After pulling an incredible lap out the bag in qualifying, Button still had plenty to do in the race, but the way he dominated the battle between himself and team-mate Rubens Barrichello when running on super soft tyres in the opening stint showed a talent that could be crucial in what is increasingly looking like an in-team fight for the title.
Button was baffled on the grid when most teams removed the tyre warmers to show the harder of the two tyre compounds. He said the Brawn team had "not thought twice" about any other strategy — but the only three others joining them on super softs were Lewis Hamilton, gambling on an all-out attacking first stint from the back, Sebastien Vettel, whose light Red Bull failed to secure the grid spot expected of it, and Adrian Sutil's Force India, who started from 15th on the grid.
The super softs allowed Button to cancel out any opportunity second-placed Kimi Raikkonen may have thought he had to use his Ferrari's KERS boost to overtake on the opening lap — but after Barrichello had used the super softs' extra pace to pass Raikkonen off the line, it was the way Button mastered this opening stint that won him the race.
The super soft tyres get faster lap after lap for the opening few laps before levelling off on a plateau and then going off and deteriorating rapidly. It's Button's ability to get more pace out of the tyres before the plateau and extend the plateau for a greater number of laps before the tyres go off that has made him the master of these short soft tyre stints.
That's exactly what happened in Monaco.
Button pulled out a second on the opening lap and apart from lap three, which saw Barrichello go one tenth quicker, he was between one tenth and three-and-a-half tenths faster all the way to lap six, easing out just that little bit more from the tyres.
Barrichello hit the plateau on lap seven — when Button did his fastest lap of the stint — and then ran consistently around one minute and 17.3 seconds before his tyres went off on lap 10. He did a 1:18.2 — almost a second slower - on lap 10 then 1:18.8 on lap 11 and 1:20.3 on lap 12.
In contrast, Button was able to run consistently on 1:17.1 after hitting the plateau on lap eight and his tyres went off two laps later, on lap 12, when he did a 1:18.7. But while Barrichello experienced a three-second drop-off in performance between his best and worst laps on the tyres, Button slowed by half that amount.
The tyres appeared to have a 'second wind' after the initial slow-down, and the pair were relatively evenly matched before the times started to slow again at the end of the stint.
By the time Barrichello was called into the pits, one lap before Button, the difference between the pair was 12.5 seconds and Button had the race in the bag.
DATE PUBLISHED ON: 26 MAY 2009
- Rubens Barrichello