I’m sitting quite comfortably, waiting patiently for the red lights to fade out, signaling the start of the race. I am not sitting on plastic, tightly spaced, stadium seats on the pit straight in Monza, but rather on a white, two-seater, leather couch in a house in Beirut. Broadcasting live from ‘Bahrain TV Sport,’ the Middle East’s main F1 broadcaster, the cars are unleashed onto their warm-up laps at 3:00PM. Kimi Raikkonen is the heaviest of the top three drivers at 662 kgs, scheduled to stop at lap 21. Barrichello is the heaviest out of the top ten drivers, who is hoping to take a few places during the first phase of stops.
On Thursday morning, various teams took a stroll down and around the track and noticed that the famous turn 1 and 2 had been modified since their last visit in 2008. The problem was that the drivers were riding the curbs aggressively – which happened to be an exciting part of our viewing pleasure – and eventually saw some of the drivers taking more of an illegal advantage, eating out too much of the first two turns, than the FIA had preferred. Hence, the curb modification. I think they (the FIA) should’ve talked to the drivers before modifying the curbs. I always waited for the cars to fly over the two curbs, see who would break earlier or later and use the curbs as a safety mechanism. Now it is ruined.
The red lights go out one by one and the Gran Premio Santander D’Italia is underway. Both Hamilton and Sutil make a clean start with Raikkonen close behind. In a bid to overtake his rivals, Raikkonen nervously gets the left side of his car onto the dirt. Into the first corner, Sutil brakes early as the Ferrari squeezes by.
The only non-mover from the start was Hamilton.
Mark Webber got tapped by BMW’s Kubica. On Lap 8, Kubica gets hit with a Black and Orange flag (meaning the car has a mechanical problem and must pit to repair it immediately). Kubica pit on lap 9 and changed his nose, after hoping that the piece of his flapping wing would go unnoticed until his first pit stop.
Lap 10: Sutil eats half of Raikkonen’s time making up .271 seconds on that lap.
Lap 14: Hamilton clocks the fastest lap and pits – three laps earlier than anticipated. Having complained of slight understeer, Hamilton should be feeling more comfortable with a new set of tires.
Lap 17: Sutil pits, before Raikkonen as scheduled. 7.3 second pit puts him out in 7th.
Lap 19: Raikkonen pits in 7.2 seconds and is let out in 5th place, two places in front of Sutil. The two, Sutil-free laps of clear driving he had really payed off, making up .337 seconds.
With the top three completing their first pit stops, Brawn GP enjoy first and second place and a 16 second gab between them and the McLaren. I imagine they need the upcoming laps to be error-free if they’re going to create any sort of advantage. Sitting in third position, Hamilton clocked a lap only .493 seconds slower than Barrichello, on lap 20. As that time code appeared and disappeared, Liuzzi’s car slowed with a gearbox problem.
It’s lap 24 and both Brawn GP cars have yet to pit. Button is slightly faster than his teammate sitting just 1.996 seconds behind.
Lap 26: The McLaren pit crew are waiting patiently for one of their drivers, most probably Kovalainen. At the same time, Alonso drives by to complete his scheduled pit stop.
1:24:999 is Barrichello’s fastest lap on lap 27, toping the fasting lap timings. His pit stop is close. A lap later, Button presses the gear limiter for a clean pit stop, in a bid to keep from speeding in the pit (coming out in 5th). A lap after that, Barrichello pits in 8.6 seconds and comes out in 4th, making up even more time on his teammate. Barrichello opted for the hard compound tire, which seems to be faster around this circuit, with Button on softs.
Hamilton retakes the top spot but is still frustrated with his left front tire. Nevertheless, he clocks the fastest lap at 1:24.869 seconds on lap 31.
He flat spots his tires, trying desperately to slow his car down before the pit line, pits on lap 34 in 7.7 seconds, and slots in behind both Barrichello and Button. Brawn GP’s strategy has worked well, for now. With 35 laps left, anything could happen.
Lap 36: Sutil clocks in the fastest lap, giving him a refreshed surge of confidence as both him and Raikkonen shoot into the pit, a little under a minute and a half later.
The broadcast came from a camera above the Ferrari pitstop while they worked on Raikkonen’s car. The men in charge of pumping the gas jerked twice at the hose. Kimi’s car strangely stuttered and the camera (out of nervousness or confusion or stupidity) panned left to the Monza logo. The replay showed Kimi quick on the pedal as the lollipop man mistakenly wiggled.
At the same time, Sutil slid into place at the pitstop, displacing the pit crew that were prepared to give him a clean stop, snapping off his right rear-view mirror.
Lap: 42: Vettel dances on the sand attempting to point his car back on track. A few seconds later Raikkonen and Sutil fly-by. The 26 year old German gets a radio transmission from his race engineer, demanding that he push, push, and push, sitting .664 seconds behind. Fourth place could be his best ever achievement.
With eight laps left: Barrichello leads from Button, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Sutil, Alonso, Kovalainen, Heidfeld, Vetel, Fisichella, Nakajima, Trulli, Glock, Buemi, Grosjean, and Rosberg.
With 15.471 seconds between Hamilton and Raikkonen, Raikkonen’s 4-lap goal is to maintain 4th position, regardless of how close Sutil in. He did it at Spa, he can do it again. At times though, I (and other Formula 1 enthusiasts of mine) feel – looking at large, to a more fictional reason because no logical reason makes sense – the Finnish driver falls asleep at the wheel and lets his alter-ego take control while he dreams of wild parties on a yacht in Monaco.
Hamilton’s 4-lap race is to push as hard as possible in order to take 2nd place from his British rival, Button, which doesn’t look likely as there is a Renault between the both of them. As I type that, Hamilton slams into the wall with half a lap left. Complaining through the race because of a tire problem causing his car to understeer more than usual, it got the best of him with only half a lap to go.
Barrichello wins the race, Button follows, as Raikkonen and Sutil cross the finish line at a distance that made me extremely nervous. Then I realized the SC logo above the screen, meaning no cars could overtake anyway.
After looking over the replay, Hamilton seemed to eat a little too much curb, causing his car to oversteer into the barrier not too far away.
I don’t know about you, but I love seeing Barrichello up on the podium, in whatever place. I love that dance that he does. It is a mixture of embarrassing/brave. Being the oldest driver on the grid, at 37, he still has a lot of optimism, character and is extremely lively. That is what needs to be seen more often. Raikkonen needs some Brazilian injected into his Finnish bloodstream.
Barrichello wins his second race of the season, putting him 14 points behind his teammate. Button extends his Championship lead, edging away from Vettel, renewing the gap from 19 points to 26. Raikkonen is rewarded nicely with Hamilton’s podium position, keeping his fight for fourth place very much alive.