He was the youngest World Champion in history. No one in Formula 1 was that early. But now that he’s on the throne, everyone wants to overthrow him. Sunday, March 29, 2009, in Melbourne, we start again in a climate of poisons, forbidden shots, regulatory uncertainty and furious battle between the teams and the Federation, and the only sure thing is that all the cars on the track will run against him and his McLaren. It’s the law of number one. Lewis Hamilton has won, he’s become the best, and now everyone wants to steal this privileged title from him. Will the Englishman, the first black driver in Formula 1, to repel the assault? Hamilton is quiet, has estimates of his own vehicles. What’s missing for now, after a series of disappointing tests, is trust in your car. McLaren struggled, often at the chronometric level found itself at the bottom of the group, and Hamilton warns his fans:
"At this moment we are inferior, at the debut in Melbourne we will not be able to compete for the victory".
A declaration of surrender, only partially offset by optimism for the future.
"We are a very strong team, during the season we will improve a lot. We will struggle in the first races, but then we will be protagonists again. I expect a very hard-fought, balanced World Championship, with many different winners and this could encourage my recovery".
A little 'little to warm the hearts of fans and show that the desire to emerge was not replaced by anxiety and fear of not knowing how to confirm. But Hamilton doesn’t want to hear about contentment:
"The will to win is stronger than ever. I am sure that on the track I will fight I will make fewer mistakes and that experience will help me and at the appropriate time I will be able to play the perfect race".
It would not be bad, if even the single-seater, in great difficulty after the robust cut to aerodynamic use, decides to comply. Who seems to have no problems is the Ferrari, considered by all the great favorite, after twenty-two days of testing and 8,584 kilometers traveled on the track. The Maranello team decided to use the KERS, one of the great novelties of the season, the system that recovers kinetic energy and gives power to the engine for overtaking, but on the other hand it is very thinking. Massa, who lost the world championship at the penultimate corner of the last Grand Prix of the 2009 season, wants revenge and wants to win the title, while Raikkonen dreams of becoming the protagonist and regain the confidence of Ferrari. Raikkonen still has two years of contract, but this could be the last one, ( we always talk about Alonso, and also like the idea Vettel) if he had to repeat the failed 2008. Regulatory uncertainty is frightening and a great unknown. It is disconcerting on the eve, Max Mosley, the president of the FIA.
"I’m sure in Melbourne, whoever the winner is, there will be appeals from the losers".
Briatore accuses, especially the speakers of Williams, Toyota and Brawn GP. The Brawn GP, born on the ashes of Honda, is a miracle, a splinter crazy. He made his debut in March, and it was the fastest. Stuff not to believe, given how much Honda was struggling, inevitable shout suspicion. The regulatory novelties are remarkable: robust aerodynamic cut, entrance of front and rear wings and disappearance of the lateral appendages, return to slick tires, kers, engine limited to 18.000 rpm, with power cut, the possibility for each driver to use eight per season. There is still a great deal of change in the regulation, but there is also a great deal of uncertainty. No one has yet announced what a pilot risks if he uses the ninth engine. Or if it breaks an engine in qualifying, last year it was back on the grid. Surprisingly, the Red Bull is very competitive, the Toyota also. There is an air of distortion of the hierarchies, with Renault stationary and McLaren in crisis. Only Ferrari seems competitive, as well as BMW. Everyone, starting with Hamilton, speaks of great balance. Not surprisingly, the McLaren publicly admits what they had all long since understood: the car is not competitive. The same Norger Haug, the number one driver of Mercedes Motorsport:
"We have to accept the fact of starting in the last third of the grid. We will have to make sure to improve race after race and slowly return to the top positions".
The championship will begin in Melbourne, and except for surprises McLaren will have to chase the top teams. The main cause seems to lie in the complication of KERS, in energy recovery system, which the team has planned to use on both cars, both that of Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainnen. In any case, Haug is not entirely pessimistic:
"I’m sure we can make up the delay, but we expect a very difficult first third of the season and we accepted this".
All right, who’s he going after McLaren with? Haug made it clear:
"After the tests the Brawn GP looks very strong. That’s what everyone says, but I believe that there will be many stables able to fight for top positions and unfortunately at the beginning we will not be among them".
Sensational statements because McLaren last year, especially in the final of the season, appeared impregnable. And because, of course, it’s the car that allowed Hamilton to take the title home. Could such a powerful team have overlooked the new rules? This is not the point, in the championship final last year it was so tight that evidently at McLaren focused on the development of the car in the race, evidently neglecting the design of the new, very complicated 2009 single-seater, that he had to comply with the new regulations. That would explain McLaren’s performance exploit at the end of the season. But it doesn’t explain why Ferrari didn’t run into the same problems.
"We have to accept the fact of starting in the last third of the grid. We will have to improve race after race and slowly return to the top positions".
Kimi Raikkonen, for his part, explains the new feeling he feels with Ferrari:
"I like the F60 more than I liked last year’s car, there’s more fun in driving, it’s more like the cars I was used to. The Kers is very interesting and easy to use, I hope it will serve for overtaking. I want to leave, put on my helmet and start running. It’s something worth living for".
It makes discuss the new calculation system to define the new World Champion in the 2009 season. Tuesday, March 17, 2009 the FIA announces a significant change in the way to draft the ranking: while the scoring system remains unchanged (the teams had proposed a 12-9-7-5-4-3-2-1) the world title will be won by those who achieve more victories during the season. Obviously, this choice does not convince all participants in the championship. Starting with Felipe Massa.
"The rule of awarding the title to the winner is not fair to me. A driver can win more races but maybe be absolutely erratic in performance and does not collect so many points and I don’t think, in that case, he deserves the title. For me the best idea was that promoted by the teams, which gave more points to the winner of the Grand Prix than the runner-up. If this proposal did not go well at the FIA, then better stay as we were until last year. With a difference in points increased between first and second, there would be a greater incentive to fight for success but it would maintain the need to be constant throughout the season: this in a championship that is divided into seventeen races, Not the 100-meter Olympics, where everything is concentrated in less than ten. I am not interested in thinking that, with this scoring system, last year I would have been world champion: I am interested in what is right for our sport".
Only later, Friday, March 20, 2009 in London, the FIA revokes the decisions taken on the proposal of the recent amendment of the regulation that would award the world title to the driver who, during the championship, would score more victories. The strong opposition of most of the participating teams means that the motion is discussed only with the opening of the 2010 World Cup. Therefore, both the scoring system and the awarding of the world driver title will remain the same as in 2008. Tuesday, March 24, 2009 the Formula 1 Championship 2009 has not yet started, but you can not say that you miss anything. After the revelations announced and then retracted (on how to assign the world title), the claims announced (on illegal broadcasts and interpretations of the regulation), the racist threats to Timo Glock, After Hamilton’s victory by passing to the last corner of the last lap of the 2008 Grand Prix, made for a never-before-proven high ground and not corresponding to reality, here comes the yellow of the failed mutiny. At least that’s how Bernie Eccleston tells the Times:
"Renault and McLaren wanted to boycott the Austrian Grand Prix".
The why is an economic issue, past payments remained outstanding.
"We are not going to move to Melbourne".
Flavio Briatore is mad, in front of Ecclestone. Next to the Renault boss there are two other people, Ron Dennis and John Howett: the top representatives of Mclaren and Toyota. An unpredictable scene considering that, primarily Briatore is in excellent personal relations Ecclestone. It’s just that if there’s one person who’s cordially disliked, always Briatore, it’s Ron Dennis. To imagine Briatore and Dennis as something similar to an alliance, is something really rare, if not unique then. Obviously, a failed union before it was born. Rejected by Ecclestone.
"What did I do after their request? I picked up the phone, anticipating my intention to call those responsible for the air travel of the teams to ask to cancel flights for the transfer to Melbourne of the two teams in question. It costs us a fortune to rent these planes, even if it is still very expensive to cancel them".
An answer that surprised Briatore and turned off the desire to boycott, so much so that no reservation has been canceled. So that the English businessman was able to recall his approach to litigation:
"Anyone who comes to me with a gun to their head should be able to be sure to pull the damn trigger. And make sure the bullets are inside that gun, because if you forget them, you should be very careful".
The scenario then moves to Albert Park, with the official FIA that the title will be awarded based on the points won, and not on the victories of the Grand Prix. Wednesday, March 25, 2009 Luca di Montezemolo is in his office-refuge at the Parioli in Rome, while in Melbourne, Australia, a new Formula 1 season begins. The president of Ferrari wishes, of course, not to break another television, as happened at the end of the Brazilian Grand Prix, a few months before.
"I hope that doesn’t happen. Also because Ferrari is there, we are ready, I don’t know if we will win but we are competitive as always in these years. But I can’t rule out a gesture of anger at the end. On the other hand, never in the history of Formula 1 has there been a final like that of 2008. Formula 1 has been an important, fundamental part of my life. The beginning of every championship gives me anxiety and emotion as if it were the first time. My wife always says: now the package is over, we have to do all the programs according to the Grand Prix. So I guess I can still break a TV. I say this with pride: I won nine constructors' titles, seven drivers' titles, 115 Grand Prix victories and 112 pole positions. I hope to always get bored like in July 2002, when in Magny Cours, we had already won the world championship. Apart from that, the races to interest fans and fans more, need shorter races, more overtaking and situations in races and clear qualifications. Today we don’t know who does the pole position is heavier or lighter. At the beginning of the 2000s to counter our power of Ferrari, practically every two years we had continuous changes. I’m gonna fight for qualifying to be the fastest. We shorten the runs by fifteen minutes, and we go on spectacular circuits like that of Abu Dhabi. Sunday I will stay up all night. I’ve had nights. I remember one in particular, in 2000, when after 23 years we won the title with Schumacher in Japan. No, Sunday I will sleep, and I will wake up in time. I am a suffering president, who loves to annoy everyone".
How’s the Ferrari doing?
"We are competitive and fast. But make prediction and nebulous. This year is even more, our single-seater, like that of other teams, has nothing or almost nothing of the single-seater last year. Then there is this infamous kers that creates further confusion, because not everyone will use it. And finally slick tires will return. And many of the drivers who will be racing next Sunday are of a generation that has never raced with this type of tire. Then there is an interpretation by the regulations of three teams, Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams, which must be absolutely clarified and that it would have been better to clarify sooner, also with regard to the credibility of Formula 1 itself. Our team and our technicians have done a great job. Of course there are unknowns. Ferrari is there, you have to see where the others are".
This will be an important year for Raikkonen. If he disappoints, will he leave Ferrari?
"Yes, for Raikkonen, it’s a clear season, because we still want the 2007 Raikkonen. But be careful: we have the best pair there is, in 2007 we won with Kimi, in 2008 Massa touched the title. I saw Kimi well, lean, pulled, prepared. We will see. The sum of the results of the two drivers is very good. I have a lot of faith in this young Ferrari, who grew up at home and I really like it. I have amalgamated many teams, what pleases me and have had since 1993 a great stability even in evolution. In the past there were internal controversies and divisions in Ferrari. Being always at the top since '97 also means that the Ferrari is solid regardless of what happens outside".
By the way, what’s going on in Formula 1? Is there a frightening crisis?
"No more fights. The Teams have understood that the time has come for maximum competitiveness on the track and maximum union outside. While before there was a big division that penalized everyone a bit. We made historical decisions, fifty percent of the costs less. It is also going towards the end of a Formula 1 that lived of a federation (Mosley) and a show business (Ecclestone) that, taking advantage of strongly different teams, we could manage almost dictatorial Formula 1".
Will it lead to a split?
"Mosley and Ecclestone did a great job. The first on safety, the second in creating a modern sport. We need to achieve a balance between costs and revenues. Costs had to be lowered but maintaining competitiveness. It takes a great sense of responsibility. We need stability, because we cannot disorientate the world with continuous, sudden changes; sustainability, then fair relationship between costs and revenues; and show and success, that is to maintain increased DNA of Formula 1, that is, competition, technological research to be transferred to the production cars. The goal of the association of teams, is to bring the Formula 1 by 2012 to the costs of the beginning of the years' 90 but without limitations. You can not say, you can not spend or mount all identical gearboxes. This is not Formula 1".
Finally, President Montezemolo is asked a comment on Lewis Hamilton:
"Hamilton is a great driver, Alonso is a great driver. The catchphrase on Alonso at Ferrari, I enjoy. The redheads will continue to run, life is long and you never know. But we have a terrific couple".
Meanwhile, Barrichello, the oldest driver participating in the Formula 1 World Championship in the 2009 season, struggles to hold back his dreams. The problem is that his car, the newly born Brawn GP, risen from the ashes of the uncompetitive Honda, for the competition cheated on the rear speaker, received an illegal aerodynamic help, if Sunday should win in Melbourne, the first race of the season, will trigger a barrage of appeals. And the beautiful, but perhaps we must say the sad, of the current Formula 1. A rich and hyper-technological sport that continues to show an almost amateur management of the system. It was not enough the war between the teams and Ecclestone on the money to split, the battle between the teams and Mosley on the maximum budget to use, it also needed the discord on track with three teams - Brawn GP, but also Toyota and Williams - finished among the attentions of the competing Formula 1 teams.
"Just got on the single-seater, I felt like I was on the F2004. Yes, the Ferrari that always won, mine and Schumacher’s one. A missile from the first mile".
In another world, since it has been talked about for weeks, the judges would have tried to issue a verdict of regularity or not on the eve and not after the first race, in Formula 1 you navigate on sight. The old Honda after the abandonment of the Japanese, should not even have run. Instead, thanks to the skill of former strategist Ross Brawn, not only will Sunday be on track, with Buttun first guide, but it becomes the main favourite for betting agencies. In recent tests, Button and Barrichello have humiliated the competition, and it is therefore inevitable for the competition to think the worst. The resignation is ready to turn into anger, with seven teams (all those who have a different speaker) ready to appeal, if the Brawn GP, Toyota or Williams were to win the podium. The first team to break the deadlock was Red Bull: Adrian Newey, the designer, however, referring only to Williams and Toyota, days ago said that their idea about the speakers was good, and to be considered at the limit, but now we are talking about an unpleasant situation, with protest as the only way to get clarity. Hence the need for a complaint that brings the matter before the World Council of the FIA.
"There are discussions on the legality of some machines, the Federation must decide, given the majority of the teams interprets the regulation differently".
Says Mario Theissen, the head of the BMW team. But, as widely expected, on Thursday 26 March 2009 the FIA rejects the action brought jointly by Ferrari, Renault and Red Bull against Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams, postponing the issue at the venue that Max Mosley had widely identified as the only one able to handle such a complex issue as that of the speakers: namely the FIA court of appeal in Paris. The double-bottomed speakers - as they are called by those who have not mounted them - give too high an advantage to be overlooked. More than the kers, to be clear: something quantifiable in half a second per lap. That’s why Brawn GP is so competitive, and that’s why Toyota and Williams can be nominated for the title of dangerous outsider. So if the FIA were to say that the aerodynamic idea of the Brawn GP is not a trick but only a brilliant interpretation of the new regulation, we will witness a frantic and expensive double bottom race. Race that for other teams, including Ferrari has begun albeit cautious. And that could last too long, putting at risk the entire season.
"If we are wronged even in Paris, we have no choice. We have to mount the double bottom. If the FIA also on appeal decides that it is regular, then we could not do without it. It gives too much advantage to those who mount it".
Can this benefit be quantified?
"Between three tenths and half a second per turn. Too much".
More than the kers.
"Don’t let me think about it".
And it’s cheaper, too.
"Do you not believe the story of the small stable that magically goes strong? No. Brawn GP inherited the project of Honda. A colossus. They have been working on this machine since 2007, with three or four wind tunnels it is a huge budget. It is nothing but a small stable".
But didn’t Ferrari’s technical department think of a solution like this during the design phase?
"We have not even imagined it. Because we moved it under the regulation".
How long does it take, in the event of defeat before the court of appeal, to adopt the same solution as Brawn?
"We could make it to the Spanish Grand Prix".
The first two races will still be sub judice, is a situation that threatens to upset more than a fan.
"We need to recover stability and credibility otherwise we risk losing both fans and serious people who work in our environment. In these hours we are working on the signing of the Concorde Agreement (the document that regulates the relations between the teams and the organizers). Binding the FIA to certain rules is the only way, that we teams have to have guaranteed stability in the rules".
And avoid jokes like those in the new regulations first approved against the will of the teams and then portrayed.
"We cannot think for a moment that that regulation will one day come into force".
Always in the name of saving.
"This is a concept that should not be misunderstood. We must reduce costs by trying to keep the value of Formula 1 unchanged. Starting from this assumption instead, we can deal on many points, including on the budget ceiling".
The Ferrari that opens to the possibility of introducing the budget ceiling is news.
"We are against it, but we can reason with it. The important thing is to have Formula 1 at heart and not to decrease its value. The proposal of a ceiling of thirty million is unrealistic".
And what would be a realistic roof?
"Between eighty-six and a hundred million".
Thursday, March 26, 2009, Toyota, Williams and Brawn GP, win the first battle and start the Formula 1 World Championship with their rear speakers that guarantee significant aerodynamic advantages according to rival teams, but absolutely in order for the race commission (the three Commissioners). The three teams will not be forced to change their cars, at the end of a day that has not spared official protests, written by Ferrari, Red Bull and Renault, teams that leave the Australian circuit at midnight, defeated. But convinced that they only lost the first round, since the three teams do not waste time and do not accept what the race direction decides, and submit an appeal to the FIA related to the complaint rejected by the commissioners. Complaint that will receive reply Paris, in mid-April, after the Malaysian Grand Prix. This is the epilogue of an endless Thursday, which leaves a climate of great uncertainty, predictable on the eve of the Grand Prix, since the speakers of the discord were spoken for days, and in vain many teams had asked for clarity to Charlie Whiting, the race director, unanswered. The controversy begins at 4:00 p.m., when the three race commissioners declare that all the single-seaters present at the Australian Grand Prix are in compliance with the technical standards of the FIA. The teams contesting the out-of-regulation loudspeaker expected a verdict quite different from the technical checks, and hoped that at least the Brawn GP, (suspected of using a double bottom that according to certain calculations guarantees a advantage of half a second per lap, much more effective than the kers, that the teams have been developing for more than a year) was stopped: the news of the regularity of its use undermines the already tense climate of the paddock. The BMW team is the first to announce a formal protest, which is rejected as presented out of time. Ferrari, Red Bull and Renault, meanwhile, are guaranteed an external support of McLaren: the British know they are in crisis with their car, and do not want any counter-offensive against the three rivals is instrumentalized at home. The McLaren team knows that it can also count on the support of Scuderia Toro Rosso (owned by Red Bull) and therefore decides to put the three judges behind the wall.
The commissioners convene the three contested teams, Brawn GP, Toyota and Wlliams and the resulting investigation, discussion with meeting and verdict, will take away more than five hours, but in the end, evidence in hand and opinion of race director Whiting, the three Commissioners addressed decide to reject the complaint. Sentence that doesn’t come unexpected. Ferrari, Red Bull and Renault were prepared for the worst, as demonstrated by the time it took to prepare the appeal. At 11:40 p.m. the three teams learn that the protest was rejected, and five minutes later the judges present the analysis of the appeal. The stamped cards, already at the first round of the Formula 1 World Championship, are inevitable: the classroom in Paris once again will be more important than the results achieved on the track. It remains to understand the effects of this clash. And Max Mosley, the president of the FIA gloat: his intent to break the Fota (of the Association of Teams) is now clear. First the budget ceiling, now the speakers. The teams, Ferrari in the lead, guarantee that it will not succeed. All while from Fota comes another threat to Ecclestone: the teams, in fact, are ready to form the new Pact of Concord, but first he must pay the dues of the seasons 2006, 2007 and 2008. Formula 1 is in a confused state, in an upside down world dominated by those who usually, in the past years, spent Sundays watching from a distance the exhaust collectors of opponents. Williams, Brawn GP and Toyota are the new main players. So he establishes the track, at the end of the first free practice of the season. Lowering the time at each lap, Rosberg, Barrichello and Trulli (first, second and third best time), impose themselves on all their colleagues, leaving to Ferrari, Renault and McLaren (tenth, twelfth and seventeenth) only the memories of past glories and many regrets for having focused a lot, perhaps too much, on the development of the kers, and little, surely too little, on an aerodynamic solution glimpsed by the most courageous teams and therefore faster since January, but not adopted (because it is believed, more or less rightly, irregular): we are talking about the now famous loudspeaker, better known as double bottom. An aerodynamic device placed at the end of the car, which according to calculations by Ferrari technicians would ensure an advantage quantifiable between 0.3 and 0.5 seconds per lap. A remarkable advantage. The drama of the situation, for the teams that have not adopted the double bottom, is completely evident. And Nico Rosberg, the man of the day, is thrilled:
"I didn’t expect to be in front of everyone. I knew they worked well but I expected the Brawns to be stronger than us. Were our speakers uneven? I know that the judges have studied them and have said that they are fine. That’s enough for me. Now I just have to try to stay focused".
If it is true that the free practice have never given absolute results - there have always been pre-tactical or at least different tactical choices, which lead the different teams to focus, more or less on the performance or interpretation of the best possible setup of the race, or simply to make pretactics by embarking more or less fuel for the race, the phrases of Stefano Domenicali, responsible for sports management Ferrari, do not seem to give rise to doubts.
"It’s not the case to draw hasty conclusions, after just three hours of free practice, but the first indications support what they had already seen in winter tests. The balance of power that had been consolidated in recent years seems to have disappeared; we are faced with different opponents and more numerous".
Rosberg closes the day on Friday 27 March 2009 with a time of 1'26"053, preceding the Brawn-Mercedes of the Brazilian Rubers Barrichello (1'26"157) and the Toyota of Jarno Trilli (1'26"350). The Australian Mark Webber (1'26"370) with his Red Bull is the only one, among the first seven of the day, not to use the double speaker. Behind him the Brawn-Mercedes of the English Jenson Button (1'26"374), the Toyota of the German Timo Glock (1'26"433) and the Williams-Toyota of the Japanese Kazuki Nakajima (1'26"560). Ferrari placed the Finnish Kimi Raikkonen (1'26"370) in third place in the first session, while he scored only the seventh time Felipe Massa (1'27"642). But in the second session, where more or less everyone improves their times, the Ferrari drivers progress less than the others and the Finn, while filing 0.6 seconds at his own time (1'27"642), slips from third to tenth place, positioned right in front of his teammate (1'27"204). Maranello cars are better than Renault than the Spanish Fernando Alonso (1'28"123 at the end of FP1 and 1'27"232 at the end of FP2). In difficulty, apparently, the McLaren-Mercedes of World Champion Lewis Hamilton. English had to settle for the 16th position (1'29"042) in the first session and the 18th position (1'27"813) in the second. Better than him also the Force India-Mercedes of Giancarlo Fisichella, that returns to the pits with the time of 1'27"282. Incandescent in the political battle, upset by the regulatory wars, since Friday, March 27, 2009, at least based on what happened in free practice, Formula 1 is revolutionary even in the hierarchies thanks to the use of illegal double speaker, according to Ferrari, Red Bull and Renault, protesting the use of this floor. Rosberg’s Williams is leading in both sessions, Barrichello with Brawn and Trulli with Toyota behind, while the Ferraris of Raikkonen and Massa have slipped to the center of the group and the reigning World Champion, Lewis Hamilton, first 16th and then 18th with his McLaren. Brawn GP’s concerns about competitiveness were therefore well founded, and the chronometer is a proof of this. Barichello fourth at lunchtime and second at mid-afternoon, Button first sixth and then fifth, with the two single-seaters that were supposed to be compressmarie cars, and instead they proved highly competitive and reliable, to the point of making to maintain that in race they will be even faster, seen that the tests of Friday have been faced with the full tank, a little' to hide is a little' to understand how the car will react in simulation race. Nobody imagined that Williams and Toyota, the other two teams with the double speaker, went just as fast, so fast that Rosberg, son of a World Champion, said:
"Here I can achieve the first victory of my life".
And to have Jarno Trulli say:
"I can play with everyone, and on my triumph, I would be willing to bet".
Without ignoring sudden protagonists like Nakajima (second in the first session) or Glock (sixth in the last session), one who had left his anonymity only for having been overtaken by Hamilton at the last corner of the Brazilian Grand Prix, allowing unintentionally to win the English world title. There is therefore little to add to the discussions that emerged in these first days of the Formula 1 World Championship: the diffuser, as admitted by Stefano Domenicali, team principal of Scuderia Ferrari, made the difference, much more than the kers, which in turn allowed those who used it to overtake - a little - the single-seaters who preferred not to use it. At the end of the free practice runs a funny joke: the Formula 1 has halved the wheels, divided into three, with the battle of the Moto Gp, (the first seven of the standings, six riders with the loudspeaker plus Webber with the Red Bull, the Australian suspected of having used little petrol), of the 250 (the single-seaters with the kers, seven other competitors, including the two Ferrari, the best in this category with Massa ahead of Raikkonen, the two Renault with Alonso faster than Piquet, the two McLaren, slow and not stable both with Kovalainen and Hamilton, and the BMW of Heidefel) and of the light 125, without kers, composed from Vettel with the Red Bull at the head of the group, while more detached they are the BMW of Kubica, the team (only of the lot) that has wanted at all costs the kers, and then only to use it on a single-seater rather than on both. A few hours later, Brawn GP moved from nothing to pole position. The British team has been around for about a month and can now dream of winning at its debut.
"The last five months have been tough: we didn’t have a single-seater, we didn’t have a future. Now we’re here in pole position, and it’s great".
Button says he took the fourth pole of his career. The last one dates back to the 2006 season, also in Melbourne, Australia.
"We deserved this joy, after the difficult weeks we lived".
He adds by giving credit to the executives and especially to Ross Brawn.
"It’s hard to choose words. The team has worked with great utility, has made group during the winter: this result is the deserved reward. Many have shared this adventure with us, there will be many happy and not only in our team".
The Maranello team is in a completely different mood, as Stefano Domenicali, team principal of the Scuderia Ferrari, admits:
"We cannot be satisfied with this result. We knew that apart from a team that seems to be out of reach, there were several teams that could aspire to the top positions. Today we had confirmation: the differences in performance between a two-seater group of cars are minimal and just do not make it to the maximum that you end up behind. That’s what happened today, particularly in the third qualifying session, where we didn’t live up to our potential. We need to understand what is due, and at the same time prepare ourselves in the best way for a race that will be very difficult and uncertain".
Less disappointed - curiously - the Scuderia Ferrari drivers.
"A spot placement is possible, although we could have been further on the starting grid".
Make Raikkonen, who will leave ninth.
"This morning a plumbing problem practically prevented me from taking advantage of the last free practice session: a pity, but better that these things happen on Saturday than on Sunday. The single-seater was certainly not ideal for qualifying, but I think we’re in pretty good shape for the race. A spot placement is possible even though we could have been further on the grid. For what we have seen today, it is clear that we lack a bit of performance, compared to the fastest but the race is very long and we will see what we will do".
Even Massa is good for bad luck.
"We predicted that it would be possible but very difficult to get into the top five and this prediction came true. The seventh place definitely does not satisfy but it is the best we could aspire to this afternoon. Now we need to focus on tomorrow’s race, which is going to be so hard. The first appointment of the season here in Australia, is always uncertainty, also because it is the most slippery track, and it is easy that there are incidents. We should try to get to the bottom and collect as many points as possible".
However, even Lewis Hamilton is satisfied, fifteenth at the end of qualifying but relegated to twentieth and last place due to the choice to replace the gearbox.
"During the first stage of qualifying something broke, in the rear of my car. I didn’t have any gear left, I couldn’t go on. The team will work overnight to fix things, tomorrow I’m ready to go to the attack. We’ll have fun".
Flavio Briatore, Renault’s team principal, is in a completely different mood, and around 6:10 p.m., he says:
"Ross Brawn didn’t win shit".
Then it continues:
"If we say that Ross Brawn has won fourteen titles, then we must say that all the mechanics of the Circus are World Champions. It’s the team managers who win the World Cup, or the drivers, not the technical directors. They spend the money. Not surprisingly on the podium, the team managers go to get the cups. Schumacher wins the World Cup, Briatore, Todt, Domenicali win the World Cup. Not Ross Brawn".
What’s Briatore doing in Brawn?
"As technical delegate of Fota (the association of teams) had the duty to report to the executive committee this type of situation; instead it did not happen".
I mean, according to the Italian manager, the head of the Brawn GP had to go to Ferrari, Mclaren and Renault and say: Sorry but we found a way to go faster, would we like to talk to you?
"He is the technical representative of Fota. One must know how to distinguish when wearing the cap of Brawn GP and when instead has a warrant from the teams. When Luca Montezemolo sends me to Ecclestone for Fota to negotiate, I’m not going to Renault. I think a technical director with the experience of Brawn understands the delicacy of the situation, comes to us and tells us: We have a problem guys, a regulation and two different interpretations. Let’s talk about it".
According to the FIA, Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams are regular.
"But that’s not true. The Federation always said that they didn’t want to go back to the ground effect because it’s dangerous for pilots. And instead with the speaker made that way we went back exactly there".
We just have to wait for the appeal...
"But I think this is a political thing that needs to be resolved by the FIA. When the Federation sees the times that will be done by the three teams, in qualifying it will realize the situation and will intervene. And anyway I thought it was time to move before the Australian Grand Prix. I reported the matter in time".
But nothing happened at all.
"We’re on the cartoon now. Think about what happened with the kers: they forced us to mount it, but the team that wanted it so badly last year, now runs without. I laugh not to cry".
What if the FIA says you’re wrong?
"It is not that McLaren, Renault and Ferrari do not have the means to use a system like the loudspeaker. Only that it costs a lot, and is contrary to the regulation that has always defended the concept of safety. But if we are forced to put it. And we’re sure to recover up to 40% of the aerodynamic load. We could also earn a second and a half a lap here in Barcelona".
What about safety criteria?
"We have pilots who are like anorexic models. To put the kers that is heavy, they lost even six pounds. Now we will give him in hand cars that have performance in the corners bestial: I do not think that they help safety, in this way".
Still, there follows a further absolution for what someone in the paddock has renamed the hole gang, namely, the Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams trio that is terrorizing the competition. Where the hole is the aerodynamic solution of the infamous double bottom excavated in the diffuser. This absolution comes directly from Charlie Whiting, race director and FIA security delegate, the man who on Thursday rejected all appeals.
"Briatore does not know what he is talking about, not the technical means to understand. Those single-seaters are perfectly regular. We’ve seen those single-seaters, for us they’re regular. The only way they have to get something is to go to the court of appeal and try to convince them".
The performance of the single-seaters under charge, according to the FIA delegate, are ordinary:
"They’re a little faster in slow corners, but they don’t gain three seconds per lap, nor do they get crazy speeds. Then we’d be worried".
According to the British engineer, the loudspeaker is nothing more than a good idea from the engineers:
"Moreover, even Ferrari has innovative solutions that are not specified in the regulation. But not for this, they are irregular".
Proud of his Toyota, Jarno Trulli agrees with what Whiting said:
"It’s not our fault that our engineers were smarter. But you’ll see that the big teams will be able to adapt quickly".
Glacial, for other, also comes the answer of Ross Brawn, that if on judgment day - Thursday night - he had admitted to having been a bit worried, Friday seemed completely refreshed.
"Briatore? Just be careful how you talk".
Adrenaline, emotions and unpredictability unite the fans of motoring and betting. But in this start of the 2009 championship, the uncertainty of the values in the field in the Formula 1 championship is definitely too much. And so while Ferrari, McLaren and Renault slip into the rear, waiting for regulatory clarifications by the Federation, the qualifications are successful not only by fans and fans but also by betting operators, Curious and perhaps a bit worried to understand the real values in the field at the Australian Grand Prix. The evidence gave their verdict. With the net result of the latest Brawn GP, which puts Button and Barrichello in the front row, is the defeat more or less heavy, the traditional big teams, such as Ferrari, McLaren and Renault. And of course, judges and complaints add confusion to a championship that is born in the name of anarchy. Under indictment, first, the Toyota, disqualified by the race judges, which at the end of qualifying sees the extreme flexibility of the upper element of the rear wing, excluding the #9 and #10 cars from the session for having transgressed Article 3.15 of the regulation. This means that Glock and Trulli, respectively sixth and eighth on the track, are relegated to the tenth row, with the benefit of many, starting from Ferrari drivers, Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen, who respectively seventh and ninth at the end of qualifying, go up by one and two positions respectively. In fact, the Scuderia Ferrari is also being indicted. Williams, in fact, protested against the team of Maranello and Red Bull, apparently for alleged irregularities on the speakers, in this case earlier. The matter will last a few hours, causing negative comments.
"We are disgusted".
Ferrari press chief Luca Colajanni said. Button on pole, so he’s at his side, his teammate, the resurrected Barrichello. The new Formula 1 season will kick off, with an unpublished front row, signed by Ross Brawn and branded by Virgin, the new sponsor placed at the last minute on former Honda cars. They are the new powerhouses of Formula 1, and to understand it, it is enough to see the enthusiastic faces of the few mechanics in the British team. Following the surprising Sebastian Vettel (third with his Red Bull) and Robert Kubica (fourth with his BMW), and the surprises Nico Rosberg, fifth with his Williams, and Glock, sixth with his Toyota. Only in seventh place the first Ferrari, that of Felipe Massa, behind the second Toyota, that of Jarno Trulli (eighth). Following is the other Ferrari by Raikkonen (ninth). Great disappointment for the fans of Lewis Hamilton (fifteenth on the track, but then in McLaren they decided to replace the gearbox and then will start twentieth, and then last place) and Alonso (twelfth) that, unlike Ferrari, never for a moment gave the impression of being able to keep up with the first cars classified. To make the difference, especially in the first two rounds of the tests, the infamous speaker, the aerodynamic element contested by those who do not mount it but acquitted by the Federation. Hence, the impression that much of this season depends on the outcome of the appeal submitted to the FIA, and in the likely event that the appeal should agree with Brawn, Williams and Toyota, how long the teams will need to adopt the speaker. Assuming this is enough, as Flavio Briatore, Renault team principal admits:
"Actually, it’s not just a question of how long it’s gonna take, but also how the operation’s gonna go down. To adopt this aerodynamic solution you need to redo half a car. You have to redo the rear axle and then see how it goes".
That all the teams will settle on the speaker with the double bottom, it seems obvious. Two curiosities, finally on the two drivers who dominated the qualifying. Button had not been on pole since 2006, again in Melbourne, while Barrichello had practically retired before being called back by the new boss. Ross Brawn. Meanwhile, the FIA makes it official that on April 14, 2009 the Court of Appeal - in Paris - will discuss the appeal of Ferrari, Red Bull and Renault, on the decision of the judges who deemed to regulate the speakers, allowing Brawn GP, Williams and Toyota took him to the race already from the first Grand Prix. The man who threatens to upset Formula 1, an Englishman from Manchester, born on 23 November 1954, a great eater of bananas, is not at his first exploit. Ross Brawn made Benetton great in 1994 and 1995, that cheerful brigade formed by him, the manager Briatore, the designer Byrne and especially the young driver Schumacher, capable of winning the World Championship for two consecutive times. But, above all, from 1996 to 2006 he was the great strategist of Ferrari, the genius of unpredictable tactics, wanted by all costs from Schumacher to Maranello. Ross Brawn was one of Ferrari’s time-honoured bomb squad, Schumacher’s five consecutive world championships between 2000 and 2004, the six constructors' titles, because in that case the winning line started a year earlier, In 1999, one of the iconic men of the team formed by Todt. Proud of his English nationality, in order to carry out his work and give a strong impulse to the rebirth of the Italian stable, he had not hesitated to move to Maranello, although refusing to learn the Italian language (so much so in the multinational Ferrari the technical meetings were held in English) and never really love the Italian way of life. He wasn’t fond of Italy, however he felt he was a fan of Ferrari, proud to become a magician of rain, with strategies maybe risky but always winning, to be able to raise at his school future brilliant tacticians like Baldisserri, Brawn was a favourite pupil. It is therefore paradoxical that today he is the main threat to Ferrari’s World Dream. Technical director for a long time, he dreamed of Todt’s job; when the idea of a Frenchman’s retirement circulated, the idea of filling that role became real. However, that project will not come true, when Todt, leaving his role, in agreement with Montezemolo, had already in mind his successor.
A well-known figure inside Ferrari, represented by Stefano Domenicali. Brawn could not agree to stay put, and from here came the idea of taking a sabbatical. He is then asked to accept a new challenge, relaunching the fallen noble Honda. That project only lasted a year, but it gave way to the Brawn GP, the biggest challenge of his career. Apparently he doesn’t have to run, no one wants to buy it, he takes care of it. Brawn GP is fast, the single-seater to beat. It’s scary in the tests, to the point of fearing a dominance in the race. Hence the protest on Thursday about the speakers by the opponents. All while Ross Brawn is about to conclude a sponsorship with Virgin. And if the exploit of his car was not real, it doesn’t matter: he showed that with his intuitions he still knows how to scare everyone. On the night of Saturday 28 March and Sunday 29 March 2009, twenty minutes after midnight in Melbourne, more than six hours after the end of qualifying, Ferrari and Red Bull learn that they will not be penalized, nor that they will run sub judice, because Williams is withdrawing their protest about a suspicious aerodynamic detail. What was decisive was the definition of a vocabulary. Williams, the Internet as a source, challenged the concept of surface, defining extreme only the protruding part of a given area, between the baffles and the bellies of the car, while Ferrari, based on the dictionary of Oxford University, has shown that outside is also the edge surrounding a crack, even if the hole is inside. Insignificant detail if it were not that behind the protest hides a clear warning. they will not be penalized, nor that they will run sub judice, because Williams is withdrawing their protest about a suspicious aerodynamic detail. What was decisive was the definition of a vocabulary. Williams, the Internet as a source, challenged the concept of surface, defining extreme only the protruding part of a given area, between the baffles and the bellies of the car, while Ferrari, based on the dictionary of Oxford University, has shown that outside is also the edge surrounding a crack, even if the hole is inside. Insignificant detail if it were not that behind the protest hides a clear warning. Williams, which uses the controversial double loudspeaker (as well as Toyota and Brawn GP, which will have to present itself on 14 April 2009 in Paris to defend, before the FIA Appeal Committee, the validity of this component), considered that Ferrari and Red Bull (the other enemy, the Renault, does not mount this important component, while it is common to other teams, ignored by the complaint), the teams that protested on Thursday, had mounted in turn an aerodynamic component illegal. It is not by chance that Stefano Domenicali admits:
"The motive of the attack? Don’t make me say anything".
So the purpose of Team Williams is clear. Even if everything results in a waste of time, and it increases the confusion in fans who already have to endure a sub judice race, and the disqualification of Toyota, relegated to the bottom of the grid for excessive flexibility of the rear wing. One thing is certain: Fota, an association of teams, swears to be united in the war to Ecclestone, but does not lose its vocation to disintegrate. Sunday, March 29, 2009, at the start of the Australian Grand Prix Button starts very well while Rubens Barrichello, started badly, touches Mark Webber at the first corner involving Nick Heidfeld, Adrian Sutil (who will return to the pits to repair damage) and Heikki Kovalainen (to be withdrawn). At the end of the first lap Button led Sebastian Vettel, Felipe Massa, Robert Kubica and Kimi Räikkönen. Meanwhile, Button gets off to sea and Lewis Hamilton, eighteenth, recovers positions. On lap nine the two Ferrari drivers are in difficulty with soft tires and Räikkönen is overtaken by both Rosberg and Barrichello, before returning to the pits to make the first stop. The next lap goes to Massa and Hamilton, then to Kubica, all started with the soft compound. Rosberg climbed to third place but was already thirty seconds from the summit, where Button controlled Vettel, maintaining a gap of four seconds. On lap 16 Vettel and Nico Rosberg stop, but they lose precious seconds due to a problem at the front and at the exit is overtaken by Räikkönen. While the others stopped, Kazuki Nakajima crashed on a wall at the Whiteford corner and a lap later the safety car entered the track: Button also stopped and remained in charge, followed by Vettel, Massa, Kubica, Räikkönen and Rosberg. Barrichello replaced the front wing, damaged in contacts with Webber and Raikkonen, falling to tenth place. At the restart Piquet Jr. He spun at the first corner, trying to attack Rosberg; the German lost three positions in favour of the comeback Jarno Trulli, Barrichello and Buemi. On lap 31, Massa inaugurated the second round of pit stops. On lap 38, Kubica and Raikkonen made the last scheduled stop. Five laps later, however, the Finn hits the wall and is forced to stop again. At twelve laps at the end Vettel stops at the pits to mount soft tires; one lap later it’s the turn of Button, whose belay is slow. But the British managed to remain the race leader, albeit with a reduced advantage over the German driver of Red Bull. In these laps all the other competitors stop, while Massa is forced to retire due to a steering problem.
Now Kubica is the only one of the first with hard tires, and is only four seconds from the summit. Nico Rosberg is fourth but starts to lose positions at six laps from the end, due to the sudden deterioration of the tires. The German driver is passed by Barrichello and those who follow. Three laps from the end Robert Kubica tries to overtake Vettel, but he does not give up the position, despite being also in difficulty with the tires, and the two touch each other: the Pole retires immediately while the German continues for a lap without the left front wheel. Following the accident the safety car is back on track, to exit during the last lap: the positions remain unchanged until the finish line, crossed by the drivers still in the safety car regime, and so Jenson Button wins the race ahead of team-mate Rubens Barrichello and Jarno Trulli. Timo Glock finished fourth, ahead of Fernando Alonso, Nico Rosberg, and the two Toro Rosso of Sebastien Buemi and Sebastien Bourdais. Sébastien Buemi is the first Swiss to score after Marc Surer (Italian Grand Prix 1985), while for Toyota it is the first fast lap of the Belgian Grand Prix 2005. After the Grand Prix, seeing Ross Brawn walking through the paddock serene and quiet, it is almost surprising that the latter is not impressed by the insults that are addressed to him by the competition. The British technician is told everything from classic curses to insults, perhaps enriched by some allusion to his naïf passion for bananas. Antipathy, on the other hand, is the minimum price, to be the most competitive. Especially if your name is Ross Brawn and you’re the man who upset Formula 1 with a lightning ride: from failure to glory in just five months. On December 4, 2008, Brawn and his team found themselves unemployed after Honda’s departure, brought to their knees by the credit crunch. from that December 4 began a difficult period, during which Brawn did everything to save the project, turning indifferently to friends and enemies. Asking for favours, offering guarantees. And who knows how many times, during his personal ordeal, he dreamed of being able to say one day, the sentence pronounced on Sunday night at 9:35 p.m., in front of the austere hospitality of the newborn Team Brawn GP:
"Today, gentlemen, is a very special day. In which I want to thank a special group that is reborn after a very difficult winter".
How was that possible?
"All thanks to the team. People who worked in the midst of so much uncertainty and with whom today I have a huge debt. From the beginning of December no one knew if there would still be a place to go to work. And despite that they made an exceptional car. Now, however, we must forget everything, get on the track and have a tough race".
But the Brawn team expects to be at this level?
"Well, the simulators told us that we had a good car. Even the data and analysis went in that direction. But maybe not so much".
A surprise, then?
"I wouldn’t talk about surprise. This car comes from far away. We had fifteen months to develop it according to the new regulations. Not everyone could do the same, some teams had other priorities".
Well, speaking of regulations, if the FIA were to agree with Brawn GP...
"The FIA has proved us right".
If the FIA were to again blame Ferrari, Renault and Red Bull on the issue of the loudspeaker, how long would it take them to adopt the same device?
"It is not an easy thing. In the meantime it is very expensive: it is one thing to make a single-seater with a precise idea and another is to adapt an idea taken elsewhere. You may have problems with suspensions, with the gearbox. It is not said that immediately the others, can reach us".
Brawn GP is the team to beat; even the sponsors, have changed their minds.
"The contract with Virgin is important because it allows us to save 300 jobs. When it comes to being a winning team, let’s first see what happens here in Melbourne. We tried little, so reliability is still an unknown".
Jenson Button wins the Australian Grand Prix, and he is a serious driver to beat this season. More than expected, judging from the eve, the English victory was almost inevitable. The Brawns are superior to all the other cars, faster, more drivable. And a lot. Behind Button, it’s no coincidence, teammate Rubens Barrichello, who with a disastrous start was going to waste an extraordinary opportunity, but was miraculous by the final accident between Kubica and Vettel, and the Italian Jarno Trulli on Toyota. Past the risk of watching the World Championship on television for the retirement of Honda on the first step of the Australian podium, Jenson Button enjoys his fairy tale with a happy ending and a success that he had been missing for three years.
"It’s a story with a happy ending. We want to fight and become competitive again. We must try to remain competitive with the limited resources we have available. The team has done a fantastic job, now we hold hard even in Malaysia".
Speaking of the race, Jenson Button admits:
"The first laps were perfect, but when the safety car entered the track I started to struggle. I could not keep the tires in temperature, the car was vibrating. I made a mistake during the pit stop, but it went well. It’s an immense joy after the difficult months we have lived, I can’t even explain what we have been through".
The message is clear: in Melbourne won that tiny part that has always struggled to identify with Lewis Hamilton, The one who couldn’t fully appreciate the coldness of the Caribbean champion and who would gladly have sacrificed a few tenths of a second on the track for a gram of humour, an extra joke. Today, that England had its own. Because Jenson Button, the new man to beat in Formula 1, is precisely the anti-Hamilton. Nice, extroverted, even superstitious (for this you do not cut the beard). All a joke. Starting from the name. Dad John wanted to call him Jason but at the registry office of Frome, a town in Somerset not far from Bath, they made a mistake and a name was written that does not exist. Every time old John tells this story, he risks a heart attack.
"My father is like that. All an excess".
Jenson explains. After all, it must be a great satisfaction for John these days. He was the one who put his son in a kart at the age of eight, on the runways of an abandoned military airfield. And always he to convince him to pursue this career. Now that in Melbourne he plays the English anthem, and people applaud, it may seem easy. But it hasn’t always been. In 2005, after a good season, Jenson experienced a period of misfortune that would have killed anyone. In England, because of his natural sympathy, he had become a star. The money did its part, with the first salary he bought a yellow Ferrari and with the second a yacht.
"Toys of a Rich Child".
He admitted that Williams' technical director, Patrick Head, felt sorry for him and for a career that was in danger of falling apart. Then on the scene appeared the very serious Hamilton and it was the coup de grace: the press downloaded it immediately, the applause ended and the first depressions began. On December 4, 2008, when Honda gave its farewell to racing, the personal crisis of Button, now twenty-nine, has reached the highest peak:
"A very difficult time for all of us, but it was the beginning of a fairy tale. In the last laps, this afternoon, I was talking to my engineer via radio and I kept shouting to him: If I’m dreaming don’t wake up".
And so here he is, Jenson, running around cheerfully in the playpen on the day of triumph. There he is mocking his father:
"More than tranquilizers, he could use a good red wine right now".
And here he is again hugging the man who owes his momentary success: Ross Brawn.
"Today it was great to see him on the podium, Ross is one who has won everything and always. Yet it seemed to his first victory".
Now, let’s look ahead.
"It was the best race of my life, I know. But I also know that it was just a race. And that I will have to make others like that. All my team has done an extraordinary job, today we can say to be where we deserve to be. Now we must stay, with work and commitment".
It should however be remembered that the whole podium is under judice: on the two teams - Brawn GP and Toyota - hangs the appeal lodged by Ferrari, Red Bull and Renault that will be discussed next 14 April 2009 in Paris. If it were to be welcomed (it seems very difficult) today’s winner would surprise the reigning World Champion, Lewis Hamilton. The hero of the day is definitely the British driver: starting eighteenth and with an uncompromising single-seater, he knew how to take advantage of every little space (including the mistakes of opponents) and reached the points area. Bad Ferrari, which were never competitive, ending with two retirements first Massa and then Raikkonen. Before they retired, they made it perfectly clear that they were far from an acceptable standard. The real news of the day is especially what happened behind the two Brawn GP: that is in the group that does not use the double bottom, where the BMW of Kubica and the Red Bull of Vettel gave a show imposing their pace at all, and giving the impression of being impregnable for all teams, except Brawn GP. The two drivers are not on the podium only because of the final incident, three laps from the end, which occurred just as Kubica was trying to overcome Vettel. In points also Alonso, who made a smart and patient race, very similar to that of Hamilton.
"My White Ferrari".
He cuddles on Sunday night at the Albert Park his new creature, Rubens Barrichello, the car that took him out of retirement, that brought him back on the front page in newspapers all over the world, that made him return to the podium after so many years, because one in the meantime had arrived, last year at Silverstone, but so impromptu, due to the rain and strategic cunning of Ross Brawn. That was little more than a flash in the greyness of his sporting decadence: the second place on Sunday in Australia, instead, places him among the favorites for the victory of the title, as in the good times of Ferrari, F2004, the invincible single-seater that doubled everyone and that Barrichello approaches his Brawn GP. The white Ferrari: so the Brazilian calls a single-seater who should not even have participated in the Australian Grand Prix, in Melbourne. A single-seater that ran its first kilometers only at the beginning of March, but that since the first lap made it clear that it would be the fastest of all. Barricchello was sure that his white Ferrari would not betray him and that, speaker or not, he would take him to the podium. Now the Brazilian is waiting to see if even Button, the teammate, will become a cumbersome presence, maybe the driver who give single-seaters and better material, as before happened with Schumacher. He’s back to glory for now, but he hasn’t changed. In the race he found himself in difficulty: still at the start, accident at the first corner, collision at Raikkonen during overtaking. But his white Ferrari proved to be indestructible, and as happened with the car of Maranello allowed him to recover. Barrichello tells, jokingly, at the end of the race:
"By putting a lot of emphasis on the rear speaker, it was immediately destroyed. Nevertheless, the single-seater continued to go great. I guess that’s not our secret".
In Brazil, for years, they waited for him as the heir of Senna; that dream crushed him, but in the meantime Rubens ran 272 races and scored 9 wins and gained 63 podiums. At home they teased him, because he was always behind Michael Schumacher: however, at the end of the 2008 season the Brazilian admitted that at least in one case, Zeltweg 2002, if he had not been overtaken by Schumacher, Ferrari would not renew his contract. Now, however, here is the chance given by Brawn GP, the Ferrari Bianca. Despite from Brazil Journalists would like that place to be granted to young Bruno Senna, Ayrton’s nephew. Double retirement for Ferrari, double of the Brawn GP, Hamilton third with a reborn Mclaren: this would be enough to make the Australian Grand Prix a very special race, but there was more with Trulli third, who celebrates with the team. Later, however, after hours from the end of the race the Italian driver was relegated to twelfth place to make room for Hamilton (he was later readmitted). Everything comes from the fact that in queens of safety car Trulli goes off the track, ends up on the lawn and is thus passed by Hamilton. Trulli, however, returns to the track and always in safety car overtakes Hamilton. The race judges, following numerous analyses, decide that the one of Hamilton can not be considered an overtaking, Trulli at that time was off track, while that of the Italian yes: therefore, is subtracted the podium to Toyota. Twists on twists, then, like that of Vettel who was permanently in second place throughout the race and then ruin everything with the help of Kubica. The two at a few laps from the end touched each other destroying the single-seaters and throwing in the wind an important opportunity for both. If Vettel was coming to the podium, at the debut with a new team, Kubica was very fast, to the point of being able to think of reaching Button. And so we do not understand the need - on the one hand - to resist at any cost, and on the other to attack head down at a very dangerous point. An extraordinary race, characterized by numerous overtaking and twists, even by the team that dominated, the Brawn GP: Barrichello started badly, then triggered a dangerous carambola and semi destroyed his car to then resist until the first post stop and then get on the podium thanks to the accident that involved Vettel and Kubica.
It must be said in any case that if the Brawn GP is competitive and dominates, Ferrari and Mclaren have shown however not to be so far away: at the beginning of the race the kers allowed a series of unexpected overtaking and especially Raikkonen and Massa have inflamed the minds of the fans, already resigned to the worst. On the other hand Raikkonen in the after race - perhaps because of the nervousness of the retirement - let it slip that already in Malaysia the gap with Brawn could be bridged. Exactly what the Finn refers to is a mystery, but it is clear that even in the technical impossibility of completely redoing the single-seater to have the same aerodynamic extractor of Brawn GP, at Maranello something must have studied something, probably an intermediate solution that somewhat fills the performance of the Italian car to that of the white British single-seaters. But what really happened to the Ferraris? The problems appear enormous, because both cars were forced to retire immediately, although everything for now is shrouded in the most total mystery: for Massa it seems that it was a problem at the power steering, while for Raikkonen at the differential. As for reliability, however, the surprise of the race is that of the Brawn GP, a team that has done very few tests and that - given, among other things, the stratospheric performance shown in the official tests - was under observation by all. But no: not only the Brawns have not encountered mechanical problems, but thanks to Barrichello have shown to have an incredible robustness. And, above all, an aerodynamic efficiency so high to withstand without too many problems several laps on the track with good times, even with the front spoiler destroyed. A surprise for everyone: if Brawn is capable of this, it means that its record performance comes not only from the magical and much-discussed rear extractor, but from a very sophisticated aerodynamics, from a perfect balance of the car, which those who ride the kers will never have, and from an extremely competitive Mercedes engine. In short, this year it seems that the season can become unforgettable, because in addition to the Brawn GP in the fight for leadership will also include Red Bull, Williams and Toyota. Ferrari and McLaren, you know, remain the teams to beat, always and anyway. As said, the performance of Ferrari is a great disappointment. At the end of the race, surrounded by journalists, Felipe Massa tries desperately to create a little 'optimism, but you can see that in reality it is dismay. Especially because the difficulties highlighted by Ferrari are part of a scenario dominated by Brawn GP.
"I am from another planet, there is nothing to do. They have a separate race. If they continue like this they kill the championship in mid-season. I don’t know if it will be possible to improve quickly. When you are so far behind, there is little to do: earning a second per turn so out of nowhere is not easy. However, in front of us there is probably only the Red Bull of Vettel, which is really good".
If then the FIA Council of Appeal, on April 14, 2009 in Paris, agreed with Brawn GP, on the speaker, other problems would be added.
"If that aerodynamic advantage is legal, we must also use it. It would mean redoing the rear of the car faster. We can’t judge only by this race, moreover on a circuit that is always difficult for us. Today we could have entered the top five. I was fourth when the safety car entered. I was very aggressive, with a particular strategy on the tires. But the Safety Car came in and canceled everything. Then I had steering problems, I had to turn right. I think with a perfect lap in qualifying, and a less messy race, it could have been better".
The tires were another theme of the day.
"There is a big difference between soft and hard. The soft are destroyed immediately, the hard did not go in temperature".
Taking stock, where does the Ferrari fit in?
"In front there are the Brawns, then the Red Bull of Vettel and then Kubica. Here we are more or less here, halfway. Raikkonen in a few laps gave him five or six seconds".
The only positive element is the fact that in seven days, in Malaysia we are back on track:
"Now let’s go on a real track".
A day to forget also for Kimi Raikkonen, who started in the worst way what should be the season of redemption. The Finn says mea culpa for the error that forced him to abandon:
"I made a mistake, I could even finish second, but suddenly I lost the rear, I touched the wall and goodbye race. In Malaysia, it will be better".
Until you reach the Brawns?
"It depends a lot on the rules. If their speaker is regular, it will not be easy. Also because here our speed, was not what I wanted".
There remains, however, the desire to react, as Stefano Domenicali admits:
"It’s a complicated, very balanced world championship, it takes nothing to fall backwards, but we wait to wrap our heads. Recognizing defeat does not mean giving up".
Ferrari won’t, even if both cars didn’t make it to the finish line. Because the picture is not exciting, but the race could have had a different outcome. Raikkonen, for example, with a different tactic and with the entry of the Safety Car could have won a place on the podium. In the aftermath of the Australian Grand Prix, Ferrari president Luca Montezemolo wants clarity about the speakers and expects his team’s reaction in Malaysia after the disappointment suffered in Melbourne. Ferrari’s president, number one at Fota (the team association), expects clarity to be quickly shed on the notorious loudspeakers used by Brawn GP, Williams and Toyota, and on the interpretation of the regulations.
"I expect clarity on the regulations, it is not good to start like this, with so many points to clarify. or these speakers are regular, so you have to say it and prove it quickly, which to us and other teams doesn’t seem like it, and then we’ll adapt; or else they’re not regular and then again you have to know as soon as possible, because those who interpret the regulations are not in line with the same rules, creates an inequality of benefits that is not good".
Beyond the story of the speakers, the Ferrari, in Australia was the protagonist of a real debacle. Montezemolo did not expect such a bad start, both Massa and Raikkonen retired, and for this next weekend in Malaysia he expects a prompt ransom:
"I expect to see, in a circuit less strange than in Melbourne like the Malaysian one, the real values in the field. I think the first Grand Prix of the season went much worse than we expected and expected. There is no doubt that we pay for the 2008 championship, which ended on the last lap of the last Grand Prix. We, like McLaren, had to develop the single-seater to the last, while the others have been able to work on a completely new project for many months. I think we made a few too many mistakes in Australia, but I’m sure there will be a strong reaction even if the single-seaters are the same".
The single-seaters of Button and Barrichello are likely to quickly close the Formula 1 World Championship, but also Williams and Toyota, the other two teams accused of using the extractors, on the track are impregnable. On April 14, 2009, the FIA will comment on the aerodynamics compliance of Brawn GP. Ferrari, of course, works to ban the double loudspeaker and the reason is explained by an experienced driver like Fernando Alonso, the first driver of Renault:
"You can’t copy the speaker, we can’t change the whole car. If the federation says that the aerodynamics is regular then the other teams will have to adapt and modify their cars. The process is long and complicated, and could take months. The Brawn GP is different from the other single-seaters, it is more effective. If they will let them run with these single-seaters, then we will copy their idea: Renault has already begun to study".
Ferrari wants to support the initiative on the regulation also sports performance, possible as early as Sunday, April 5, 2009, in Malaysia. Because even if the Paris trial were to blame Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams, eliminating the speaker of discord from the World Championship in 2009, the disappointment made in Melbourne by Ferrari must push the Maranello team to a sudden reaction. The question is what to do in such a short time. How to move to recover the gap against opponents, and be more competitive not only against the Brawn GP, but also the BMW and Red Bull, single-seater without the dual speaker, with the single-seaters already left for Malaysia and no possibility of experimental, and especially to bring new pieces. In the meantime, a loudspeaker similar to that of Brawn GP will not be able to be manufactured before the Spanish Grand Prix, which will be held on Sunday, May 10, 2009, in Barcelona. Ferrari cautions if the FIA wrongs her by testing a new loudspeaker inside its wind tunnel. The strategist Baldisserri, in Australia is categorical and clear:
"The speaker in Barcelona? It’s tough. It’s impossible before that. We’re not as fast as we’d like and we need to figure out why. It’s not just about the loudspeaker, here BMW and Red Bull were stronger than us and they don’t have the loudspeaker".
Is it possible that only an aerodynamic device makes all this difference? Did the Brawn phenomenon depend only on the loudspeaker or was there something else? The loudspeaker is an aerodynamic solution element. And there is no doubt about that. It holds the single-seater on the ground and in turn makes the difference. Because it would be reductive to bring the supremacy of Brawn GP back to one idea, however brilliant. However, Barrichello led the entire Australian Grand Prix, with the speaker damaged by a collision, and despite this his performance was far superior to that of the others. The fact is that Brawn is the product of a Honda project. A project that comes from far away. Last season, in Melbourne, the Japanese engineers realized that they had the wrong car in 2008, and instead of insisting they focused on the 2009 Championship, which was known to have a very special regulation. They missed a year, you know. And so they could work for fifteen months - and with the means that a colossus like Honda can guarantee, like three wind tunnels is a huge budget - on the car that was seen on the track on Sunday and that only accidentally in the meantime has intervened the crisis that bears the name of Ross Brawn. Andrew Shovlin, who in 2009 is one of the engineers present within the Brawn GP team, will tell a few years later:
"We knew it would be a decent car because we put a lot of effort into it and we started working on it extremely early, the year before in Hockenheim, which was about mid-season. We said, well, let’s forget 2008 and focus on the new rules for 2009. The only time we started thinking it was really fast was when we didn’t go for a test while everyone else was there. It was in Portimao, and there was a Toro Rosso there. They had not yet adapted the car to the new rules, they were with the old model. That was a reference for us. They were clearly the fastest car and we had pretty much recovered all the performance. We were estimating we’d be just as fast with our car. So we said, wait a minute, that means we’re almost two seconds faster than anyone else. Then we thought we must have miscalculated our calculations. But none of this prepared us for when we went to the pre-season tests in Barcelona. At that point we really thought, Oh God, this looks really fast".
At the same time, for Scuderia Ferrari it will be appropriate to solve the dilemma kers, which gave power in the straight allowing Massa and Raikkonen to overcome their opponents at the start, but which helped to quickly wear out the soft tires. Those of Kubica, without the heavy kers, have lasted ten laps, while those of Ferrari less than five laps. Friday night in Malaysia, at the end of the free practice, it was decided that if the tires were ruined so quickly, it would be better not to use the kers. Ferrari, however, also wants to see us clear on the issue of tires. Very bad with the soft, just as bad with hard tires. Now in Malaysia the latter are an unknown, given that these have never been tried, as admitted by Luca Baldisserri. Stefano Domenicali, Ferrari’s team principal, also admits:
"We have not lived up to it. Neither as performance nor as reliability. The left hub port for Massa, the differential for Raikkonen, two breaks, trouble that must not happen. And then missing speed, the problems created by the tires, a strategy perhaps too risky and at the end of the day risky facts".
Better to list all the problems, not to make the same mistakes again. Including the kers.
"It worked, gives you advantages in the straight, but it could ruin the tires. You have to be cautious, evaluate the pros and cons calmly".
As for the kers, one wonders if Ferrari was right to invest so much in us. The kers, a sort of gigantic battery that recharges when the car brakes and that guarantees seven seconds of extra power at each lap, was imposed by the FIA and BMW. The fact that today the only one of the two Bmws that works is that of Kubica, that does not mount it, is mocking and significant of all the perplexities that this device brings with it. The fact is that all the most important teams, Ferrari, McLaren and Renault, have decided to develop this technology.
But for now the result on Sunday wrongs them: neither the two Brawn GP nor the only two cars that seemed to keep up, that is the Red Bull of Vettel and the BMW of Kubica, mount the kers. Which, judging by today, looks like a bulky box and weighs 35 kilos. This second aspect, in particular, appears penalizing: the single-seaters with the kers, in addition to going slower, have consumed the soft tires in too little time. It should be said, on the other hand, that it was very useful at the start. New tests will be done in Malaysia, then it will be decided whether to put the idea aside or develop it. The next few days will be days of hard work and study of future strategies, as Luca Baldisserri admits:
"It is inevitable, because compared to the first race last year we are further behind. Then there were only two opponents, McLaren and BMW; we had an engine problem, but we knew that everything could be solved quickly. Now the rivals have increased and we struggle, especially in the corners. The single-seater is balanced, but it is not as fast as we would like. At the start the kers gave us a hand, but in the mix there are teams stronger than us".
Teams that started thinking about 2009 well in advance, while Ferrari and Mclaren were fighting each other in 2008.
"There are those who have five months more development than us, a heavy difference. We have to roll up our sleeves and recover".
However, the team principal is confident in the future when it comes to the Malaysian Grand Prix:
"There’s more grip in that circuit".
Certainly, since the comeback is likely to be already desperate, two perfect drivers are needed. Massa in Australia tried to make a difference, while Raikkonen, due to his mistake, could not win the podium. Beyond the aspects related to the single-seater, both drivers have the maximum confidence of the whole team of Maranello. Even if they’re viewed differently. Raikkonen, in particular, needs to demonstrate that he has recovered after last year’s personal crisis. He has the contract expiring at the end of 2010 but it seems that someone in Maranello has begun to get tired of waiting for his recovery. While Massa managed to carve out a central role within the team, becoming a sort of reference point. However, he has yet to prove that he is a champion, as well as an excellent driver. Rather complicated task in a Formula 1 that today, as rarely in recent years, is full of interesting characters. Starting with Fernando Alonso, and ending with The Two Young Sebastian Vettel, who in many of them are the new Schumacher, and Robert Kubica.