Much has been made, already, of the Brawn GP strategy in today’s Spanish Grand Prix. Both Jenson Button and Ruben Barrichello were, according to the team, on three-stop strategies for the race. Now I am not privy to the amount of calculations the strategists for Brawn have but I am unclear as to why, if the three-stop strategy was the quickest solution, that no other teams were using it as their race program. The team changed Jenson Button’s strategy from three-stop to a two-stop after his first stint and the explanation given was this:
Nick Fry: “…Both sides of the garage were racing. Listening to what was going on there was huge determination â€“ firstly for Jenson to make the gap, and then on Rubens’ side of the garage with a bit of frustration at the end that they didn’t make it happen.”
Ross Brawn: “If you look at the lap times on the tyres and the fuel, there was a period of the race where he was a lot slower than expected,” explained Brawn. “And that’s what cost him the race because Jenson on more fuel was quicker.”
Rubens Barrichello himself admitted that he had trouble on the third set of tires:
Rubens: “My third set of tyres was not good, I don’t know if something was broken on car. So I couldn’t keep the pace up, and from then on it was a struggle to keep the car on the track and a relief to come second. I’m disappointed because I didn’t win the race because I felt I had it in the bag today, but it’s still great for the team.” I was a lap or two longer, and Jenson caught me up a little bit on the strategy because of the safety car, so I was quite happy because having a lap longer and being in front I was delighted, I had the race in my hands, So I was actually quite surprised when they switched Jenson to two, but from then on I just had to go flat-out.”
It has also been suggested that they changed Jenson’s strategy because he did not get the lead at the start and that he would have been caught in traffic if they held to the three-stop strategy they initially planned on (like Red Bull’s Vettel behind Ferrari’s Massa). Was this the case? Rubens doesn’t dispute the fact that they were both on three-stop strategies so the change to a two-stop seems plausible if you felt Jenson would do better with the gamble and it paid off.
Ultimately we may never know if these were the classic team order tactics played out by a master Tactician like Ross Brawn. Ross engineered some of the most astounding place-changes and race results through cunning and crafty moves while at Ferrari with Rubens playing second driver to Michael Schumacher’s “number one” status. Also, keep in mind that the simple answer to this is no, we were not issuing team order through tactics. Why do I say that? If Brawn GP felt inclined, they would release a statement such as this: (This is Negative Camber’s suggested Press Release, not an official Brawn GP release)
While Brawn GP is elated with the teams effort and results at the Spanish Grand Prix, we would like to address our tactics as it applied to race strategy involving Rubens Barrichellos and Jenson Button. We feel that transparency is crucial for the fans to understand F1 more intimately as well as understand Brawn GP’s commitment to victory and parity within our team.
We would like to reiterate that Brawn GP did not engage in team orders nor hamper Rubens Barrichello in any way through the change in strategy for Jenson Button or the lack of change in race strategy for Rubens Barrichello. The spirit and letter of the FIA regulations is that teams should not engage in or posess “team orders” which may manipulate the outcome of an FIA sanctioned event. Adhering to both the letter and spirit of this regulation; Brawn GP allowed both its drivers and their respective race teams battle each other on track for the best possible outcome for each driver. The change in strategies was based purely on the Jenson Button team reacting to their real-time position within the race as they did not get the start they wanted that would have complimented their prescribed strategy. Therefore it was was decided to change Jenson’s strategy to a two-stop strategy on-the-fly which is incredibly risky.
It was also determined by Rubens Barrichello’s race team that the original strategy would still see Rubens in victory as long as the performance remained true to form and on plan. unfortunately Rubens experienced issues with the third set of tires fitted and lost significant time allowing Jenson’s Plan “B” strategy to pay off. A circumstantial affair that could have worked against Jenson had the elements of this race been any different. The team remains committed to both drivers and seeks victory for both drivers under the FIA regulations and today saw a heated battle within the team involving strategy, performance and our own brand of luck.
So was it team orders or a deliberate move on Brawn’s part to get Jenson out in front and sacrifice Rubens for the championship run? With so many races and points left to be had, is this something Brawn GP would do at this stage? What do you think?