2009 British Grand Prix – Click above for high-res image gallery
Did summertime showers put a damper on your Father's Day plans? That game of catch in the park or trip to the local Six Flags may not have worked out, but despite seemingly year-round rain in England, race fans at Silverstone enjoyed beautifully dry weather for this weekend's running of the British Grand Prix.
Clear skies may not have been enough to hold back the gathering storm clouds darkening F1's skies: the future of the British Grand Prix hangs in the balance as officials debate the merits of the planned move from Silverstone to Donington, while the sport itself threatens to split in two as the FIA holds its line and the teams prepare to form their own series. But none of that mattered when the lights flashed green on the starting grid at Silverstone. The question on everyone's minds, of course, was whether the so-far dominant Jenson Button would be able to carry his momentum into a sought-after home-turf victory, or if his challengers would be able to turn the tides. Follow the jump to find out who came out on top.
While many things remain in flux on F1's political circuit, there are a few things that have emerged as absolute certainties. The first is the irrefutable and unrivaled brilliance of one Mr. Ross Brawn. The technical and strategic mastermind who orchestrated repeat victories for Ferrari and Benetton (predecessor of the championship-winning Renault team) before them has worked unfathomable wonders for the former Honda team that now bears his name.
The second is the raw talent of a little German kid by the name of Sebastian Vettel, who surprised everyone by taking the checkered flag at last year's Italian Grand Prix for Scuderia Toro Rosso, an erstwhile back-marker team, becoming history's youngest grand prix winner in the process. Vettel then proceeded to take the Nations' Cup at the Race of Champions together with Michael Schumacher, whose shoes he's quickly growing to fill. So far this season, the talented pilot has moved up to the senior Red Bull team, repeated his rookie victory with another in China and took the coveted Lorenzo Bandini Trophy while he was at it. But heading to Silverstone, Vettel's only two victories – impressive as they were – came in the wet, wherein the prodigy has proven remarkably adept. In England this weekend, however, Vettel proved the greater talent, demonstrating that his prowess on damp tarmac is turning into veritable all-around race-winning skill. The young German dominated the race from start to finish with the kind of authority that'd make Max Mosley blush, ultimately taking the checkered flag to teach championship leader Button and (barely) defending champ Lewis Hamilton a thing or two in their own back yard.
As if the trouncing which Vettel and his Red Bull team meted out on the Brawn boys wasn't enough, Seb's veteran wingman Mark Webber supported with a strong second place, crossing the finish line some fifteen seconds behind his team-mate, but nearly half a minute ahead of third-place finisher Rubens Barrichello, who in turn beat out his team-mate for the first time this season and returned to the podium yet again.
What about Button, you ask? The title leader mounted an aggressive campaign in the closing laps of the race, but couldn't manage better than sixth place – well inside the points, but hardly the smooth sailing to the top step of the podium to which he's by now become accustomed. Felipe Massa fought his way up the field from eleventh place on the starting grid to finish ahead of Button with an entirely respectable fourth place – the second best result for the defending champion Ferrari team this season after the 3-4 in Monaco – ahead of a surprise command performance from Williams' Nico Rosberg in fifth. Toyota's Jarno Trulli – who has been enjoying one of the best seasons of his career, to say nothing of Toyota's – came in seventh place, while Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, one of only three title holders currently in the sport, rounded out the points finishers in eighth.
Meanwhile Kimi's colleagues in the champions circle fared much worse, local hero Lewis Hamilton taking a crushing sixteenth place – second from last among the back-markers one lap down – at his home race, with two-time champion Fernando Alonso hardly faring much better in fourteenth. Ahead of both came Toyota's Timo Glock, Force India's Giancarlo Fisichella, Williams' Kazuki Nakajima, Renault's Nelsinho Piquet and BMW's Robert Kubica, all finishing outside the points behind the aforementioned point-earners. BMW's Nick Heidfeld – a record holder in his own right – was sandwiched in between the two former champs, Force India's Adrian Sutil behind them in seventeenth and Toro Rosso's rookie Sebastian Buemi rounding out the field in eighteenth. His team-mate, four-time Champ champ Sebastien Bourdais retired before the half-way mark, as did McLaren #2 Heikki Kovalainen one lap earlier.
The bottom line question, however, is what this crushing defeat by the challenging team means for Brawn and Button. The answer, in short, is not a whole heck of a lot. At least not by itself. Vettel's dominant victory brought him within striking distance of the current (and perpetual) second place holder Rubens Barrichello, but Jenson remains well clear: a full twenty-three points ahead of his wingman and twenty-five ahead of Vettel. Brawn GP, meanwhile, remains firmly ahead of Red Bull in the constructors' title race.
What Red Bull's astonishing 1-2 finish does hint at, however, is the notion that Brawn isn't indomitable. Despite the considerable and irrefutable talent of the team's namesake principal and those he works with, there is another capable of mounting a challenge and keeping Brawn and company on their toes. His name is Sebastian Vettel, his team is Red Bull Racing, and he just might be enough to keep us interested.