28th July 2009 – Last week I made a bold prediction that if it was hot at Hungary then although Red Bull were favourites and have a better car, Brawn GP would win as they would be able to use their tyres better and would have better race pace. I was very wrong! To my shock and especially to Brawn themselves, they really struggled to look after their tyres. Although my prediction was that they would win, I also said that if Brawn failed to beat Red Bull at Hungary and Valencia (both are hot with tracks suited to Brawn’s car) then they would be in serious trouble for the rest of the season. As we saw in Hungary, they were not competitive at all, so are they are buggered for the rest of the season?
The interview with Button after the race was very telling: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/motorsport/formula_one/8169522.stm
Brawn believed the reason for their poor performance at Silverstone and the Nurburgring was down to it being cold and their car’s weakness at getting the tyre temperatures needed in those conditions and once they were back at warm circuits everything would be fine again. This, as we all saw, did not turn out to be the case. It is true that they struggle to get the tyre temperatures needed in cooler conditions compared to other teams, but in Hungary they were graining they tyres very quickly which is uncharacteristic of the nature of the car in the first half of the season.
As Button acknowledged in the interview, other teams have got better, but their own performance has got worse as their car is not as balanced and as good to drive as it was earlier in the season. Whether it is the new parts or something else, they have changed or moved away from the ‘sweet spot’ of their car’s optimum set up and in doing so they run a very real risk of losing the championship.
Ross Brawn admitted that Hungary “proved to be a very challenging weekend for the team which has left us with a number of questions to answer regarding the performance of the car. After a positive start on Friday where we felt that we had a good understanding of the tyres, they proved to be our main area of concern in the race today. Both drivers tried different strategies with their tyre choices but we were unable to prevent the graining which affected their pace at crucial stages of the race.”
Brawn’s saving grace at the weekend was that McLaren and Ferrari put in excellent performances to beat the Red Bulls and as Vettel retired it meant only a third place and 6 points for Red Bull. Button’s lead in the championship dropped from 21 points to 18.5 points. If Button continues to lose 4 points a race for the remaining 7 races then he will definitely lose the championship. So Brawn has to improve or it’s all over!
Although Brawn does look doomed, they do have several factors working in their favour. As Red Bull are not favouring either driver, any points gained over Button and Brawn will be split between the drivers and so it could mean both Webber and Vettel could get extremely close, but neither one will pass Button in the championship.
Another area where I was very wrong in my prediction was the performance of McLaren and, in particular, Hamilton, who put in a fantastic performance and thoroughly deserved to win. Unlike Brawn, I was impressed with the way they looked after their tyres which did not seem to suffer much graining as compared to other teams. Ferrari also looked strong and if they can continue to take points away from Red Bull, Brawn is in with a chance, but they have to get their car balanced again and scoring some points.
Valencia is just under 4 weeks away and they have some time to try to sort out their problem, but if they can’t do it at Valencia, then all they can do is keep their fingers crossed for McLaren, Ferrari and Williams to take points away from Red Bull. Maybe they can get Barrichello to take out Vettel or Webber in the race?! (shh… I didn’t say that).
So I was quite wrong in my predictions last week but one thing I am proud to say I did get bang on right was that it would be an exciting grand prix, qualifying and the race. It sure was!