F1: Australian Grand Prix live blog

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarSunday, March 29th, 2009

 
 

It’s time for the opening Grand Prix of the season and fans up and down the land are up at the crack of dawn to find out whether Jenson Button can win from pole, whether Lewis Hamilton can finish the race and whether David Coulthard can make it through to 9am without swearing on air.

It’s the first real test of the new cars in a year when the form book has been torn up and the grid dramatically reversed. The race will begin under a cloud as protests against three different teams remain outstanding.

Can Brawn keep the fairytale alive or will reliability issues fell them? Have Ferrari been keeping their light under a bushel, or are they genuinely a second behind Brawn? Will rioting Fleetwood Mac fans storm Broadcasting House?

And can all those wide front wings really make it round the first corner still attached to the cars? Stick with us for the next two hours to find out…

(As always with these live blogs, the most recent update is directly below this line.)

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Podium: And it’s our ideal end to the race – just the one tune being played up there, British team and British driver. How bloody unexpectedly lucky we are to have two entries in this particular draw this year. As Lewis Hamilton has showed today, he will be in the mix as the season goes on.

Ross Brawn is cowering behind the large, circular, Wimbledon Ladies-style trophy as his drivers do their level best to drench him in champagne.

Toyota have the better-trained mechanics. When Trulli drops them a bottle of champers, they catch it. When Rubens Barrichello does the same, the Brawn lot drop it. That’s something they need to get in line, along with pitstop drill.

DC points out that this is the first 1-2 for ages – it hasn’t been such a feature since Ross Brawn left Ferrari… oh, wait…

Hamilton says he was very happy with fourth: “Very happy with those points. The car is what it is at the moment but we’ve got a lot of work going on at the factory. Step by step, we will score points.”

But wait, midnight could come and that sleek Brawn GP machine could turn into a pumpkin. James Allen reminds us on Twitter that the Brawn car design is under appeal: “Don’t forget that this could all be taken away if Brawn lose the appeal on April 14th… it remains a possibility.”

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Post-race: Ross Brawn tells his drivers on the radio: “Sensational job, gentlemen, sensational job. You both deserve it.” Button replies: “Thank you, you’re a legend. This is going to be a great year.” Lewis Hamilton officially fourth, Trulli third. A great result for two drivers who started at the back and in the pit lane respectively.

Button gets out of his car and his first move is to cross over to Barrichello and give him a hug. Some considerable celebrations, as you may imagine. Ross Brawn has a face-splitting grin and is joining in the general touchy-feeliness. There’s a football chant going up.

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Lap 58: Trulli is third ahead of Hamilton – so one of them has overtaken illegally. The safety car comes in and there’s a few last moments of racing. Brawn have made history with a 1-2 in their first race.

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Lap 56: Three laps left – and all eyes are on Kubica. He makes a move, Vettel has to drop back. Kubica hits Vettel and takes off his nose. Kubica’s car is wrecked and both have to stop. Safety car and wheels everywhere. This could be a Brawn 1-2 and there’s so much debris about this could be the end. Hamilton is up to third, somehow, having taken Trulli.

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Lap 55: Button has a 2.5 sec lead with four laps left. Kubica much faster than Vettel and is hassling him. Alonso passes Rosberg. Kubica now 0.7 secs behind.

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Lap 54: Trulli now having a look at Rosberg. Hamilton is lining him up next. If it’s his tyres then Button could be next. Hamilton is straight past and up to seventh. Good lad!

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Lap 53: Glock manages to barge his way past Alonso and Barrichello has taken Rosberg for fourth. Rosberg falling back quickly and may have problems. At the front, it’s a question of whether Kubica can get past Vettel to threaten Button.

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Lap 52: Barrichello pits, releasing Kubica. He rejoins behind Rosberg in fifth. First three are Button, Vettel, Kubica with both the second- and third-placed drivers looking rather dangerous with seven left. A bum-clenching point in the race for Button fans.

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Lap 51: Glock and Buemi side by side out of the pit lane. A great fight in which Buemi takes the place then Glock takes it back. He’s ninth.

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Lap 50: We’re delighted, in this year of change, to welcome back a much-loved tradition – the Trulli Train. Fisi pits, Hamilton up to ninth. Very tight at the top – only a second or two between the leaders. Button’s lead 1.6 seconds and those tyres are not looking promising. However Nick Fry confirms no problems with Button’s fuel.

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Lap 49: Lewis Hamilton currently in 10th with Trulli and Fisi ahead of him. He’s done his last pitstop. It would be nice to think he might get a point or two.

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Lap 47: Massa limping round and the Ferrari garage being cleared. Button comes in – a Ferrari crawling down the pitlane narrowly fails to obstruct him. It’s possible that Brawn has fucked up the pitstop and Button wasn’t properly fuelled – or maybe it was just the spare fuel rig.

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Lap 46: Raikkonen is 16th of 17 runners. Brawn mechanics out with 22 secs in hand. Massa unexpectedly slowing.

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Lap 45: Raikkonen spins and hits the wall – but hangs on. Is his car damaged? Looks like he was going too slowly by the time he swiped the barrier. Vettel pits and comes out to retain second place despite Rubens Barrichello’s heroic efforts to get in front. Red Bull timed that one to perfection and you have to think Vettel has a real chance of winning this race if Brawn make a mess of Jense’s last pitstop.

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Lap 43: Order is Button, Vettel, Barrichello, Rosberg, Hamilton, Kubica, Alonso, Raikkonen, Glock, Fisi, Trulli, Massa, Buemi, Heidfeld, Bourdais, Webber. Hamilton and Raikkonen both pit. Hamilton comes out wheel to wheel with Massa and hangs on for the place. This is a right old duel and there’s a Toro Rosso in the middle of it. Hamilton holds the place.

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Lap 42: Glock is shown, on replay, to have got ambitious and had a look at Alonso – to his cost. Order at the top, in the midst of pitstops, is Button, Vettel, Barrichello, Rosberg, Hamilton. Button currently is holding his lead but can’t get away from Vettel. Supersoft tyres still looming in his future.

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Lap 41: Glock has spun and allowed Raikkonen through. Raikkonen now ninth.

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Lap 40: Kubica and Raikkonen have come in. Kubica comes out side by side with Hamilton and loses the place to slot in seventh. Raikkonen comes out behind Alonso and a Toyota and is tenth.

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Lap 39: Kubica drives past the pit lane entrance. Raikkonen currently 11.5 seconds off the lead in fourth place with his super-soft tyres out of the way. Brits on Pole’s motto for 2008? “Never take your eyes off Kimi Raikkonen” – and it’s sure to hold good this year. Hamilton, in eighth, has just put in his fastest lap of the race.

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Lap 38: Button leads by 5.2 seconds over Vettel. Leading discussion point at the moment is whether Kubica, setting fastest laps, is going to be able to capitalise. BMW Sauber mechanics out, which could mean the Pole’s performance is down to running on fumes.

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Lap 37: Webber pits for the last time in this race – that’s 22 laps on supersoft tyres. Good luck with that…

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Lap 35: Most dangerous-looking driver at the moment, as the shadows lengthen on the track, is Kubica.

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Lap 33: Change of commentators here at Brits on Pole while the kettle gets put on. All quiet in the race at the moment. Jarno Trulli pits – perhaps he fancied a cuppa too. Button’s lead tops five seconds.

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Lap 32: Massa comes out behind the Force Indias in 14th with Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Bourdais behind him.

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Lap 31: Piquet is interviewed – it transpires that his brakes failed. Button is slowly extending his lead as the evening shadows get longer. Massa is pitting – an informed guess would say tyres. McLaren mechanics out.

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Lap 29: The whole field is driving around in formation and the most interesting thing happening is a duel between two Force Indias that nearly takes the pair of them off. We remember the point of adverts – it was to allow us to make a cup of tea. Half-way point and Button three seconds clear of Vettel.

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Lap 27: Buemi having a decent race in eighth. Rosberg is in ninth trying to fight his way back from that rotten pitstop. Then Hamilton, Rosberg, Glock, Fisi, Sutil.

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Lap 26: Trulli up to sixth and Barrichello seventh. All the points-position drivers lapping within a few hundredths of a second of each other.

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Lap 25: Hamilton up to 10th after taking a Toyota. Field is stretching out and Button has a lead of more than a second.

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Lap 24: Button gets away OK but we’ve lost Piquet who’s been shunted off sideways. Unclear whose fault it was at present – Heidfeld? Rosberg? Race not disrupted otherwise. Yellow flag.

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Lap 23: We’re waiting for the field to arrange itself so the race can restart. People are weaving around all over the place trying to keep heat in their tyres and brakes. Lock-ups right, left and centre as drivers try to keep in order. Vettel in particular seems to be having problems, causing them in turn for Massa. Button is backing the field right up and locks up.

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Lap 22: Safety car still out, we have learned Nakajima lost it going over a kerb. Lapped cars have gone through to leave Button with Vettel, Massa and Kubica right behind him and staring up his exhaust. Can he hold off the KERS-equipped cars on the restart?

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Lap 21: Fisichella has driven past his pit box, tried to turn in late and driven over a tyre gun. Button has come out comfortably in front of Vettel. Then Massa, Kubica, Raikkonen, Rosberg, Piquet, Trulli, Buemi, Barrichello, Glock, Hamilton, Alonso, Fisi, Bourdais, Sutil, Heidfeld and Webber.

Lots of administrative nonsense behind the safety car. Everyone is bunched up and Brawn’s strategy has possibly gone out of the window.

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Lap 20: Jonathan Legard’s first Murrayism: “They’re working on that front nose.” Safety car comes out.

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Lap 19: Nakajima’s car in bits on the racing line. Debris everywhere, yellow flag. What does this do for Button’s strategy? The track is narrow there – surely Button must pit. Barrichello pits instead for a new nose. Lots of people dashing into the pits. Toro Rosso have nearly caused a crash in the pitlane as Rubinho tries to get out. Button pits.

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Lap 18: Rosberg’s pitstop is a 20-second mess after they couldn’t get the front left wheel changed. Comes out ahead of Raikkonen but is taken. JB, on fumes, is trying to build up his lead before he has to pit.

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Lap 17: Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel pits from second, fuelled long, back out onto a clear track.

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Lap 16: Do Brawn haul Barrichello in and lose the advantage of having him fuelled long, or leave him out with a damaged front wing? Rosberg now lapping on the leaders’ pace.

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Lap 14: Williams looking extremely pacey. Pitstops have thrown everything out of order but top at the moment are Button, Vettel, Rosberg, Barrichello, Nakajima, Piquet, Buemi, Fisichella, Alonso, Glock, Massa, Kubica, Raikkonen.

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Lap 13: Button’s lead is four and a half seconds.

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Lap 12: Hamilton looks to be fuelled heavy – has McLaren changed his strategy? Thinking on the fly has not always been their strong suit. That’s his super-soft tyres out of the way. Ferrari and BMW’s Kubica also desparate to get rid of them. Rosberg uncorked into third place, Barrichello fourth.

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Lap 11: Rosberg is right on the back of Kubica and Massa and looks like one of the fastest on the track – tries to take the BMW Sauber driver but is held back by good defensive driving. This is terrific for all those that remember Williams’ former glories. Now Massa’s backing up four cars. Now he pits. Hamilton pits also.

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Lap 9: Rosberg goes down the inside of Raikkonen and passes him easily. Barrichello has a look – and does the same. However something comes off his car in the process. There’s a black tyre mark across Rubinho’s sidepod from his first accident today… Vettel and Button are pulling away from Massa.

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Lap 7: Button has a four-second lead on Sebastian Vettel. Ted Kravitz reminds us that Button is fuelled very heavy.

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Lap 6: Toyotas have made it up to midfield, largely on the misfortunes of others. Vettel has pulled away from Massa in third. Next are Kubica and Raikkonen, which should be interesting. Raikkonen is backing up Rosberg and Barrichello, but has KERS to defend with, which they don’t. Barrichello has a front wing flapping about.

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Lap 5: Button is nearly seven seconds ahead of the third-placed Massa and Raikkonen is nearly 10 secs behind in fifth. Hamilton and Piquet are having a massive battle and the Brit manages to take the place handily – definitely a KERS button in use there, and the McLaren looks faster than the Renault. Both had troubled winter testing. Hamilton is now ninth and sniffing the rare oxygen of a points place ahead.

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Lap 4: Button and Vettel having a thrilling duel at the front, trading fastest laps. Hamilton is trying to pass Piquet – no luck yet but it can’t be long. Hamilton needs to keep his head – he nearly lost a wheel there.

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Lap 3: Visible damage on Barrichello’s car – it seems to be his unexpected presence in the midfield that caused all this. Hamilton’s quietly got himself up to 11th. How long can Ferrari go on those tyres?

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Lap 2: At least four cars in the pits including Kovalainen, who has had to retire with broken suspension, Mark Webber, who is struggling to get back out, and Adrian Sutil. Kovy and Webber are two drivers who never have an ounce of luck. Webber rejoins last.

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Lap 1: Barrichello is left at the line – he’s started but slowly. Button has held the lead and is scampering off down the road. Vettel is second behind him, backing everyone up, and has the potential to be a real threat. Massa is third, Kubica fourth and Raikkonen’s had a good start to make fifth. Then Rosberg and Barrichello, Nakajima and Piquet up to eighth and ninth. Ferraris have used their KERS excellently with their soft tyres.to make the most of their start. Raikkonen is hassling Kubica. Heidfeld pits with a puncture and a Force India is coming in with no nose.

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Formation lap: All the cars get away nicely. McLaren fans treated to the sight of Lewis Hamilton fetching up at the back of the grid among the Toro Rossos and Force Indias. Our Jense in the relatively unfamiliar position of kicking off a race – it’s his fourth pole position – and the pressure is showing a little.

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On the grid: Brundle interviews Ross Brawn who admits first that Buttton’s gearbox is a problem then that his pit crew isn’t as experienced as he’d like, and then that his worst fear is his drivers hitting each other. “We’re just delighted to be here,” he says eventually, in the face of gimlet-eyed interrogation.

An array of Brawn mechanics are standing round the back of the car guarding the diffuser from the prying eyes of other teams – largely McLaren, it has to be said. Rubens Barrichello is interviewed, and is delighted, unsurprisingly. He has scuttled away from his car and its surrounding press pack to get a bit of peace.

“Jenson – can you do this?”
“Yes.”
“How?”
“By crossing the line first at the end of the race.”
He confirms, a bit more sensibly, that the start will be crucial and that he and Rubinho will be racing each other as hard as they can.

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton’s starting at the back of the grid thanks to a gearbox change and the Toyotas are in formation in the pit lane.

Tyre wear is set to be an issue on this partial road course – Bridgestone has brought soft and super-soft tyres along, but the race is starting three hours later than normal (a fact we have to say we are grateful for) so track temperatures are lower than usual. The Ferraris starting on soft tyres – which means they’ll be away like the wind but won’t enjoy a long spell of performance from them.

Kubica fuelled light as well as using soft tyres.

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