2009 flashback: Button takes 6 out of 7

As the seventh Grand Prix of 2009 approached, it was clear that the Brawn car was still the best of the field. The only competitor to them seemed to be the Red Bull team, the only other team to have won a race this season. In Turkey, Sebastian Vettel knew he would have to take a risk to go for the win.

In qualifying, Vettel dominated all three qualifying sessions to take pole position, ahead of Button and Barrichello, with Mark Webber behind. Lewis Hamilton was still struggling massively with his McLaren, and was knocked out in Q1. When the fuel weights were released, Button was two laps longer than Vettel, so Jenson already had an advantage. Fuel corrected, it was again Button on pole position.

Vettel leads Button at the start, but not for long

Vettel leads Button at the start, but not for long

At the start, it was a disaster for Rubens Barrichello, who had another start-line problem, and fell down to 13th. Jarno Trulli scythed up to 3rd, but fell prey to Webber at Turn 10. Sebastian Vettel retained the lead at the first turn, but a mistake at Turn 9 handed the lead on a golden plate to Jenson, who didn’t pass up the opportunity.

By Lap 2, Button was already pulling away from Vettel, whose team were now planning a comeback. Webber was third, and not troubling either car yet. On Lap 5, Nico Rosberg defied the advantages of KERS to get past both Ferraris to get into 5th place. Rubens Barrichello was wild in trying to get past Heikki Kovalainen, and on Lap 8 collided with the Finn, and spun, and fell to 17th place.

He quickly regained two places. before starting a battle with Adrian Sutil for 14th. On Lap 11, he tried a move on the final corner, and knocked off part of his front wing. He was forced to pit for repairs and a fuel strategy change soon after, but his day was already ruined.

Barrichello spins after a collision with Kovalainen

Barrichello spins after a collision with Kovalainen

While Rubens entertained the audience, the top three were getting away from each other, with Button holding a 4.6 second lead over Vettel by Lap 11, who was 4.9 seconds ahead of Webber respectively. Red Bull decided on their tactics change for Vettel – to switch him to a 3-stop strategy.

On Lap 15, Vettel pitted for the first time, and spent little time refuelling, which was a clear indicator to everyone of his strategy change. Button pitted two laps later, while Webber and Rosberg were in on the next lap. Everyone else was on a 2-stop strategy, so everyone focused on Vettel to see how he coped.

He caught up swiftly to Jenson, but simply was unable to make an overtaking move. Whether this was because of turbulent air or driver inability, we don’t know. The end result was, by the time Vettel stopped for the second time on Lap 29, he had fallen behind team-mate Mark Webber, with both still scheduled for a final stop.

There wasn’t much action then until the second set of stops. Kazuki Nakajima was running 7th, but a faulty wheel gun ruined his race, and he dropped to 12th thanks to the delay. Jarno Trulli fell behind Nico Rosberg, but overtook him after the stops. Rubens Barrichello, still at the back of the field, suffered a gearbox problem and was forced to retire.

After the pit stops were completed, Sebastian started to catch up to team-mate Webber. However, even though he was gaining, his team had other ideas, saying : “Mark is faster, mark is faster. Sebastian: save your car, save your car. Mark is faster.” The real meaning of this message is clear: do not attempt to overtake Webber.

Jenson Button celebrates in the pit lane

Jenson Button celebrates in the pit lane

So, as the chequered flag fell, there was no change in position. Jenson Button took his sixth win out of 7 races, Webber gained 2places to get 2nd, while a disgruntled Vettel was 3rd. Oddly enough, he seemed more annoyed than the strategy mistake than the team order at the end of the race.

This all meant that Button’s 6 out of 7 wins meant he was level with Alberto Ascari, Juan Manuel Fangio, Michael Schumacher and Jim Clark in terms of best start to an F1 season. He was also the first Englishman to score 4 wins in a row since Nigel Mansell in 1992. He was now 26 points ahead of Barrichello, ahead of the two Red Bulls. But, Brawns domination was about to come to an end.

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