European GP: 5-year hiatus comes to an end

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After waiting five years for another victory, a 37-year-old Brazilian veteran took victory at Valencia’s European Grand Prix. Ruben Barrichello secured the emotional victory by crafty tactics, brilliant driving and a bit of luck via an errant pit stop by his main competitor, Lewis Hamilton and McLaren.

Valencia’s Grand Prix has been accused of being desperately dull but this years installment, although shrouded by concrete and steel, has shaken up the Drivers Championship just a bit. Barrichello’s victory now places him second in the title chase behind his faltering teammate Jenson Button. Barrichello leapt over Brawn GP’s main rival in Sebastian Vettel, who suffered two engine failures on the weekend, and Mark Webber, who just suffered a pointless weekend.

As Barichello, a much loved figure amongst F1 pundits and teams, drove to parc fermé, many of the team’s employees poured from their garages to applaud his victory. Barrichello raced with a “Felipe, get well soon” message on his helmet and thanked his countryman for the valuable tips on racing lines at the Valencia circuit.

Red Bulls chances were seriously damaged this weekend as Vettel suffered from two engine failures and Mark Webber seemed to struggle with qualifying and race pace. This weekend could be the pivotal moment when Red Bull lost their way and title hopes. That could be changed next week at the legendary Spa Francorshamps circuit should the Red Bulls prove daunting on the high speed monster.

McLaren looked very competitive this weekend as Lewis Hamilton proved once again why he is the current F1 champion. His victory chances were hobbled when the teams desire to extend his second stint by one lap prompted a miscommunication that saw Hamilton entering the pits when the team was expecting his teammate Heikki Kovalainen. This prompted a delay in fitting the new set of tires and effectively cost Hamilton the victory.

It could be said that Barrichello’s pace was just fast enough to make even a perfect second stop by McLaren irrelevant as the outcome was to be the same but in my opinion, that’s sour grapes. It would have been darn close.

Nico Rosberg had another great performance by placing 5th amongst he pack and solidifying his desirability amongst prospective employers. The same cannot be said of Kovalainen unfortunately and it could be the end of the Finn’s tenure at McLaren.

Rookie Romain Grosjean (big John or Bubba) came home one and a half minutes adrift of race winner Barrichello and was the last person on the lead lap. This was slightly better than a struggling Jaime Alguersuari and Luca Badoer.

Badoer was the proverbial joke of the weekend for journalists and Ferrari-haters. I found it in poor taste, to be honest, and really devoid of any sense of professionalism. This is a difficult charge for Badoer. He has not raced in anger for 10 years and Ferrari gave him a chance to race. Many have wondered, including myself, as to why Marc Gene wasn’t tipped for the position. Ferrari has their reasons and some have argued that fans deserve more from F1 than to put an old codger in Massa’s car to run at the back. My answer to that accusation:

Perhaps Badoer deserves the opportunity for being such a critical part of Ferrari’s development program that gave fans a decade of dominance. An unsung hero who would like an opportunity to race the very car he helped create over the last decade in a season where the title hopes are not available. Lighten up folks, Pedro de la Rosa has a few points and an 11th place best finish. It’s not like testers are supposed to be on par with Hamilton, Alonso or Vettel.

Pos Driver Team Time
1. Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes (B) 1h35:51.289
2. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes (B) + 2.358
3. Raikkonen Ferrari (B) + 15.994
4. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes (B) + 20.032
5. Rosberg Williams-Toyota (B) + 20.870
6. Alonso Renault (B) + 27.744
7. Button Brawn-Mercedes (B) + 34.913
8. Kubica BMW Sauber (B) + 36.667
9. Webber Red Bull-Renault (B) + 44.910
10. Sutil Force India-Mercedes (B) + 47.935
11. Heidfeld BMW Sauber (B) + 48.822
12. Fisichella Force India-Mercedes (B) + 1:03.614
13. Trulli Toyota (B) + 1:04.527
14. Glock Toyota (B) + 1:26.519
15. Grosjean Renault (B) + 1:31.774
16. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) + 1 lap
17. Badoer Ferrari (B) + 1 lap
18. Nakajima Williams-Toyota (B) + 3 laps

Fastest lap: Glock, 1:38.683

Not classified/retirements:

Driver Team On lap
Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 42
Vettel Red Bull-Renault (B) 24


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