Brawn’s run continues

Jenson Button maintained total concentration for an hour and 40 minutes as he completed 78 flawless laps of the most demanding track on the calendar to register his fifth win of the season. By Maurice Hamilton.

Jenson Button, unfamiliar with winning the Monaco Grand Prix, upset protocol when he arrived at the royal box without his car. Instead of adhering to an age-old custom that requires the first three finishers to climb exhausted from their battle-stained machinery on the main straight and ascend the red-carpeted steps to receive their prizes, Button followed the usual procedure and drove into the pit lane with the remaining 12 finishers.

Still wearing his crash helmet, and high on the adrenaline created by Formula One’s blue-riband event, Button somehow found the energy to sprint 400 metres along the pit straight to join his team-mate Rubens Barrichello and Kimi Raikkonen, who had finished third for Ferrari. Button’s fifth win in six races puts him 16 points ahead of Barrichello after their third clean sweep for Brawn-Mercedes. He became the first Briton to lead the Monaco GP from pole position to chequered flag since Jackie Stewart in 1973.

“It’s very special winning here,” said Button. “This race is completely different to any other. It’s a really great feeling and this is a mammoth result for us. It’s a long time since I’ve been on the podium at Monaco and I thought I was being directed into the pit lane as usual. I got out of the car and wondered where everyone was. The pit lane was full of people and I didn’t know which way to go. So I had to make a bit of a spectacle of myself by running along the track. A little bit embarrassing but it’s amazing how much energy you’ve got.”

Button had maintained total concentration for an hour and 40 minutes as he completed 78 flawless laps of the most demanding track on the calendar. Any concerns Button may have had about an attack from Raikkonen were dispelled immediately when Barrichello, starting from third, jumped ahead of the Ferrari before the first corner. Brawn had equipped both cars with the softer of two tyres available in order to give an immediate performance benefit but Barrichello was to pay the price not long after.

“We thought that would be the tyre to use to get away from the Ferrari,” said Barrichello. “It worked; it was great. I was comfortably behind Jenson but by running that close it probably affected my car because you lose a bit of the aerodynamics and the car was sliding more. My rear tyres started to go off quite badly as a result. I began to lose time and that’s where I lost any chance to fight Jenson for the win.”

In order to keep Raikkonen at bay, Brawn brought Barrichello into the pits earlier than planned for fuel and a switch to the harder tyre. The tactic worked but, by then, Button was 16 seconds ahead, his only threat being a loss of focus that could send his car into the wall. With two laps to go, Button’s 12-second advantage meant he was able to back off and savour the moment.

For the second race in succession Button lapped Lewis Hamilton, the world champion paying the price for a mistake during qualifying which had relegated the McLaren to the back of the grid. Such is the competitive nature of Formula One in 2009 that a strong drive by Hamilton could achieve nothing better than 12th place. “I feel quite satisfied,” said Hamilton. “I was stuck in traffic most of the time. I raced my heart out; it’s the best I could do.”

Meanwhile the president of the International Automobile Federation, Max Mosley, and the teams are closer to reaching a consensus on the proposed budget cap, which would see a year’s grace before a £45m limit is imposed. Mosley believes one or two of the main teams may be forced to quit because of the economic climate in the motor industry but expects Ferrari to stay, despite their constant threats that they would leave if the new regulations are introduced.

“There could be a higher figure (next year) and then going to the full cap in 2011. This is a possibility,” Mosley said after meeting team principals. “I think one or two of (the teams) may have to stop but nothing to do with these discussions. It is very difficult for a major manufacturer to continue in Formula One when they are doing economies in their factories like shutting off every other lift, turning down the electricity, not cleaning the windows, not serving coffee at the meetings. A company that is in that sort of situation is unlikely to go on pouring massive money into Formula One.”

* * * Lewis Hamilton’s rocky moment

AP

Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton thought of Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky character, a small-time boxer fighting to go the distance, after a hard afternoon on the streets of Monaco on May 24, according to Reuters.

“It was an extremely tough race. I feel quite satisfied though,” said the 24-year-old Briton, last year’s winner in the Mediterranean principality, after starting last on the grid and finishing 12th and lapped.

“I was thinking of one of the Rocky films. He said in the first film ‘I just want to see the end of the fight’,” added the McLaren driver.

The difference was that, in the original 1976 movie, Rocky was fighting against the odds and for his own self-respect against the heavyweight world champion whereas Hamilton is defending the title.

Hamilton’s chances of winning in Monaco disappeared the day before when he crashed in qualifying. He then damaged his front wing in the race when he tangled with BMW-Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld in the early stages at Sainte Devote, with the part replaced at his second stop only after 53 of the 78 laps.

Hamilton was left with just nine points to his credit from six races this season, while compatriot Jenson Button has 51 after winning five times.

However, the champion said he would keep pushing and hoped to win his favourite race again next year.

“It’s very tough, but we all go through it,” he said of his current predicament, with McLaren struggling to catch up with Button’s Brawn. All world champions go through tough times, and that’s what we’re going through.”

McLaren left Monaco empty-handed after Heikki Kovalainen crashed out, the Mercedes-powered team’s first blank in the glamour race since 2004.