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Formula One 2009 Season Review

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A very unusual Formula One season was made even more unusual by the disconnect between the first seven races of champion Jenson Button’s season and the remainder of the season.  Button drove his Brawn-Mercedes to victory in six of the first seven races (taking four poles and three Fast Laps and leading all seven races for a total of 254 laps) and placed third in the other race (race three at Shanghai) but failed to win again in the final ten races of the seventeen-race season.  In the final ten races Button won no poles, set no Fast Laps, and didn’t lead a lap!  After his win in Istanbul on June 7 in race seven, Button posted finishes of sixth, fifth, seventh, seventh, and retired after a first-lap accident at Spa.  That five-race streak of mediocrity ended at Monza as the Brawn team finished 1-2 with Button second to teammate Rubens Barrichello.  That result saved Button’s season.  Button then had three marginal results, fifth at Singapore, eighth at Suzuka and fifth at Interlagos before finishing the season with a third at Yas Marina in Dubai.  All told, Button was the beneficiary of remarkable mechanical reliability, completing every lap in every race except for the first lap accident-caused retirement at Spa, and all of his sixteen finishes were in the points!

Button won the title by eleven points, 95 to 84, over Red Bull-Renault’s Sebastian Vettel.  Vettel fell two short of Button’s win total, scoring four wins to Button’s two.  Vettel also took two runnerup finishes and two thirds for a total of eight podium finishes, one short of Button’s nine.  Vettel also earned three fourth-place finishes and an eighth for a total of twelve point-scoring finishes, four short of Button’s sixteen.  Vettel started from the pole four times and from the front row eight times.  Sebastian posted three Fast Laps and led seven races for a total of 212 laps.  Vettel’s season suffered from a slow start.  Sebastian crashed out of the Melbourne opener two laps short of the finish, scoring no points.  He spun off at Sepang one lap from the end, scoring no points.  These results put Vettel at a tremendous disadvantage to Button, the winner of both races!  Vettel then won Shanghai from the pole in a Red Bull 1-2 with teammate Mark Webber second.  Sebastian finished second at Bahrain and fourth at Catalunya but suffered another setback as he crashed out early at Monaco, again scoring no points.  A midseason rally then followed, as Vettel finished third at Istanbul, won from the pole at Silverstone with Webber second again, and finished second to Webber at the Nurburgring.  Mechanical problems (remember that Button had no mechanical retirements) retired Vettel from the Hungaroring and Valencia rounds before he rebounded for a late-season rally, scoring points in the final six races.  Vettel finished third at Spa, only eighth at Monza, and fourth in Singapore before winning flag-to-flag from the pole at Suzuka.  Vettel finished only fourth at Interlagos after starting fifteenth and thus his quest to overtake Button ended.  He put an exclamation point on the season, however, by winning at Yas Marina in Dubai in another Red Bull 1-2 with Webber.  The fact that Button was winless in the final ten 2009 races with only a second and a third and Vettel won three races with a second, a third, and two fourths in the same ten races blunted the enthusiasm level for Button’s title but it must be said that the stats for 2009 clearly favor Button and between Vettel’s three self-inflicted or at least driver-involved accident-caused retirements (Button had only one accident-caused retirement) and the two mechanical retirements suffered by Vettel’s Red Bull (Button’s Brawn had none), Button and Brawn narrowly, but clearly, outperformed Vettel and Red Bull.

The battle for third in the championship was between the other Brawn and Red Bull drivers and like the battle between the first duo the victory went to the Brawn driver, Rubens Barrichello, over Red Bull pilot Mark Webber.  Barrichello scored 77 points, Webber 69.5.  Each won two races and each took one pole.  Barrichello’s two wins (Valencia and Monza) were joined by three runnerup finishes and a third for a total of six podium finishes.  Rubens posted a total of fifteen point-scoring finishes, just one short of Button’s series-leading sixteen.  Barrichello set two Fast Laps and led six races for a total of 126 laps.  Rubens finished second to Button in three of the first six races and also scored a fourth and two fifths in the other three.  His strong run was then blunted by a gearbox failure at Istanbul, amazingly the only mechanical retirement of the 2009 Brawn season for either car and Barrichello’s only retirement of 2009!  Rubens then finished third at Silverstone and sixth at the Nurburgring after starting second in both races.  A tenth-place finish at the Hungaroring marked Barrichello’s only other non-points finish of 2009; he then won at Valencia (with Lewis Hamilton as runnerup), finished seventh at Spa, and won at Monza with Button second in a Brawn 1-2.  Barrichello’s chance at the runnerup spot in the championship evaporated with a 6-7-8 finish sequence at Singapore, Suzuka, and Interlagos but he finished the season with a fourth at Yas Marina in Dubai.

Red Bull’s Mark Webber started 2009 with a mixed first four races, posted a strong six-race midseason record, and then suffered a five-race late-season slump without a points-scoring finish before finishing first and second in the season’s final two races.  Webber’s two wins (Nurburgring and Interlagos) were joined by four runnerup finishes and two thirds for a total of eight podium finishes.  Webber finished in the points only ten times, however, and this stat spelled the difference between Barrichello and Webber.  Webber achieved one pole and two front row starts (winning both events), set three race Fast Laps, and led five races for a total of 89 laps.  Mark’s season started with a twelfth-place finish at Melbourne and a sixth at Sepang as he, like teammate Vettel, started the season in a hole compared to Button, the winner of those first two races.  Webber then finished second to Vettel at Shanghai in the first Red Bull 1-2 of 2009.  An eleventh-place finish from an eighteenth-place start followed at Bahrain, however, and thus the first four races of the season saw Webber off to a slow start.  Mark then finished third at Catalunya and fifth at Monaco to begin a six-race streak of point-scoring finishes.  The final four races of the streak were all podium finishes, beginning with a runnerup finish to Button at Istanbul and a runnerup finish to Vettel in a Red Bull 1-2 at Silverstone.  Webber then scored his first career F1 victory by taking the Nurburgring round from the pole with Vettel second.  He completed the six-race point-scoring streak with a third at at the Hungaroring.  As impressive as those six races had been, the next five were as dismal, as he finished ninth, out of the points, at Valencia and Spa, crashed out on lap one at Monza, and retired with brake problems in Singapore.  A seventeenth-place finish at Suzuka concluded the five-race streak of woe.  Webber’s 2009 concluded happily, however, as he won at Interlagos by 7.626 seconds over Robert Kubica’s BMW and then finished second to Vettel at Yas Marina in Dubai.  Webber had run a close competition with Barrichello for third in the championship but had fallen just short.

With Button, Barrichello, and their Brawn-Mercedes combining for eight wins and Vettel, Webber, and their Red Bull-Renaults combining for six victories, only three race wins were left for “the rest.”  Amazingly, “the rest” included the previous giants, McLaren-Mercedes and Ferrari, and those two marques took the three wins, with two (Hungaroring and Singapore) achieved by Lewis Hamilton for McLaren-Mercedes, and the other (Spa) won by Kimi Raikkonen for Ferrari.

Hamilton finished fifth in points, “the best of the rest,” although he was 29.5 points behind Webber!  A disqualification from the first race at Melbourne was followed by finishes of seventh, sixth and fourth in the first four races for Lewis.  He then failed to score points in the next five races although he finished each one!  In an amazing reversal of fortune, the tenth race of the season saw Hamilton win at the Hungaroring with Raikkonen’s Ferrari second!  Then Hamilton won the pole at Valenica and finished second to Barrichello.  Hamilton crashed out on lap one at Spa but bounced back to win the pole for Monza and led the race for twenty laps before finishing twelfth.  He then won the pole in Singapore and this time won the race by 9.634 seconds over Timo Glock’s Toyota.  Third-place finishes followed at Suzuka and Interlagos.  Hamilton won the pole for the season finale at Dubai but brake failure ended his race after leading the first sixteen laps.  Hamilton had posted only three point-scoring finishes with a best finish of fourth and a best start of fifth in the season’s first nine races but the last eight produced two wins, a second, and two thirds for a total of five podium finishes, four poles, and five races led for a total of 182 laps.

Kimi Raikkonen finished sixth in points as the top six in points won all of the races!  Kimi finished only one point behind Hamilton.  Kimi’s season was another tale of “halves” as in the first nine races he scored only one podium finish (third at Monaco in the season’s sixth race) and finished in the points only three times.  A differential failure retired his Ferrari at Melbourne.  Raikkonen finished fourteenth, tenth, and sixth in the next three races, even leading two laps at Bahrain en route to sixth in his first point-scoring result of 2009.  Hydraulics problems retired his Ferrari at Catlunya but he bounced back to finish third at Monaco after leading one lap.  Istanbul and Silverstone produced finishes of ninth and eighth, respectively, and engine failure retired his car at the Nurburgring.  Nine races, three point-scoring finishes, three mechanically-caused retirements – a dismal start.  Who then would have expected four consecutive podium finishes?  Yet that is exactly what happened, as Kimi started seventh at the Hungaroring but finished second, albeit 11.529 seconds behind winner Hamilton.  Raikkonen then started sixth at Valencia and finished third.  Another sixth-place start, at Spa, produced Raikkonen’s only victory of the season, by less than a second over the surprising Force India-Mercedes of Giancarlo Fisichella.  Kimi then qualified and finished third at Monza to complete his four-race streak of podium finishes.  The final four races of the season saw Raikkonen end his Ferrari career with tenth, fourth, sixth, and twelfth place finishes, falling one point short of overtaking Hamilton for fifth in the standings.

While Brawn-Mercedes and Red Bull-Renault dominated 2009, the podium finishes included a surprising amount of diversity.  Melbourne, a Brawn 1-2, saw Toyota third with Jarno Trulli.  Sepang, a Button win, had Heidfeld second for BMW and Glock third for Toyota.  Shanghai was a Red Bull 1-2 with Button’s Brawn third.  Bahrain was Button first, Vettel second, but Trulli’s Toyota third.  Catalunya was a Brawn 1-2 with Red Bull 3-4.  Monaco was another Brawn 1-2 but Raikkonen’s Ferrari was third.  Button won Istanbul for Brawn with the Red Bulls 2-3.  Red Bull finished 1-2 at Silverstone with Barrichello third for Brawn.  Red Bull finished 1-2 at the Nurburgring with Felipe Massa third for Ferrari.  The Hungaroring result was McLaren-Mercedes (Hamilton) first, Raikkonen (Ferrari) second, and Webber (Red Bull) third.  Valencia was a Brawn win for Barrichello with Hamilton second for McLaren-Mercedes and Raikkonen third for Ferrari.  Raikkonen’s winning Ferrari at Spa was joined by Fisichella’s Force India-Mercedes in second and Vettel’s Red Bull-Renault in third.  The Barrichello-Button Brawn 1-2 at Monza had Raikkonen’s Ferrari following in third.  Singapore’s Hamilton victory for McLaren-Mercedes had Glock’s Toyota second and Alonso’s Renault third.  At Suzuka, Vettel won for Red Bull-Renault with Trulli second for Toyota and Hamilton third for McLaren-Mercedes.  Webber won for Red Bull at Interlagos with Kubica’s BMW second and Hamilton third for McLaren-Mercedes.  The Dubai finale was a Red Bull 1-2 with Brawn 3-4.

Thirteen drivers scored podium finishes, Button leading with nine (6-1-2), followed by Vettel with eight (4-2-2), Webber with eight (2-4-2), Barrichello with six (2-3-1), Hamilton at five (2-1-2), Raikkonen with five (1-1-3), Trulli with three (one second, two thirds), Glock with two (one second, one third), Fisichella, Heidfeld, and Kubica with one runnerup finish each, and Alonso and Massa with one third each.  Among the constructors, eight scored podium finishes.  Red Bull-Renault led with sixteen (6-6-4) to fifteen for Brawn-Mercedes (8-4-3).  Ferrari scored six (1-1-4), McLaren-Mercedes five (2-1-2), Toyota five (two seconds, three thirds), BMW two (two seconds), Force India-Mercedes one (one second), and Renault one (one third).  By engine manufacturer, the podium finish score was Mercedes twenty-one (10-6-5), Renault seventeen (6-6-5), Ferrari six (1-1-4), Toyota five (two seconds, three thirds), and BMW two (two seconds).

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