Nigel Roebuck's 2009 British GP report


This was the victory that Jenson Button wanted most of all, so of course, motor racing being perverse, he didn’t get it.  After six wins from the first seven races, Button might reasonably have expected a fine day at a circuit he has known since boyhood, but in fact he always suspected that Silverstone, with its many ultra-fast corners, would suit the Red Bulls to a tee.  When Adrian Newey gets a car right, he gets it really right.


Thus, Sebastian Vettel took pole position, and completely dominated the British Grand Prix, losing the lead only momentarily on each of his stops.  “Oh,” he beamed afterwards, “this is such a fantastic circuit, and today I had a perfect car.”

In the early laps Vettel pulled away from Rubens Barrichello at the rate of a second a lap, and the only man who might possibly have threatened him – team mate Mark Webber – was stuck behind the Brawn through to the opening stops.  “I was glad to be able to pull out such a gap,” Vettel said, “because of course it made the rest of my race a lot easier.  The first stint was straightforward, but the middle one a lot more difficult, because of backmarkers – really it was more like a slalom…”


At this point, indeed, his team felt it necessary to tell him to calm down, to remind him he had a very comfortable lead, and should be patient with the traffic.  Sebastian complied.

It was hardly the most exciting Grand Prix of the season, for nothing could live with the Red Bulls.  At the first stops Webber duly leap-frogged Barrichello, and thereafter had an untroubled run to the flag.  Rubens, for his part, had mixed emotions: for once a Brawn was not the thing to have, and that was a bit of a culture shock, but on the other hand he had had the upper hand on his team mate throughout the weekend, and psychologically that was important to a man who still, at 37, aspires to be World Champion.

Button finished where he started, sixth, but a disappointing afternoon started badly when he was held up by a slow-starting Trulli away from the grid.  That dropped him immediately to ninth, and while the drivers are of one mind that Silverstone is a sensational circuit on which to drive, passing is a different matter.  In the closing laps Jenson was on the heels of Massa and Rosberg, but could do nothing about them.  “We just didn’t get it together this weekend,” he said.  “It felt a very different car from what I had in Turkey.”


While disappointing for Button in front of his home crowd, it was hardly the end of the world, for he retains a 23-point lead over Barrichello in the World Championship, and the next races, at the Nurburgring and the Hungaroring, should see the Brawn back in its element.  And if Jenson’s weekend fell short of expectations, it comfortably eclipsed that of Lewis Hamilton – who dominated, lest we forget, at Silverstone twelve months ago.

This time around Hamilton, astonishingly, qualified 19th out of 20, and made rather little progress in the race, finishing 16th, ahead of only Sutil and Buemi.  Yes, the McLaren looked wayward and uncertain, but Lewis really shouldn’t have been out-qualified by Heikki Kovalainen.


Ferrari were the only team to use KERS, McLaren deciding it was of limited use here, given that the system is ‘charged’ by braking, and braking is not much in evidence at Silverstone.  And BMW took the thing a step further: long the team most in favour of the introduction of KERS, the team has decided to abandon it for good.

So, eight races down, nine to go.    By no means all the remaining circuits on the schedule will play to the Red Bull’s major strength – its prowess through really high-speed turns – but, as Vettel pointed out, aero changes introduced at Silverstone constituted a definite step forward, improving the car through slow corners as well as fast.  He may be 25 points adrift of Button in the championship standings, but Jenson cannot rest easy, and knows it.  Sebastian’s third Grand Prix victory – and his first in the dry – was as conclusive as anything we have seen in a very long time.

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