– Stuart Rintoul | March 30, 2009 | The Australian

JENSON Button called it a fairytale. His teammate Rubens Barrichello called it a dream. Rising from the ashes of the global financial crisis under the guidance of Formula One guru Ross Brawn, they have crafted a Brawn New World.

A few months ago, it was doubtful Button and Barrichello would have cars to drive, after Honda withdrew from Formula One. In Melbourne yesterday, the Briton blew away the best in the world to take out the first grand prix of the season.

It was sweet vindication for adriver who has spent most of his career watching the winners draw away.

When it was pointed out to Button that he had scored more points with yesterday’s race victory than over the past two years combined, he said: “That’s quite true. That’s pretty rubbish isn’t it – wow.”

Button was laughing the laugh of someone who is having the last laugh. “I’m just happy to be here and I’ve worked bloody hard to be here,” he said.

Button was highly critical of Formula One’s first twilight race – the result of an impasse between F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, who wanted a night race to coincide with daytime viewing in Europe and North America, and the Victorian Government, which refused to stage the event later than twilight.

Button said racing conditions in a grand prix of light and shadow were “really difficult”, and that despite using a tinted visor he could not see the exit at some corners.

Crowds were also down this year. While 105,000 people attended yesterday’s main race, the event attracted an overall crowd of 286,900 – well below the recent target of 300,000 and far fewer than the 401,000 race organisers claimed when the grand prix was stolen from Adelaide by Melbourne 13 years ago.

The race was played out against a backdrop of financial collapse, controversy over Brawn’s use of a piece of aerodynamic technology known as a rear diffuser, unconvincing attempts to make the sport more energy efficient, and driver unhappiness about the introduction of a medal system next year that is designed to make drivers race harder.

Before the race, Victoria’s devastating Black Saturday bushfires were also remembered, as drivers rode a lap of the Albert Park track in CFA trucks, standing on the side of vehicles from places such as Diamond Creek, Kangaroo Flat, and Eaglehawk.

This was a grand prix that had been changed from “Melbourne fires up” to “Melbourne gears up” out of respect for the 210 people who were killed.

Virgin’s Richard Branson swept into the pits, accompanied by girls carrying chequered flags, as something of a financial white knight for Brawn GP.

Now backing a team that has gone one-two in the first GP of the season, he said after the race that Ross Brawn, who was the mechanical wizard behind the Schumacher-era Ferraris, was “quite the most brilliant engineer alive today”.

Australian Mark Webber was effectively out of the race at the first turn when he collided with Barrichello in another disastrous tilt at becoming the first Australian to win at home.

World champion Lewis Hamilton, despite starting at the rear of the grid in a McLaren that had underperformed in testing and now in Melbourne, finished fourth and was lifted to third by the stewards.

Despite noticeably smaller crowds leading up to yesterday’s race, Premier John Brumby said the grand prix remained an important part of the state’s $80million a year major events strategy.


Mark Webber’s unfortunate string of bad luck continued at the weekend’s Grand Prix with the collision with Barrichello and then the final blow with the wall that snapped the steering arm connecting to the wheel. Although Mark and the Australian team would have obviously hoped for a better result and experience for their home ground fans, his response and handling of the situation was professional and all fans remain supportive of his efforts over the next 12 months. -a 

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.