A few days after the end of the Australian Grand Prix, while the teams are preparing to compete in the second round of the Formula 1 World Championship, Thursday 2 April 2009 McLaren team was disqualified and excluded from the first Grand Prix classification following a detailed investigation of the commissioners for the accident involving Lewis Hamilton and Jarno Trulli. The reigning World Champion, in Melbourne, passed the Toyota in safety car regime when the Italian went off the track, before slowing down allowing Trulli to resume his position. For overtaking McLaren, the Toyota driver was then punished with a penalty of 25 seconds that made him lose the podium and the points, due to the tight arrival of the drivers under safety car.
Toyota’s appeal, which seemed hopeless, had been withdrawn in the last few days, but the commissioners decided to overturn their ruling, stating that Hamilton, in the post-race hearing a few minutes after the incident, had made no mention of slowing down, then emerged from listening to McLaren radio communications during the race. The FIA therefore removed the entire team from the final standings of the race for providing false information, including the second driver Heikki Kovalainen who, however, had already retired on the first lap. The commissioners also removed Trulli’s penalty, bringing the Toyota driver back to the third position originally won in Australia.
Woking’s team declined to appeal the decision to disqualify the two cars from the Australian Grand Prix. In a statement, McLaren explained that they understood the commissioners' decisions, although the team believed that they were based on the radio recordings of the team during the race, which were not used as evidence. In the statement McLaren specifies that they mistakenly thought that the commissioners were based on data from radio dialogues, so they thought it was not necessary to discuss further. But it didn’t, but McLaren accepted the decision, sorry for what happened. Lewis Hamilton also officially apologizes for his behaviour on Sunday in Australia. The British driver, very sincerely, admits:
"In Australia I conducted a great race. When I was interviewed on television I gave my version of the facts. When the team was asked to explain the situation, the team leader, Dave Ryan, told me to explain his side of the story".
Ryan, thirty-five years of work in McLaren, was immediately suspended by Martin Whitmarsh and sent back to England.
"I’m sorry for what happened, I’m not a liar, but I’m part of a team and I have to follow their instructions. From this mistake I will learn how to behave for the future".
The lie told in Australia, which led to the disqualification of the two McLaren and the loss of the related six points, costs dear to team manager David Ryan, immediately suspended by team principal Martin Whitmarsh. The latter is visibly disappointed by the decision taken:
"I’ve known Davey for 20 years and I know how much work he’s put into McLaren. He is in the 1974 team and has always been a pillar of the team, where he helped win some world titles. Unfortunately, what happened on Sunday with the Commissioners in Australia was unacceptable to us. I apologize publicly for what happened. His decision caused us a great deal of damage, so I had to suspend him and he accepted the decision".
For his part, Jarno Trulli is visibly pleased with the FIA’s decision to give him back the third place and to have disqualified Lewis Hamilton.
"I’m glad the FIA backed down and gave me back my position. The Federation is unlikely to retrace its steps, this time using common sense. I’m happy for me and the team. Toyota has not appealed and I have not made any statement because the Federation was able to understand for itself how things had gone. They were very busy at the end of the race for all the accidents that had happened. I don’t know how they came to this decision, whether they investigated it or got there in some other way. I never said anything and even now the only comment I make is to say that I’m happy with how it ended. I have always been honest and I have never cheated. I am glad that the FIA has made this decision by reviewing the case".
Kimi Raikkonen did not start the season as well as he finished it last year. On the eve of the Malaysian Grand Prix, the former Ferrari World Champion declares that this year many things will change and may even change the fight at the top.
"We didn’t have the speed we expected. We were prepared for this exploit of Brawn GP, we had already seen it in the tests that were going strong. The fight at the top is open, not only to them, but also to other competitors".
Raikkonen in Australia practically closed his race against a wall.
"I’m sorry for what happened in Australia, it’s always better to start on the right foot, but it was just the first race and there are many more to recover. Make predictions now is early, let’s see in four, five races how the situation will go".
His team-mate, the Brazilian driver Felipe Massa has full confidence in the potential of his F60 ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix, considered more favorable to the characteristics of Ferrari.
"We are optimistic to have a more competitive car and to be able to compete with others, except Brawn GP, which is of another level. There is more concrete optimism than in Melbourne".
Massa also talks about the speakers used by Brawn GP, Williams and Toyota:
"My judgment is that they are not legal. Almost all the teams have prepared the cars with the rules that were on paper. Then at the last moment they changed the rules, and it’s not good because then you have to change the car. I think it wasn’t the right thing. We hope that those who matter will be able to make the right decision. Here we fight for the podium. The lowest step, of course, the third place, the first of the normal".
It’s cool to hear Massa talk like that, but now in Ferrari, and in all the paddock, the conviction is absolute: Brawn GP is unstoppable no car can take away the victory. Only the rain, and it may not happen, even if it is announced, could shuffle the cards on the track. Massa doesn’t see a winning Ferrari, phrases that make an impact. Yet he defines himself as optimistic.
"This is a different track than Melbourne, the tyres should not give us any problems, the kers, should be very useful".
Yes, the kers. For the two Ferrari drivers, there is no doubt, the Maranello team in Malaysia will use it. Caustic as usual Raikkonen:
"We have done many tests, traveled many miles, it has never caused us any trouble, I do not see why we should not use it".
Even more categorical Massa:
"Once again I answer this question but it will be the last, because it is right to highlight one thing: without the kers, we would be slower by half a second. It does serve, especially in a circuit like this, with two long straights".
The dilemma is whether the advantages in terms of engine power were greater than a device that weighs an accident and helps to accentuate tyre wear. Ferrari reserves the right to definitively solve the question after Friday’s practice. Massa and Raikkonen seem to have no doubts.
"Over the course of the season we recover, and anyway let’s not forget that in Australia, if I had not touched the wall, and had not damaged the differential I could have been on the podium, a result not to be thrown away. I have confidence in the potential of the car, we are quite fast and competitive and we can prove it here".
For Massa, it’s more a matter of track.
"Traditionally, we don’t love the city circuits, but the traditional ones. Also last year we struggled in Australia, we talk about crisis, then we arrived in Malaysia and the music changed, to triumph was Ferrari".
Not negligible detail that of Raikkonen not his. Massa was comfortably second, I touched a curb and went sideways, throwing away eight points that in fact cost him the world championship. He was another driver, less sure.
"The Brawn speaker is not regular, it’s not fair that they are so advantaged. However, we are not resigned, we do not give up, we are ready to fight. In Malaysia you will see a great Ferrari, perhaps with the help of the rain. And if it is not enough we will make up for it in other races".
On Friday 3rd April 2009, after Nico Rosberg set the fastest time in the first practice session, Ferrari redeemed itself in the second free practice session, where Kimi Raikkonen managed to set the fastest time, followed by team-mate Felipe Massa. Vettel on Red Bull is the first of the rest of the group, ahead of Rosberg, fourth and Webber fifth. The two Brawn GPs, winners in Melbourne, were sixth and seventh respectively. Dark clouds gather over Sepang during the tests, holding all the teams in suspense.
Former World Champion Raikkonen set the fastest time in 1'35"707, just 0.1 seconds faster than Barrichello. The Ferrari looks better than the Australian debacle, even if in the morning there is a problem that is suspected to be caused by the Kers. Nevertheless, both cars have completed one hundred and seven laps. Kimi Raikkonen is satisfied at the end of practice, but remains cautious:
"This morning we had a problem maybe caused by Kers. The car has the right pace and is competitive if it is reliable. We can not yet say where we are with the competition. We will see tomorrow in qualifying, where we hope to do well".
The doubt to Ferrari concerns the use or not of the Kers in Malaysia because, apparently, it has problems with high temperatures. Speaking of tyres, which in Australia have penalized the cars of the Maranello team, Felipe Massa says:
"The tyres here work differently than in Melbourne. The soft tyres here are better and there is more grip, they are good even over long distances. But I suffered from understeer in the fast corners and oversteer in the slow ones. Eventually the driveability of the car increased and I managed to make a great time. Of course, tomorrow will be different, but I am very motivated and with me the whole team".
Vettel is fast with his Red Bull, even if he runs into a clash with his compatriot Heidfeld. Barrichello and Button, sixth and seventh respectively, are looking for the right setup. The Brazilian driver will start with five places less on the grid on Sunday at Sepang, as Brawn GP decides to replace the gearbox, which this year will last for four races. The driver of the English team at most can start from the sixth position, in case he gets the pole position. His is the second penalty of Sepang, in fact also Vettel will have to climb ten positions, for the penalty suffered for causing the accident in Melbourne, where Kubica was involved.
Still disciplinary trouble for Lewis Hamilton who in the morning is fined for exceeding the speed limit in the pit lane. Nevertheless, the reigning World Champion proves to be fast despite his twelfth time, but is forced to face some problems in the last sector. After what happened in Melbourne, McLaren looks forward, at the Malaysian Grand Prix where, in the first free practices, there was a slight improvement, with Kovalainen even faster than Hamilton. The Finn, after the warm-up lap, made three fast, but found traffic. Finally, the team called him back to the pits to keep the tires Bridgestone. Kovalainen, ninth at the end of the second practice session, admits:
"The grip here was immediately good and the track was less dirty than in Melbourne. We made some small steps forward".
Norbert Haug, who has been rather pessimistic in recent weeks, has also confirmed an improvement on the car.
"We compared some tyre compounds. After today’s tests we are more optimistic because the car has made small steps forward and we know we are working in the right direction. Compared to a month ago, since the Barcelona tests, things have improved, the whole team is working hard to get back to the top".
During the tests there are some accidents, involving Fisichella with Force India, which came out at low speed, but ruined the suspensions and the left wheels, and Bourdais who however managed to get back on track, so Alonso, still suffering from otitis (which is why he had to give up many extra circuit events, in addition to the usual Thursday briefing). Buemi was also good, thirteenth with his Toro Rosso, while BMW struggled more than expected to find the right set-up; Kubica, in fact, is only seventeenth, and team-mate Heidfeld is even twentieth. However, at Albert Park the two BMWs also appeared in difficulty, but then Kubica had led a good race in the first positions, but then retired due to the accident caused by Vettel. The main danger for the race on Sunday, April 5, 2009 is the rain, which arrives in Sepang at the end of free practice, although fortunately not copious.
Saturday, April 4, 2009, at the end of the third and final practice session the Williams-Toyota of Nico Rosberg again marks the best time. The German driver drove 1'35"940 ahead of Marc Webber’s Red Bull (1'36"048) and Felipe Massa’s Ferrari (1'36"089). Fourth time for Jarno Trulli’s Toyota (1'36"132), followed in fifth place by Timo Glock’s other Toyota and Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull. Only seventh time for the other Ferrari of Raikkonen (1'36"322). The two Brawn GPs don’t seem very competitive for now, as Rubens Barrichello scores the ninth time, 1'36"519, while his team-mate, Jenson Button, is tenth with a time of 1'36"541. Eleventh place for the Bmw of Robert Kubica (1'36"563), preceding the reigning World Champion Lewis Hamilton (1'36"657), followed by the Spanish of Renault, Fernando Alonso, fourteenth with a time of 1'37"004. Last on Force India, Giancarlo Fisichella (1'37"398).
A few hours later, at the end of qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix, Jenson Button unexpectedly regained pole position. At the Sepang circuit the Brawn GP driver, at the second pole in a row after last week in Australia, turns 1'35"181. At his side in the front row the Toyota of Jarno Trulli, second in 1'35"273. In the second row the other Toyota of the German Timo Glock, with the time of 1'35"690, and the Williams-Toyota of the German Nico Rosberg, in 1'35"750. The Red Bull-Renault of Australian Mark Webber in 1'35"797 and the Bmw-Sauber of Polish Robert Kubica in 1'36"106, follow respectively in the third row. Seventh place on the grid for the Ferrari of the Finn Kimi Raikkonen in 1'36"170, followed by the Spaniard of Renault Fernando Alonso in 1'37"659.
The third and fourth time obtained by Sebastian Vettel in 1'35"518 and Rubens Barricchello in 1'35"651, as mentioned, are nullified by the penalties given to the drivers of Red Bull-Renault and Brawn GP. Vettel will start from the thirteenth position for the penalty fixed dome last time in Australia, when he was held responsible for the accident with the Bmw-Sauber of Kubica. Barrichello, on the other hand, will start from ninth position for replacing the gearbox. Felipe Massa’s sensational elimination from Q3: the Brazilian driver of Ferrari, author of the pole in the last two editions of the Malaysian Grand Prix, was eliminated in the first heat of qualifying. Massa, who made only four laps, got a time of 1'35"642.
"It was a small disaster. I didn’t get a perfect lap. We trusted too much, even though I asked for another set of tyres to get out on track. I thought I got enough time to pass the session, but it wasn’t".
It’s not like Raikkonen got much better.
"This Ferrari is not fast, we lack grip. It is not a question of improving in a certain area, in the dry lap we are not fast enough to beat rivals".
The result is a ninth time, which turns into seventh, fourth row, just because in front of him are penalized the arrembante Vettel, third with Red Bull, and the revived Barrichello, relegated to eighth place, right next to the Finn. Raikkonen is murmuring:
"All is not lost, here there is room to overtake with the help of kers, we can reassemble".
Comforting phrases that certainly can not say Mass. His Saturday was a real disaster, after in the three sessions of free practice he had deluded, led to believe in rebirth. His Ferrari seemed fast, but in the fatal moment it remained stationary. Not for a mechanical failure but for a strategic decision. Massa came out immediately in the first round, what reduces the drivers from twenty to fifteen in Q1, has achieved a decent time is among the first, thinks to pass and be in place. You do not take off the suit, this is not, but it remains in the car to contemplate the others on the monitor, with this torrid heat better not to tire too much and above all not to waste tires of soft brakes. But the others, they are serious, in the last minutes of the 20 expected unleash, everything lowers its own time, the Brazilian slips dangerously backwards, remains involved among the last, and will be excluded along with Renault Piquet, Force India of Fisichella and Sutil, Toro Rosso of Buemi.
And there is even the risk of making the same mistake with Raikkonen, who at the time when Q1 ends is fourteenth and saves himself from elimination for 0.166 seconds. At Ferrari there is no mention of those responsible for these choices, and the mea colpa is collective, but the Maranello team blames the blow and understands: a new era has begun, we must behave like a small team. The surprises continue in the second session of qualifying for the starting grid, as McLaren of Lewis Hamilton, only thirteenth, and Heikki Kovalainen, fourteenth remain excluded from Q3. At the end of the tests, the British driver is not surprised to have qualified so far behind, because he is aware of the difficulties of his MP4-24. The reigning World Champion has not reached Q3 and will start from twelfth place instead of thirteenth, for the ten penalty positions inflicted on Vettel in Australia. Team-mate Kovalainen will start 14th instead.
"I expected not to start at the front, because nothing has changed since the last race. The car isn’t bad, but it still doesn’t have the right cornering speed".
Hamilton expects a good progression as happened in Australia, where he finished third, before the FIA disqualification from McLaren.
"We didn’t disappear in Australia after I had problems with the gearbox, so we can do well here too, considering that I don’t have technical problems".
In the meantime, some people are celebrating. Brawn GP, which can now boast a two-year sponsorship by Virgin, and therefore another 23 million euros to be managed at best, continues to prove impregnable and its top driver, Jenson Button, new idol in England, explains to the British media that they are not interested in taking the place of Lewis Hamilton among the supporters of his country:
"I’m interested in becoming World Champion, not the idol of England in his place".
Obviously, however, the British driver is running for victory in the Malaysian Grand Prix. However, Brawn GP is not the only fastest car of Ferrari and McLaren: Toyota is also very competitive and Trulli, second, if it rains can even try to win. The Italian driver is stunned by this performance that he did not expect and that follows the positive Australian Grand Prix, where he scored six points.
"I didn’t expect this result. The track today was not optimal, but the tyres and set up worked well. For a few cents I could even take pole. We’ll see what happens tomorrow. I hope for a good race: starting later is more comfortable because it is cooler, even if there is a greater risk of rain. Let’s see what happens in the race".
Not to be underestimated are the Red Bulls, the Williams, and even the Bmw, which Friday exposes a complaint against the use of the dual diffuser. But since this is rejected, the German team will join in the appeal of Paris, April 14, 2009, to Ferrari, Renault and Red Bull. In this regard, Mario Theissen states:
"Ours was a request for explanations that followed the one already presented in Melbourne. There is nothing else to say".
While the Commissioners give their explanation:
"There is another request for clarity on the matter, but as in Melbourne we cannot decide anything, as it will be the Court of Appeal of the FIA on 14 April 2009, in Paris, to rule on the matter".
At the end of practice, eight of the ten teams present in Malaysia decided to change the engines of their drivers, to preserve their units from the great heat and humidity of this weekend. This year the rules on the engine have changed: if last year they had to last for two races, this year each driver has eight available, which must be used throughout the season. Therefore, all teams, except McLaren and Toro Rosso, decide to change their engines. Mercedes engines for McLaren and Ferrari for Toro Rosso, therefore, will be the same used in Australia last weekend. The four drivers will have to pay more attention not to over-stress their engines in the race, but they could have some advantage over rivals in the end of the season, as they can change an engine more than the competition.
Sunday, April 5, 2009 the weather does not promise anything good, in view of the dispute of the Malaysian Grand Prix, which will begin in dry track conditions. Nico Rosberg, on Williams-Toyota, managed to take the lead from the second row ahead of Jarno Trulli, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, who started from pole position. Jenson Button still managed to pass Alonso before the end of the lap. Barrichello, Raikkonen, Webber and Glock followed.
In a few laps the leading trio takes a clear advantage, while the rest of the competitors must join Fernando Alonso, who can not keep a high pace because he started with a high load of gasoline. On the fourth lap Barrichello managed to overtake and climbed to fourth place. At the eleventh lap also Kimi Räikkönen’s Ferrari passes Alonso and gets into fifth place, followed by Webber a lap later. On lap 15, Rosberg opened the pit stop lap, followed by Trulli two laps later. Button extended to lap 20 and became the leader. Meanwhile, the Malaysian sky, darker and darker over the circuit, threatens a tropical storm.
Looking for the winning move to move up positions, Ferrari decided to play early with Kimi Räikkönen: called back to the box for the first stop on lap 17, the Finn’s car was fitted with extreme wet tyres, when the track is still dry. The result is that the rain comes, but with a few laps of delay, when the tyres on the Räikkönen car have lost their effectiveness. On the 22nd lap it starts to rain in a discontinuous way on some points of the track. All drivers fall back to mount extreme wet tires except for Timo Glock, who returns to the track after the pit with intermediate tires. Behind the top four, Heidfeld, Hamilton, Webber and Massa follow.
Webber passes Hamilton after a fierce duel and then gets the better of Heidfeld. However, it was Glock who climbed up the slope quickly, turning even ten seconds per fastest lap. On lap 28 Barrichello, after passing Trulli, overtakes Rosberg and climbs to second place. In the next lap, however, he is the protagonist of a light off-piste that costs him a couple of positions in favor of Glock and Webber. In the meantime, everyone came in to fit intermediate tyres except for the German Toyota driver, who became the leader when Button stopped on lap 29. Over the course of the thirtieth lap, however, the intensity of the rain increases, to the point of assuming flood proportions.
Button immediately recovered the first position passing Glock, who returned to mount the extreme wet tires. The next lap stops Button coming out right in front of the German driver, who in turn has just passed Heidfeld. The safety for the drivers is no longer guaranteed and then we proceed with the entrance of the Safety Car. However, even under Safety Car it is not possible to continue and then the race direction exposes the drivers the red flag, which forces all competitors to stop on the starting grid waiting for new communications.
Towards the end of the two hours, the time limit for the dispute of the race, despite the attenuation of the rain, the race direction issues the statement that the Grand Prix will not resume, due to the arrival of darkness. The positions are assigned according to the classification at the end of lap 31 and then the victory is awarded to Jenson Button, who wins the Malaysian Grand Prix ahead of Nick Heidfeld and Timo Glock. Having failed to complete seventy-five percent of the total, the regulation provides for the award of half points. Felipe Massa’s Ferrari is out of the points zone, ninth, while Raikkonen’s car finally suffers a new worrying breakdown, the breakdown of the kers.
Due to the interruption of the race will follow many controversies. The drivers were already opposed to running at 5:00 p.m. in the afternoon, because in Malaysia at this time every night storms are formed, even violent. In addition, the visibility, since it is at sunset, is more reduced. The race had been postponed to 5:00 p.m. to facilitate its vision to the European public but this did not benefit the race, interrupted after about an hour, with favorable opinion of the drivers who declare that with this visibility it would be dangerous to continue.
Jenson Button wins again in Malaysia: it is the third seal in his career, the second season after Australia, already double what he had collected so far. But around his triumph there is a crazy and comical Grand Prix, started in the middle of the Malaysian afternoon, at a time, 5:00 p.m., bitterly contested on the eve by all the drivers, spun off without problems in the first laps, with dry track, solid torrid heat and some overtaking more than usual, but then annihilated by the rain, so torrential to prevent the continuation of the race and the subsequent interruption. Lewis Hamilton will admit:
"I’ve never driven in such dangerous conditions. Driving was impossible, there were rivers of water everywhere; lucky that came the red flag. I like to race in the rain, but it was too dangerous".
The problem is that the race direction took almost two laps to decree the stop. The curtain finally fell at the end of lap 33, but already from the thirtieth on the asphalt of Sepang there was a terrible flood, and the cars remained on track in extreme conditions for several minutes. In addition there was the poor visibility to complete the whole, since you were on the verge of sunset and darkness, which for days was a danger announced by the pilots themselves.
"We have expressed our fears, but we are never listened to".
Felipe Massa says, while Rubens Barrichello tries to take refuge in irony:
"I haven’t been driving in poor visibility since 2004, my last year in Ferrari, when in Fiorano we tried until late at night".
Another symptom of malaise of organization: fifty minutes have passed since the arrival of the red flag, 6:02 p.m., at the moment that the race would not be resumed. This is because the FIA has tried to get to three quarters of the race, the 42nd lap, and thus give drivers the full points for the classification, instead of the half expected when the Grand Prix does not exceed the fateful threshold of seventy-five percent. But as the sun went down and the track was wet, the drivers refused to go on track again. Fernando Alonso is the most categorical:
"I’m not getting in the car".
This, while Mark Webber, representative of the GPDA, makes a round of frantic consultations: everyone agrees to conclude the race, and the FIA is forced to surrender. How is forced to accept such a choice Bernie Ecclestone, who however does not change his mind:
"It was right to leave at that time, to favor European television".
So it will remain in the record a half-race, where it has become complicated to draw up the order of arrival. By regulation, the classification drawn up on lap 31 is valid: in this way, Heidfeld on BMW was second, and Glock - on Toyota - fell to third place. It was Ferrari that drowned most of all, with Felipe Massa ninth and Kimi Raikkonen fourteenth.
And because the dry defeats, in addition to a clear inferiority to Brawn GP, to a difficulty to keep up with Toyota and Williams, single-seater with double diffuser, and Red Bull and BMW that do not have such a speaker, are the result of their own indisputable mistakes, here is inevitable trigger the process. That doesn’t start from the outside but comes from inside the teams. The same team from Maranello is on trial, anticipating everyone, something that he has not been able to do in the race lately. Domenicali, Ferrari team principal, this time shouting:
"As leader I take all the blame, I take on my shoulders every responsibility, but even those under me must begin to do so. So we don’t move forward, we have to get out of it quickly. We have to act as a team, the things that don’t work, we have to tell her inside the box, not expose her outside. But it is right to look us in the face and those who have precise roles must take responsibility in a different way, to act more and better".
Serious accusations, which however remain anonymous and therefore authorize any interpretation. But it is clear that the speech also includes the men in the pits, including Michael Schumacher who is a consultant but who has been identified by many as one of the protagonists of the wrong decisions and proponent of strategic errors. About him, Stefano Dominicali remains vague:
"The speeches on the internal management of men we will address in week between us".
Of the former World Champion remains the television image pleased, with the thumb straight towards Andrea Stella, the track engineer of Kimi Raikkonen, with whom you decide to get him into the pits and mount the wet tires, Four laps before it really started raining. But the blame without recipients can also call into question Luca Baldisserri, favorite pupil of Ross Brawn, so Chris Dyer, who no longer commands the single-seater Raikkonen but all the engineers of the track, and does not keep completely out the drivers, who can no longer passively accept any decision. Sunday is clear:
"They are the leaders, we expect them to make an important contribution".
In the meantime, Ferrari, before facing the Chinese Grand Prix, will wait for the outcome of the decision in Paris, to understand if that of Brawn GP, with the speaker incriminated, is true glory. And possibly intervene to produce a similar one.
But what is so special about Brawn GP? Very, very much, and it is not just a matter of a special rear extractor: here is the whole machine designed, designed and then made to get the maximum benefit from the ground effect, ie the strong suction that literally attaches the car to the asphalt. Strictly speaking, the ground effect, brought to Formula 1 at the time by Lotus, is prohibited by the regulation: for this reason you can not have side shreds that rub on the asphalt. In addition, the height from the ground must have a minimum value and the bottom of the cars must be flat. However the technology is advancing and all the cars have come to have practically the same effect, while avoiding to seal the car to the asphalt.
An important technological development, made on cars that already have a very high downforce: just think that above 140 km/ h any Formula 1 car could run upside down without falling on a hypothetical upside down circuit, since the aerodynamic load far exceeds the weight of the car. But let’s return to the search for the ground effect, a technique in which the Brawn GP was a true teacher: everything comes from the rear extractor that, having a double channel, extracts a greater volume of air from the bottom of the car, thanks to the special V-shape at the rear of the aerodynamic slide. It’s a bit complicated but it works perfectly. It respects the rules, because it doesn’t interrupt the flat bottom of the car.
The team then completed the rest of the single-seater. So we have come to design a very low muzzle, unlike what you can see in other single-seaters, to draw the front air intakes that reach up to touch the tire, to put a vertical fin at the beginning of the flat bottom to convey the air under the machine in the best of ways and, again, the supports for the rear-view mirrors that convey the air where it is needed. In addition, the choice of Ross Brawn to use the Mercedes gearbox, smaller in size than the gearbox used by Honda in 2008, gives more space and therefore useful volume for the extractor, to take advantage of a greater volume of air output.
In short, nothing has been left to chance and this explains why Brawn GP is so competitive. And he also explains why, for those teams that do not have such an extractor, it would not be enough to put a double V-shaped one on the tail of their cars to get the same results as the cars of Button and Barrichello: to do this you would have to completely redesign the car. For example, Renault would not be enough to mount a double speaker, since Alonso’s single-seater is so low that there is physically no space to fit such a device on the tail of the car. And to think that at the end of December 2008 Honda, which had invested millions of dollars in this project, decided to withdraw its commitment. In this regard, Ross Brawn confesses that he has received several messages from the management of Honda since the beginning of the world championship.
"Many of these, in addition to the usual compliments, contain words of regret for having abandoned Formula 1. Moreover, it was too important a budget item to be able to be maintained".
And the patron of Formula 1, Bernie Ecclestone, increases the dose:
"They spent millions of dollars in three years without getting anywhere, and just when they decided to leave without warning nobody things went well. I don’t think any manager had fully realized the potential of this team, because if he had, Honda would have stayed in Formula 1, and there would be his name at the top of the charts".
Ross Brawn, in a moment of euphoria, talking about his top driver, also admits that Jenson Button was a special observer when he was Ferrari’s technical director.
"There is no doubt that we were keeping an eye on him as one of the possible candidates to replace Michael Schumacher, but I must say that working alongside him I can understand that it was really a mistake not to have closed with him at the time. He’s a pilot who doesn’t like to show off, I work very diligently behind the scenes. His way of being reflects his drive, clean and never aggressive. He is collaborating beautifully with the engineers, and this beginning of the championship has returned him to a new sporting life".
Thanks to the seventh place, the reigning World Champion Lewis Hamilton managed to conquer his first point of the season. The McLaren driver thanks the race management for the decision to stop the Grand Prix:
"The only thought was to keep the car on track. The situation was really difficult, I like the rain, but today was too much. I like the rain, but today the situation was disastrous, there was aquaplaning everywhere and I never ran in similar conditions".
Nico Rosberg, who finished the race in eighth place, had the honour of leading the race for some laps in the lead. Starting in the second row, the German driver managed to take the first position. Unfortunately, however, the heavy rain allowed him to conquer only half a point.
"I took the lead early enough and I have to thank my engineers for their work. The car went well and I pulled a lot to create a certain distance from the opponents. Unfortunately the rain made us fall back, but we proved to have the right pace and we definitely deserved to go to points".
Williams technical director Sam Michael adds:
"Rosberg’s start was excellent and we showed excellent performance in the first stint. At the change of tyres for the rain, we made the choice of the other teams close to us, also Brawn GP and Toyota, but from us the choice did not pay as with them".
The Renault team returns to Europe without points as both drivers, Alonso and Piquet, failed to reach the top eight positions in time, before the race was stopped by heavy rain. However, Fernando Alonso, who remains optimistic in the world perspective, does not lose hope:
"I made a good start, from ninth I passed third. I was slower than the others and I tried to defend my position. We went a bit 'in crisis in the choice of tires, also because I did not know how heavy the rain was. I am sure that in Shanghai we will do better and I remain optimistic for the title chase".
And Nelson Piquet Jr. adds:
"Even before the red flag was displayed it was impossible to drive and you had to be very careful to keep the car on track. The car was balanced, but we still lacked grip. However, we learned a lot from this race to better prepare for the next Chinese Grand Prix".
It’s a partly happy day, and partly less happy for BMW, that manages to place Nick Heidfeld in second place, but registers the withdrawal of Robert Kubica because of the engine failure. Mario Theissen, who has been denied the appeal against the technical solutions adopted by Brawn GP, Williams and Toyota, reveals that the team is studying to develop a double speaker.
"I think we urgently need to be clear about this, because any sport is only fun if everyone plays according to the same rules. It is clear that the double diffuser gives some undisputed advantages: it is as if in a race of 100 meters there were three participants starting with 10 meters of advantage, and it was also seen in Malaysia. For this reason, if the FIA considers this solution to be correct, we are already preparing one on our own, in order to compete on equal terms with these three teams. That said, the Sepang race was really good on Nick’s part. He had placed badly in qualifying, but with a strategy as apt as risky he managed to bring home really the best in a very difficult race: he started loaded with fuel and waited for the right time to mount extreme wet tires, making one stop. At the end of the thirty-first lap, the penultimate before the race was interrupted, he found himself in second position: we really have to approach his courage, he drove the car with extreme precision despite the prohibitive weather conditions".
Monday, April 6, 2009, returning to Maranello, the Ferrari team is aware that there is a lot to work to achieve success, but there is also a small controversy against those who use the speaker, as continues to admit the team principal of Ferrari, Stefano Domenicali.
"We have to take into account that the fight has changed. Last year for the title we were only fighting with McLaren, this year the situation is different".
Why Ferrari and McLaren are lagging behind the competition is tied to last season’s finale:
"We fought for the title until the end, that’s why we started behind the competition. Then it is clear that the machines that use the speaker have a few more advantages. At the moment we can not compete with Brawn GP and other realities have grown, such as Red Bull, Toyota and BMW, so the attention is different".
The first two intercontinental trips were a disaster for Ferrari, which returns to Maranello without having conquered any points in the standings. In Australia both drivers have retired, in Malaysia the situation has not improved much, if you consider that, after being the fastest cars of Friday’s practice, other wrong strategies have not allowed Ferrari to return to the front. Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali is not happy with the situation.
"There is a lot of disappointment about leaving this circuit empty-handed. We made some wrong decisions, especially on Raikkonen’s pit stop. We had bad indications about the storm coming, which occurred later than expected. Felipe was more unlucky. It was a matter of seconds and Felipe could have done well. However, we must not panic and change approach to the races compared to the past, because now the hierarchies have changed".
All this has forced - for the first time - Domenicali to raise his voice in the pits, in front of journalists, in order to put an end to this embarrassing situation as soon as possible. Nor is Luca Baldisseri hiding, who candidly admits:
"Let’s not make excuses, ours was another disastrous race. We come out empty-handed again. Everything seems to go wrong. It’s not just the rain, because even in the dry our pace is not yet at the top. This is our situation. Now we must get to work as soon as possible".
After the mistake made in qualifying with Massa, to suffer the failed winning strategy during the race was Raikkonen, who does not deny his disappointment. The Finnish driver was fifth when it was decided to mount the heavy rain tyres, but the downpours arrived late than expected and so Raikkonen was already with worn tires when they became necessary.
"We can’t say we started well this year. In Melbourne I made a mistake, here was the team. During the rain I also had a problem with the gearbox, however the race was always very open, but even this time we took points".
Massa, who finished in ninth place after starting sixteenth, admits to having had many uncertainties about the use of the correct set of tires:
"The race was pretty chaotic. When we put the tires for heavy rain rained little, when we decided for the midway came down the flood. Too bad because I could have made points. We have to analyze the situation and the mistakes made, without making revolutions. In the field you can make mistakes, we have not suddenly become stupid. Now we have to face the situation with a different approach".
It was from 1992 that Ferrari did not collect points in the first two races of the season.
"We are too gentrified, now we need a deep bath of humility".
Says the president of Ferrari, in a long meeting held Monday, April 6, 2009 with the team. A two-and-a-half-hour meeting, and loud.
"Because I no longer want to find the Ferrari on Scherzi a Parte - an Italian television satire program - after every race".
A very harsh rash. It also happened at the time of Todt and Brawn, it is not a sign of the times, even if the current ones for Ferrari turn into two races at zero points. They’re the meanest in terms of results in 17 years. In times of difficulty, Montezemolo recalls the pride of Maranello:
"That in this group is very strong, and will allow us to get out of this situation as soon as possible".
Shock therapy involves more, but perhaps it would be better to say a better, taking responsibility by all the team leaders, each for their own area of expertise, that invitation to decide well is better, as he had invoked immediately after the Sunday race, the summit of the formation on track to which the president renews his esteem.
"I found people very angry with themselves, angry at their mistakes, but also determined to react".
A comeback that touches two aspects: the technical one, with the run-up of Brawn GP and aerodynamic improvements that should already arrive in the next race in China, is that of pit work, so far confused, punctuated by a wrong approach. The humility recalled gives Montezemolo, and that must return as soon as perfect, since with a car in difficulty in terms of performance every strategic mistake is likely to be paid dearly and is no longer allowed. As for the Schumacher case, which ended up in the crosshairs of critics as a bad adviser in the wrong tactical choices of Malaysia, Maranello is completely ignored. The former German driver is not mentioned during the meeting, although it is already known that for several Grands Prix, starting with China, he will not be present in the pits.
"We must react immediately. From the point of view of the track we must make sure that people with certain responsibilities make the right decisions. In view of the Chinese Grand Prix, we need to develop aerodynamics. This, at the moment, is the most critical point of the single-seater".
The controversy over the role of Schumacher speaks to his prosecutor, Wili Weber:
"These criticisms are completely stupid, but since everyone knows Micheal it is easy to attack".
Rather, in Maranello the verdict of the Paris Council of Appeal of 14 April 2009 is anxiously awaited: if the speaker of the Brawn GP, will be considered regular, the race has already started to mount a similar one, which cannot happen before 10 May 2009 in Barcelona. For the moment we go ahead with this machine and with the renewed confidence in his men expressed by Montezemolo.
It’s even worse at McLaren, where the fate of Martin Whitmarsh, the team manager who replaced Ron Dennis this year, hangs in the balance with less luck than his predecessor. Whitmarsh, after Melbourne’s disqualification, could have resigned, but preferred not to do so, leaving the shareholders of Woking’s team to decide his fate.
"I haven’t resigned this weekend. We have a commitment that we have to keep. From this experience we will learn, knowing that we have the potential to improve. But I have to take into account looking at what is best for the team".
As for what happened in Australia, who was the most disappointed of all is Lewis Hamilton, who had spread the word that he could leave the team he grew up with. In this regard, however, Whitmarsh admits he knows nothing and has asked Anthony Hamilton, Lewis' father and manager, to explain himself. They both admitted that they never talked to Mosley, or even thought of leaving. However, Hamilton has decided to publicly confess what happened, apologizing. The British driver could thus escape unscathed from the investigation of the FIA. Martin Whitmarsh, fifty and twenty years of career in McLaren, admits to having thought about the farewell:
"It’s not a good time for me. I’m thinking about revising my future, but the shareholders will decide my fate. The criticisms that can be levelled at me relate to the fact that I went on holiday, leaving Australia on Sunday evening. So I learned of the problem of communication with the commissioners only Wednesday, arrived like a bolt from the blue. Frankly, I had no idea what had happened and that the question could still be opened here in Sepang. I didn’t know about the controversy until Wednesday, and I had to make a decision on Friday to dismiss David Ryan as a necessary act, even though I’m sure he didn’t want to cheat. On Thursday night I realized what had happened and so I made my public apologies to everyone, the media, the FIA, the president of the FIA and the World Motor Sport Council. From this lesson we will learn something not to run into similar mistakes".
At the moment the only one to pay was the Sports Director David Ryan, removed from the team by the same Whitmarsh, on the eve of free practice in Sepang, then fired Tuesday, April 7, 2009, as stated by McLaren, issuing a press release admitting that the contract between the parties has been terminated and the former sports director is no longer part of the Anglo-German team. However, McLaren, already a repeat offender due to the spy story, risks being further sanctioned by the FIA based on what happened in Melbourne, having made Hamilton lie about Trulli overtaking him. Now we await the report of the commissioners to the FIA, where Max Mosley will decide the penalty to be applied. Woking’s team, in fact, will have to appear before the World Motor Sport Council on 29 April 2009, which will meet in extraordinary session, to discuss what happened in Melbourne.