Melbourne Flashback: Brawn stun with debut in 2009

A Formula 1 miracle happened before Melbourne’s eyes on 4 March 2009, a new entry, Brawn GP, was formed following the demise of the Honda Racing F1 Team, fielding former Honda drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello.

The Ross Brawn-led team revealed their identity only three days prior to testing, making a big statement from the get-go. By the final day of pre-season – exactly one week later – Button was fastest by just over one second to the next best Ferraris.

In Melbourne, Brawn GP swept all practice sessions at the Australian Grand Prix before locking out the front row in dominant style. Button – who had a single Grand Prix victory to his name at the time – led teammate Barrichello from the front row of the grid.

While a messy first corner unfolded, Button was already far enough ahead to avoid the carnage. Barrichello, on the other hand, dramatically missed his markers and was swamped by nearby cars, falling from second to ninth.

Meanwhile, Button led a pack of six in a desperate chase of the Brawn machine. As his lead increased, luck fell Button’s way when a late pit stop was perfectly timed with a Safety Car intervention, gifting the Brit an advantage as he was able to preserve his fuel and tyres for longer.

But Button’s second and final pit stop almost brought his whole race crashing down when a complicated left-rear wheel change caused a prolonged stop. However, his impressive lead was long enough to cover the inconvenience, re-joining the race in first place.

Elsewhere, a tense battle was brewing for second between BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica and Sebastian Vettel on his Red Bull Racing debut. The pair locked horns at the tight right-hander of Turn 3, knocking off each other’s front wings and damaging both of their suspensions. The duo quickly moved on from their scuffle but both inevitably ended up in the same wall 300 metres down the track at the tight Turn 5.

Barrichello benefitted from Kubica and Vettel’s wrongdoings, setting himself up for a well-recovered second-place finish. The Safety Car was deployed once again, reducing Button’s lead, but the mess could not be cleaned in time, leading to only the second Safety Car finish in Formula 1® history.

It was Brawn GP’s first of four one-two finishes that season, while the constructor also became the first since Mercedes-Benz at the 1954 French Grand Prix to qualify on pole position and then go on to win the race on their Grand Prix debut.

Button went on to win the 2009 world title, having led on points all season. Brawn GP was bought out by Mercedes-Benz at the end of the year and renamed as Mercedes GP for the 2010 season