As far as Jenson Button was concerned, it was the wrong Brawn which won in Valencia yesterday.
The world championship leader had another traumatic race as team-mate Rubens Barrichello snatched victory from Lewis Hamilton and McLaren, but with neither Red Bull challenger scoring, Button was at least able to leave Spain with his advantage virtually undiminished.
Barrichello has promised a victory all year, but for much of the race he was chasing Hamilton. The world champion led easily from pole position, as team-mate Heikki Kovalainen slotted in behind him to ride shotgun.
Barrichello was overpowered by their KERS energy storage systems, and further back Kimi Raikkonen used his Ferrari’s similar system to vault past Sebastian Vettel, who squeezed Button out as the prelude to a tough opening stint for the Englishman. Tyre issues kept him down the lower half of the top eight, as the spotlight focused firmly on the Hamilton/Barrichello duel.
Hamilton led until his first pit stop on lap 16, then Kovalainen for a lap. Barrichello ran another three laps before refuelling, and that jumped his Brawn ahead of the Finn for the middle stint.
Hamilton had a lead of 3.6secs over Barrichello by lap 36, but when he pitted again a lap later McLaren did not have his front tyres ready. The delay proved crucial. When Barrichello pitted from the lead on lap 40 he was able to resume ahead of Hamilton.
“I was told to come in that lap,” Hamilton said. “I had saved fuel to go longer, but maybe they were a bit unsure whether I had enough.
“They called me in and I was just inside the white line and already committed to coming into the pits, when they told me to do another lap.
“We win and we lose together. It’s been a tremendous effort to get us here, so we can’t be disappointed that we didn’t get the win because had extraordinary pace for the last three races.
“These things happen; I’ve had so many races with this team and this very rarely happens, this was perhaps the second time. After all the things we’ve done, they deserve a pat on the back.”
He kept the pressure on Barrichello, but could not close the gap by more than a couple of tenths each lap.
“It’s been fantastic all weekend,” said the 37-year-old, who hasn’t won since he left Ferrari in 2004. “All race they were telling me to push, push, push, and lots of things go through your head, for yourself, your family, your country. The car was really brilliant. I wish this moment could be forever!” His success was the 100th for a Brazilian driver.
“I dedicate this to a special one,” he said, “for Felipe [Massa]. It’s been emotional for me, but I never felt that the spring coming out of my car [and hitting him in Hungary] was my fault like some nasty people said. He is such a good friend and I wish him all the best. I had two wishes, actually: That he was the same guy [afterwards] and he is; and I wish he is the same driver — and I think he is going to be.”
Hamilton took his misfortune well, and was dignified. “In the middle stint we pushed each other very hard,” he said. “The first part was very well controlled and consistent, but in the second stint I was struggling with my tyres and to keep up the pace Rubens had, especially in the high-speed corners where he was catching me.
“The last stint on the prime tyres was better for me, so I pushed and pushed beyond the limit, like qualifying laps. I can go home happy that I gave it all.
“The team did a fantastic job and it wasn’t a pit issue; it was just unfortunate at the time.”