From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.32 :: NO.26 :: Jun. 27, 2009

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FORMULA ONE / BRITISH GRAND PRIX

Vettel shows his mettle

It was the 21-year-old German’s second win of the season. He extracted the maximum from his car to become the youngest winner in the 59-year history of this race, writes Maurice Hamilton.


Jenson Button’s worst fears were realised when Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber dominated the British Grand Prix for Red Bull and Button had to work hard to salvage sixth place. It was the first time this season that Button failed to reach the podium but at least his Brawn team were represented by Rubens Barrichello, who finished third.

Despite Button’s three main rivals scoring strongly at this race, the halfway point of the season, the Englishman continues to hold a healthy 23-point lead over Barrichello, with Vettel closing to within two points of the Brazilian. It was Vettel’s second win of the season and his first in dry conditions as the 21-year-old German extracted the maximum from his car to become the youngest winner in the 59-year history of this race.

“The car was fantastic; unbelievable,” Vettel said. “It shows we’re going the right way with development to catch Brawn. But it was really great to win here; very emotional. This is what I was dreaming of when I saw my first Grand Prix here in the era of Nigel Mansell. The British fans are fantastic. They were standing and cheering me during the final laps and I wanted to wave back. The atmosphere is great and I began to regret that I’m not an Englishman. It must be amazing to win your home race here.

Button’s chances of experiencing that euphoria for the first time began to retreat that Saturday when he failed to qualify his Brawn higher than sixth. The struggle continued in the race when he became stuck behind Jarno Trulli’s slow-starting Toyota as the field stormed off the line.

Button’s already faint hopes of getting close to the Red Bulls were dashed when he finished the first lap in ninth place. Button overtook Felipe Massa’s Ferrari and held eighth until a clever pit stop strategy vaulted Button into sixth to collect two more points which could prove valuable if Red Bull continue their onslaught in the remaining nine races. Button had closed to within half a second of Nico Rosberg’s Williams at the flag but ran out of time to gain a further place.

“I was screwed at the start,” Button said. “Trulli has never been that special at starts and he proved it today. I tried to go on the inside because (Kazuki) Nakajima was on the other side, so I was stuck while everyone else flew by. It was never going to be easy from then on.

“I was skating all over the place on the harder tyres because I couldn’t get temperature into them and the car just wasn’t working. It was better on the soft tyre towards the end of the race but, by then, it was too late. So sixth place and three points wasn’t too bad. Those points could be important after what we saw today.”

He said the cold weather had been a significant factor. “(Red Bull) were much quicker than us because it was absolutely freezing this weekend. The sun didn’t come out until after the race — thanks British weather.”

Vettel made his mark from the start as he set a succession of fastest times to open a 15-second lead in as many laps. By the time he made his first pit stop on lap 20, the hard work had been done.

“The first stint was crucial,” Vettel said. “I wanted to build a gap and I pushed as hard as I could every single lap. It was fantastic to see my pit board showing the lead opening by a second a lap. The most difficult part was the middle stint. I was lapping a lot of cars and some of them were fighting between themselves. It’s a position I know about and the last thing you want to do when in a battle is to pull over to let the leader through and lose time. My engineer came on the radio and told me to be patient.”

One of the unruly groups fighting for minor placings contained Lewis Hamilton as he fought his car as much as the opposition. The winner of last year’s race suffered the added embarrassment of spinning while on his way to be the 16th of the 18 finishers.

The performance was so poor that Hamilton’s father, Anthony, told the BBC that McLaren would be better off focusing on next year’s car rather than continue “to flog a dead horse”.

“All I can say is that the crowd are fantastic. Incredible,” Lewis Hamilton said. “I hope they at least had a good race to watch up front. I don’t know what happened at the front; I was a million miles away. I was pushing and pushing but this car has no grip. It was ridiculous. I was driving it like a go-kart in the end.”

Hamilton laid on some impromptu entertainment on the slowing-down lap when he deliberately spun through 360 degrees, wreathing the McLaren in tyre smoke. By this time, the Red Bull drivers were arriving in the pit lane to a rapturous reception from the workforce, many of whom had travelled the short distance from the team’s headquarters in Milton Keynes.

“Absolute credit to the guys at the factory,” Webber said. “They’ve worked bloody hard to get the new bits ready for the car in time for Silverstone and a one-two finish is the perfect result for everyone. Congratulations to Sebastian. Once I got into second place, he was 20 seconds down the road and there was no way I was going to catch him. But this is good for us and I’m looking forward to when I get my first win because I’m sure it’s going to come. We’ve proved today that it doesn’t take much to turn things around. This championship is by no means over.”

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2009



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