By Jayme Monsanto, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazilian driver Rubens Barrichello won the European Grand Prix on Sunday, ending a personal five-year drought. The race was disputed on the Valencia Street Circuit, in Spain. The victory was the tenth of the 37-year old driver’s long career, and the hundredth time a Brazilian driver claimed the top spot of the podium in F1 history.
“What a fantastic day. I am so delighted with the win after what was a really tough race out there. It is a weekend that I will never forget. Even after five years, you don’t forget how to win and the feeling is so good!”
Before the start of the race, all signs pointed to a McLaren victory, since the team had the two higher spots on the starting grid, Hamilton on first and Kovalainen on second. The Valencia Street Circuit is known as one of the F1 tracks where overtaking an opponent is both difficult and dangerous. Barrichello started the race in the third position, but his determined and aggressive driving, along with team Brawn GP’s perfect strategy and top performance won him first place.
While the McLaren cars chose a lighter strategy (less fuel, more speed, but more stops), Brawn GP’s strategy was a heavier one (more fuel, less speed and less stops).
“Although we were fueled heavier than the McLarens, I knew that I would have to push really hard throughout the race. My engineer Jock was great today, he really encouraged me and helped me to maintain the pace, and the team did a fantastic job with two excellent pit stops.”
With the strategy, Rubens was able to overtake the McLarens in their pitstops.
Rubens dedicated his victory to fellow Brazilian Felipe Massa (Ferrari) who is recovering from brain surgery after a loose part flew off Barrichello’s car during the Hungarian GP qualifying and struck the Ferrari driver in the helmet. Rubens had the words “Felipe, see you back on track soon!” written in his helmet.
“I want to thank everyone who has supported me and this victory is dedicated to the whole of Brazil but particularly to my great friend Felipe Massa. I hope he is back racing against me soon.”
The race proved to be McLarens’ as well, with Lewis Hamilton in second place and Heikki Kovalainen in third.
Jenson Button, Barrichello’s teammate who leads the championship, came in at a disappointing seventh. The two points he won were essential to the championhip dispute, however, as his direct opponents of Red Bull Racing were out of the scoring zone: Sebastian Vettel withdrew due to an engine failure, while Mark Webber finished eighth as he lost the seventh position to his rival Button.
After the ten races so far this season, the Brawn GP team leads the Constructors’ Championship with 126 points. Jenson Button leads the Drivers’ Championship with 72 points, and Rubens’ victory got him back into the second place with 54 points. The RBR drivers have the third and fourth position in the season: Mark Webber has 51.5 points, while Sebastian Vettel has 47.
The next race of the season will be the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday, August 30, at Spa, Belgium.