Jenson Button has won the Turkish Grand Prix in dominant fashion after he managed to get ahead of Sebastian Vettel on the first lap. Stopping twice Button’s initial pressure came from Vettel, then Webber as the German slipped behind his team mate. It wasn’t a perfect race for Brawn though as they suffered their first retirement of the season, Rubens Barrichello parking the car in the garage after issues with his gearbox.
The opening lap on a very hot Istanbul Park circuit was dramatic as Button moved away from the dirty side well and maintained P2 behind Vettel. However, behind the leading duo Jarno Trulli rocketed off the line and challenged Webber for P3, passing the Australian into T1. Experiencing a more troubled start was Barrichello though, whose clutch suffered a problem and he over-torqued the gearbox after the anti-stall kicked in. Rubens went backwards on the first lap to the point where Lewis Hamilton who started in P16 was challenging him.
Barrichello’s dramas weren’t over though, but before the Brazilian suffered further headaches, Vettel would cause one for himself that would ultimately decide the rest of race. Running over the kerb at T10 the RB5’s rear-right wheel dragged itself over the astro-turf and when Vettel was able to rejoin, he ran wide on the exit. Vettel’s moment gifted Button the opportunity to pass, which the Briton took.
Also on the opening lap, Kimi Raikkonen suffered a poor start and in the final complex, the Finn tagged Fernando Alonso and damaged his front wing. Rubens Barrichello found himself boxed up behind Heikki Kovalainen and in a much faster car, Barrichello was all over the McLaren’s gearbox. However, without KERS, Rubens was finding it impossible to pull alongside the MP4-24 as Heikki pressed the go faster button on the steering wheel.
Frustration soon set in for Barrichello though and heading into the final complex, the Brazilian charged forward as Kovalainen ran wide. Rubens edged through, but Heikki recovered and was able to repass thanks to his KERS-enabled car. The following lap, Barrichello tried his move again, this time at T9. The pair tangled and Rubens came off the worse, spinning his Brawn around while Kovalainen was able to continue. Shortly after his incident, Barrichello radioed his team to say he had no seventh gear as his race went from bad to worse.
Moving through the race the pack settled and it soon became about the strategy of the Red Bull and the leading Brawn. It was expected by many for Vettel to change to a two-stop race after he lost the advantage of the lead. Not being able to maximise his lighter car and pull out a gap, the obvious choice was to switch the pilot’s pitstops. However, Red Bull chose to continue with a three-stopper, even to Vettel’s surprise as he stated after the race.
In the second stint after both leaders had pitted, Vettel found himself in a very fast car in comparison to Button, with less fuel meaning a lighter car, Vettel cruised up behind the Brawn driver and wiped out the lead the Briton had built up prior to the first stops. Not being able to pass though as the RB5 does not perform well in the dirty turbulent air of another car, Vettel stayed on three stops and pitted again.
Elsewhere in the field, Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock found themselves battling each other at times, but being on different strategies, Trulli released Glock so as to not hamper his race. By 58, everything had worked out as Trulli finished in the points ahead of this team mate.
Lewis Hamilton, who was only stopping the once, changed to the soft tyres on L33, but with a very heavy car and cold boots found himself having to defend to a charging Nelson Piquet Jr. The Renault pilot forced his way through in the end with some solid driving. The fact the pair didn’t make any serious contact in credit to them both.
On L48 Rubens Barrichello finally retired his Brawn, the car getting harder and harder to drive. It is Brawn’s first retirement in 2009 and the Brazilian driver has endured possibly his worse race of the season so far. Rubens joined the only other retiree of the event, Giancarlo Fisichella.
The only real other point of interest was the final battle between Vettel and Webber. The German pilot, on three-stops, ended up chasing his team mate in the final stint. However, Vettel was catching Webber very quickly and it looked to be a showdown finish between the pair.
Wanting to preserve the result of second and third though, Red Bull informed Vettel that Webber was faster (although clearly he wasn’t) and that Sebastian should save his car. The message was clearly an instruction from the team to tell the drivers to stop racing each other, and Vettel stated after the race that he wanted to respond to the team, but resisted. Of course, Vettel has crashed in to the back of Webber before, so perhaps the team were correct in wanting to avoid any potential incident, even if it did mean frustration for viewers.
By L58, Button had backed off and his 20s lead over Webber had been reduced by half. Jenson comfortably won in Turkey, made even more impressive by the fact it wasn’t from pole position but instead from the dirty side of the grid in P2. Barrichello’s retirement will cause concern for the team, but ultimately the result is still very good for the Brackley squad.
Red Bull Racing also leave Istanbul with a healthy dose of points and Webber edges closer towards Vettel and moves ahead of Trulli in the championship. Other drives of note go to Nico Rosberg who eventually finished in P5 and Robert Kubica who finally scored some points this year with a drive to P7.