Spanish GP - Quick but fragile

Montmelo, 10th May 2009 - Felipe Massa finally scored points for the first time this season, picking up the three that go with sixth place in the Spanish Grand Prix. The Brazilian appeared to be heading for a fourth place finish, maybe even a podium, but he slithered down to sixth in the closing stages due to a fuelling problem, which meant he had to slow to save fuel. His team-mate Kimi Raikkonen had climbed up the order until he looked set for a points finish, but an accelerator problem forced him to retire on lap 17.

The race was dominated by the Brawn team with Jenson Button winning from Rubens Barrichello, with Red Bull’s Mark Webber joining them on the podium.

In warm conditions with temperatures of around 25 degrees, Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen lined up on the grid for the 66 lap Spanish Grand Prix in 4th and 16th places respectively.

As the lights went out, Felipe got a very good start, thanks partly to the KERS on his F60, getting ahead of Vettel in the Red Bull, to go third behind Barrichello, who got ahead of his team-mate and pole man Jenson Button in the Brawn.

On the very first lap the Safety Car had to come out, after the two Toro Rosso cars crashed into one another, avoiding Trulli who had been off the track and back on again in the Toyota. Sutil’s Force India was also involved in the incident. The Safety Car was out for 6 laps before the race was on again.

On lap 10, the field had been reduced to just 15 cars and the order was, Barrichello, Button, Massa, Vettel, Webber, Alonso, Rosberg, Glock, Heidfeld, Kimi who had made up 6 places already to be tenth. Then came Kubica, Hamilton, Piquet, Fisichella and Nakajima, 15th and last.

Button and Alonso pitted on lap 17 and on the following lap, Kimi’s race ended with a hydraulics problem that brought his car and his race to a stop. Barrichello and Webber came in together one lap later, and Vettel and Massa did the same on lap 20. Rosberg, yet to stop in the Williams was now second between the two Brawns, with Felipe fourth ahead of Vettel. Rosberg came in on 25, so that the order was now Barrichello, Button, Massa, Vettel, Heidfeld and Hamilton, these two not having refuelled yet, ahead of Webber with Alonso eighth.

Barrichello was on a three stop strategy, therefore coming in again early on lap 30 for his second stop, leaving his team-mate as the new leader, with Felipe now second. Heidfeld and Hamilton also came in on this lap for their first stop.

On lap 36, as indeed had been the case for much of the race, Felipe was under pressure from Vettel, just one second behind, with the Ferrari man trailing leader Button by 5 seconds.

Lap 43 and it was a repeat of their earlier stop, as Felipe and Vettel came down pit lane nose to tail, rejoining in the same relative positions. At this stage, the best battle was between Alonso in the Renault and Hamilton in the McLaren. Race leader Button made his second stop on lap 47, rejoining third. Barrichello and Webber pitted from the top two places on lap 50 and this was a key moment for Felipe’s chances of a podium, as the Brawn and the Red Bull duo managed to get in and out of the pits before Felipe and Vettel came by the end of pit lane.

At this point the German lapped four tenths faster than the Brazilian to close right up behind the Ferrari. Unknown to the fans in the stands, Felipe had been told to slow down as not all the fuel that should have gone in did go in.

Then along the main straight on lap 63, Felipe appeared to slow dramatically with this fuel problem and Vettel flew by him, relegating the Ferrari to fifth place. Obviously in trouble, Felipe was next caught by Alonso, dropping down to sixth, but that was still the better solution than coming in for a third unscheduled stop which would have seen him fall right out of the points zone.

The order then remained unchanged to the flag, with Button taking his fourth win of the season to consolidate his and his team’s championship lead, with Barrichello making it a Brawn one-two, with the two Red Bulls of Webber and Vettel, third and fourth ahead of Fernando and Felipe. A Ferrari on the podium had been the pre-race target, but at least Felipe Massa has finally got some points – 3 – on the scoreboard and on the performance side at least, the F60 seems to be competitive again.

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