26 April 2009
Button back on top in Bahrain as Toyota wait goes on
Jenson Button confounded pre-race predictions to take his third win out of four in 2009 in the Bahrain Grand Prix, shattering Toyota's dreams in Sakhir with a superb performance that proved though they may have been somewhat down in qualifying, Brawn GP were far from out of contention come race day.
Indeed, the Formula 1 World Championship leader's triumph was all-the-more impressive given the ex-Honda F1 outfit had been forced to cut out some of the bodywork on its Mercedes-powered BGP 001s on the grid due to overheating issues, compromising to some extent the car's aerodynamic prowess.
The pivotal moment of the race came on lap two, when Button – who had been leapfrogged by countryman Lewis Hamilton at the start – dived down the inside of the McLaren-Mercedes into turn one to snatch back third place, and from there a solid first stint and strong pace throughout saw the 29-year-old prevail from Shanghai star Sebastian Vettel and brakes-wary pole-sitter Jarno Trulli...meaning Toyota's seemingly interminable wait for its breakthrough grand prix victory goes on.
A textbook getaway from Timo Glock when the lights went out enabled the German to out-drag his pole-sitting team-mate into the first corner, as defending world champion Hamilton put his KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) to perfect use to fight his way past both Button and Vettel into turn one. The British star would go on to attack Trulli too over the course of the opening lap, fleetingly getting by the Italian to spoil Toyota's perfect symmetry, before a mistake allowed the Pescara native back past again to re-establish the status quo.
Behind the leaders, Button wasted little time in finding a way past compatriot Hamilton, diving neatly by into the first corner at the start of the second lap, with the Stevenage-born ace then going on to frustrate the ambitions of Vettel behind in fifth, as Button made good his escape and set off after hunting down the two Toyotas and his Brawn GP team-mate Rubens Barrichello rounded out the top six.
There was considerable action further down the field, too, with drivers running three-abreast through some corners, with Barrichello nudging Felipe Massa into Ferrari team-mate Raikkonen into the first corner and BMW-Sauber ace Robert Kubica and Williams' Kazuki Nakajima both having to pit for new noses – in the Pole's case, his third in the space of just two races. Massa, too, had to pit – ending the Brazilian's already slim hopes of making it a hat-trick of victories in the desert kingdom.
Whilst the Toyotas traded lap times at the front of the pack, perhaps critically they were only inching away from Button, with Hamilton staving off Vettel's attentions several seconds further back. Crucially, too, Glock and Trulli both pitted earlier than expected – the former on lap ten and the latter on lap eleven. With both rejoining in traffic – Trulli now ahead of Glock – Button was able to jump the pair of them following his own first pit visit a handful of laps later.
Hamilton, too, was a beneficiary of the opening round of stops, exiting his own in-between the two Toyotas, with Trulli engaging in an entertaining battle with former team-mate Fernando Alonso that saw the pair run side-by-side and very nearly touch as the Spaniard exploited the KERS on his Renault to eventually find a way by. Glock, too, was tussling with countryman Nico Rosberg in his heavily-fuelled Williams, but the upshot of it all was that Button was clear – and pulling away.
Vettel was not quite so fortunate, his early stint behind Hamilton seeing the young German narrowly fail to get by Trulli when he rejoined the fray from his stop, but with the Toyotas using the middle stint to get their lesser-favoured medium-compound 'prime' tyres out of the way, Button was able to scamper away, soon boasting a seven-second advantage over Trulli, who was backing Vettel and Hamilton up into the charging Barrichello in fifth as the race began to swing in Brawn's favour all of a sudden. The latter was another man to enjoy a close scrap, having earlier battled tooth-and-nail to find his way by fellow Brazilian Nelsinho Piquet in the second Renault, trying every which way and eventually having to throw caution to the wind as he aimed his car down the inside into turn one and simply hoped he could slow it down in time for the apex. He could.
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