One-Stop Wins the Day for Barrichello, as Hamilton Crashes on the Last Lap at Monza


What Happens When Strategy Means Everything

9:34am EST — A jubilant Rubens Barrichello won the Italian GP Sunday for Brawn with a one-stop fuel strategy.  While Lewis Hamilton started on the pole, his two-stop strategy had him behind second place Jenson Button on the last lap, as he spun out and hit the tire barrier at Lesmos and did not finish the race.  Kimi Raikkonen finished third.  Adrian Sutil was forth, well ahead of former teammate Giancarlo Fisichella in tenth for Ferrari.  Brawn’s championship lead solidified as only Sebastain Vettel scored points (one) for Red Bull, Mark Webber having crashed out on the first lap.

There was a surprisingly clean start for the Italian GP, with no gearbox change for Rubens Barrichello as feared, and Jaime Alguersuari started in the pits.  Heikki Kovalainen  and Jenson Button were very dicey for the first lap, as Button got ahead around Lesmos.  Mark Webber off on the first lap with help from Robert Kubica.  Antonio Liuzzi passed Kovalainen quite early and Fernanso Alonso got around Sebastain Vettel for eighth.  The loose Vettel was also attacked by Giancarlo Fisichella.  Nico Rosberg pitted on lap five, bringing wing from another car in with him.  By lap six, Lewis Hamilton had repeatedly set fast lap, hoping to survive his two-stop strategy at or near the front.

On lap eight, twelfth place Kubica received a black and orange flag, requiring him to return to the pits to fix the damage on his front wing, from the contact with Webber that forced Webber out.  This required a different strategy, since Kubica was on a one-stopper.  By lap ten, Sutil was half a second behind Kimi Raikkonen in second.  Lap eleven found Romain Grosjean in seventeenth and being encouraged to use second gear through the chicane, as there were fears from the garage that his gearbox was overheating.  Teammate Alonso, however, was in seventh and ever-gaining on sixth place Liuzzi.

Hamilton in from the lead on lap 13, three earlier than projected, though after a radio conversation suggesting his tires were not as great as hoped.  He switched from soft to hard tires.  He rejoined just ahead of Liuzzi and Alonso.  Lap 16 saw Kubica retire into the garage.  Sutil pitted on lap 18 and rejoined just behind Alonso and ahead of Kovalainen.  Kovalainen saw a race go not as well as expected, being the first of the one-stoppers on the starting grid.  Raikkonen was in on lap 19, returning to the track barely between Liuzzi and Alonso.  On lap 20, Alguersuari retired as well, after staring from the pitlane and changing the gearbox before the race.

Lap 23 saw Liuzzi sitting on the side of the track, as the gearbox lost all gears, gifting Alonso with fifth place.  The laps from 20 to 28 saw the Brawns slowlly inching away from pole sitter Hamilton, despite the fact that his team was reminding him that he needed to pull out two or three tenths to make his pit strategy work.  Alonso pitted on lap 27 and returned in tenth.  Lap 28 saw Kovalainen and Vettel stop for, presumably, their only time.  Button stopped on lap 29 for his only stop, leaving teammate Barrichello in the lead.  Button rejoined in fifth.  Barrichello came in the next lap, with a slight wing modification, and came out ahead of Button. Fisichella pitted on lap 31 for Ferrari and came out just between Vettel and Sebastein Buemi, who soon passed him.

Hamilton chose to continue with the prime tire for his last stint, in a radio conversation with the team.  Hamilton pitted earlier than projected on lap 35 and came out behind both Brawns, making it near impossible for him to win.  Finally, on lap 36, Jarno Trulli and Kazuki Nakajima pit.  Raikkonen then Sutil posted fastest lap, suggesting each would be pitting soon.  Both pit on lap 38.  Raikkonen went to leave, then stopped as he just caught the re-fuelers foot with his right rear, but still stayed ahead of Sutil when leaving because Sutil just overshot his marks entering the box.  These stops left a Brawn 1-2 at the front, with most of the field having made all projected stops.

Behind Barrichello and Button was Hamilton, Raikkonen, Sutil, Alonso, Kovalainen, Heidfeld, Vettel, Fisichella as the top ten with thirteen laps to go.  Hamilton was slowing catching up Button, with only a 1.8 second gap on lap 42, as Sutil was also catching Raikkonen with a .4 second gap.  The key, of course, was not only catching, but also getting around the leading drivers.

As Hamilton’s gap grew back from Button to 1.9 on lap 49, Hamilton set a fastest sector 1 time, though was slower in sector 2, and sector 3.  At the same time, the two Toyotas were fighting each other after Nakajima and Trulli had contact through the chicane, with Glock forcing Trulli well wide and into a gravel trap.  He lost a place to Buemi, as well as to Glock in that debacle.

On the last lap, Hamilton had a big crash, hitting the tire barrier at the Lesmos and forcing the safety car, even as Rubens Barrichello won the Italian GP.  There seemed to be no explanation for the crash, as Hamilton did not use the kerb any more than he and other drivers had been doing all race.  He seemed slightly stunned in the car, but  walked away unhurt.

Final (unofficial) Standings from the Italian GP:
1. Barrichello
2. Button
3. Raikkonen
4. Sutil
5. Alonso
6. Kovalainen
7. Heidfeld
8. Vettel
9. Fisichella
10. Nakajima
11. Glock
12. Hamilton
13. Buemi
14. Trulli
15. Grosjean
16. Rosberg
17. Liuzzi (DNF)
18. Alguersuari (DNF)
19. Kubica (DNF)
20. Webber (DNF)

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