I will always remember 2009 as the first season where I was a fanatical follower of F1. I got up at 5am to watch the brand new BBC team of Jake Humphrey, Eddie Jordan and David Coulthard bring live F1 to non-commercial TV for the first time in my life. They had DC and Ted Kravitz in the pit lane, Martin Brundle at the microphone, un-complicated Bridgestone tyres, KERS, and no bloody DRS.
I think people forget how good we had things in 2009.
Yes, that magical, wonderful year, where Jenson Button finally got his reward for enduring some underwhelming Benetton, BAR and Honda cars. Frome’s finest, coupled with his old Honda chum Rubens Barrichello, took huge cuts in pay to ensure that Brawn GP could exist.
Pre-season testing can be a bit of a smoke and mirrors type deal. Some teams run with less fuel, to attract sponsors with fake speed; others hide their true pace to shock their rivals in the season proper. However, with such a tough winter, Brawn could afford to do neither, and posted genuine lap times in January and February.
How did that turn out for them? They were over a second faster than anyone else.
Melbourne arrived. With the controversial double-decker diffuser, but a distinct lack of new, unpopular KERS, the BGP001 continued to scare everyone through practice. Then came qualifying, the first thing I watched on the Beeb after their takeover from ITV. I was 15 at the time, and I don’t think I had ever been so excited to watch something as I was that morning. I’m rarely the first to wake up at home, but with a pre-dawn cup of tea and an own-brand Argos telly, I settled in to watch the race that pretty much made me fall in love with F1.
Brawn had stolen the front row with loads of fuel on board, Robert Kubica looked good in the BMW, and Red Bull had really stepped up their game. With Toyota and Williams also running the double-diffuser, they had some pace of their own while stalwart timing sheet toppers McLaren, Ferrari and Renault were nowhere.
Button stormed off the line and looked like he was about 5 cars ahead of everyone by turn 4, but I remember a feeling of sorrow when Barrichello nearly stalled and got passed by about half the grid, as I had always had a soft spot for Rubinho after his tough treatment at Ferrari. My favourite driver at the time, Mark Webber, got walloped by Heikki Kovalainen at the start and hat to pit, so his chances of a home win were instantly slashed.
Two heroes down, it seemed, but Jenson Button’s race was flawless. He led every single lap, notched the fastest lap, and had qualified on pole position. What could possibly make Brawn’s fairy tale better? Well sure, a 1-2 would be amazing, but Rubens was stuck on 4th place, behind Kubica and Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull.
The Pole had better traction than young Seb ahead of him and tried to go around the outside at Turn 3, but Vettel’s tyres were done and when he defended the move, dithered into the side of Kubica. Both drivers continued for one more corner, before a lack of grip due to the damage accrued pitched them both into the wall.
Surely not? Rubens was in second place now?! A BRAWN 1-2?!
The Safety Car came out to ensure that nobody could pass them, and the perfect fairytale began the 2009 season in the most amazing way possible. They finished a perfect weekend off in the best way, and although he was a lap down, Mark Webber finished ahead of Barrichello. At least it looked like he had a good race!
As I mentioned, 2009 was the first year I lived, breathed and slept the sport. I watched 2007 and 2008 casually, but really stepped it up for Jenson’s year.
How much did I step it up? I made spreadsheets to keep track of who finished, qualified and scored points where. I planned entire weekends around races. I even started writing race reports. Six years later, I’m writing for Badger GP, something I couldn’t be happier about…and I think it’s fair to say I owe it mostly to the 2009 F1 season, that started so amazingly in Melbourne.