 68 ahead of Red Bull's 38.5 and Toyota's 26.5. Tune in again in two weeks' time as the circus rolls in to Monte Carlo for F1's crown jewel: the Monaco Grand Prix.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      Just so people know, Rubens was on the strategy that Brawn considered to be the faster one. However Rubens tires went off in the second stint. If you look at Mark Webber he was the faster car on the 3 stopper, if Rubens had been able to go as fast he would have won. Brawn were hedging their bets with Jenson on the two stop strategy and he drove the socks off that car. It's a testament to him that he can get such performance out of that car even on the slower tires.
      • 5 Years Ago
      is it even worth watching F1 anymore?. It's so boring. Ok so someone new is winning races but it's still the same old yawn. One or two teams dominating and the rest playing catch-up. I've never known of a "sport" that changes its rules EVERY year. Once the manufacturers pull out and realises their funds are better invested into making cars than racing them, F1 will be dead.
        • 5 Years Ago
        This race was the poorest of this season, but have you actually watched any race from last and this season. Like the last years championship decided on the last curve on the last lap on the last race. Massa fans already celebrating.
        All this years races have been great. If anything F1 is on it's best ever when it comes to entertaiment.
        • 5 Years Ago
        You're one of those people who just don't get it. The rules change to keep it fresh, there's only so much development you can do on a race car to squeeze every tiny bit of performance out of it. By changing the rules, the teams have to keep up with evolving technologies. If you had really paid attention to F1, you'd realize that, even if one or two teams (Brawn & Red Bull) are dominating this year, they're not the same two teams (McLaren & Ferrari) who usually dominated the past few years. Only the world's best drivers make it to F1. This year shows how good the drivers really are. Jensen Button, who most people had relegated to being a mid-pack driver at best, is showing just how good he is with a proper performing car. At the same time, every position that Hamilton, Alonso, Massa, or Raikonnen take in under-performing cars shows how good they are.

        As for manufacturers realizing they'd be better off manufacturing cars than racing them, again you just don't get it. Racing spurs innovation and that innovation eventually finds it's way into street cars. Even basic things such as disc brakes, windshield wipers, and power steering owe their invention to racing.

        As for manufacturers leaving F1 and F1 dying, no chance. Even if all the manufacturers pulled out simultaneously, you'd have even more privateer teams jumping into the sport than ever because they'd see the lack of big money manufacturer based teams as giving the privateer teams a more level playing field. The privateer teams (such as Williams) ruled in the past for this very reason. Obviously you have no understanding of the history of F1.

        So, in summation, you should STFU when it comes to delivering (yawn) boring, inaccurate comments about something you clearly know very little about.
      • 5 Years Ago
      still boring IMO and it seems to be more about politics than racing. The US debacle a few years ago when only six cars raced because they were on Bridgestone's not Michilen's, c'mon seriously WTF was that all about. The whole diffuser issue this season, apparent preferential treatment from the stewards for Ferrari (remember when Schumacher won a race in the pit lane), coupled with a clear aversion to McLaren, the stupid press conferences they have after the race.
      This is all indicative of the mentality of the dotards in the FIA, and Bernie who have no clue how run a sport. Admittedly the last race of last season was exciting but apart from the start of an F1 race where most of the "action" occurs, from an excitement pov, I can't think of
      a valid reason to watch it. Again just my 2 cents but I strongly believe the FIA/Bernie or whoever's in charge, are killing the sport. Let's keep it simple, let everyone have the same cars (technically) as they do in WRC and lets see the best DRIVER win for a change and not
      the best car. Alonso is supposedly the best driver in this years field. Has he even had a podium yet?
        • 5 Years Ago
        The best driver is NEVER what F1 has been about and I don't think they should change it now. It's about the best TEAM and the driver is an essential element. There are so many spec series out there already, why do you want to turn one of the few remaining series where car development is allowed into yet another spec series?
        • 5 Years Ago
        You still don't get it. F1 is about technology as much as it is about the driver. The current formula is 2.4 liters, naturally aspirated 8 cylinder, among a myriad of other rules. The constructor/engine builders build the best car possible according to that formula. Then, the teams try to hire a great driver, and the entire team tries to win races. By definition, that's what F1 is - if you want to change F1 to WRC or NASCAR, then it's not Formula One.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Seems like all Ferrari and McLaren are doing now is preparing for 2010. They couldn't have anything up their sleeve at this point right?
        • 5 Years Ago
        The Ferraris were quite competitive all weekend. 4th on the grid and being the 3rd-fastest team on the track (Kimi's car was 16th in qualifying due to a strategic error, and couldn't improve because the KERS malfunctioned) isn't too bad, considering they were far worse off earlier this year. A championship challenge will be hard to mount considering Button's massive lead in the points, but they can certainly fight for a top-5 championship standing..

        Plus, if the idea of the cap doesn't work out, then most of this year's car will carry over - with the addition of enlarged tanks. If it does, then still, a good 2009 car will be a good basis: They'll have the whole of 2009 to flesh out the double-decker idea without limits on expenditure, and can then add adaptable wings and all later on.

        Also, Autoblog - the BMW improved massively this weekend, too. From Q1 to top-Q2 is quite a leap this year, and in the earlier races they weren't even close to scoring those two points that Heidfeld snagged.
      • 5 Years Ago
      That race should have been rubans. Jason should off had second. Jason will have the championship if he doesnt mess up. Who cares if he wins it buy one point or ten. They need to punish the teams who order other drivers to pass. Isnt that why lewis is about to be suspended if he cheats one more time?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Note that at the end of the race, in his VERY FIRST comment, Jenson (and it's Jenson) said thanks to the team, and "I'm sorry about Rubens". Fact is, halfway through he opted to switch to a slightly more sensible two-stop strategy, while Rubens stuck with his three-stopper - it was won on strategy.

        That, and the fact that Rubens gave his excellent setup to Jenson who needed help with his.
        • 5 Years Ago
        It's Jensen.
        • 5 Years Ago
        It's Jenson
        • 5 Years Ago
        I agree that it should have been Barichello's race but even though there isn't supposed to be team orders. They are both for the championship and button has the lead in points so they positioned him for the win. I agree that I dont think its fair because somehow it looked like Rubens wanted the win badly. A shame really imo, if Barichello and Button had duked it out (in a rather safe fashion), it would have been great. What difference does it make to Brawn if both of their cars are 1-2?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Ross Brawn is quite a team boss. He is making Button look unbeatable. Now I wonder about Schumi and how he might have fared without Brawn and Todt.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Once again i ask how come no F1 in USA. It would be great in NYC, on the streets of NYC, some streets are wide, some are narrow, straight, twisty.
        • 5 Years Ago
        potholes, don't forget the potholes, I kid I kid
        • 5 Years Ago
        @ PUbeless Isn't Circuit de Monaco held on a two lane road pretty much?


        Maybe Manhattan can not withstand a few weeks of closure needed to prepare the course because the business will be affected, but other Borroughs won't suffer that much if certain roads and highways are closed for a few weeks.
        • 5 Years Ago
        • 5 Years Ago
        im sorry but new york would be dumb. we don't really have any tracks that are near good enough for f1. most of our tracks here are way to tight, and not wide enough. every f1 start is almost 6 wide, not to many tracks could accommodate this. Indianapolis is the best place, and i am very sad for the race to not be there anymore. they might go to Utah some time, but who knows. i think there has to be an f1 race in America, no matter what. (especially one in north America)
        • 5 Years Ago
        @ second post Sea Urchin

        their are 2 reasons they go to monaco

        1. its been held there sense 1929!!!!
        2. people there are filthy rich

        long beach is a JOKE for f1, and irl, and ALMS, and i laugh at any other street circuit here in the us. i honestly forget where the night race is (Singapore?) but that is nice and wide and a fun track.

        anyways break back laguna seca and i will be happy. gran turismo 4 and hopefully 5 soon can hold me back off this need some more cause i can simulate them. but really i wish f1 would go there again.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Mainly because Bernie likes money and he wasn't getting the sanctioning fees he wanted in the US.

        So just asking, what was so great about this race that made you suddenly say this?

        This was easily the most boring F1 race this year.
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