With their team's F1 future only confirmed in March, few expected the Brawn pairing of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello to be challenging for the world championship.
He is not a sidekick at Brawn GP
BARCELONA // With their team's Formula One future only confirmed in March, few expected the Brawn pairing of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello to be challenging for the world championship. Their past records gave little indication of such a storming start that has seen Button win three of the first four races.
Although the Englishman finished third with BAR in 2004, he went three years without winning a race until his victory in the opening round this season in Melbourne. Barrichello, 36, also came third on the final leaderboard eight years ago when he was with Ferrari, but is hoping his barren run could end with a dream finish in Abu Dhabi on Nov 1. The Brazilian is in second place, 12 points behind Button, but is determined to overhaul his teammate and taste glory in what is the twilight of his career.
Victory at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya today would certainly help his cause and, as an intriguing title race develops, both are not in the mood to help each other. Each driver wants to be a winner and demonstrated that in qualifying yesterday with Button's brilliant final effort clinching pole position by just 0.133secs from the Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel, and Barrichello, who was third.
As he prepares for his 276th grand prix, Barrichello revealed he will not pass on any words of wisdom acquired during his 16 years in the sport to his teammate. "Advice? No, never," he said, with a smile. "I want to win. "It would be very nice to go to Abu Dhabi at the end and both of us fighting for the championship. "We will see, but to win the championship, your mind is everything, and then the experience and evolutions on the car side. If it all comes together you have a good chance.
"Jenson is doing a great job and deserves to be there, but it [the pole position] came as a surprise. I am disappointed I did not get it. "Maybe I went out a bit too early on the track and that's a missed opportunity. But I think we have a good car for the race and I'm still fighting. Jenson is doing well, but I have to try harder and harder to get to him." Barrichello's viewpoint shows just how much is at stake, and brought back memories of recent rivalries between the Ferrari duo Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa, and Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso when they were together at McLaren-Mercedes.
Button says he has been pleased with the team's performances so far, but he is single-minded in his efforts to maintain his position at the top of the standings. He justified that by his flying finish to claim the lead position on the front row, aware that the last eight races at Barcelona have been won by the driver who started on pole. "It was by far the best lap I've had all weekend," said Button, who also fears the Ferrari of Felipe Massa, which starts in fourth place.
"All weekend, Rubens has been tremendous and I've found it very hard to hang on to him on low fuel," he said. "When I realised I had pole, it felt very good, but it was a surprise. "As a team we have done a great job. This package is a step forward and I don't think we have got the maximum out of it yet. Both of us are in the top three and it's very close. The Ferrari is very quick and they have KERS so it's going to be a tough race. It could be mayhem on the first lap."
If he survives the early challenge, it would be hard to see anyone stopping Button from extending his lead at the top. But he has vowed to remain focused until the season ends in Abu Dhabi. "Not at any moment have I said, 'ha, there you go, I've proved what I can do'," he added. "I'm not here for that. I'm here to do the best job I can and in a selfish way, for myself, and secondly for the team. "I'm enjoying leading the way, although not being the centre of attention. There's not really any more pressure on me. When you've got a good car you feel comfortable in your environment and can push yourself to the limit.
"I'm happy we have good performances and just want to keep that going," he said. "We know there is a long way to go this year. The final races in Brazil and Abu Dhabi are a long way away, and we have to do well in all the races." Abu Dhabi might well seem a long way away right now, but the Yas Marina race has created a buzz among the drivers. Barrichello feels the F1 move towards new places is refreshing. "It will be a pleasure to be there. I visited Abu Dhabi two years ago for an FIA party and I liked it very much," he added.
"It's always exciting to go to a new places. From the pictures I have seen, the Abu Dhabi circuit looks fantastic. "I like the track in Melbourne where it is a road circuit, but safe with quite fast corners. "I hope we have the same thing in Abu Dhabi. I think it's important to go to new places like this. The Middle East is a place to be discovered and exciting for the drivers. "I hope I'm part of more new places in the future, absolutely."