Jenson Jogs to Victory
Jenson Button's only mistake on Sunday in Monte Carlo was to park the car in the wrong place after a dominant victory. Normally the three top drivers go straight to the track in front of the royal box where they stop and collect their trophies. Button was too busy enjoying his victory that he turned into the pitlane instead of going to the royal box. This was unfortunate as his presence was required by Prince Albert and so Jenson jumped out of his car and ran off down the start-finish straight towards the podium. As he ran he waved to the crowd and enjoyed the greetings of team members along the pit wall. His 400m job ended in the arms of the team's managing director Nick Fry.
With five wins in six races there was much reason to celebrate. But for Jenson the joy came because it was Monaco. "Well, before the weekend I said that this Grand Prix doesn't mean anything different to any other Grand Prix," he said. "That was a bit of a lie really but I was just trying to take a bit of pressure off myself. It is very special winning here. It is a completely different circuit to any that we race on. If you are quick in Barcelona you are quick on many circuits. This is just different and to win here is a great feeling. The last 15 laps were tough as when you lose a little bit of concentration anything can happen. But the last two laps were the most enjoyable laps of my career, I would say. I could just enjoy the moment. I had a big enough lead and I could just enjoy winning Monaco. It is something you always dream about as a kid. You watch it on television and you think it is an amazing spectacle. But actually driving in it and winning it is just fantastic. I am very happy. I struggled at the start of the week and for me that makes it even better to come away with the victory. As I crossed the line I shouted on the radio to my engineers, 'We have got Monaco, baby.' We have got the victory in Monaco and that means a lot and a one-two finish for Brawn is exceptional. It is definitely going to go down in history. The performance of the team this year - it has been staggering."
Button's run was exemplary. The team surprised everyone when the tyre warmers were removed as the Brawns were both fitted with the super-soft tyres, which most people had trouble with. Not surprisingly Sebastian Vettel had the same and Lewis Hamilton too. Lewis had nothing to lose and places to gain. Oddly, Adrian Sutil also had them and he was planning a one-stop strategy. Everyone else went for the harder compound and decided to use the softer rubber for the late race stint, or for a short, sharp blast in the middle of the race. The Brawns have always been able to get the most from the tyres (apart from in the wet in Malaysia) and that had been their secret. The cars are fast and gentle on their tyres. Button himself was rather surprised to see that others had not done the same thing. "We never thought twice about running the super-soft option tyres," he said. "Even though towards the end of the first stint I started struggling a little with oversteer."
The two Brawns came off the line well and Raikkonen was left (quite literally) in the dust, as his grid position was on the dirty side of the road. The KERS made no difference at all. With insouciant ease Button opened up a gap over Barrichello who, as his rear tyres began to suffer a little, dropped back towards Raikkonen's challenging Ferrari. Riding a little too close to Button early on, the Brazilian had suffered from the aerodynamic repercussions of tailing another car and overworked his rubber as a result. All Kimi could do was to try to make sure that Vettel did not get him as well. The Brawns were gone. Raikkonen was able to stay with them for a while, while Vettel found himself under urgent attack from Felipe Massa. The feisty Brazilian tried a few wild moves to get ahead of Vettel and after running over the chicane, he had to back off to let the Red Bull ahead again. As he did that Nico Rosberg stuck his Williams into the gap created and Massa lost another position. A few laps later Vettel made a pig's ear of the chicane and fell from fourth to seventh in the blink of an eye and, having done that, he gave up and headed for the pits to get the harder rubber and lots of fuel. His race was basically ruined. In the end he locked up his tyres and crashed, ending his hopes of adding more points to his tally. Rosberg was left in fourth, under attack from Massa. As the first stops approached, Button suddenly began to pull away. "Possibly I just got too close to him," Barrichello said. "I was sliding a little bit more. Then Jenson started gaining a lot when my rear tyres began graining. I lost four seconds straight away through that." Button did not encounter the same trouble as he was running in clean air all the time.
Raikkonen stopped on lap 15, and Barrichello was in the following lap, making sure that the Ferrari did not gain too much advantage. Button followed soon afterwards and briefly Rosberg was in the lead but when he pitted Button was ahead again. In the second stint it was Barrichello who was the faster of the Brawns but Button had such an advantage that Rubens was never going to win. Button then stopped on lap 49, with Rubens coming in on lap 50. Jenson was briefly behind Raikkonen but Kimi was going to have to stop again and so it was really just academic. Button cruised for home, worrying all the way about the car failing or making a mistake. Barrichello followed him home. After his second stop Rubens ran into trouble with a seat belt. When that was sorted he was quick again, but by then it was too late. Raikkonen re-emerged in third from his last stop and seemed happy enough. "We need to be happy after our very difficult start to the season," he said. It was clear that Ferrari was not a match for the Brawn, but substantial development had certainly helped.
Massa was fourth after Vettel and Rosberg disappeared. "I lost a lot of time behind Vettel and then, because I made a mistake, I was also passed by Rosberg," he said. "I think I could also have passed Kimi, but it is too early to claim to be the second best team in the championship. What is sure is that we are working well."
Webber came home fifth and was happy with that. "To get a few points after a challenging qualifying session is pretty good," he said. "There were a few more people that came in on the act this weekend, so for us to still come away with a few points is good for us in the Constructors' Championship. The guys worked like hell this weekend to fit a lot of new parts so it was important for us to get some points. At other circuits we'll be stronger again."
Rosberg's sixth seemed a disappointment. "I've got to be happy with sixth place," he said. "More just wasn't possible, and we did the best we could have in the circumstances. We did a long middle stint on primes as we were still worried about the durability of the option tyre, but they seemed to hold on much better than expected in the last stint, perhaps due to the amount of rubber down on the circuit by the end of the race". Kazuki Nakajima was looking strong at certain points, but then always seemed to be in the wrong place and ended his day, sliding off at the end of the race. "I was pushing perhaps too hard," he said.
Fernando Alonso knew he had little chance of success. "It was a hard race and very tight from the beginning," he said, "but the car felt good and kept improving during the race. We had a good strategy but here in Monaco the starting position is essential and so starting ninth and gaining two places and two points is a satisfying result. My motivation and the motivation of the team remain very high. We have a lot of new things for the upcoming races and we are confident that the second part of the season should be better for us."
Nelson Piquet had little to report. He was running a long first stint but was then hit from behind on the straight by Sebastien Buemi, which damaged the rear of my car and forced him to retire. "I ended up pushing him all the way into the first corner," Buemi said glumly. "I am sorry about this and I went to apologise to him." His team-mate Sebastien Bourdais did manage to keep going and finished eighth to claim the final point.
Fisichella was very pleased with his ninth place and was close behind Bourdais at the finish and in contention for the final point. Sutil started on a one-stop strategy. The tyres soon grained and he fell away. Tenth and 13th were probably better results than Toyota expected. Glock started with so much fuel he was able to run to lap 57 on the soft Bridgestones. Trulli did a two-stopper, going soft, soft, super-soft, and was unable to keep Hamilton at bay in the closing stages. Assuredly, this was a disaster for Toyota in which they threw all manner of set-ups at the TF109 during the weekend yet never seemed to make the slightest progress.
BMW Sauber was in the same boat as Toyota. Heidfeld ran soft and super-soft to claim 11th place, and said his car was simply too slow. Kubica made a poor start, then suffered a right rear puncture. He was lapping well with a fuel heavy car, but was forced to retire with brake problems. Like Toyota, BMW Sauber need to have a major rethink before Turkey.
And McLaren? Well, Lewis Hamilton's spin in qualifying was given a five grid place penalty when the gearbox needed changing, so started the race from 19th on the grid. In the race he had a brush with Nick Heidfeld and had to pit. "I had a lot of understeer," he explained. "Putting a new wing on made it a bit better but it wasn't enough." Kovalainen did his best but he had to pit for repairs and then crashed. It was a bad day for McLaren.