Rubens Barrichello produced a strong, assured performance to limit the damage for Brawn GP at the end of what was unquestionably the runaway 2009 F1 World Championship leaders' most unconvincing weekend of the season to-date at Silverstone – but there was little joy for team-mate Jenson Button on home turf.
Having excelled in qualifying to line up alongside pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel on the front row of the starting grid – around a circuit that he loves and where he boasts an excellent record – the Brazilian very nearly got into the lead at the start, before settling into second place and focussing his attentions on holding off the second Red Bull Racing of Mark Webber behind, quickly realising that Vettel was not going to be caught.
Despite narrowly losing out to the Australian in the first round of pit visits, the São Paulista – who popularly triumphed in the 2003 British Grand Prix at the same track – coped well with a drop-off in grip levels on the harder-compound Bridgestone rubber during the middle stint to stave off the Williams of Nico Rosberg and Ferrari of Felipe Massa, and a series of fast laps right when he needed them in the run-up to his second and last pit-stop on lap 47 secured him the final rostrum finish, albeit some 40 seconds adrift of Vettel at the chequered flag and 25 seconds shy of runner-up Webber.
“I'm really proud of the third place that we achieved at Silverstone today,” remarked the 37-year-old – the oldest and most experienced driver in the current field – of his fourth podium from eight races in 2009. “It's been a tough weekend for the team and we knew that if the track temperatures didn't increase, then it would be incredibly difficult to beat the Red Bulls.
“The car has been well-balanced and we certainly haven't lost performance since the last race; it's just that we have suffered badly in the cool conditions with our tyre temperatures. I had a good start to maintain second, but Sebastian then disappeared in front of me and we knew that we were competing for third.
“There's been very little difference between the two tyre compounds this weekend, but the softer tyre was definitely better in the race so it was tough for us to do the long middle stint on the harder tyre. Still, to come away with third and the best position that the team could have achieved this weekend is very satisfying, and I'm happy to have taken some points out of Jenson's lead.”
Indeed, Button endured a miserable weekend in front of his adoring partisan supporters, with his worst qualifying performance of the season to-date in sixth matched by his worst finish 24 hours later in the same position. Being caught up behind the slow-starting Jarno Trulli both at the start and during his opening stint did the Frome-born ace no favours, and though he would leapfrog both the Toyota and the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen in his final pit-stop, ultimately his new lease of life on soft tyres at the end was to no great avail.
Lapping more than two tenths quicker than Barrichello in the closing stages, the 29-year-old was on a charge as he hunted down Rosberg and Massa ahead of him, but time was not on his side, and to come within barely five seconds of the rostrum – albeit three spots adrift – at the close was disappointing indeed.
“All points are important at this stage of the season and to come away with three from this weekend is therefore okay,” he reflected afterwards, “but it's been a very frustrating home grand prix for us. I had a bad start as Trulli was slow off the line in front of me, which left me nowhere to go. I tried the inside and then the outside, but everyone shot by me – and from ninth place it was never going to be an easy race.