Rubens Barrichello's hopes of keeping tabs on Brawn GP team-mate, and Formula One championship leader, Jenson Button in the Italian Grand Prix could hinge on whether the Brazilian has to take a grid penalty before Sunday's race.
Team boss Ross Brawn has revealed that Barrichello, who currently leads the pursuit of Button in the standings at a distance of 16 points, may have to have his gearbox changed, despite reporting before qualifying that the unit, fire-damaged at Spa, would be okay to last the rest of the Monza weekend. The 'box was fresh for the Belgian Grand Prix a fortnight ago, but Brawn has admitted that it may not last the entire distance in Italy.
Any change of gearbox within the required 'lifespan' incurs an automatic five-place penalty, which would push the European GP winner from fifth on the grid to tenth.
"We're going to have another look at all the information," Brawn told Reuters
from the Monza paddock, "There's no decision yet. The fuel weights have just been published, so we can now do all the calculations and see how the race would run and then decide. I think, in the morning, we will make a decision.
"There's a reliability risk, and it's a question of balancing that against a very good qualifying position with the fuel he has got on board."
Barrichello admitted that he would rather take the risk, having out-qualified his team-mate with more fuel on board.
"There is a little bit of a conversation with the team about my gearbox," he admitted, "I don't want to be winning the race and have a failure but, at the same time, I have to fight for what I really can achieve, which is winning tomorrow. It's almost like, if I win tomorrow, you have a penalty some other time. But it will be very silly to be winning and also have a penalty. At the moment I would prefer to keep [the gearbox]."
The Brazilian was particularly delighted with his qualifying performance as the Brawn team appeared to return to form in Italy.
"That was probably one of my best qualifying laps at Monza and I really enjoyed myself out there," Barrichello enthused, "We had the ability to be on pole today but, strategically, we had to consider the pace of the KERS cars off the line, so we put a lot of fuel in the car and focused on what was right for our race.
"I had a great lap with the fuel onboard, and fifth position is the best that I could have achieved, so I'm really pleased that we got everything possible out of the car. It will be interesting to see the fuel figures, but I'm confident that we're in a good position. I just love racing here so I'm really looking forward to the race tomorrow."