2009 flashback: Red Bulls in a China op

Adrian Newey, Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button on the podium

Adrian Newey, Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button on the podium

Before we look at the 2010 Chinese Grand Prix, let’s have a look back at what happened last year.


Brawn GP and Jenson Button had dominated the first two races, with Red Bull having poor luck in both. However, even before Friday Practice, there was much change in the paddock, much of it KERS related. The Ferraris were to drop the system for this race, for reliability and safety reasons. While Robert Kubica took on the system on Friday, he ditched it for qualifying and the race. After the ruling that the double-decker diffusers were illegal, many teams had brought updated diffusers to Shanghai.

Sebastian Vettel took pole position in the dry conditions, with Fernando Alonso behind him. However, the Spaniard was on an extremely light fuel load, which put him in a difficult position. Mark Webber was third, ahead of Barrichello and Button.

As the race loomed closer, the heavens opened, and rain poured down on the circuit. This turned race tactics on its head, especially for Fernando Alonso, when it was revealed that the safety car would be out for the start of the race. Both Robert Kubica and Timo Glock started from the pit lane, to fill up their fuel tanks. When the race started, Bernd Maylander led the field for the first 8 laps, as conditions were treacherous. Adrian Sutil, Nico Rosberg and Fernando Alonso all stopped during the safety car period, and took on different amounts of fuel. While Alonso took on a regular amount of fuel, Sutil filled up the tank, and took on a risky tyre strategy.

Bernd Maylander leads the cars in the Safety Car

Bernd Maylander leads the cars in the Safety Car

Lewis Hamilton had started from 9th, and planned to make progress in the tough conditions, even with a poor car. While he did get up to 7th by Lap 11, his first spin of the race meant he lost several places, and was lucky not to get hit. Meanwhile, the Red Bull’s first pit stops came quite early, on Lap 14 and 15 for Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel respectively. While this put them at a slight disadvantage, it didn’t look like Button would be able to catch them.

But, on Lap 17, the safety car was out again. Robert Kubica aquaplaned straight into the back of Jarno Trulli, and took him out of the race, while the Pole had to pit for a new front wing. The debris meant the safety car had to come out again, and it did so until Lap 23. While it was out, Sebastien Buemi, Jenson Button, Rubens Barrichello and Adrian Sutil all stopped in the pits. Sutil took on tyres to last him until the end of the race, which was a very risky tyre gamble. Meanwhile, while the safety car was out, Felipe Massa stopped on the back straight, due to an electrical problem.

Jarno Trulli struggles back to the pits, after colliding with Robert Kubica

Jarno Trulli struggles back to the pits, after colliding with Robert Kubica

Nelson Piquet Jr crashed on Lap 28, damaged his front wing, but was able to continue. The very next lap, an interesting battle developed for second place between Jenson Button and Mark Webber. “Vettel is only quicker by fuel effect,” the Brawn team told Button, “and Webber is also shorter.” But, the Briton missed his braking point at the end of the back straight, and Webber went through. But, Mark had to correct a slide 2 laps later at the last corner, and Button got past again. The very next lap, Mark put a great move on Jenson, overtaking him around the outside of Turn 7, which is a long high-speed left hander. This move was emulated from a similar move from Felipe Massa, who had similarly passed Lewis Hamilton earlier in the race.

Even though it was more than halfway through the race, the weather was still just as bad. Nico Rosberg momentarily tried on intermidiates after his second stop, but quickly spun, and had to change back to extreme wets.

Adrian Sutil crashes on Lap 51 with severely worn tyres

Adrian Sutil crashes on Lap 51 with severely worn tyres

Lewis Hamilton continued to make progress after his one and only stop on Lap 33, but 5 spins across the race ensured he couldn’t get far. These spins, especially one near the end, meant Heikki Kovalainen and Adrian Sutil were able to pass him. Adrian was still using the same tyres he had taken on 30 laps ago, and they were completely destroyed, as Adrian was sliding around the racetrack, and nearly crashed when he got past Hamilton. Still, he had got into a points scoring position, which would have been a first for Force India. But, as he generally does, he crashed with only 5 laps to go. One of his tyres bounced across the racetrack. Nick Heidfeld had to avoid the tyre, and Timo Glock and Sebastien Buemi were able to pass him.

While all of this was happening, Sebastian Vettel never lost his lead to take the victory. He was so far in front, he was able to overtake Jenson Button, even before the Briton had made his second pit stop and Vettel had already stopped twice. He did so with ease, a move which seemed similar to a move that would be done by the rainmaster himself in his heyday, Michael Schumacher.

Mark Webber finished second, which was his best Formula 1 finish to date. Jenson Button, despite being outclassed by the Red Bulls, finished off the podium in third. Behind him, the classification read: Rubens Barrichello, Heikki Kovalainen, Lewis Hamilton, Timo Glock and Sebastien Buemi. Despite getting his best finish of the season so far, Lewis was still hugely dissapointed with spinning so many times in the race. McLaren knew they still had a lot of work to do.

Red Bull celebrate their 1-2 finish in China

Red Bull celebrate their 1-2 finish in China

At the podium ceremony, there was a slight bit of confusion, when God Save the Queen was played for the constructor winner (Red Bull). Even though they operate in England, they are registered in Austria, so this mistake was corrected for the next Red Bull win.

Despite Vettel taking the win, Button led the championship after 3 races, with 21 points. Barrichello had 15, Vettel and Glock had 10, and Webber had 9.5. In the constructors’ championship, Brawn led with 36 points, then it was Red Bull (19.5), Toyota (18.5), McLaren (8), and Renault (4).

Red Bull were delighted with their 1-2 finish, and hoped that they would be able to challenge the Brawns in more races. They would, but it would take more time than they thought.

Here is the official short review:


4 responses to “2009 flashback: Red Bulls in a China op

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  4. Pingback: F1: Vettel puts Red Bull on pole

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